Could Technology Replace Human Interaction in B2B Sales?

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After conducting survey of 1,200 global business decision-makers in late 2013, Avanade reported seven out of 10 people said technology will replace human interaction with customers in the next decade. Gartner predicts by 2020, 85 percent of interactions between businesses will be executed without humans. These statistics don’t mean businesses should slash their B2B sales staff and replace them with robots, but it means understanding the modern sales cycle and placing the right people — and the right software — in the right roles.

Redesigning Organizational Roles

Some companies leave their sales reps spending as much as 40 percent of their time looking for someone to call. If you’re still asking your sales staff to perform cold calls to generate leads, please stop as soon as possible. Purchasing a good list, according to insidesales.com, costs five to 10 percent of the labor cost of a human cold caller. A list can also generate up to a 1,300-percent return on investment. If purchasing a list can generate such results, imagine the success a company can create with an inbound marketing campaign or targeted email campaigns.

Companies that use marketing automation to nurture leads experience a 451-percent jump in qualified leads. In addition, according to data released by Salesforce, marketing automation can drive a 14.5-percent increase in sales productivity and a 12.2-percent decrease in marketing overhead. The most successful companies rarely leave lead generation to humans. Instead, they allow the sales staff to focus on closing the sale, answering questions about complicated B2B products or services and improving the customer experience. Also, give your salespeople the tools to be easily available to your B2B customers. One of the simplest ways to do this is by developing an effective BYOD strategy so your staff can use their smartphones and tablets to conduct business anywhere.

Changing Business Processes

It’s time to admit that, in some cases, the machines do it better. Look at these tasks and find a better way to deploy your humans and your software for greater efficiency.

  • Social media posting. Let the sales staff craft posts based on analytics and on their experience with your brand. Also, let them respond to customer comments and tweets. Then, let the software distribute the message across all of your social media channels, and let it analyze the success of your social media campaigns.
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  • Marketing materials. When a B2B customer clicks on a marketing email and requests more information, software can automatically send out the material. Software can also store and provide easy access to marketing materials for your staff. Let your salespeople make follow-up calls and keep them available to answer questions.
  • Website design and SEO. In many cases, marketing automation software can generate landing pages with copy optimized for search engines. Let the sales staff develop the foundational copy — and let the software optimize it for your customer.
  • Lead management. Marketing automation software can manage leads, schedule follow-ups and send follow-up emails. Let your staff do the actual following up.
  • Track results. Marketing software can track your clicks, conversions and other statistics. Your sales staff can use the information to see what worked and to redesign or replicate it during the next campaign.

Investing in New Technology

Once you know how you want to change your organizational roles and business processes, choose the software solution that works for your staff. In addition to selecting marketing automation software, look at other solutions including:

  • CRM software. Build a database that puts B2B customer information at your fingertips. Then, make sure you have the tools for data protection.
  • Document signing. E-signature software can be a major timesaver. Try tools like DocuSign or RightSignature so your sales staff isn’t chasing customers for contract signatures.
  • File repository. Build an easy-to-access library of reference materials for your sales staff using Dropbox or another cloud-document-sharing service.
  • Document generation. In addition to automating document signing, you can also automate contract generation. Some all-in-one tools like TinderBox generate documents and facilitate the signing process.

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The Human Touch Is Still Essential

Humans will always have a place in the B2B sales process; software can never replace a gifted salesperson. Computers can, however, make the sales process easier and more efficient.

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