Sales teams know that success strongly correlates (and depends upon) customer communication. With Forrester research indicating that 60% of business-to-business (B2B) decision-makers prefer not to interact with a salesperson for their primary source of information, it is clear that improving human interaction will put sellers in better a position to offer customer value. To make the customer buying experience about the customer — whether he or she is a lead, a prospect or a longtime buyer — sellers need to act on the opportunity to establish a connection at all stages of the sales cycle.

These connections don’t boil down to a formula or algorithm. But, in a world where sales are increasingly led by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, and buyers are becoming more self-sufficient, relationship selling can be difficult. The key to unlocking greater customer value is the recognition that automation and the human touch are not mutually exclusive.

Leaders need to tap into this recognition from the beginning of the training and onboarding process by guiding sales teams to deliver insights and value based on a customer’s unique goals at every touch point. These interactions enable a humanized customer experience without sacrificing the streamlined efficiencies of automation.

Delivering Value to a Customer Shows You’re Listening

“People buy from people” is an expression that hasn’t gone out of style, and it still rings true in the digital age. A streamlined customer buying journey benefits the seller and buyer alike, but it’s the delivery of value that highlights the human touch in any sales interaction.

One of the main ways to provide value in the buying journey is through insights tailored to a customer’s unique needs. Sales coaches should train their teams on the importance of adding a human element to the conversations by proving they know their customers’ needs, the best way to engage with them, and what they can deliver to meet their needs and solve their business problems. The art of building relationships — and making the relationship work for both parties — is incorporating a human element into every touch point in a way that conveys customers’ value and their importance to the seller’s organization.

Connection Is at the Heart of Sales Priorities

Relationship selling can’t happen without first making a connection, because without connection, there is no trust on which to provide value. When developing sales teams, leaders and coaches must drive home the importance of prioritizing connection with the customer over all other aspects of the sale. Wins come later, but sellers develop trust by spending time with prospects, which, in turn, helps them understand customers’ needs before attempting to close a deal — and after the close, too.

Once sales professionals put in the time, they can deliver true value for their customers by providing insights into their unique goals. But doing so requires really understanding the customer, which is a core component of selling with a human touch. It means that salespeople must demonstrate that they know the problems their customers are trying to solve, the best ways to engage with them and how they’ll be able to help solve their business problems.

The Secret Ingredient Is the Human Touch

The benefit of the uptick in efficiency that AI and machine learning provide in the sales field is undeniable, but relying solely on automation would result in a significant reduction in value for the customer. Adding the human touch to meetings and touch points throughout the buying journey is the secret ingredient of a positive sales interaction.

To ensure that a personalized buying experience reaches the customer at every step of the process, sales leaders can guide their sellers to collaborate cross-functionally across the full team in order to offer a humanized experience. Collaborating in this way forms a revenue team that, when synchronized, can work together across marketing, customer success, renewals and other functions to provide the human touch that offers real value to a customer across the entire buying journey.

Ultimately, there is no success in sales without meaningful connections between the right people on the sales team and the right contact at the customer organization. Moving away from the legacy approach of pushing their own agenda, sales professionals in the digital age need to consider not just what they want to sell but what topics reflect their buyers’ greatest interests, preferences and business needs. With the human touch ingrained in the buying journey, sellers and customers alike are bound to see great results.