The Hand Talks

That Crucial Human Touch in B2B Sales

18.08.2023 by The Hand

In the complex arena of B2B sales and marketing, personalisation is the absolute cornerstone of successful engagement. The development of AI has undoubtedly reshaped how businesses approach marketing and sales, offering unprecedented efficiency in certain tasks. However, it’s vital to debunk the notion of AI being able to achieve successful personalisation and connection all on its own. It can’t.

Whilst AI can expedite processes, it fundamentally lacks the depth of human understanding of language nuances and emotion. Let’s delve a bit more into the symbiotic relationship between human expertise in personalisation and AI efficiency as a tool in the complex B2B world. Because whilst it’s clear it can make the process more efficient, what I see no evidence for is how AI can replace the human touch. I just don’t believe it can right now.

Let’s start with the simple truth: AI is a tool, not a substitute.

It doesn’t actually think. It has no morals and it has no ethics.  It’s, in fact, a very big search engine (note article in the Financial Times last month about this).

Thinking is a uniquely human skill and is vital to human connection and achieving sales and growth. In terms of technical revolution, AI is a word processor replacing a typewriter – it still needs real people for it to work well.

I feel concerned about the fact that there are a lot of Emperor New Clothes AI mass email outfits around at the moment, dangling the idea of efficiencies and cost reductions.  Most of my business contacts and my clients see them coming a mile off and steer clear… Any business that is serious about its reputation and building a real sales pipeline should beware.

This is because human to human, decision to decision,  true B2B success is built upon one-on-one interactions- where humans connect, develop trust, build relationships and create opportunities.
Naturally, this is where The Hand excels and why we are a leading business development consultancy. Whether we help achieve 1 or 5 or 10 opportunities / meetings / RFPs / pitches etc each month for our clients through our personalised, human sales specialist led but AI assisted (research, data) activity, they are warmed and fired up leads at this point and nothing like an AI-generated call or demo.
This is the same for any quality and experienced sales function in or for a B2B business. Every opportunity and human connection (including phone calls not just via LinkedIn or email) that a real person makes for a business is worth x50 of an automated mass emailed approach because research, sifting, expert qualification, personalised outreach and warming the lead up one-to-one, has already happened.
Fewer is better in the sense that leads developed by expert sales people mean that they are warmed up and ready to engage. More isn’t more.
I am aware I talk about this often, but in a world which seems to look increasingly for quick fixes to achieve efficiencies and reduce costs in marketing and sales, it’s important to recognise where something is the tool and not the brain.
Quick facts about AI because there’s a lot of noisy nonsense out there created by pedlars looking for quick and easy money:
  • Automated Analysis: AI assists in sifting through vast datasets, expediting the process of data analysis for better insights. It’s a game-changer as a tool (we use a couple of best in class platforms at The Hand on behalf of our clients to utilise this – creating enormous efficiency).
  • Email Marketing: AI-generated emails provide a starting point for communication, saving time in drafting initial messages. However sales email require one on one human creation and interaction for true success.
  • AI accelerates certain processes but remains reliant on the foundation of human comprehension to be truly effective.
  • Humans need to create the accurate brief for and fine-tune any AI-generated content to ensure that it aligns with the recipient’s needs and conveys genuine understanding. Additionally audiences need to be accurately researched and segmented before any marketing content is shared.
  • AI processes text without grasping its deeper meanings. Human oversight is essential to ensure accurate and contextually relevant content.
  • Misinterpretations or awkward phrasing due to AI can damage outreach from the outset. Humans provide the necessary checks and relevant content and connect in communication.
On the last point above, I receive hundreds of visibly inaccurate (e.g. emails received about a conference focused on physical pipelines in Eastern Europe, just because I have copy on LinkedIn and my website that uses the phrase ‘Sales Pipeline’)… I receive 100’s of these junk emails a week and they all stink of AI
What’s the particular scent here? Laziness, cheapness and mass email blasting. What an awful way to try and create connection and gain new business. What a waste and how damaging to a businesses reputation and brand!
If a business works well because of its personal service and level of excellence in its field, it should think carefully about how it is represented in marketing and sales outreach because mass emailing and AI-led content in emails (these two things are often paired together using bulk lists that haven’t been qualified and rarely meet GDPR compliance – but that’s for another article) because it’s very obvious when you receive them and they show: disinterest in real engagement and are impersonal and poorly qualified. Not the best way to make a first impression – your audience doesn’t matter enough to have direct communication from an actual person?!
The Solution: balancing AI efficiency and human skills of connection and understanding:
  •  Fundamentally AI’s role in marketing and sales is to expedite processes, allowing human professionals more time to spend time on nuanced engagement.
  • Maintaining Authenticity: Human engagement builds trust and rapport, which are integral in complex B2B environments. Humans speak to humans and create engagement.
Personalisation of content and messaging is step 1 in the human touch that creates genuine engagement, establishes trust, and seals deals / wins new business / delivers sales. All the other steps are human led too – B2B sales is a human-to-human journey, where understanding, empathy, and nuanced decision-making shine.
As businesses harness the power of AI as a catalyst, they must remember that success lies in striking a balance between efficiency and genuine human connection. B2B sales should focus on quality of leads not quantity.
Businesses with complex messages to audiences with complex needs require human outreach and not the equivalent of a chatbox interaction with a business. We all know how frustrating interacting with any chatbox is! Within 3 questions you have to speak to customer services or a human as the tech is just not able to cope with real, actual human communication. It’s also so obvious it is what it is!
Therefore the idea of creating inbound sales in B2B through outbound mass email marketing (with or without AI) is a myth. Beware pedlars with invisible clothes for sale!