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December 28, 2010

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Customer 2.0: Still Human

One of the things that comes with my job responsibility is heavy solicitation by SaaS sales 2.0 tools companies.  Yet frequently I find the engagement skills of many peddlers lacking.
Sales conversations seem to have become a lost art.
Even with the companies we’ve moved forward with, I have found the entire buying experience very “vendor focused”, with little time invested in genuine dialogue.
Sure, many of their automated processes are edgy and most likely producing results, but rarely do these exchanges take into account the underlying emotional triggers of the buyer, for example, the need to establish rapport, credibility and trust.
Instead, it’s all about the transaction.  Pure volume, forced through an assembly line of inexperienced, over-scripted telesales reps - a modern day SaaS selling sweat shop.
Possibly I’m dating myself and this is just the way it is now, the new SaaS Sales 2.0 belief system?
I’m not sure what it is, but it’s not selling – not to me.
Put it this way, we can be as hip as we want with our tools and theories, but if genuine customer conversations, whether within the selling or support phase, even within a transactional B2B model, are not a priority; you will ultimately pay the price in the form of lost deals and soaring attrition rates.
Sales 2.0 is all the rage these days -- I compare it to the early days of the customer service revolution: use speech to automate a process, increase volume, decrease transfers to agents, ultimately reducing cost per transaction and driving more business. 
An outstanding premise supported with incredible technology, it just miscalculated one small thing; that customers would hate it.
Why?  Because customers want to be heard, they want to have a conversation, a relationship. Or, like Bruce Springsteen says “just give me a little of that human touch”.
Today, Call Centers spend an incredible amount of time analyzing “Customer Experience”.
In fact the same companies who at the onset of this revolution sent jobs overseas and invested heavily in “low cost, high volume” are the ones who are now pulling jobs back to the States, and have learned when to be aggressive with process and technology, and when not.
As Sales 2.0 Pros we need to take a lesson from our cousins in the contact center and realize that although we have the tools now to be smarter, faster, and more transactional – it doesn’t mean that’s how our prospects and customers want to be treated.
In full disclosure, if you were to look inside Glance's own sales process, you will find a drop down menu within our salesforce.com implementation that lists which sales “touch” each rep has completed.  I think after today’s blog, and earlier “social media” experience, I will have to add one last touch to the list:

-- Tom Scontras, VP Sales and Marketing, Glance Networks


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Great article - I wish more buyers would speak up. There is no such thing as "Sales 2.0" - it's hype, mythology. People still make buying decisions in the same way they always did, it's just that we can connect with buyers in many more ways via technology. Some companies think that means reducing the "sales process" to stages/steps that while useful, also give the impression that buyers move through discreet aspects of a purchase decision in an orderly fashion, when nothing could be further from the truth. B2B selling is comprised of highly personalized interactions that aim towards establishing a mutually beneficial relationship between two companies, but embodied in the relationship between buyer and seller.