For B2B Sales Success, Blend the Human Touch with Your Digital Transformation

By Sabrina Ferraioli, Co- Founder and VP, Global Sales, 3D2B

Is your churn rate increasing, your ROI declining, or your market share shrinking? If you’re suffering any of these symptoms, then read on for a diagnosis and cure.

It turns out that futurist John Naisbitt was right when he introduced the concept of high tech/high touch in his 1982 bestseller Megatrends. In the book, he warned us, The more high tech we have, the more high touch we will want.”

For the past several years, businesses have been digitizing their sales and marketing processes at a dizzying rate, using Websites, marketing automation, social media platforms, blogs, Webinars, big data, artificial intelligence, and more. We’ve gone digital at the risk of distancing ourselves from our customers.

Don’t get me wrong. In many ways, the Internet, marketing automation, and more have helped change B2B sales for the better – providing buyers with more flexibility and control while giving vendors greater insight into buyers.

The problem is that, in our rush to go digital, we’ve fallen over the tipping point, and our customers are noticing what’s missing – good, old-fashioned service. Your customers want it; it’s up to you to deliver. As a recent Accenture Interactive study shows, service is the new sales.

It’s time to take Naisbitt’s warning to heart because, while buyers expect to be able to confer with a human sales rep whenever they want, they also appreciate the convenience of 24/7 online access to many services and transactions.

In other words, they want to have their cake and eat it, too. And, when your customer experience (CX) falls short of expectations, your buyers aren’t hesitating to leave you for the competition.

To deliver the best service to your prospects and customers, you need to find the optimal blend of high tech and high touch…the perfect balance between the myriad digital B2B sales technologies and the human sales touch.

Service Is the New Sales
On first glance, the numbers to come out of Accenture Interactive’s recent study should set off your alarm bells.

Based on a survey of almost 800 B2B buyers, 44 percent admit they have changed vendors at least once in the past year. And the customer exodus will not slow down soon. Another 36 percent expect to switch vendors this year. In other words, during the 24 months from 2019 through 2020, 80 percent of B2B buyers will have switched vendors.

While buyers continue to cite traditional motives for leaving – including uncompetitive pricing, fulfillment and delivery problems, and inadequate integration across sales channels – a third of the reasons are attributable to buyers’ heightened CX expectations.

Yes, they want competitive pricing and a broad range of quality products and services, but they also expect:

  • Quick resolution of issues and problems
  • A higher value for their dollar
  • Immediate and efficient service responses
  • 24/7 access to vendors

Now for the good news: You can slow the hemorrhaging of B2B customers and even find increased competitive advantage in the growing demand for superior CX by embracing “service as the new sales.”

In addition to querying buyers, Accenture surveyed almost 1,500 vendors. At least 90 percent of those who were effectively integrating service into the sales process are not only gaining a larger share of buyers’ wallets and enjoying higher profitability, but they are also experiencing increased market share and seeing more sales from initial Website clicks.

Accenture identified three key strategies successful B2B vendors are using to find the optimal balance between high tech and high touch and deliver on customer expectations.

1. Using Technology to Unlock Data Insights
Accenture found that B2B brands with the highest commitment to CX and service are investing in technology at a rate of almost twice that of other vendors. What’s more, they are twice as likely to have a robust data management solution – one that is centralized and up to date. In other words, they are not simply automating; they’re digging deeper into their data.

Using technology to leverage your data enables both human and digital services to apply data-driven insights. It equips your salespeople to provide personal, one-to-one service as needed, while your digital resources can deliver targeted assistance at scale.

2. Building an All-Star Human-Digital Team
With all the discussion around AI replacing people, your customers expect immediate access to your salespeople on their terms – when they want.

The key is to provide the digital resources that automate many services for 24/7 access while empowering your sales reps with the tools and insight they need to deliver the personal touch. Tech isn’t replacing your people – it’s teaming up with them.

3. Organizing for Success from the Top Down
So much for all the talk about communication, listening, relationship building, and personalization. Your customers realize when your words are just that, and they’re demanding their vendors of choice to walk the talk.

To succeed at delivering the perfect blend of tech and touch requires more than an adjustment in your sales strategy. It requires rewiring attitudes and actions companywide and transforming into a service-first organization.

An organizational sea change of this magnitude begins at the top. To succeed, every department will require the support, financial buy-in, and leadership – starting with the C suite and including every executive and middle manager.

With the company behind you, it becomes easier for your reps to look beyond immediate sales and forge a mutually satisfying relationship with each buyer – one that meets buyers’ expectations and that you can scale for business growth.

Now is the time to look at your sales process from your buyers’ perspective and deliver an experience that blends tech and touch for the optimum in service throughout the sales cycle.

Sabrina Ferraioli is co-founder and VP of global sales for 3D2B, managing the multi-national sales organization.