Personalization in Sales: How to Buy and Sell to Humans


Author: Barry Mueller
Last updated: Published:
Personalization in sales

On platforms like LinkedIn, there's a lot of talk about how hard it is to buy software today. People often compare it to buying a shirt, that is, if getting a new shirt involved tons of questions, a bunch of steps to follow, and waiting forever just to hear back from someone.

Software isn't just any purchase though; it's usually expensive, involves multiple parts that need to work together, and has to fit into the buyer's existing tech setup.

A better comparison might be buying a tailored suit. If you needed a suit and someone just handed you one without asking about the occasion, checking if you already bought certain accessories, or not measuring you properly, there's a good chance the suit wouldn't be right for you.

So, how do modern sales teams balance customization and convenience?

We sat down with Udi Ledergor, the Chief Evangelist at Gong, to do a deep dive into personalization in sales. We'll talk about how making things more personal can really make a difference, and why understanding the person on the other side of the deal is so important.

The Modern Buying Experience has Changed

The way we buy things has changed a lot lately, Udi explains. Remember when we used to go to stores or malls for just about anything we needed? That feels like a long time ago.

Then came Amazon, and it turned everything upside down. Now, we're all doing a million things at once. We could be busy playing with the kids, and we just click a couple of buttons to get what we want. If our order doesn't show up by the next day, we're bummed out. This whole shift has made us expect more, faster, all the time.

And it's not just when we're shopping for ourselves. The same goes for work stuff, too. The person who's buying something for their office today is the same person who was buying snacks online last night. They're used to quick and easy, no matter what they're buying.

When the pandemic hit around 2020 and 2021, it pushed even more people to buy groceries online using apps like Amazon Fresh or Instacart. It's made things way more convenient, and even though we can return to brick-and-mortar stores, many don’t want to go back to the old way of shopping.

That's where business buying is heading, too. More and more, businesses are letting people buy and set things up on their own.

In his own words, Udi says, “We're all humans. It's not IBM selling to HP. It's Sally selling to John and John is the same guy who just bought snacks on Amazon with two clicks. So his buying experience has also changed.”

If I need some special captions for a video, Udi continues, I can just pick a plan, use my credit card, and get it done without having to talk to anyone. It's way smoother. Companies know that making things too complicated, especially when you have to deal with a bunch of people, just slows everything down.

Why Buying Software is Unique

Selling complex software for businesses, like the kind big companies use, requires a detailed and careful sales approach. This means getting to know what the customer needs. Take a platform called Gong, for instance. It's pretty advanced, with lots of parts and ways it can be used.

When showing off what Gong can do, it wouldn't make sense to go through every single feature right away. That would take forever, and by the end, you'd probably lose interest. Instead, it's better to ask what you're looking for. Do you need tools for improving sales, better ways to forecast future sales, or help with training your team? The sales demo then will focus on exactly what you need, so the whole buying process will be a lot smoother.

The challenge is to match what the seller is offering with what you, as the buyer, really need. You're looking for a solution that fits your business challenges without wasting your time or money. In the end, as a buyer, you don't want to waste time. As a seller, you want to make sure you can offer what the buyer needs quickly and effectively, but figuring out exactly what that is and how to offer it can take time in SaaS. Finding the right balance here is key.

Personalization in Sales is the Key to Selling Software

Today’s sales teams know that making the buying experience personal is key to getting more sales and happier customers.

But, tailoring each interaction takes a lot of work, time, and effort that many salespeople just don't have, Udi expresses. For example, if you're a salesperson dealing with big companies like Google, Amazon, or AT&T, you might have the time to really customize your approach. But if you're dealing with hundreds of smaller accounts, there's just no way to give each one that kind of attention. And if you're a sales rep trying to reach out to 800 people, personalizing each message is pretty much impossible.

Today, personalization at scale is becoming easier and easier. It’s no longer just about selling to a company but also connecting with the person you're talking to. That means understanding what Sally from IBM is all about, her career goals, and what she wants for her team.

The Different Types of Personalization in Sales

In a recent study, Gong analyzed 30,000 emails from sales reps and account managers from 250 companies who were reaching out to potential customers. They wanted to see if the reps followed certain patterns in their emails and if any of these patterns led to more sales. To do this, they used some smart AI tools and their own special analysis techniques.

Turns out, some clear strategies popped up.

They checked how well these strategies worked, not just in general, but for different types of people at various job levels. What they found was pretty interesting, but first the groundwork. They identified 4 main ways sales folks personalize their emails to grab someone's attention.

1. Personal touch: This is when the email feels like it's just for you, maybe mentioning something you're into or something from your LinkedIn profile.

2. Company focus: Here, the email talks about something specific to your company, like a goal or achievement mentioned in a public report or news article.

3. Activity mention: This type of email brings up something you did recently, like joining a webinar or downloading some info from a website, to make the connection more relevant.

4. Industry angle: This approach ties the message to your industry, showing how the sender has helped other companies like yours succeed.

These 4 strategies are the main ways to make an email stand out. Each one works best in different situations, depending on who you're trying to reach and what might catch their interest.

Personalization in Sales Based on Job Seniority

The type of personalization that performed best depended on context. For the big bosses, like VPs or directors, throwing in personal stuff like hobbies or favorite teams didn’t do the trick. What really grabbed their attention was talking about how you could help hit the company's big goals. That was way more important to them than shared personal interests.

On the flip side, when reaching out to people who weren’t in those top spots, like middle managers or folks just starting in their careers, individualized personalization was most effective. They actually liked it when you made the message feel more personal. They were all about growing their careers and personal goals, so if you talked to them in that way, they were way more likely to listen.

This whole thing shows how tricky it can be to get personalization in sales right, especially since you need to keep it up through the whole process. Imagine someone gets interested because of a cool, personalized email you sent. But then, when they actually talk to your team or come in for a meeting, it feels like you're starting from scratch, and that personal touch is gone.

That's a big challenge. Even with awesome systems that help keep track of everything, making sure each chat feels personal and relevant to what the customer cares about can be tough for sales teams.

Personalization in the Sales Demo

This raises the question: should we make our demos more personalized, and is there ever a time when personalizing doesn't help? From what we’ve seen at Demostack, making demos that speak directly to what each customer needs is very important. The best salespeople are the ones who can tweak their demos to make them hit home for whoever they're talking to.

We think of a great demo as a mirror. If you can show your customer that your product really gets their problems and can solve them, you're much more likely to make the sale. Udi mentions the cocktail party effect to explain the concept. When you’re at a party, you can't help but hear your name even if it's noisy. That's why salespeople will put a customer's company logo on their slides; it grabs attention because it's familiar and important to them.

Ultimately, the more we can make these demos address the customer's needs, the better they'll work.

Final Thoughts on Personalization in Sales

If you remember one thing from this article, it’s this: personalization in sales is all about understanding people.

After all, behind every sale and purchase, there's a person just like you, trying to make the best decision. Keeping this in mind not only makes selling easier but also helps build real connections in this increasingly digital world.

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