The following answers are provided by members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
Invite prospects to the office
Inviting prospective customers or clients to your offices to meet the team and enjoy a tour is a great way to create face time that adds the human dimension to your brand. This way, the founder and others who may have future contact with these customers have a better sense of who they are dealing with, which can enhance a relationship that will further develop virtually.
Invest in your about page and blog
Make sure your "About" page pops. Show photos of employees, team pictures, and small bios. Let your team blog. Attach their picture/bio prominently in blog posts and use them in your sales messaging.
Make automation personable
Most of our processes are automated. However, it looks as if there is a human behind them. For example, our entire email process is automated but comes from a particular person in our organization. It's written as if it's a personal email, with the signature and picture on the bottom. Works like a charm.
Make a phone number readily available
Many sales processes are now completely self-service and automated via a website. Disappearing are the days where sales representatives built personal relationships with customers in person or over the phone. We experienced first-hand the value of building personal relationships with customers in a B2B sales environment and are expanding our efforts to connect with customers individually.
Offer direct contact with the founder
A founder can make themselves personally available to take phone calls or even meet with prospective customers. This provides a face so the customer can get a better sense of what the company might be like to work with. Another strategy is to put more information about themselves on the website. So many companies today skip this, and it makes it feel like no one real is working there.
Learn something personal about your contact
I feel that taking the time to really cultivate a relationship with someone you are talking to can go a long way. By learning something personal about your contact, it can lead to follow-up questions and the sense that you are working together. It doesn't take a lot of time to ask a personal question, but can go far in the long run.
Showcase your leaders and team members in action
Shine the spotlight on specific members of your team in content you publish. You can publish case studies or tell the story of the care one of your employees showed to land a client. Tell the story of how one of your account managers helped the client save 20 percent on their expenses or grow their business by 37 percent. Clients want to connect with people and similar core values.
Realize every transaction is really B2C
There are people at the other end of every deal who have emotions, hopes, fears, and aspirations. Don't be intimated by who they work for -- instead, focus on who they are as people. That's how internal champions are created and how customers are born -- sometimes against all odds.
Avoid outward-facing automation
While automation is helpful to make processes efficient, it often appears robotic and not personal to potential customers. Some automation may not be avoidable, but an actual person answering the phone or responding to emails goes a long way. If some touch points are automated, make an effort to be timely, relevant, and personalized. Avoid generic messages whenever possible.
Tell a great origin story
People relate to the origin stories of companies. They can picture the founders tinkering away in a garage to ultimately reaching the breakthrough that we all root for in stories. Every B2B company has an origin story. They should tell that story over and over again in their marketing materials. By doing so, people feel more comfortable approaching you after they get to know you a little bit.
Use video to showcase your team
Video is by far the most humanizing form of digital media today. By using your team members in demo videos, training videos, or even just fun workplace videos, you can immediately create a human connection with your clients.
Even if you're a B2B company, you're still ultimately selling to people, not companies. Take the time to get to know your prospective customers as people (the internet makes it so easy, even if you've never met!) and send handwritten notes to help build meaningful relationships. Sometimes the smallest gestures, like remembering and acknowledging a birthday or life event, can make a big difference!
Don't hire a copywriter
Rather than investing in a copywriter to manage content creation, we decided to utilize team members with strong writing skills. We've found, especially in the case of creating email templates, blog posts, and other customer-facing content, it adds a much needed human touch as our internal team knows both our target audience and our business, and can keep the dialog effortlessly personal.
Listen instead of sell
Being a customer can feel like you're under assault. You're fielding cold calls and emails from people who know how to rock business without ever speaking to you. We found the best success in listening. Set up meetings to meet your prospective customer to listen to how they do business. Ask what their successes and pains are. Be a friend. Solve their problems in collaboration as a synergistic partner.