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Sales Enablement - To Automate, or Not?

Leading on from Sales Enablement – A Business-Critical Culture, we continue our blog series by focusing on the Automation trend across Social Media channels, and especially LinkedIn.

We all need to grow our business networks, cultivating a wide variety of connections that will help us engage with interested partners, and increase our reach in the business environment. LinkedIn is a superb B2B social network, and can be a very powerful business development tool. However we are time-poor, and under immense pressure to produce results, so many of us are moving to AI and Automation platforms for help.

On LinkedIn, these software products allow us to search and find suitable ‘targets’, and automate the process of connecting with them. This enables us to create more 1st degree connections and communicate our value proposition, ultimately cultivating more leads. This sounds positive, however automation can be a blunt instrument if not used sensitively, and we have noticed a real pattern in recent months:

1. The Connection Request

I receive a LinkedIn connection request from someone in my area of experience and expertise. This feels positive, and I decide to accept the connection.

2. The Connection Acceptance

I write a reply to the connection request. I want my connections to work for me, so I make the effort to write a few lines and establish more than just a virtual connection. Within a nano-second, I receive a long, canned Sales message containing a value proposition statement and sales pitch.

3. Pivotal Moment

I thought I was engaging with a person, who wanted to cultivate a professional connection within which we might explore mutual interests and business goals. However it’s clear that I am just one of many hundreds of prospects, who will now be subject to a stream of repetitive InMails. All positive feelings have now dissipated, and my view of the organisation this new connection represents is impaired. Worse still, I sometimes receive the first few InMails more than once, as my original responses are ignored. And it takes effort on my part to get off the hook.

Automation may have its place in the overall Marketing mix, but can we trust these systems to protect our valuable connections, and create a real sense of 1:1 relationship?

Using Automation tools in a very basic way can be clumsy and impersonal, falling into many of the same traps as old-style mass emails; a ‘broadcast’ medium, offering little value. This approach does not cultivate even a weak connection, because prospects feel they are being treated like a number and not a person. My personal feeling is that I am not a machine, and this is NOT Social Selling at its best.

Points For Improvement

Can AI/Automation platforms be used to cultivate real business relationships? Well, they can be useful for creating connections in the first instance, but for business relationships of greater depth the short answer is probably ‘no’. Here are some things to consider:

  • Lean on Automation tools for the very first connection requests and consider delaying your automated responses by a couple of hours, so that they ‘feel’ less automated.

  • Make sure every message offers something of value, and is not just a broadcast opportunity for your brand and value proposition.

  • You have 8-12 seconds to get your readers’ attention, so use your best copywriters to craft your automated messages.

  • Make sure someone is tasked with scanning InMail responses so that prospects can be moved out of the automated environment as soon as the conversation becomes relational.

As we stated in our Social Selling article, it is vital that we ‘put relationship first’ and prioritise tailored, relational engagements. Social Selling should be approached in the same way as any face-to-face situation, where would normally take every opportunity to foster a good business relationship. We may only get one hit at that connection request, and it’s important to make the most of it.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that this is a curmudgeonly attack on a tech revolution. Research tells us that millennials and generations Y and Z are resistant to mass-marketing and spammy messages. They expect to receive value with every contact, and look unfavourably on an impersonal approach. You will earn their loyalty by being genuine and personable, and by providing information that delivers a direct benefit to them.

We are, by our very design, wired to engage and communicate with others. Technology may be able to assist, but success in Social Selling will always depend on tailored and ‘human’ personal interaction.

Want to discuss these ideas further? Get in touch and let us show you how you can build and implement a successful Social Selling strategy.

Interested in Sales Enablement? Visit our dedicated Sales Enablement page.

Interested in Marketing Ops? Visit our dedicated Marketing Ops page.

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