Monday, 6 July 2015

Do people really want to buy from people?


I’ve been thinking about this question a lot and I think I can say with some degree of certainty that the answer is a resounding ‘yes’ – but not always. Let me explain.

If I want some milk and bread do I have a preference from buying from a real-life human being? Probably not. If I did I wouldn’t rush to the self-service checkouts do the check-out job myself.  I trust that the milk and bread I get won’t be impacted by my interaction with a person. I’m not relying on them for anything more than taking my money in exchange for a receipt.

So let me move on. Let’s talk hair-cuts. Now that’s a personal service and we put our trust in certain individuals to do this task without making us look like one of the Three Stooges. But if that were automated and the results just as good, would we abandon our regular hair-dressers and be happy to sit in an impersonal booth? Well, some of us might and some of us wouldn’t.

So let’s move on again. I want a new Kitchen. I’m faced with a couple of options. I can measure it all out and order materials online. Or I can engage with a person who will help me make the right choices and save me from making mistakes. So now my preference is definitely to buy from a real-life person.

In B2B, there are often very different drivers to buy than in the consumer world. Often the sale is less one dimensional and transactional. It can often be complex with a variety of stakeholders involved and a project team required to make it happen. The fear of making the wrong decision is a big emotional motivator but it’s only one of many. So when everything else is relatively equal, business people will make their final buying choice based on the people they’re engaging with.  As Bob Burg puts it: “All things being equal, people will do business with and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust.”  We’re human beings after all and when we make an emotional connection we create a bond of trust. We rely heavily on instinct at this point and if the instincts are saying ‘I like and trust this individual to deliver’ it has a powerful impact on choice.
This time it’s personal
So a challenge for the B2B marketer and their sale’s colleagues is to create and maintain personal relationships with customers. Typically a sales person deals with more accounts than ever before. They can find that the customer knows as much (or more) about their products and services than they do.
So if we believe that people buy from people, how can we efficiently bring the ‘personal’ in to our marketing and sales strategies with limited budgets and resource?  How do we humanise our often huge, global brands?  Social media is certainly helping, as long as you have well-connected brand advocates who understand the rules of the game. When you get it right, the amplification of that ‘human’ side of the business can be huge.  But what about on a more micro-level?  One to one. Where it really counts.
There is a way
One highly effective way is through video personalisation; using video tools that allow self-recorded messages as part of the sales process.  It won’t replace the power of face to face meetings of course, but it’s a giant step up from de-personalised text.  In an important bid, for example, this type of personalisation is extremely powerful in showing personal and very real commitment to delivering the promise.  When the stakes are high, a short, personal video message from a senior individual can make a huge difference in closing the deal.  I’ve seen it work.
So if people buy from people – shouldn’t your people be speaking to their people? Even if it’s only on video?  It’s certainly worth thinking about when the stakes are high.

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