07 Sep Do you need people in b2b sales and marketing?
I am fascinated by technology. After all I was engaged with it early on and could wield a mouse from the age of 3 quite successfully. I am now experiencing things in my lifetime that I first saw on Sci-Fi shows and in comics. I am experiencing more and more AI and Automation creeping into every area of my life and in many ways making a real difference. It is also impacting sales and marketing.
Long gone are the days when sales people would drive from office to office discussing needs of decision makers, building rapport, relationships and opportunities in the funnel to establish a pipeline. Marketing automation is taking over more of the customer journey, but are we losing the personal touch or ‘person touch’ in B2B sales and marketing?
Is AI taking over too much of the B2B sales and marketing process?
Technology is having more and more of a major impact in the direct marketing sphere. The last 10 years have seen a significant shift from telephone-driven activity to focus more on social, inbound marketing, and marketing automation. In terms of B2B marketing, this also seems to be a considerable factor in the changes to how we market and map out a customer journey.
Nowadays, everything is ROI driven and we are able to measure so much more. New technology enables us to do that, to an extent. New more digitally focused tactics are taking centre stage, with a growth in marketing SaaS-based solutions entering the market, all promising great things while often consuming lots of time, resource and budget.
Automation and thought leadership rich content is helping to drive oodles of ‘leads’ into the top of the funnel. Content funnels no longer focus solely on blogs and white papers and there has been a significant shift to the use of social channels, online advertising and remarketing tools. To some extent, it helps potential buyers to keep coming back for more, but this can take many weeks of nurturing and a lot of marketing spend and they still may not choose you.
In some cases this has made the majority of lead generation activities and the resulting customer journey automated, but what is the real cost?
As more direct communication and engagement happens later in the funnel, there is much less human touch. More recently, organisations have had to turn to Zoom and Microsoft Teams to replace physical meetings, further streamlining the sales and marketing process but with less face to face interaction. Although I think we are all getting screen-weary!
Yet, those well-versed in business-to-business sales and marketing will recognise the critical role that human interaction has in the overall sales and marketing process. The ability to communicate at multiple levels, steer a conversation, while dealing with objections, giving examples and building a relationship with the other person. People still buy from people and where solutions are complex, involving multiple decision makers and various milestones the human touch is essential.
As things begin to open back up we expect that not only will offices be working on a hybrid model but will also continue to host meetings in a similar fashion. Companies are giving staff more choice in where they work – home or office – as well as how often they work in each locations many opting for a 3 – 2 balance. We expect the impact will mean that decision makers will be more difficult to reach.
And in this situation, technology could in fact become more of a barrier to proper engagement, rapport and relationship building. Don’t get me wrong Technology can and does help, but it cannot replace the activity that is needed to engage in major b2b sales and marketing opportunities. Ultimately, the telephone is still one of the best tools to engage, build rapport, interrupt automation-driven marketing from your competition and put you in the driving seat when it comes to new business.