11/14/2012 03:28 pm ET Updated Jan 14, 2013

Running a Business? It's Time to Get Personal

"It's nothing personal."

We've all heard that line before, but the truth is, business is always personal. Businesses are made and broken by relationships. If you're a business owner or a sales or marketing professional, you know all too well that referrals can represent the most valuable type of new business. But regardless of how a lead comes in, sales teams are expected to quickly establish rapport with the prospective client or customer.

The best way to do that is in-person. Think about what percentage of your business is conducted within driving distance. It's probably a good amount. But if not, you might be racking up those frequent flyer miles to meet prospects or clients face-to-face and keep up a strong relationship. This is also true for company leaders who are sometimes on the sidelines of the sales process.

When in-person meetings aren't possible or even necessary, technology is stepping in to fill the void. Anton Koekemoer said it well in a recent article in Memeburn:

We are nearing 2013 and every day you will find people in sales that are examining how the social web has changed everything. The ways we can engage with customers are forever evolving and salespeople are still learning how to use online strategies to get new customers, leads and ultimately sales.

A hypercompetitive marketplace inspires innovation, so it's no surprise that the sales and marketing functions of a business -- regardless of who executes them -- often see the most innovation tied directly to results-based performance. But the best technology aimed at the sales and marketing space is designed simply to make the personnel more efficient at doing what they do every day. Think CRM: its inherent purpose is to equip teams with the right information so that they can save time and focus on closing the deal.

This was our thought process beyond the development of Personify Live, a new Web conferencing tool that overlays a real-time video of the presenter into a PowerPoint presentation or any other content. We knew that traditional conference calls are an annoyance for businesspeople of all stripes -- distractions abound when you're straining to pay attention in a stuffy room for an hour or more with a half-dozen people crammed around a phone.

We set out to create a software tool that would let salespeople and marketers become part of the content they are presenting, throwing all-important visual gestures and nonverbal cues into the mix. Our most important criterion was simply that the technology would stay out-of-the-way and let teams do what they do best.

Ours is just one solution and one example in the telepresence space, which is rapidly growing to accommodate business users. Think, for example, about the last webinar you attended. If you weren't an active participant, chances are you were only partially engaged. You probably caught your thoughts wandering or started doodling alongside your meeting notes. You likely checked your phone. The reason is simple: in these types of settings, your visual senses aren't engaged with activity and visual cues. Sure, there might be a slideshow flickering by. But without seeing the presenter in action, you can't be fully in tune.

In a recent HuffPost blog, Heather Huhman referenced Riviera Partners' Michael A Morell's take on the issue.

"Email voicemail, text, tweet, pokes, IM, private messages, timelines and status updates have made it possible to completely lose sight of what actually drives business relationships," Morell said. "Tools to allow you to effectively manage relationships will become increasingly more important as other technologies make it easier to lose touch with those that matter."

The bottom line is that strong relationships are imperative, and they are made stronger through regular, face-to-face interaction. When face-to-face isn't possible, business professionals need to look for other ways to make themselves visible.