I read last week that Uber has secured a patent on some technology that uses artificial intelligence to determine whether a potential passenger is drunk. It triggered two thoughts – that technology seems to be permeating every aspect of our lives, and, a few of the great B2B tech sales people I’ve worked with in the past may have struggled to get a ride home some afternoons if this technology was available a few years ago.

Enterprise software sales of old was a highly personal, customised buying process. Information was controlled by the vendor sales person, who worked to understand the customer’s needs, and provide them with the documents and presentation materials they needed. And to also take them out for the odd lunch, to which as a humble marketing person I was sometimes lucky enough to be invited.

In this digital age, is this tech sales role now redundant? Is the great tradition of the long, slow sales lunch finally obsolete? Can computers replace the human touch, and give buyers better, more tailored information whenever they want it?

According to those ubiquitous consultants McKinsey the answer is yes, and no. In a study they conducted, B2B companies effectively using digital tools (which might be anything from marketing automation, to CRMs to sales enablement technology) recorded growth five times that of the laggards. They also found that buyers want also want some human interaction along the way, on their terms.

People like to be able to do their research on a new technology solution, but once satisfied it is credible and may meet their needs, are willing to interact with a real person and get some very specific answers to their questions.

Companies that could combine the digital and human effectively achieved five times the revenues and eight times the operating profit of those who didn’t, in the Mckinsey study.

So how do you achieve this magical marriage of the online and the personal touch? While having the right technology tools in place is important, the place to start is ensuring your marketing and sales people are aligned.

This is often harder than it sounds. Marketers should only be focussed on generating qualified leads for their sales team, and those sales people should only be about closing those opportunities as efficiently as possible. Too often teams end up talking past each other, with sales not seeing marketing as delivering the right quality of volume of leads, and marketing thinking that the sales team aren’t chasing the opportunities they’ve created efficiently enough.

Getting alignment is how you can give your buyers that right mix of digital and human interaction. Marketing activities will often be delivered digitally (e.g. email, social media, SEO, SEM, website, chat) and then nurtured with both digital and personal activities by sales.

Alignment delivers superior growth. According to studies by HubSpot, aligned sales and marketing teams deliver 20% more growth than average, while disconnected teams suffer 4% decline on average.

So how can you achieve this connection?

The first step with any effective relationship is being able to speak the same language. This means a shared understanding of the sales process – what is a raw lead, a marketing qualified lead, a sales qualified lead, a sales opportunity, a customer? It sounds simple but actually sitting down and discussing it can reveal of lot of misunderstanding across your teams.

Next is establishing some agreement on the respective targets of marketing and sales, and committing to them. For example, a marketing goal might be a specific number of MQLs per month, while sales could be the speed of follow-up with those leads deemed of suitable quality.

Underlying this is a technology requirement. You need to be able to track your leads, from first touch point (e.g. a Google search or a social media post) right through to the time they are sent and accept a sales proposal. That means having a ‘stack’ of digital tools in place that helps the buyer along their journey, as well as tools that make it easier for sales people to provide a personal touch – such as automated meeting schedulers, contact tracking or smart email templates.

The array of digital tools available today is incredible, and while they may have unfortunately lessened the need for those glorious Friday afternoon late lunches, allow you to deliver the right mix of digital and personal interaction with your potential customers.

What marketing technology approach is right for your tech business? Download our marketing tech stack guide to see what types of tools you need to make your sales more efficient.

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