Settle in children, I’d like to tell you all a story about selling in a world dominated by screens.
In the Jurassic era of the Internet (or about 13 years ago for those still using conventional time scales) there was company you may remember called Adsavers. Adsavers had a seemingly brilliant idea to put interactive ads on computer screen savers. The company raised millions in venture capital as a result, but unfortunately, like many great ideas it failed spectacularly. Within a couple of years the company folded.
AdSavers had a team of intelligent and hardworking people backing the company, but it missed the mark. Think of the premise. When is a screen saver used? By necessity, a screen saver usually requires that no one is around. They were basically advertising into a void and the solution completely missed the human element.
Even in today’s modern era, it seems to me that Internet history is repeating itself. Many of today’s digital marketing tactics cut out the human connection almost entirely. Strategies such as lead generation, prospecting and qualifying prospects has been reduced to pure mathematics.
And don’t get me wrong, of course analytic use of data is important in every strand of the business – especially marking and sales. The problem arises when we expect math to do the selling for us. Analytics will never replace seeing and hearing people who are passionate about what they’re doing, and who persuade us to their way of thinking.
I’m sure I’ll sound like a caveman by saying this but the human element is as important as it’s ever been in the process of great selling. And it’s what is missing from internet advertising.
True selling is consultative and interactive. Sure, you can sell a few knickknacks by using 8 million banner ads, but few people will ever buy a high-dollar enterprise-grade solution just by clicking a link. When the investment is high, careful consideration needs to be taken by the purchaser. The same is true for big-ticket items or those in which a specialisation is required (such as IT).
As a sales tool, my opinion is that the Internet is a blunt jackhammer and not the sharp scalpel needed for real selling. Three per cent – that’s the rough historical response rate from a direct mail campaign. Obviously that doesn’t even compare to the conversion rate in a consultative relationship-based sales process.
Here’s another perspective. How many thousands of marketing offers have been lost to your email spam folder every month? A person spends time creating that email and your computer bins it without you even noticing. It’s kind of sad.
To be clear, I am not saying that all Internet marketing is useless, but I believe it must be better at targeting. Tools such as Twitter hashtags can help a company do targeted marketing much more effectively than by “spamming” the known universe – no matter how sound the math may appear.
For high-priced, sophisticated sales, give me the human element any day. If a customer can see your face, hear your voice and understand why you are speaking to them, they will be much more open to hearing your offer. The Internet can serve as a useful research medium, but in order to close a deal, the human element is a necessity.
Selling a bit of Internet advertising doesn’t necessarily scale to the enterprise level. To do great selling within the enterprise there must be a human connection.
How important is the human element to your business? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @simondudley.