The human touch

by | Aug 24, 2022

In this post, Senior Consultant, Greg Lee, chats about the importance of the human touch in current approach to sales and marketing.

When Bruce Springsteen wrote and sang about needing “a little of that human touch” he probably wasn’t thinking about how to improve sales technique.

But, as we emerge out of the pandemic into a climate of economic uncertainty, talk of recession grows louder and the stakes have never been higher for commercial businesses. The need for differentiation in an approach to customer and audience engagement has gone up more than a few notches.

We work with many commercial teams in large enterprise organisations that now operate very differently to 2 or 3 years ago.  The impact of remote working, alongside shifting expectations from both CEOs and customers, plus an explosion of sales support and ABM technology and platforms, means that businesses can now interact with their customers and prospects in a way never previously imagined.

Web and Cloud based tools such as Seismic, Tiled, Folloze and Turtl enable sales and marketing teams to create and understand content and audience engagement on a whole new level. Digital analytics provide insight about what has ‘landed’ and what hasn’t, allowing careful personalised curation of content and a responsive, continually evolving customer journey. It’s still Sales, but perhaps not as we have known it.

Now, it is entirely possible to sell services and solutions worth hundreds of thousands of pounds without even talking to someone.

The harnessing of digital technology to deliver improved commercial outcomes is, without a doubt, both necessary and exciting, insightful and innovative.

But here at Sales Engine, while we recognise the role of technical capability and that it serves many important purposes, we strongly believe it should never replace one of the absolute cornerstones of any sales strategy or methodology.

People (still) buy People

And that is a bit more tricky to solidify solely online.

We will always do due diligence. We will always take time to properly understand the business requirements of a customer; individual motivations as well as corporate goals. We will always ask lots of questions. LOTS of questions. We will always work with technology.

But our philosophy is based on People – Process – Tools for a very good reason.

Our underlying approach is about establishing chemistry between buyer and seller; across individuals, teams and overall, as companies.  This is something we seek to create with our clients, but also instil in them to do with their own prospects and customers.

What do we mean by this? Surely if a business is doing all the right things in the sales process and are taking note of what their digital content and marketing analytics are showing them, they are on the right path?

Well yes. But this chemistry we speak of goes above and beyond data and process. Beyond email, websites and automation. It’s about trust, honesty and a genuine desire to show a customer why they should buy from you – to bring in some magic that demonstrates why not all suppliers are created equal.

So how do you do this?

First, think about the last time you did something unexpected or unusual that brought surprise and delight to your customer in their journey of buying from you.

What was it? How did you show them how MUCH you wanted their business?

Did they believe you? What was the magical chemistry you conjured?

This is based on something we regularly ask ourselves as well as our own clients.
How genuinely committed are you to the success of all you serve?

For example, our values (and independence) at Sales Engine mean we help our clients choose the best tools for the job that needs doing, not because we favour one platform more than the other. Because no matter how much people know us and like us, to trust us, they have to believe that we really want what is best for them.

A recent client project offers a good case in point.

Our client has been discussing an opportunity with an existing customer of theirs for the last 15+ months. They have been informally advised that securing said opportunity would result in a significantly increased scope of work for them.

To prepare for an important upcoming meeting with their senior execs, our client needed to consider the 2 things that they knew were crucial to the customer:

  • Chemistry fit– it is essential that the 2 organisations are culturally aligned.
  • Commercial terms – finalising mutually agreeable figures.

Make a little magic

In collaboration with our client, we produced an animated film to share with the attendees ahead of the formal meeting. The video served to remind attendees who our client are, what they do, why they are great and to highlight these 2 important decision influencing factors.

The desired outcome is for those who view the video to think “I’m really looking forward to meeting with that team next week. It’s clear that they get what we want. I think we could work well together.”  And that is before they are even in a room together.

While there is no attributable ROI metric to the activity, it shows an investment in the customer, in the relationship, it demonstrates active listening to their needs and it does it in a way that isn’t another email or formal document and that isn’t ‘selling’ in any kind of traditional sense.

It is purely to say “Hi – we look forward to building this relationship.”

And therein lies the surprise and delight, It’s going above and beyond to provide an experience that will be memorable, that will trigger reactions of warmth and positivity towards our client, that will hopefully help them secure the business.

Feel the love

Ooooh. Are we getting all gooey? Yep – a bit! And here’s why.

Although sales technologies may be revolutionising the way we manage business development opportunities, and formal documents like proposals, RFIs/RFPs and bids remain an integral part of competing for commercial business, they all speak to the ‘head’ – the facts, figures, the pragmatic business rationale.

What we are inviting you to do, is take a step back. To find a way to speak to the ‘heart’ too. Your buyer may be a CEO, COO, a hardened procurement person or financial decision maker, but they are all feeling people as well. This is the human aspect of business, of relationships, of buying, of trust, that will give you the edge. Finding the space to demonstrate authenticity and distinct personal relevance invites a response framed by emotional intelligence and intuition, as well as pragmatism. Never forget that despite living and working in a world of ‘digital distance’ endless scrolling and 3 clicks to buy, we are social and conscious beings and it’s more important than ever to fully embrace this.

It doesn’t mean we can’t do this digitally either, in fact some brands manage to do this 100% online, but this is perhaps less likely or desirable, in a B2B scenario. We are talking about activating emotions in your customers by using human attributes that are both emotional and functional to create connection.

Whether in person, online or written documents or interactive content, this could be using layman’s language, finding ways to show you value their time and business and demonstrating how personable your team are, highlighting their responsiveness, empathy and integrity.

5 ways to humanise your People – Processes – Tools

  • Harness unexpected creativity and ‘magic’ in your people – run multi-team ‘idea drop’ sessions for best results.
  • Always keep the audience in mind but include stakeholders, decision makers and end users in this process – their needs, their language and their desired outcomes and build stories around them.
  • Don’t be afraid to be bold or take a chance on a new direction with your sales content. It can still be ‘on brand’ even with a more creative, exploratory departure from the standard corporate style.
  • Use tech tools in a smart collaborative way to deliver and measure these experiences – the video we talk about is a great example.
  • Fully integrate ‘brand humanity’ within your sales and marketing operations from core values throughout all internal and external communications.

Check out examples of large organisations who do this well include Cisco, MailChimp and Slack.

But remember you don’t have to be a global enterprise or only use big budget slick videos to do this stuff effectively and with impact.

Listen to the wisdom of Springsteen!