New Human Relationships in the Age of Bots

marketing and sales new relationships trust Dec 01, 2020

The other day I glanced at my iPhone and analyzed my last ten calls from the last few hours: 

  • 2 came from my older kids, Christian and Kira;
  • 1 came from a marketing agency in Chicago looking for a reference for a former employee; and
  • 7 came from scam robo calls, one of which left a message.

I’ve had my mobile number since 2000, so with all the data breaches through the years, I’m sure my number has been widely distributed throughout the Bot-verse. I saw recently that bots (non-humans) make up more than 60% of internet traffic and so-called bad bots make up 40%.

With Bots now firmly in control, it’s harder than ever to initiate and create a new business relationship. Not that cold calling was ever the best way to start a new conversation, but today I never pick up a call from a number that does not have an identity. It’s no different from the good old days of screening calls from the land lines. (What’s a land line?)

The Stickiness Problem 

The “new relationship” problem is acute. Especially for any organization that grows by establishing a long-term relationship with a human being.

Product organizations have a different set of problems. For a product, brand serves as a proxy for trust for a product. With seemingly unlimited products and the proliferation of social media, marketing automation, and chat bot tools – it’s incredibly difficult to create a compelling story. The story creates trust.

Of course, that’s also true of human-intensive services, but different.

The brand story piques some form of interest (“I’ve heard of your work …”). But the next step in the journey—a more difficult step than the first—is that trust between a human and another human needs to form and harden like glue. There are all sorts of reasons why humans in your organizations, who are charged with the job of stickiness, can’t attach themselves to new humans:

1. Humans like to golf and fly fish with humans they already know. 

  • This is why most of your sales people will not be in the office on Friday afternoons.
  • They’ll be enjoying the 19th hole with humans they already know. Not humans outside of their circle.
  • Everyone would rather be a “relationship manager” than do the hard work of building a new human relationship. 

2. Many humans who say they specialize in new human relationships, especially those who come from big brands, think that hamburgers come from McDonalds. 

  • I have a friend who is an investment banker for a major financial services brand. He is the quintessential buffalo hunter of the late 1800s. He does a transaction (a kill). Which in turn creates well-paying jobs for many people.
    • They skin and debone the carcass. They have no idea how the buffalo was killed, how the transaction came to be.
  •  No one knows that the buffalo hunter spent two years nurturing the buffalo. He was likely referred to the buffalo from another buffalo that he met four years earlier at a conference. So, in essence, it took six years for the “kill.”
  • Make sure you know whether the person you are interviewing for the job of creating new human relationships has been more than a skinner at a big brand. If so, don’t expect him or her to understand the tortuous cycle of creating new relationships.
  • Buffalo burgers don’t come from a restaurant. They come from his or her unique chops, persistence, and patience over time.

3. Humans struggle to create meaningful conversation with humans they don't know. 

  • That’s because we all like to talk about ourselves.
  • “Oh, you have a son? Did I tell you about my youngest son who just won the conference wrestling championship? Oh wait, this is about you?”
  • We’re all pretty lousy at asking good questions.
  • And maybe it’s because we really don’t care about humans; all we really care about is selling something to them.
  • You may want to require the humans in your organization who are charged with new human relationships to eat lunch at least two times a week with a new human—and ask good questions. That simple behavior, if done over time, may change the trajectory of your organization.
  • By the way, this activity (the # of lunches with new relationships) can be easily tracked. Who is tracking this in your organization?

4. Humans tend to procrastinate when pursuing new relationships. 

  • There’s a natural aversion to following up on a referral or with someone you just met at a conference.
  • I had a talented friend who was underemployed for several years. He never followed up on referrals that I gave him, including a head hunter with connections in my friend’s industry. I chalked it up to my friend’s emotional state.
  • Someone who can initiate new relationships has a certain kind of energy that enables him or her to do what others resist. Hire for the energy. Fire for everything else. Or make them relationship managers.

5. Many humans would rather complete another certification than create new human relationships. 

  • Maybe your folks charged with creating new human relationships should stop their learning about human relationships.
  • And focus on the harder skill of building new relationships.

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