Technology is amazing. Amazon’s Alexa knows much more than just my favorite songs. For instance, she knows what types of music I like and makes recommendations for me. And Apple’s Siri knows the fastest way home from the office, taking into account traffic, construction, weather conditions and even special events nearby that might affect my route.
I love my automated subscription renewal reminders from Condé Nast and, if Nordstrom were smarter (they’re already pretty amazing, though), they’d send me a reminder when my last-purchased mascara needed to be replaced including what brand I went with last time and what I might like that’s new (because they know I shop around).
As members of revenue teams (marketing and sales) we love what automation has brought us. Pre- and post-event communications have never run smoother and every day we gain more information on our funnels, telling us where to focus our dollars and communication efforts. However, where technology and automation fall short is luxury.
If you think about anything beautiful – and I mean truly beautiful – you’ve ever purchased, the deal wasn’t sealed with a reminder email. Chances are very high that you purchased that designer piece of furniture, diamond ring, sports car, box seats (you name it) from an actual person in-the-flesh. And if you needed an upgrade or servicing, you most likely went back to the same place because of the relationship you had formed with whoever helped you make your initial purchase.
B2B sales are like luxury purchases, except between businesses. Companies will search for the best deal on office supplies and commodities that are easily replaced, which means that they reserve their luxury purchases for technology, services and software (on premises or SaaS or, most likely, a combo of both).
According to the “2016-2017 Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Spend Survey” published by Gartner, CMOs now allocate 27% of their budget towards technology. ChiefMarTech.com did some calculations for us which further illustrate how marketers and IT are neck-and-neck for spend with 3.2% and 3.4% of revenue dedicated to technology purchases, respectively.
Potential buyers (e.g. marketing or other executives) aren’t going to make a significant investment based on automated email communications, promotions inviting them to a webinar, or a three sentence plug for your newest product. They want, actually demand, a human touch.
It’s easy enough to do. After all, the human touch begins with a person talking to, you guessed it, another person. And it will always be necessary, no matter how automated or digitized our lives and work become. Heck, an entire industry was born based on the need for helping folks in the digital space meet person-to-person: online dating.
While, in theory, these types of personalized, heartfelt communications are easy to do, these types of relationships actually take much more care, time and attention to detail. Time that’s often hard for us to find as digital marketers. Which is why we save them for our biggest customers and potential “crown jewel” accounts.
These are the people you deliver flowers to, and, in our world, you customize your analysts’ reports for. Why? Because you can’t get the details wrong here or they’re off to the next suitor. And this loss isn’t just from a cost-of-engagement perspective, because once the executive you’ve been talking to doubts your sincerity or is delivered roses after they explicitly told you that they prefer daisies… well, that’s hard to come back from, mate.
Chemistry between personalities might be an important factor here, sure, but typically what’s more important is getting the right people aligned in both organizations. Engagio calls this “team selling.” Experts like experts, lawyers like lawyers (kind of), accounts payable needs to connect with accounts receivable, and it’s the job of you, the Account Exec, to make sure that the stars align properly for all of this to happen.
In a pragmatic world, sales can’t court every single account to their fullest potential. There just aren’t enough salespeople, time or resources for this. There needs to be a way to cut through the clutter, in reverse. Luckily, communication tools come in handy for this. They automated the tedious tasks and enable customized messages delivered to the right person, from the right person, and sometimes even at scale.
In the end, it’s all about balance and using technology to assist us, not rule us.
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