By Atul Todi
Amazon will spend $700 million to re-skill around 100,000 workers in the US by 2025. Why? Because technologies such as Artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and automation continue to take over boring, repetitive tasks. For enterprises to survive and excel in such a rapidly-evolving business ecosystem, they need skilled professionals.
In the business context, ‘skills’ are not limited to technical acumen alone. As more mundane tasks get automated, quintessential human skills such as creativity, innovative thinking, logical reasoning, communication, and personal rapport building are becoming increasingly important. Due to the nature of these skills, let’s call them “Human Skills”.
To have an edge, brands and companies should focus on nurturing softer aspects of their workforce’s skill-sets, and also hire for these ‘Human’ skills. However, ‘human skills’ seem to have taken a backseat on the corporate agenda in the last decade – especially since the rise of social media. Is it merely a coincidence or are these two phenomena linked? In my opinion, the two seem to be connected.
It would be a massive understatement to say that social media has become a part of everyone’s life. From major professional achievements to something as simple as a great meal, there’s nothing that people don’t share on social media. Social channels have been successful in capturing a large chunk of our daily time (mind space), the most prized resource each human has.
Unlike a few decades back, in the non-internet era, humans still had to go out and sell, generate interest for products. But, today brands, conscious of the apparent ubiquity of this powerful medium, proactively leverage the connected social channels to generate leads and turn them into business opportunities. However, as it turns out, social media might be turning ubiquitous and reaching most individuals, but it lacks a very critical component- trust.
Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, all started to connect us with others and in some form build trust. However, as our online-connected-networks have grown and more noise is added daily, we are far from having a trusted network. As we are getting more and more connected and informed, it’s becoming harder to make critical decisions and choices due to the noise and lack of relevant people we can rely on or trust.
Deciding to buy a beverage because you saw an ad on Facebook is one thing, but to decide on buying software for your company requires more than a bombardment of digital ads. While digital marketing channels will hold its sway on b2c marketing and sales, business-to-business (b2b) is heading in a completely different direction, and for many understandable reasons.
Besides ineffective digital ads to drive b2b sales, people have been spammed with junk emails for too long, and cold-calls have earned a very bad name. Today, spam detectors have blocked over a billion email ids and apps such as TrueCaller can red-flag cold calls as spam even before we pick-up and say hello.
The last frontier, the rose-garden of LinkedIn is quickly heading towards its demise. With uncontrolled connect requests from random people and junk auto-mated messages becoming the norm on Linkedin, how long will its party last, is yet to be seen.
This digital noise and lack of potential results have led the brands invested in digital media into a dilemma. Strategies and stats suggest a balance of digital and real connections is needed to get valuable business and build a trustworthy ecosystem.
But why this b2b dilemma, one would ask.
Well, because the stakes in the enterprise sales domain are high. The bigger the deal, the higher the need for trust-building. In 9 out of 10 cases, people are more likely to choose a partner whom they have met and shaken hands with, than someone they met online or via email. Even today, over 97% of participants in a small meeting setting cite face-to-face approach as their preferred form of communication. 20% of b2b marketing spend is done on attending trade shows.
Brands need to leverage the power of in-person networking if they want a strategic edge in the market. Here are a few key takeaways that can give your strategic planning the direction you might be looking for.
Brands should invest in people who have good soft skills and start hiring and training people for human skills that make them more adaptable towards meeting new people and building connections. In the age of automation treating your clients as humans rather than calling them a lead can be useful for building trustworthy long term relations with your customers.
Only having trained people will not do the trick, people need to find the right In-person meetings to participate in. Time is of the essence here, so plan to infuse your go-to-market strategies with In-person meetings and use technology to find tools that give the flexibility to find meetings by region, by Industry, location & keyword topics to expedite your efforts.
Make it Big:
Why stop at one good thing, while In-person networking can give brands a strategic advantage. By sponsoring or hosting an event, one can make their brand stand apart with the spotlight and brand visibility to increase their market share. This is especially recommended while launching any new technologies and products. 10times has supported multiple brands to launch and manage such networking events.
Employee brand engagement:
Training and encouraging your employees to become subject matter experts can help you enhance your brand image while building trust. Encourage people to become speaking experts and consultants for your brand and product, making your brand presence more tangible.
An open mindset can often lead to a new approach that can result in long term benefits. There is no point in expecting small gains while building relations. Trust takes time and networking at events can be just the beginning of a journey. Events have so much to offer for those who are willing to invest in them. It’s like growing a tree, and not a plant. It takes time, but in the long-term, it bears fruits for a long-time.
The art of following up:
Network, Connect and Follow is the 3-step process for making in-person networking efforts successful. However, brands need to manage and nurture leads with regular & timely follow-ups. Brands can train people and use the art of follow-ups to make their sales funnel strong.
It is high time for brands to get out of their comfort zone and go out to meet their prospective business partners – not in the virtual environment, but in the real world.
The author is CEO and co-founder of 10Times