“The ‘Human Element’ can sometimes be lost in our zeal to maximize the advantages of the latest technologies. In the end it’s people that we need to make connections to.”
I recently began a discussion* in a LinkedIn group with the following question: “How do you incorporate the human element into your B2B marketing and sales efforts?” To my surprise, the discussion was notable for both its popularity (90+ comments), and for the strong agreement that along with an increasing focus on technology we must maintain humanity in our sales, sales enablement, and marketing programs.
With the prevalence of today’s automated marketing systems, the human touch has been drastically reduced. Many organizations view such tools as Utopian solutions, whereby the process can be automated such that sales can simply swoop in at the final stages to close the deal once the buyer is ready. Effective and efficient, right? Not quite… Following is a compilation of the collective wisdom this discussion generated on LinkedIn.
While “technology covers much of the rational behavior by creating channels and organizing thoughts…it doesn’t have the power of emotion or persuasion. Humanizing takes two forms. One is engaging P2P at the right time in your buyer’s journey. The other is making sure that your technology is not driving binary decision-making, but appealing to wants, needs and desires.”
Many contributors pointed out that “marketing automation is intended as a complement, not a supplement, for traditional face-to-face [F2F] sales efforts.” In fact, the role of marketing automation and its vital counterpart, content marketing, “is to allow room for prospects to navigate the buying process independently until they are ready to engage directly with a sales person.
Content marketing isn’t human interaction, but it should absolutely set the stage for F2F success. Tone of voice, point of view and personality that come through in your writing and design must all be consistent with what a prospect will actually experience when engaging with a human being at your business.”
This type of cohesive, holistic approach, marrying online and offline engagement, is what returns the human element to an otherwise disjointed and impersonal process.
Specifically, contributors made the following suggestions:
- “Bake in” human connections at key decision points in the buyer’s journey
- Blog, interact, and follow up on all queries, never allowing any question to go unanswered
- Make it easy for your audience to contact you and engage in dialogue
- Use video for its effectiveness in communicating emotion
- Create content that is more conversational, using the second person (“you”) rather than focusing on “I” and “we”
- Reframe the mission to achieve new mindsets – e.g., from metrics-focused to “partnering with your clients to help their businesses grow”
Ultimately, technology exists to facilitate and enhance our capabilities, but we must take care to not let it determine how we interact with buyers. While content can certainly be tailored to address emotional needs, it is such elements as trust, persuasion, and authentic connection which require human interaction – something that simply cannot be achieved with an automated process. As a recent CEB/Google study demonstrated,** contrary to conventional wisdom, B2B buying is highly personal and fraught with emotions – and much more so than B2C due to the level of personal risk involved (i.e. reputation, advancement, even livelihood). Consequently, the only truly adequate means of addressing this component and forging authentic, trust-building connections vital to successful sales is via a humanized experience. As one commenter so eloquently stated, “Storytelling still has to find a heart to make its home.”
This reinforces our experience here at SimplyDIRECT. We have found that the information we collect in our surveys helps establish a personal relationship between the prospect and the sales person. When the sales person contacts the prospect, he/she already knows key facts about the business and problems the prospect is trying to solve. Such up front knowledge allows sales to personalize their story in a manner which speaks directly to that prospect’s needs and, hopefully, heart.
Many thanks to all the contributors for reaffirming that at the end of the day, in spite of all the shiny new possibilities permitted by technology, that fundamentally it’s still people – and the trust between us – that matter. Whether B2B or B2C, by necessity it’s all really H2H (human to human).