Will The Caveman Principle Save Face-to-Face Selling?


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Disruption and upheaval are hot topics in business these days, and if you believe the marketing hype, we just can’t get enough. With so much conversation about the “accelerating pace of change,” I began to wonder about the veracity.  “Pace of change” seems so hard to measure. That’s what led me to The Caveman Principle. Turns out, things are not exactly what they seem. For about 1,000 centuries, we humans have been pretty set in our ways.

“Our wants, dreams, personalities, and desires have probably not changed much in 100,000 years. We probably still think like our caveman ancestors,” writes physicist Michio Kaku, author of an upcoming book, The Future of the Mind. “The point is: whenever there is a conflict between modern technology and the desires of our primitive ancestors, these primitive desires win each time. That’s the Cave Man [or Cave Woman] Principle.”

If you’re placing your strategic bets on face-to-face selling excellence, this is where things get interesting. “By watching people up close, we feel a common bond and can also read their subtle body language to find out what thoughts are racing through their heads. This is because our apelike ancestors, many thousands of years before they developed speech, used body language almost exclusively to convey their thoughts and emotions,” Kaku says.

Lately, it seems, people have walked upright all over his idea. Analytics and marketing automation dominate business development mindshare, and with good reason: knowledge workers are starved for insight, and automation is “repeatable and scalable.” “Do more with less!” Who could argue? The question remains: are analytics and automation empowering for people-to-people connectedness, or numbing, like a shot of novocaine? The answer, I believe, is “yes.” They’re both.

The Caveman Principle is important because it exposes gnawing questions that have gotten buried under sedimentary layers of hype:

1. Are there limits for how much cognitive separation can exist between buyers and sellers before relationships become ineffective or dysfunctional? If so, what are the boundaries?

2. Can remote measurement alone adequately explain or predict buyer behavior?

3. Are auto-analytics sufficient for monitoring sales effectiveness and productivity?

4. If The Caveman Principle is true, can vendors capitalize on revenue opportunities by providing more (and better) face-to-face, or “high-touch” buying experiences?

5. If face-to-face interactions between buyers and sellers hold crucial importance, what information about them needs to be captured, collected, and shared, and how can that be accomplished?

Right now, I don’t have the answers to these questions (though I’m working on it). But I do know that in the rush toward marketing automation, a wedge has been inadvertently driven between vendors and customers. Emblematic of the divide is that along the way, practitioners coined the blandified and faceless term, “user experience.” And some industries have given up the long-shriveled, vestigial “personal” part of “personal selling.” Some of this was inevitable. In my early sales career, “customer self-service” did not exist outside of retail. In 1980, the term “empowered buyer” meant negotiating leverage. Today, that term carries a far more expansive connotation.

The Caveman Principle means that for vendors, there is potential durable competitive advantage for “being there” with customers. For that reason, face-to-face selling won’t likely vanish. Sure, shifting information power from sellers to buyers—and from buyers back to sellers—will continue to cause sea changes that create pressure within value chains, fostering new opportunities and risks. But as Kaku writes, “The lesson is that one medium never annihilates a previous one, but coexists with it. It is the mix and relationship among these media that constantly change.”

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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