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More and more sales teams are turning to technology to help them to ‘reach out’ to prospects and customers, in the hope that this will drive top of funnel activity. Whilst this is great for some, the use of automated cadences in your selling process can be the wrong approach for B2B sellers. Here’s why.

Consider for a moment the complexity of your sales process. Visualise it as a position on a continuum with two extreme points as shown below.

Transactions

Maybe your sales process is B2C or B2C-like, where often you differentiate on issues such as price and delivery time?

Here revenue is often the sum of many simple transactions (rather than larger binary orders), Typically a single purchaser is involved in one or few short conversations/meetings, making fast purchasing decisions on a simple offer and focused on easy to buy, lowest price or fastest delivery. Buyers here will know what they are buying and require a simple order process to facilitate their transaction. Research shows that buyers here are well through their buying process (I’ve seen 57%, 63% or 74% quoted) before engaging with a supplier.

This is good business for many companies and your value proposition will be based on the Amazon-like model of speed, price and ease of purchase. 

Complex

More often found in more B2B where a company must increasingly differentiate on value.

Many B2B companies find that their new business sales are more complex than transactions. These larger ticket projects typically require a greater investment of time and are more difficult to get over the line.

More people are involved on both the buy and sell side of the engagement and this means that the buying criteria is often based on a consensus view from a [sometimes dysfunctional] group of buyers. Buyers in complex projects, responding to complex business problems, don’t always have answers or experience related to the solutions they are buying. They look to trusted suppliers for help, help to understand the value of a new approach. Only then are they interested in understanding the value of working with your company rather than another.

Buyers engage with expert sales people who can be trusted to offer advice that unlocks value in their business. They want insights based on experience of other like companies and suppliers need a consultative, value orientated approach to solving the customer’s business problems.

So which end of this spectrum are you? I find that many B2B teams are closer to complex rather than transactions.

The rise in automation.

Increasingly B2B companies are using cadence tools supported by AI and Machine Learning to automate their customer engagement. This does help with productivity I am certain, but is it more effective?

Wearing my business owner and buyer hat, I do get frustrated with the volume of automated [SPAM like] messages I receive that are clearly part of a sequence, sometimes minimally-personalised yet not based on my needs. I call these “Do you want one of these?” messages. 

For transactional sales processes I totally understand the use of automation like this. It will help you to be more efficient and even responsive to simple questions a bot can answer. After all, how often do Amazon call you to be able to transact millions of transactions a week. Their automated processes are proven to improve the customer experience too.

But, if you are a complex business,  you differentiate yourself on the quality of your customer engagement to differentiate in a often competitive market. Customer intimacy is essential for you to build trust with, and demonstrate value to buyers.

In Complex selling, automation is the enemy of Intimacy

For transactional sales and known buyers, ‘buy me’ messages can be really effective at stimulating demand. But automated email message cadences are not the sole answer for complex companies. 

Here’s why it’s not the answer in complex selling.

  1. Automation [today] doesn’t listen, think or hold detailed, complex conversations
  2. No conversation means no trusted relationship.
  3. Without trusted relationships a company cannot sell consultatively, building an in depth understanding of a customer’s complex business problems and needs.
  4. Without deep understanding, you’ll struggle to share the right insights or articulate value

In the end up you will be selling commodity and differentiating on price. Not a good spot for most B2B companies that need to stand out in a competitive market.

Sadly, too many companies are trying to play a numbers game. Lots of automated emails, poorly targeted, sometimes well scripted, slightly personalised (name at least) but ultimately focused on ‘buy me’ messaging. Buyers are increasingly ignoring such messages and the whole sales industry is being tarnished as a result.

I am not knocking sales tech per-se. There is so many options in the market today and at Outside In we are one of these application providers, supporting sales managers and their teams to improve performance. Naturally therefore I believe in the right application of sales technology. It can be brilliant and totally has a place in improving sales performance. Automated cadences can effectively support a more personalised set of sales engagements, through reminders and guided content. Do this and don’t just push out the same old nonsense please!

There are no silver bullets and you must apply the right tools (apps) to the right situations. So, consider your approach to selling. In the world of automated email cadences customers are tired of the same old messages, lack of engagement and intimacy.

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