The human touch still triumphs in the era of self-service

Posted in Sales team management.

The digital age has brought about changes in many aspects of business. With increasing efficiency and optimisation, self-service sales have transformed the way that businesses interact with customers. Driven by innovative technologies and customer preferences, self-service has solidified itself as a staple in business. However, as technologies and customer expectations continue to evolve, one has to question whether self-service is the final destination. Perhaps in the future, automated customer service will be indistinguishable from the human equivalent all but making the customer-facing side of businesses obsolete.

But that is not currently the case. Certainly, self-service is effective at reducing employee expenses, but does it hold the same potential to increase revenue like an established sales team does? It can be quite difficult to develop an emotional connection with a business when sales interactions are quite literally robotic. There are plenty of reasons to have a sales team, and for B2B businesses with smaller customer bases compared to B2C businesses, there are plenty more reasons.

This article delves into the power of the human touch in sales, something that self-service cannot currently provide by its lonesome.

Human guides understand customers’ needs better

With big data, sure, an automated system can “understand” a customer better. It is able to suggest the most suitable products to solve customers’ problems. It is able to help customers navigate the buying process smoothly in a way that they can digest. Unfortunately, there are privacy issues concerning big data collection from customers. In addition to that, using that data in a meaningful way is not always a simple task. But humans? They may not be able to sift through big data like a machine can, but we have the ability to form connections with others that reveal relevant information. A professional salesperson knows how to get to the heart of customers’ desires and troubles and communicate in a way that is appropriate for their customers on the individual scale.

A sales team provides expertise. Individual research is a time-consuming process for customers and the answers to their questions may not be quite straightforward. That is where a human sales team steps in. A natural capacity for language means that salespeople can more easily understand the intent of customer questions and respond appropriately. There are a variety of nuances conveyed in interpersonal communication that a self-service system cannot parse. Even as automation, e-commerce, and self-service seems to encroach on the role of the salesperson, their value still remains in their consultative responsibilities.

Humans can be more persuasive

Due to being social creatures, humans do have some level of innate ability to interpret social situations and navigate them for the purposes of persuading others to be on the same page. This means that skilled human salespersons can be a lot more persuasive in upselling and cross-selling. Effective upselling and cross-selling can be a potent ingredient for business growth. Self-service methods may subtly suggest relevant items to purchase, but customers may often overlook them. Done too aggressively, and customers may be put off as well. But a salesperson who builds a professional rapport with customers can navigate the social nuances of persuasion a lot more tactfully.

Salespeople are also more effective at handling complex objections than a self-service system. Objection handling is a crucial skill for salespeople to have and it allows them to convince customers to buy their products. If a customer is misinformed, a salesperson is able to distinguish that and correct those misunderstandings that hold a customer back from making a purchase. Additionally, salespersons have the ability to present a different perspective that may make a customer perceive the offer more favourably.

In addition to all of these, salespersons can be more proactive in generating sales whereas self-service is typically passive. Salespersons can nurture leads whereas self-service typically relies on customers who are at least partially on their way to making a purchase. Now, further improvements may advance the capabilities of self-service to fulfil these roles, but at the heart of it, the strength of a sales team is their humanity.

The human touch is irrational and core to the experience

As part of the customer-facing portion of the business, a sales team is integral in creating a brand personality. All the marketing and branding is hollow when customers only face the soulless interaction of the self-service platform. Yes, the brand still stands, but it is somehow less “real”. It’s irrational, but businesses are much more relatable and trustworthy when it is linked to people; the spokesperson, CEO, customer service agents, and salespeople breathe life into the abstract concept that is the BRAND.

Face-to-face interactions help to establish a genuine connection between the customer and those that represent the company like the sales team. This human interaction is crucial for generating trust which is extremely valuable in the B2B sphere. Trust is the bedrock for continued customer loyalty and repeat business. Humans are ultimately emotional beings and human touch adds that emotional element where self-service seeks to focus on convenience. While convenience is an important factor in the customer experience, what turns those experiences into memories that resonate with customers is the emotions behind them.