Relationships Still Matter in the Age of E-commerce

If you think digital technology and the internet has replaced the need for human contact when it comes to customer relationships, think again. Here are the five P’s that may make the difference.

There is no question that the way we do business, whether as a private consumer or as a business customer, has gone through a major, unprecedented transformation. The internet, artificial intelligence (AI), e-ecommerce, VOIP; it all has seemed to take the human component out of doing business.

But when it comes to B2B sales, the human element still plays an important part. In a recent FleetOwner IdeaXchange blog, I cite Paul C. Darley, President and CEO of W. S. Darley & Co, who discussed what he calls “the art of relationship sales.” Darley noted that even though businesses rely more and more on electronic communications, the personal still matters. And he identifies the top five “P’s” that sales professionals must pay attention to:

People – Listen…really listen to what people are saying. A machine can listen and through complex algorithms come up with suggestions; but a machine cannot necessarily recognize nuance, and interpret what is behind the words a potential or existing customer is saying.

Pain – Pain points, pain points, pain points…this is the mantra that we keep repeating. That is because answering the needs that keep executives up at night is one of the main ways to reassure and retain them as customers. Responses are often emotional and reading emotions is also something people are better at than are machines.

Process – Salespeople are not a monolith. Each man or woman finds the method that works best for them. There are specific steps that Darley suggests salespeople should follow, including follow-up communications. That is extremely important…it shows you care…again, a very human reaction.

Preparation/Pitch – There are few things more vital than being prepared. Remember the old adage, you never get a second chance to make a first impression, so make sure not only are your prepared to answer questions that may arise; make sure, also, that the pitch you use doesn’t sound like a pitch.

Perseverance/Passion – These two go together, according to Darley. Perseverance doesn’t mean becoming annoying by constantly calling or emailing once a prospect or a customer indicates a lack of interest. If earlier in the steps, your proposal is rejected, find out why and try to correct that for the next opportunity arises. But if there is interest, grab hold of that and pursue the business. When it comes to passion, Darley says, “Show your passion – it cannot be faked, and it trumps everything. The salesperson with the most fire always wins.” This is another area where the human contact outweighs the relationship with machines (if that can even be called a relationship.)

This need for the human component goes beyond the initial sales steps. In a December Salesforce article discussing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) trends, the article focused on e-commerce and customer service. The article discussed the use of AI and chatbots to handle the most obvious questions like status of delivery and receipt of payments.

But for situations that need more attention, real people are absolutely necessary, “That is to say, human agents aren’t going anywhere. Eighty-five percent of service decision-makers view investment in agents as a vital part of service transformation. Over the coming years, the biggest change in service organizations will be the distribution of work, with artificial intelligence freeing agents to deliver value in cases that are complex and involved.”

So although machines and AI may end up doing more and more of certain kinds of work, no machine (at least at this point in time) can replace the human element.

Read Jane’s blog to learn more about the five P’s.

Jane Clark

About Jane Clark

Jane Clark is Vice President of Member Services for NationaLease. Before joining the full service truck leasing organization, she served in executive positions with some of the nation’s top staffing and recruitment agencies.

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