5 Boston Salespeople Explained Why Authentic Human Connection Is Key to Their Strategies

Authenticity and genuine connection can’t be automated. Salespeople are achieving more by emphasizing personal relationships.

Written by Lucas Dean
Published on Mar. 14, 2023
5 Boston Salespeople Explained Why Authentic Human Connection Is Key to Their Strategies
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Between CRM software, sales intelligence tools and integrations to bridge the gaps between disparate digital solutions, technology has revolutionized sales processes. 

These tools have opened up a world of possibilities, enabling salespeople to be more efficient, productive and precise in their customer outreach and retention efforts. But in this highly digital environment, an overreliance on automated tools and processes can result in the loss of one of the most important elements of sales: human connection. 

The ability to foster authentic relationships with customers and understand their needs can’t be reproduced by technology and remains the foundation for successful sales strategies.

“The digital space has become very, very crowded, opening a door for sellers to be human again. Personal touch and human-centric relationship building are ripe for the taking,” connectRN’s VP of Sales Nicholas Rodich explained. “First impressions are lasting impressions.”

Salespeople like Rodich are finding success by prioritizing human connections.

“Our customers are people, and our employees are people. Our business is successful because we focus on people, connections and creating a meaningful customer-first experience every day,” said ezCater’s Director of Sales Acquisition Daniel Cohen. 

These sales professionals and three others detailed how they create memorable interactions and build sincere customer relationships. 

 

Daniel Cohen
Director of Sales Acquisition • ezCater

ezCater is a marketplace that connects businesspeople with a variety of catering options. 

 

Why is it important to you and your team to prioritize building meaningful connections with customers?

At ezCater, the customer always comes first. We have ingrained in our culture a customer-first approach to selling; the best solution for the customer is the best solution. We listen to our customers’ needs and pain points, ask questions and focus on building the relationship so we can provide the most helpful solution. Sometimes this means selling less profitable products or directing the customer away from ezCater. 

The most important thing to us is that the customer has the best solution for their needs. This is a win-win situation. If we force a solution onto a customer that is not a fit, they will have a bad experience. This will result in our account management team having a bad experience as they try to rectify the relationship with the customer. Further, it could result in the customer advocating for their network not to use us. Ultimately, we’re not in the software business or the food business; we’re in the people business. As cliché as that may sound, it is 100 percent true. Our customers are people, and our employees are people. Our business is successful because we focus on people, connections and creating a meaningful customer-first experience every day.

 

What is one method or approach you’ve successfully used to create memorable interactions with customers? What was the outcome? 

Throughout our sales process, we focus on the customer. We build rapport through relevant topics — not just the weather — by discussing current events, if we’ve ever visited their city or asking about their Zoom backgrounds. We ensure that discovery is directly related to the customers’ highest concerns. Finally, we focus on solving their problems based on what we learn throughout the conversation.

According to our senior AE manager, Jack Harvey, “We pride ourselves on creating a culture in which our team can be their authentic selves all day, every day. What we have found to be effective in creating that organic human connection with our customers is to encourage the reps to let that authentic self shine through with their Zoom backgrounds. 

As we were all getting used to video conferencing replacing our traditional meetings, many of us blurred out backgrounds to block out the sports team memorabilia or family picture on the wall. We’ve found a unique background is able to instantly showcase who you are as a person. That peek into your life and persona can be crucial in building trust over video. This developed habit has become a great rapport builder with our customers.”

 

How do you encourage authenticity and personalized connections among your sales team?

Personalization and authenticity are key to driving successful sales processes and making impactful customer relationships. With email outreach, we focus on personalizing our messages to that specific customer while also providing key facts about our business that will resonate with them. We aim to balance moving quickly and efficiently while still creating a human-to-human experience. 

We don’t give scripts for reps to read on the phone. We teach them how to have the conversation and have reps curate their own scripts so they are authentic. My words in your mouth will not sound authentic, the same way that your words in my mouth won’t sound authentic. I recently reviewed a rep’s call that differed from my approach, and he crushed it. I quickly let him know I was so proud of him for finding his own voice and unique way of selling that works for him. 

We don’t give scripts for reps to read on the phone. We teach them how to have the conversation and have reps curate their own scripts so they are authentic.”

 

When on video, we encourage our reps to be their authentic selves. If a pet interrupts a meeting, own it; don’t try to hide it in embarrassment. If your child sits on your lap for a meeting, great! We love special guests. After three years of working from home, we all experience these common interruptions that were rare before 2020. Be you!

 

 

Steve Harris
Head of Sales, Americas • Akeneo

The Akeneo Product Cloud helps retailers and brands orchestrate, activate and optimize product experiences. 

 

Why is it important to you and your team to prioritize building meaningful connections with customers?

Acquiring new customers has never been harder and more expensive. In a subscription economy, switching to a new product has never been easier. Thus, we emphasize the importance of building strong partnerships with our customers from the very first interaction. The No. 1 behavior we reinforce to our team is the importance of being honest in every communication. Honesty is vital to establishing trust and credibility. Moreover, we ask our team to go the extra mile to reinforce our commitment to helping our customers solve their business problems, leading to customer retention and success. When you build strong partnerships, these customers tell their industry peers and become an extension of our sales organizations.

The No. 1 behavior we reinforce to our team is the importance of being honest in every communication. Honesty is vital to establishing trust and credibility.”

 

What is one method or approach you’ve successfully used to create memorable interactions with customers? What was the outcome? 

While we employ some of the most talented product experience experts in the industry, we see amazing results from our customers every day as they push and challenge the boundaries of our expectations. As a result, creating and fostering a community among our customers is an incredibly important part of what we do. We provide our customers with several global, local and virtual opportunities each year to meet peers, share learnings and collaborate. These are often very memorable interactions for our customers, not only because we pair these events with fun but because they come away with actionable insights they can use to improve their day-to-day jobs. One example of that is when a customer shared that they work with local colleges to hire summer interns to help with product enrichment and, as a result, reduced the cost of enriching a product to under $1 per SKU. Several of our customers have employed this tactic now after hearing how successful it was for one of their peers.

 

How do you encourage authenticity and personalized connections among your sales team?

From the very top of the organization, we encourage our team to be authentic and vulnerable every single day. We have adopted many of the strategies promoted by Brené Brown about leading courageously. I love Brené’s quote: “There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period.” We encourage our team to lead boldly. We ensure that employees feel psychologically safe to say “I don’t know” and obtain support from teammates; we help our teammates when they fail and become a stronger team in the process.

 

 

A communal space in connectRN’s office.
connectRN

 

Nicholas Rodich
VP of Sales • connectRN

Healthtech company connectRN allows nursing professionals to design their schedules, identify career opportunities and tap into a global network of clinicians. 

 

Why is it important to you and your team to prioritize building meaningful connections with customers?

First impressions are lasting impressions. The utilization of digital outreach has skyrocketed over the past few years. The digital space has become very, very crowded, opening a door for sellers to be human again. Personal touch and human-centric relationship building are ripe for the taking.

 

What is one method or approach you’ve successfully used to create memorable interactions with customers? What was the outcome?

The answer is simple. It comes down to executing on what you promised. Too often, sellers chase the “wow” effect or want to be flashy. Sellers who pass the test of time are the ones who consistently show up and do what they say they are going to do.

For example, an executive of a potential customer came to connectRN looking for a strategic partner to remedy their healthcare labor shortages while they were in the middle of a merger and acquisition, which was elongating their invoice payments. We listened, devised a plan to support both challenges and inked an agreement as their preferred partner. When prospective clients come to us during a challenging time, our ability to problem-solve is the foundation of a successful partnership.

When prospective clients come to us during a challenging time, our ability to problem-solve is the foundation of a successful partnership.”

 

How do you encourage authenticity and personalized connections among your sales team?

At connectRN, we lead with empathy and show care for the whole person, internally and externally. The only way to be authentic is to show up as your true self. 

Being proactive listeners and leaning into feedback are the ways we build personalized connections.

 

 

Olivia Bresnahan
Sales Manager • Jellyfish

Jellyfish provides a platform that allows engineering managers to align their work with business goals. 

 

Why is it important to you and your team to prioritize building meaningful connections with customers?

Customers are the most important asset a company has. Not only have they made the commitment to partner with you but they can also serve as a valuable resource to attract and influence other customers. Leveraging your install and customer base for case studies, referrals and testimonials lends you further credibility with new prospects. 

Customers can also provide honest and candid feedback on your technology — on what’s working and what isn’t and what gaps in your product exist. You can then begin to compile and prioritize customer needs based on demand for future product sprints and roadmap presentations.

The stronger the relationship you build with customers, the more likely they will be to not only do these things for you but to want to do them for you, and they will do them well.

The stronger the relationship you build with customers, the more likely they will be to not only do these things for you but to want to do them for you.”

 

What is one method or approach you’ve successfully used to create memorable interactions with customers? What was the outcome? 

An approach I always use is in-between selling. In sales, it’s easy to look at the calls you have had that week and the prep you need for the next call, but what is often overlooked is what you can do in between those calls to bring value or build a relationship with them without asking for something in return. An example of this could be a combination of several things, like sending an article that was related to your last conversation, or maybe they mentioned they were going on vacation and following up with a restaurant recommendation.

During one of our sale cycles, we knew one of our contacts lived close by to an event we were hosting. In between our calls, we sent him an invite to the event to see if he was interested. We then brought it back up on our call, and he had already signed up. During the event, he spoke with happy customers with similar pain points to him, and he became a customer a few months later. The goal of in-between selling is to always be top of mind.

 

Tell me about a time when you or a member of your sales team made an impact because of a focus on human connection.

A member of my team built one of the strongest champions of our product yet in a way that is often overlooked. Many people think this is through finding out which sports team they support, which college they went to or what hobbies they enjoy doing on the weekends. These are all excellent ideas, but there are other ways to build a strong relationship as well. 

This member of my team went an alternative route. She did this by knowing our champion’s personal win and being extremely dedicated to helping him achieve that. In every conversation throughout the sales cycle, she would come prepared not only for that specific conversation but also to bring it back to him and how the topic of that conversation will help her inch closer to achieving that personal win. This dedication throughout the engagement allowed the champion to build an immense amount of trust in the sales rep to the point that he didn’t want to let her down and wanted her to achieve her personal win. The trust that was built in this engagement molded it not just into a deal but into a true partnership.

 

 

Susan Remkiewicz
Director of Media Sales • Soofa

Soofa is a marketing tech company that provides cities and advertisers with solar-powered outdoor advertising kiosks. 

 

Why is it important to you and your team to prioritize building meaningful connections with customers?

Meaningful connections are everything. That’s the truth for Soofa’s sales team as well as in life. As we continue to recover from the isolation that Covid-19 created, it has become abundantly clear that we’ve missed connecting in more meaningful ways, especially in person. Our customers are the reason Soofa can continue to pursue our mission of helping to build smart, social, sustainable cities. Better connection creates trust and encourages honest communication — which translates into better and more effective partnerships.

 

What is one method or approach you’ve successfully used to create memorable interactions with customers? What was the outcome? 

I try to focus on listening and observing, even though I usually have a lot I want to say! Building rapport takes time, but I start each relationship looking for ways we can connect as people, regardless of our work. I recently met via Zoom with a prospect in Hawaii who had a surfboard mounted on his wall. In short order, I discovered he worked at a restaurant during college in the small Maine town where I spend my summers. I love “small world” connections the most. The business outcome is still to be determined.

Building rapport takes time, but I start each relationship looking for ways we can connect as people, regardless of our work.”

 

How do you encourage authenticity and personalized connections among your sales team?

I encourage authenticity and personalized connections among my sales team by modeling it. I show my team that letting your personality shine through can relax them and everyone else. It also helps the team stand out and be memorable in the field. Treating each member of our team as an individual is part of this, too. We are all unique. So while our professional development and sales goals may be common, the path should be true to each seller’s brand. This is how I can better connect with and show respect to each individual.

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images via listed companies and Shutterstock.

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