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Why the personal touch matters more than ever in sales.

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Throughout the pandemic, businesses across the board have been doubling down their efforts to get closer to customers to ringfence sales and safeguard relationships for the longer term. Once upon a time, personalized sales and marketing was solely the preserve of the biggest companies with sizeable marketing budgets to match. However, in the wake of the pandemic, businesses need to connect with customers and prospects like never before and advances in technology are making it easier to adopt a tailor-made approach.

The basics

Personalization allows businesses to deliver one-to-one experiences that really resonate with customers, essentially making them more likely to specify your products or services in future.

In today’s increasingly digitally driven world, there are powerful examples of personalization all around us – be it streaming service, Netflix suggesting further content based on your viewing habits through to Amazon using their historic customer data in its recommendations for future purchases. These brands engage in a personal way from the moment customers access their services.

At the most basic level, personalization can be as simple as adding an individual’s name to an email subject line (or a coffee cup in the case of Starbucks). But when used more strategically and consistently, it can result in highly targeted sales and marketing campaigns that harness an individual’s buying preferences, web activity, demographics, and other key data points to deliver a more meaningful customer experience.

Why personalize?

According to Experian, personalized marketing emails receive 29% higher open rates and 41% higher click-through rates compared to standard communications yet as many as seven in ten still don’t personalize email comms. It’s a similar story when it comes to web personalization. Multiple reports indicate that businesses who take the time to personalize web experiences can see double digit increases in sales yet many companies still fail to personalize their websites.

Meeting customer expectation is a further powerful rationale for personalized selling. Today’s B2B buyers actively seek personalized sales experiences and are prepared to back them with business spend. Indeed, many reports show companies now expect to receive personalized offers from businesses as a matter of course and many buyers indicate they are prepared to switch brands if a company doesn’t make an effort to personalize their communications.

It all starts with the customer (and their data)

Personalization is all about connecting better with customers yet in many businesses, sales strategies have often been developed and implemented solely by the sales and marketing team with limited customer insight or feedback taken into consideration. So, sitting down with customers to get a better understanding of their buying journey, the processes they go through, and their individual wants and needs is the obvious place to start.

In this regard, companies with immediate and comprehensive access to their key customer data through a sales enablement technology platform such as sales-i can gain a major head start on their less tech-enabled counterparts. Indeed, our own customers frequently tell us that embracing data- driven selling has allowed them to develop far deeper relationships with their clients while delivering a host of wider operational and financial benefits.

Sales and marketing professionals within these businesses will already have a detailed overview of key customer buying behaviours and historic transactions at their fingertips, allowing them to start fresh personalization efforts on the front foot rather than being forced to go through the time-consuming process of manually searching for historic insights in unwieldy spreadsheets.

Mapping the journey

Once you’ve developed a deeper understanding of your customers’ needs and the sales data that underpins them, it’s time to map their individual customer journeys. Customer journey mapping is a way of charting customer experiences, right from their initial engagement with your business, through the engagement process, towards them being an established customer. This will allow you to identify areas where there might be gaps in the current customer experience and address any pain points where a personalized approach might deliver better results. This process should result in a clear, accessible document for each customer that details every interaction they make with your business in the process of a transaction.

Being realistic

B2B buyer journeys are complex, and it won’t always be possible from a cost perspective to serve each of your customer’s individual needs at every stage of the process, particularly among smaller businesses where resources are constrained. As with many business improvement processes, the key lies in prioritization. By considering their most important and valuable customers up-front and focussing on developing and improving these customer journeys first, you can kickstart the process and secure insights that are likely to be applicable to your wider customer base.

Investing for success: the future's personal

Developing effective customer personalization strategies needn’t cost the earth but the process can often come unstuck when businesses haven’t considered what investments may be required for them to effectively act on the customer insights they have identified. Effective personalization typically requires investment in the right infrastructure, so businesses should think carefully about what supporting technology they may need – particularly when it comes to data management - and whether greater integration between the sales and marketing departments may be necessary.

What’s more, establishing measurement tools and key performance indicators from the outset is key to monitoring the success of your efforts over the longer term. All too often, businesses can end up dissatisfied with their personalization processes or unable to gauge their worth, simply because they failed to consider what constitutes success.

By going the extra mile to understand what their customers really need, it is possible to deliver personalized sales experiences that provide real long-term value to customers, address and anticipate their likely future requirements and ultimately increase brand loyalty and trust for the longer term.

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