August 23, 2018

The Evolution of Sales: Fostering the Human Connection


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Not every business today can manage taking all prospects out to a round of golf and a fancy dinner. Even so, today’s businesses can still personalize the sales process and make that human connection throughout the buying journey.

Over the course of history, we’ve seen sales techniques evolve dramatically. Today, even though we’re driven by data and technology, the level of personalization with which companies can approach leads and customers is improving all the time.

Here, we’ll take a closer look at how to foster that human connection in your sales and marketing touchpoints.

The Sales Approach: A Brief History

Over history, sales tactics have largely evolved from personal face-to-face interactions (think door-to-door sales, meetings over dinner or a leisurely game of golf) to digital touchpoints. As our technology evolved, the personal touch to prospecting customers didn’t necessarily evolve with it—at least not right away.

What we were left with in this new global business paradigm was data—and lots of it. In the year 2000, Berkeley professors calculated that the world’s yearly production of data came out to 1.5 billion gigabytes. By contrast, in 2017, IDC estimated that the world will create and replicate 163 zettabytes of data in 2025. To put that in perspective, 1.5 billion gigabytes is 0.15 percent of a single zettabyte.

Even when compared to 2010, the amount of data we’ll generate in 2025 is astronomic:

This massive proliferation of information has provided marketers and salespeople with more insights they could dream of on their target customer. The question is: How do you make those insights work for creating that human connection again?

The Importance of a Human Connection in Sales

Today, a variety of technology and data allow salespeople to create more meaningful connections, including:

Account based marketing (ABM) as a marketing technique that utilizes targeting and personalization to make the maximum impact possible on each account. Big data to generate insights into the behaviors, preferences, and desires of specific audiences.Tech-based services like customer relationship management (CRM) systems and customer engagement platforms.

There’s a wide array of options at many different points in the sales funnel and customer lifecycle to make more meaningful connections, for example:

  • Utilize direct mail: Sending personalized direct mail to your prospects is one of the best ways to show them that they’re more than a number to you. For example, after implementing a direct mail campaign, platform provider Pendo saw a fivefold increase in close rates. The lesson? Viewing digital touchpoints as the only way to stay in touch means missed opportunities.
  • Get creative: Although simple gifts like coffee vouchers can spark a conversation or increase meeting attendance rates, more thoughtful gifts make a huge impact. For example, if you’re hoping to earn the favor of a prospect who is expecting a baby, you could send over a cute onesie emblazoned with a personalized graphic.
  • Don’t mass market: Remember that not all buyers fall into the same category, and you shouldn’t treat them as such; Instead, cater to each segment in a unique way. For instance, you could send highly personalized (and pricier) gifts to top-level accounts, gift cards to smaller buyers, and personalized emails to mailing list subscribers.
  • Personalize whenever possible: Even small personal touches can make a big difference—so when you’re using those digital touchpoints, make them personal as much as possible. For example, personalized email subject lines have been shown to increase open rates by 50 percent. Take advantage of this by including recipients’ names in the subject line.
  • Prioritize human interaction: Although chatbots may be trendy, 82 percent of U.S. customers want more human interaction from companies in the future. So, make sure that your customers can easily talk to a friendly and knowledgeable team member.

However, no matter how much data the world creates, the importance of human connection will never diminish. What’s more, statistics back this up:

Forty-one percent of salespeople say that the phone is their most effective sales tool. Most buyers prefer friendly and moderately knowledgeable salespeople over those who are personally cold but highly knowledgeable. Sixty-five percent of B2B buyers find value in discussing their situations with salespeople. Sixty-five percent of consumers say that they’ve felt an emotional connectionwith a brand or business. Eighty-six percent of consumers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience. Seventy-nine percent of consumers want to be able to talk to a human for customer service.

And, with the technologically advanced tools available to sales teams today, it’s easier than ever for companies to scale up their efforts beyond isolated interactions.

Sales is constantly evolving in strategy and approach, but at the end of the day, it has always been about making the human connection. Fortunately, today we have the opportunity to make meaningful connections driven by technological insights.

From sales engagement platforms like SalesLoft and Outreach to direct mail platforms, companies are able to develop relationships and connections more effectively than ever before.


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