Mastering the human side of selling is key to sales success, but what does phrase that mean exactly? At its essence, humanizing the sales experience is really about personalization. It’s about asking questions from a place of genuine curiosity, listening, fully absorbing what you’re hearing and then being willing and able to pivot in whatever direction the customer’s answers take us. Put another way, personalization is the opposite of operating from scripts and responding with cookie-cutter answers.

The desire for a personalization in the sales experience has only grown in recent years. Salesforce research shows 65% of customers expect companies to adapt to their changing needs and preferences and “be that thoughtful neighbor or co-worker who brings their favorite coffee when they are having a tough week.” Unfortunately, most aren’t actually experiencing that. The research also shows 61% of customers feel they’re treated as a number rather than a human being.

The benefits of personalization are without question. It provides competitive differentiation, nurtures customer relationships, helps them feel seen and heard, and ultimately leads to increased customer loyalty and repeat business.

It’s not surprising that today’s customers are craving a more personalized experience. With so much data and information right at their fingertips, they’re better informed than ever and often well-versed in the company and what it has to offer before they ever even talk to a salesperson. There’s no value for them in listening to salesperson recite scripted features and benefits — they’ve already read all of that on the website or in other marketing materials. They want what they can only get from a genuine human-to-human exchange. It’s a much different and higher expectation.

The same holds true across the sales-service continuum. Even as technology becomes more integral and upfront in the process, people are still looking for that people-to-people experience. According to Observe.AI’s State of Contact Center Conversation Intelligence report, 82% of contact centers engage with customers via the phone.

This is why a salesperson who asks the right questions to help customers sift through and make sense of all this information is the most valuable resource in the entire equation. In an increasingly noisy selling environment, these are the professionals who stand out, because they deliver the value customers are seeking out.

The Value of Personalization in Sales

McKinsey has found that personalization provides distinct, tangible advantages for companies: It can reduce customer acquisition costs by as much as 50%, lift revenues by 5-15% and increase marketing ROI by 10-30%.

Additionally, McKinsey notes that more than three-fourths (76%) of consumers get frustrated when their buying experiences aren’t personalized. Buyers want to deal with someone they can trust and who will “speak human” to them. This is great news for those salespeople who have a mindset of genuine desire and curiosity to understand as well as the skillset to ask compelling questions and seek thoughtful answers. It’s one of the reasons we believe there has never been a better time to be in sales.

Not only can personalization help you close more deals faster, it can also help you close larger deals and, ultimately, retain more customers and reduce churn. According to Gartner, customer experience “drives more than two-thirds of customer loyalty” when compared to brand preference or price consideration. 

Personalization and humanizing the sales experience means prospects will not just hear your message but feel like it’s meant for them and, as a result, be more inclined to engage with it. And that engagement and loyalty tend to pay off in multiple ways. For example, 78% of consumers are likely to make repeat purchases and recommend others to companies that use personalization.

Bringing Personalization into the Sales Process

It’s important to remember that selling is about helping people make buying decisions that are in their best interests, and the sales process needs to flow from that context. Selling has to be permission-based, which is why forging a connection is the most important part of a sales conversation. Showing you really care about a buyer’s success lays the groundwork for a lasting relationship.

In other words, the heart of great selling is focusing on the customer — not on your quota. And effective personalized selling comes from a laser focus on the buyer’s needs rather than the seller’s wants. When your goal is to understand what matters most to them, it will naturally take you down the path of personalization. Instead of trying to feed a prospect through your process and win the deal at any cost, you will have sales conversations that build trust and create value that resonates for them.

Personalization in the sales process also means recognizing and adapting to the needs and concerns of a widening array of stakeholders and cross-functional buying committees. Particularly as account-based selling becomes more prevalent, one of the primary jobs of sales is helping build internal consensus towards a commitment to change. You can’t do this effectively without seeking to understand what’s important to these different constituents.

It’s worth noting that you can’t personalize your sales approach if you’re casting out the net to anyone and everyone, trying to be all things to all people. You have to be clear and disciplined and actively decide who you can best help and why. An upstream example of personalization is spending time on buyer personas and Ideal Customer Profiles (ICP) to help determine who is the right fit. Quality outreach matters — and wins — far more than quantity.

Personalizing the Prospecting Experience

Personalization requires deliberate, thoughtful research, because no matter who the prospect or stakeholder is, throughout the process they’re going to be looking for an element of “show me you know me.” This takes work, but it’s crucial for building a trusted, human-to-human relationship.

One starting point is to look for commonalities. Maybe you share connections, went to the same school or are from the same area. But you can’t just mention where they went to college or their hometown and assume you’ve made a connection. You have to articulate why you’ve brought it up and tie it in authentically.

This kind of research and intention helps you stay informed, and that gives you a wealth of insight and opportunities to personalize not just what you communicate but when. You’ll know when there’s media coverage of the prospect’s company or when their senior executives have said something pertinent that you can reference. You can interact thoughtfully with their LinkedIn posts or congratulate them on a new role or promotion, a work anniversary or even a birthday.

Synthesize what you learn and spend time thinking about effective and creative email subject lines. It’s all part of creating an individualized experience that stands out in a sea of noise and the scripted messaging that prospects are inundated with every day.

Personalization in Practice

Once you’ve landed the meeting, a very effective way to differentiate yourself is to show prospects you value their time. Intentional research and personalization are key to this:

  • Have a clear meeting agenda that is based on achieving their goals and objectives, and commit to starting and ending on time.
  • Make a point to understand their unique decision-making process so you can simplify and streamline things for them.
  • Avoid canned demo presentations and, if possible, avoid using slides entirely so you can keep the focus on dialogue and desired outcomes.
  • Ensure your questioning model is aligned with this approach.

It’s also important to recognize that a person’s Behavior Style influences how they communicate, make decisions and relate to others. Understanding and adapting to the unique Behavior Styles of others gives you a way to create personal chemistry, build rapport with diverse people and put them at ease. When you communicate in ways that customers feel valued, the outcomes of those conversations will yield better returns. As a rule of thumb:

  • Be aware of your personal communication preferences and how you may be perceived by others, and be careful about word choices.
  • Once you determine the other person’s primary Behavior Style, align your communication strategy appropriately.
  • Be prepared to adapt on the fly as you communicate with others.
  • Be present and attentive to the nuances of a conversation — don’t try to brute force the square peg of the conversation into a predetermined round-hole goal.

Personalization is just as important when you’re following up, even in something simple like a thank you email. Other ways you can personalize the follow-up:

  • Provide insights with context (“I’m sending you this article because you said…”).
  • Create and share a library of content that matches with that customer’s needs/industry/role/other information you’ve learned about them.
  • Add value that’s relevant to them throughout the journey. Don’t just send a white paper — highlight specifically why it’s relevant for them, a key point or section for emphasis, and how it relates back to a previous discussion you had or concern they voiced.

Personalizing the Customer Experience

And once the deal is done? Aligning employee behaviors with an organization’s value proposition strengthens customer relationships. It’s this unique and personal relationship with your market that can best be described by the word “brand.” As such, personalization manifests itself in the ability to follow through on your brand promise and care for the customer post-sale, in a way that is meaningful to them.

To ensure personalization is woven into the fabric of the customer experience, map the entire customer journey from first touch through to acquisition to loyalty, and then focus on nurturing those relationships at every step:

  • Are customers getting the results and impact they want, not just in the first 90-100 days but well beyond?
  • Are they seeing and experiencing the value you promised along the way? This is essential to customer retention and loyalty. You want the customer to come back next time every time.
  • Seek feedback from customers and share it internally to increase personalization of the customer experience while making sure you take action based on that feedback to show the customers they’ve been heard and valued.
  • Use macro-personalization to segment customers into different groups, demographics or how/where they buy (e.g., banks, big box retailers, etc.).
  • Use micro-personalization to show that individual customer you know who they are, what they have done with you and what’s important to them. This includes recommending other, related offerings that you know they could use or would benefit them.

Always lead with compassion and empathy. By definition, personalization is going to mean different things to different people, but something as simple as recognizing and using their name when fielding calls or requests will be appreciated by nearly everyone.

Personalization Unlocks Sales Success

The old, classic sales funnel based on the salesperson’s criteria and timelines convenient to them no longer apply. People are driven by personable connections and unique identities, and they look for those aspects in the brands they support. That’s why the transition from one-size-fits-all to a personalized sales experience is essential for sales success going forward.

About the Author
headshot for Will Milano
Will Milano

Chief Marketing Officer

Will has driven brand and content marketing strategies for leading professional services companies for two decades including 16 years’ experience...
upward point of view on skyscrapers

Insightful Perspectives and Tips to Help You

Serve Your Customers Better
Don't Miss Out