Humans naturally crave connection with other humans. But machines are increasingly becoming the middle man between us and the real people we want to connect with. Our direct interactions with one another are decreasing exponentially as technology becomes a scalable interface for basic tasks.
Instead of exchanging pleasantries with someone behind a counter at a restaurant, we order from kiosks. We schedule our doctor’s appointments through apps. And we’ve become accustomed to speaking with chatbots for retail customer service. In some cases, we’ve resigned to it. In other cases, we prefer it.
Enterprises are also experiencing increased contact with machines. Sales and marketing teams have been particularly quick to adopt technologies that automate outreach to prospects, helping to maintain relationships with existing customers. Technology allows them to reach as many people as possible, with unmatched efficiency.
But the lack of direct human contact can be off-putting to the real people on the receiving end. The promise of sales and marketing automation tools was to personalize communications at scale, but in most cases, these tools have given rise to a kind of ‘instant’ personalization, which is often experienced as, well, impersonal.
The next phase in personalization’s evolution certainly involves technology, but the organizations that lead the pack will be those that turn to machines to humanize communications at scale and bring the human touch back to business.
Here are four ways companies can bring humanity back to business.
1. Distinguish between personalization and humanization
Making the distinction between personalization (as we now know it) and humanization is key. Personalization to date has been a matter of including the prospect or customer’s name in marketing communications or, in more advanced cases, tailoring offerings specifically to prospects based on past behaviors that predict the next best offer.
Humanization, on the other hand, means bringing knowledge, personality and one-to-one dialogues to the forefront of communications. New technologies will aid in enabling human connections at this level, rather than simply digitizing them.
2. Sales and marketing don’t have to be a numbers game
Automation has made sales and marketing a game of, how many people can teams reach out to? And how many of those people will respond? Messages lack quality, because teams have been conditioned to prioritize quantity.
With true humanization in mind, take the time to research key prospects and audiences and know more than just their name, title and geography, so you can tailor your communications around more than that. Many times, key decision makers are also keynote speakers and thought leaders. Watch their sessions and read their articles—this is a direct line to learn about how they do their business and the product/service itself. Explore the company’s content to see how it talks about itself. See what you can deduce about its space and position within it. A little research goes a long way in today’s automated landscape.
3. Make ‘being human’ the differentiator
For many companies, it can be difficult to differentiate offerings from competitors. Take a hotel chain that sells similar event space to the hotel chain down the road, or a consumer phone company that sells mobile phone plans that are virtually identical to their competitor’s plans. Competing on price alone has historically been a losing strategy and it often negatively affects the quality of the overall product in the end. For these companies, the personality, knowledge and relationships with their people must become the primary differentiator.
Embracing the humanity of employees, especially in the sales process, offers prospects the opportunity to experience companies through the lens of things like attention to detail and thoughtful service, rather than focusing on indistinguishable feature sets and pricing. Think about the important things in personal relationships—things like sensitivity, emotion and eye contact—and take advantage of these human qualities via personalized videos when in-person meetings aren’t an option or just aren’t scalable.
4. Do more than listen; understand
Be more than just eyes and ears. Whether speaking with prospects for the first time, or the fifth time, it’s important to really listen. If the prospect is a B2B company, note the ways they describe the product; what language they use; how they position themselves; who they’re competing against; and the challenges they’re facing. Use this to understand what the company is going though, then address how the pain points and challenges they’re facing are supported or resolved by the solution or product you’re offering.
With sales and marketing automation, most conversations are one-way. Buyers are being told what they should do or buy, email after email, but no one is really asking what they need. According to Salesforce, 79 percent of business buyers say it’s absolutely critical or very important to interact with a salesperson who is a trusted advisor—not just a sales rep—who adds value to their business. Ask buyers what they need, and help them find it.
In the age of artificial intelligence, chatbots and rapid innovation, we often forget to “use our human,” but it’s our humanity that will create a competitive advantage within businesses.