The Robot Neurologist and the Human Side of What We Sell

Somebody close to me had a medical scare this past weekend.  She had a mini stroke last year and, for the second time since, felt symptoms of another stroke.  It turns out it wasn’t but while we visited with her waiting for further testing, I had my first encounter with this thing:

This Johnny 5 looking thing is a supercool neurologist version of ChatRoulette.  When it comes to strokes, there is a short window of time where you can treat the patient to prevent and even reverse damage. This window is critical, and there is, apparently, a protocol to monitor the patient during.

There was no neurologist on duty at the hospital at the time she was admitted.  Enter the “robot”. The healthcare provider network has a contract with a service that keeps neurologists in a rotation. They get assigned a patient and, in whatever the appropriate interval for the standard of care, get connected to the patient to make an assessment.  A nurse comes in the room physically to administer some tests and the neurologist watches the patients response via a two-way video telepresence connection. 

It was really cool.  It made me think about how we interact with our customers in telecom and IT.

My experience with how companies message their solutions to end user customers is that we typically very dryly list some features, advantages and benefits of their technology that address some technical requirements that the customer has.  We talk in acronyms and business-speak about engineering solutions and use industry memes to communicate. It all feels a little dry and formulaic, but it’s how everyone does it so we just continue to trudge through our pitch. “You, Mr. or Mrs. Customer, have a business need and here is a solution for you.”  Standard, right?

I think this is common in B2B sales.  In B2C sales, we use emotion, empathy, psychology, and even neuroscience.  We engage in “lifestyle marketing” where we use the previously listed techniques to make buyers envision themselves using a product.  We’re selling a dream, a version of how they see themselves, and an association. People buy products for ego and social signaling as much as they buy for function.

All of this is proven effective in B2C marketing, but not in B2B marketing.  This is the fallacy. We think, we’re selling to a business and our buyer is a professional.  Emotions and empathy and “lifestyle” have no place here. But, at the end of the day, the buyer making a decision is a person, not a business.  There are emotions tied up in their decision, it’s not all about making a pragmatic assessment of the right solution to the letter of the requirements.

People worry about their jobs.  They may feel insecure about making a change, because if it goes wrong they may lose their job (“nobody ever gets fired for buying Verizon” is a real thing in our industry). They may need a win, looking for a vendor to make them look like a rockstar.  They may be overwhelmed and desperate for some stress relief that your solution can provide.

By positioning our marketing messaging and sales pitch to address some of these very human emotions, you can make yourself stand out from the competition and create a stronger value proposition.  This is taking a human-centered-design approach to crafting a user experience that will make you stand out to your prospects while they are on their buyers journey.

The rep that sold this hospital I visited whatever connectivity solution they’re using to enable this telepresence solution didn’t sell them SD-WAN or MPLS.  They sold them a higher standard of care, a solution to a staffing gap, and peace of mind for the patients and families that are under the care of the robot neurologist.

What are you really selling?