The human nature of ABM

February 13, 2020 Koen De Witte

Technology can help us accomplish great things. But as I wrote in our previous editorial, "The increasingly human face of martech", there is a risk we let the pendulum swing too far. Great sales and marketing people can run certain activities much better than technology ever will. Integration of the human factor in a technology driven sales and marketing environment goes beyond using AI to mimick human like conversations.

There are critical moments in a (complex sale) B2B buyer’s journey that will always require human interaction. Certainly when you want to make a difference. We just need to make sure we support those human touch-points in a way they become even more effective than any online interaction can. And when I say “critical moments” I mean not just those that happen during the contract negotiation phase.

Long before we reach that signature-moment-of-truth there are many inclination points that can make, or break, the buying and sales cycle. We humans listen better (if we put our mind to it). We understand context and what motivates us -and not just the companies we work for-. It's people that make decisions, not their personae or their digital profiles. By locking everything up in personae and sending them targeted content ‘via the right channel, right message’ opportunities we will miss opportunities. We marketers need to listen better. we have to understand how our conversations lead to a close or not. We need to learn how to use that information better..

We humans listen better (if we put our mind to it).


Sales enablement is the art and science of supporting sales reps with the heavy lifting that comes with running complex sales cycles. Technology can be of tremendous help to research on the prospects and look for the right information to provide to the client but will result in failure without integrating the primed sales person. Personal motives and emotions do count too. Some sales people have a natural born talent to engage and push the right buttons balancing professional with personal interests, others need to be trained.


Marketers in general like to think in scale, audiences and segments. But in doing so they risk cutting corners. They also try to limit their responsibility. Many think that marketing's accountability in the revenue generation cycle ends when they hand over the conversation to a receiving function. Usually a business partner or a sales rep. There's often little communication taking place to find out or learn whether the lead closed out in the end. Those that introduced some form of demand gen processes like the demand waterfall aren't necessarily better off either. On the contrary. Often their marketing and sales ops teams hide behind their metrics and aggregated numbers and forget to talk about the human elements that are hidden distractors. The result? Repeated robotic inefficiency.

With imperfect information about the individuals in your target audience marketers need to make assumptions. But too many marketers make way too many assumptions and it makes their campaigns and content fail and look non-human, even when using all sorts of nifty personalization techniques. Their drawing board version of the target audience seems to always prevail at expense of simply listening better.

Marketing is not a "one way" information exchange game. It’s not about firing off a list of questions all at once and then taking a decision interpreting the responses. A human-like communication process is iterative. It’s about many backs and forths. It’s not about: "here, I have done my share now it’s your turn". You need to earn trust along the way and use empathy to decipher slowly but steadily the real needs and drivers of the people making or influencing the buying decison. Take chat: live chat as well as chat bots. Seamless integration between a chat bot and a live chat agent is a two-way street. Visitors return. Being able to weave the online/AI and human chat streams during repeat visits into one meaning full conversation is what works. It feels real. While buyers today may feel better served because there's a way to engage via chat, it will not take long or the bar will be raised and buyers will see want us to take the next step closer to real human like interaction.

'Take content: it’s about stories. Not stories about what you offer. But stories that resonate and actively use profile information about the individual reader. Technology during the next coming years will help us generate personalized content on the fly. Information you capture and that enriches the profiles should be used to make the exchange and its content feel human. Also here the bar will raise every year and online marketers that will bombard audiences with generic drip messages will lose touch with their buyers. Take campaign planning: also here the human factor plays. Internal communication process and skills matter greatly. Campaigns are not just a marketing thing. It serves sales so sales can have its seat at the table during the planning phase.

So when we say the human face of marketing technology is growing in importance, we really mean that in every sense of the way. Next to AI technology and conversational marketing techniques, we think that ABM offers a great opportunity to improve digital marketing with human like traits. Embrace and read all about ABM because it will force you to leave your one-way street silo behavior. It will motivate you to listen and interact more both with your sales teams as with your prospects and clients. It will also make you see that you have a role to play from start to finish. It will help you use technology, but then to support and enhance the buying journey not to try changing nor replacing it with something else. Marketing and Sales technology will never change the mind of the buyer. it's listening to that buyer -now at scale- by using technology across that journey that will. There’s plenty of opportunity for marketing to turn things up a notch. Going digital without understanding the principles of intra-personal communication will not get you the desired results.

About the Author

Koen De Witte

Koen's true passion is innovation in B2B sales & marketing. Back in 2008 he started LeadFabric, one of the very first demand marketing services firms in Europe.

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