How technology can ruin trust in a relationship

Technology continues to change the interplay between B2B sellers and B2B buyers. One important element is the amount of data created by both parties in the process of a B2B purchase or sale.

Buyers leave “digital footprints” while researching products, providers, and alternatives. Sellers use that data for a host of things, from lead scoring to developing and refining “buyer persona” profiling. Big data is almost everywhere in B2B sales.

Buyers expect, or should expect, that their Internet actions are being tracked and measured, their data is crunched, and analytics are leveraged to help sellers engage, improve their timing and win their business.

On the other end, apps deliver a host of “small data” to salespeople. For example, popular sets of apps among sales professionals allow us to see how buyers are interacting with our emails. (Full disclosure: I use one. My preferred app is Toronto-based ContactMonkey, but there are others).

People these days forget the Internet is not only made up of web browsers and mobile apps, but that email is the Internet too. Email is not like your telephone, utilizing an alternate channel. It is delivered via the Internet, part of the data stream and as such, captured and parsed for profit; what’s surprising is how many people ignore, forget, or just don’t know that. If Google can present ads that relate to the subject and content of your emails, you should think about what else may be going on, whether you understand the algorithm or not.

The reality is that when you are getting a sales email via the Internet from a seller, it is being tracked for opens, when and where you opened it, on which device using which email client, links in the mail that you clicked, and more. There are ways that recipient can counteract, but if you have not taken the steps necessary, “they can see you!” I am not hung up on the Big Brother aspect of this, but more about the potential negative impact on trust and relationships.

The other day, after a conversation with a potential prospect, to fulfill a request I sent along more information, including a link to where the prospect would be able to find further material on our website. I know he opened the email three times on the following day, he clicked on the supporting links twice, and all this was confirmed by the tracking I have on the site. Yet when I followed up with him, asking what he thought of the information, phrasing my question specifically knowing he had opened it.

He said, “I really haven’t had a chance to look at any of it.” Liar, I thought, how am I supposed to trust you now?

I am not naive, I do not expect everyone to love what I sell, and I don’t expect everyone I engage with to become a buyer. In fact, I know that just under a third will buy from us. I am prepared for that. But being lied to is something you never get used to.

Scenarios like this unfold daily, yet buyers and sales pundits go on about the importance of trust and relationships. Had I not seen their footprints, I may put it off to being lazy, or needing more work on my part. But given the facts, it does raise the question of the type of relationship they have in mind.

I can see having a business relationship with someone that I would not socialize with, especially when they are honest and straightforward in their dealings. But how does one reconcile being lied to? While the act itself is not new, what is new is the transparency that comes along with the technology we’re using – and that definitely carries some implications.

Is technology undermining trust in sales, or does it balance out or even outweigh the collateral damage? What are your thoughts?

Tibor Shanto
Tibor Shanto
Tibor Shanto is a 25-year veteran of B2B sales, a speaker, author of an award book and award winning sales blogger, ranked #8 on The Top 30 Social Salespeople In The World, Tibor has developed an insider’s hands on perspective of successful sales execution. Called a brilliant sales tactician Tibor shows organizations and sales professionals how to leverage their sales process to shorten sales cycles, increase close ratios, and create double digit growth through execution and using the right combination strategy, tools, metrics, tactical execution of the sales process.

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