Why the lack of personalization in sales must be addressed in 2021
There’s a paradox in sales. Surveys reveal that both salespeople and buyers are strongly in favor of personalization: 64 percent of salespeople believe that the personalization of sales materials helps close deals, while 86 percent of buyers expect salespeople to personalize their experience.
Despite this consensus, recent research reveals that only around 1 in 10 B2B companies prioritize personalization for their sales teams. The vast majority of this resource is instead allocated to customer service, followed by marketing.
Before the pandemic, this lack of resource for sales was masked by real-life interactions that were personal by nature. But in the remote online world we now find ourselves in, generic sales materials are at a psychological disadvantage. Access to personalization needs to be widened to sales to enable them to keep pace in 2021.
The digital wind tunnel
Every single day, more than 300 billion emails are sent, 4.4 million blog posts are published, and the average person is exposed to 5000 different sales and marketing messages.
Considering these numbers were all recorded when life was less restricted than it is today, we can safely assume that they underestimate the sheer scale of online communications in 2021. This onslaught of messaging creates a digital wind tunnel that makes it very hard for someone to hear what you have to say over the roar of what everyone else has to say.
For many salespeople, complete confinement to the online world is new territory. In-person meetings and events opened up natural opportunities for personalized interactions, whether it was small talk with the person sat next to you or a quick exchange at the coffee machine. Social conventions insist that we have them.
Digital interactions don’t promise the same. It’s very easy to ignore someone when there are a hundred others speaking at the same time. If a salesperson wants to grab their attention, they have to make that outreach feel like a personal message that’s so specifically for them, that it triggers the psychological need to respond.
The psychology of personalization in digital selling
There are two levels of personalization when it comes to sales materials – external and internal.
External personalization is how you break through the digital wind tunnel. It consists of signals in your message or on your content that indicate relevance to your target reader. This can include their name, their company name, their company logo, their picture, a picture of their website, or something else that they’ll instantly recognize without even needing to open or read into what you’ve sent them.
This external personalization triggers something in psychology known as the cocktail party effect. This is the phenomenon that takes place in a crowded room filled with so many people talking at once that all of their conversations blend into white noise. However, if someone nearby mentions your name or something of interest to you, your hearing instantly tunes into that specific conversation that was indistinguishable just moments before.
Internal personalization is how you maintain their interest once you’ve attracted it, and it’s ultimately how you win a response. This is where you customize your messaging by trimming out anything that they don’t need or want to know based on the data you have on them. If you don’t know much about them at this stage, you’ll be making judgments based on their firmographic profile, but as you engage with them further, your ability to mold content to their very specific needs will iteratively improve.
This type of personalization works with the brain’s reticular activating system (RAS). The RAS is a filter that prevents the brain from processing irrelevant information. To give you an example, it’s activated when scrolling through long documents like terms and conditions and will scan that dense information for anything relevant. This process can quickly lead to cognitive fatigue, so if the salesperson is able to do most of the filtering before it reaches the reader, they’ll more easily win their attention for an extended period of time.
Why businesses need to rethink how they prioritize personalization
Personalization is ultimately about experience. This is why 5 in 10 B2B companies allocate most of this resource towards existing customers through their customer experience teams. However, with the typical sales experience so disrupted by remote selling, businesses should be looking for ways to make up for that loss in experience through digital interactions.
It’s not just psychological theory that backs up the argument for personalization. Spread across the business functions, it has a demonstrable lift on the bottom line. If you look at the companies that exceed their revenue goals, they have a dedicated budget for personalization 83 percent of the time.
Businesses that want to improve their sales teams’ ability to have meaningful digital interactions with prospects need to equip them with the means to compete on noisy channels. Personalized experiences are quickly becoming the expectation of prospects. Those that can’t offer that experience will be at a competitive disadvantage in 2021.
Content Marketing Manager, Turtl