The Genuine Article: Why Authenticity Matters in Business

I had never heard of rich introductions until it was my turn to make one.

In business, it’s a compelling and impactful opening statement that captures the audience’s attention for a meeting or presentation. It’s a very effective tool for building empathy and understanding with a prospect or customer on the other side of the table.

As my turn got closer, I could feel the blood draining from my face at the prospect. For many people, public speaking is a daunting task. For me, an introvert by nature, talking about something deeply personal to a room of 50 people you don’t know, without a script, was terrifying.

Yet every morning and afternoon on the Timoney Advanced Leadership Programme, there was time set aside for rich introductions. Everyone had to give a ten-minute rich introduction to their fellow classmates, talking about a time in their life where they had to make a complex decision with ramifications; one that represented radical change, or was a memorable experience for good or bad reasons.

I both despised and wanted the challenge, knowing it would be good for me.

Presenters went in alphabetical order by surname, which thankfully gave me six months to write, rewrite, scrap, over-analyse, and wreck my coach’s head over topics to talk about. I decided to tell a story that was personal to me, and eventually, I got myself into a place where I felt as ready as I could ever be to tell it.

I got through it without fainting, rambling or blanking. I felt pleased: it was by no means a memorable performance but it was genuine, authentic, and I made peace with some of my vulnerabilities.

And that’s when something unexpected happened.

I had been so caught up in preparing my speech that I forgot about what would happen afterwards. Colleagues on the course approached me, and the resulting conversations had a different tenor to them.

Pushing my boundaries of self-disclosure opened doors for honest discussions with others. It forged stronger connections.

Looking back one year on, my fellow classmates’ stories and those deep conversations that followed are what I remember most of all. Ihave always been aware of my strengths and weaknesses but it was powerful to experience how authenticity strengthens relationships in action.

Being authentic in business-to-business sales

It also reminded me that storytelling and being authentic arekey elements in the world of business-to-business selling.

Some people forget that B2B sales is selling to people. You’re still trying to reach your audience and make a memorable human connection. It’s common for sales cycles to take up to a year, and they often involve multiple groups of people, so building strong relationships and trust are crucial. Being authentic and true to yourself brings a different level.

But in a world that’s increasingly digital, is it possible to be authentic in business? I believe it is.

It’s one thing when you’re meeting a prospect in a face-to-face setting; you employ all your senses to pick up on your customer needs through tone of voice, facial expressions, gestures, and body language. The words are less important and you can adapt your narrative and hone in on their specific needs.

But when talking to a prospect in a digital context – which might be your website, email or social channels – you don’t have any visual cues to help guide or shape your narrative and you have no control over their decision making. What you say counts.

That’s why it’s so important to understand your audience so you can tell a story that means something to them, too.

In reality, buying committees can be made up of many stakeholders, but it can help to focus your messaging around specific sets of needs. At my company, Together Digital, we typically categorise audiences into four main buying types: the technical buyer, the financial buyer, the decision maker and the end user.

Understanding the buyer types

The technical buyer is looking to evaluate a product’s functionality, features, and compatibility. They seek solutions that align with specific technical needs and they influence the purchasing decision based on product performance and usability.

The financial buyer is focused on the financial impact of the purchase, so they’re analysing cost, return on investment, and long-term benefits. Their goal is to maximise value while staying within budget. They will base their decision on the financial viability of the investment.

The decision maker or executive buyer holds the final say on buying decisions. They’re concerned with overall business objectives and strategy alignment. They’re often guided by input from other buyer types and stakeholders, while weighing the broader impact on the organisation's goals.

The end user is the individual who will directly use the product or service. They value ease of use and functionality. If you want long-term adoption for your product, it’s vital to deliver a positive experience for this group, because their feedback influences the overall decision-making process.

I believe it’s critical to build professional relationships and trust through personalised communications with each of these four groups. In a digital context, this means developing content that addresses their particular business needs: proving return on investment, solving pain points, and making a strong value proposition.

Digital marketing strategies often involve landing pages, email marketing, content marketing, or LinkedIn outreach, usually in a mix of media formats like video, downloadable white papers and so on. These campaigns generate leads based on targeted marketing efforts and networking.

Why aligning sales and marketing matters

All of this content should be informed by customer feedback; from listening to the needs of similar customers to the ones you’re targeting. Seasoned business-to-business sellers are always talking to their clients, soliciting valuable feedback about a particular feature of a product or aspect of a service.

Is there something that frustrates them in how they do their jobs today? Think about positioning your product or service as a solution to this feeling.

Then – and this part is really important – they relay the key findings from those conversations to the marketing team, who can better identify the needs of similar types of customer, and tailor more effective messages for them.

Too often, I’ve seen companies where the sales and marketing teams work in their own silos, with no communication between them. As a result, the marketing messages are generic, and they lack the authenticity that makes them stand out in the reader’s mind.

So here’s the takeaway: listen to your sales team. Gain insights from their interactions with prospects and clients.

In business-to-business, you often don’t know who your clients are, so one way to connect with them is through the sales team. You might think you’re selling one feature, but the one your customer loves might be a different one because it saves them time. Those are the valuable nuggets of information you only get by taking the time to talk to customers and engage authentically with them.

Then, continuously communicate the fruits of those conversations with marketing to adapt your value proposition.

Show you understand your customers’ needs

There are so many ways to disseminate information on digital channels, so if you get points that are particular to a buyer’s needs and wants, there are many ways you can harness that knowledge to your advantage.

Suppose you’ve identified a particular geographical market where there’s a regulation or some external factor that influences the customer’s buying choice. You could create a landing page with copy that specifically addresses this need.

To target this effectively, it helps when you understand how your potential customer will consume the content on your chosen medium. Each channel has advantages and limitations.

You always have to think about your medium and about your audience’s needs. Time-poor people will generally scan read, so it’s helpful to break up and layer your content with headings and links. Alternatively, would a two-minute explainer video explain your proposition better than a four-page document?

Think about where your audiences are consuming your content. This is where the power of data analysis comes in. For example, it’s possible to analyse behavioural data on web pages to help understand customer behaviour, user journeys and preferences. For example: when and how they are consuming content? Are they reading while travelling? Are they reading on their phones? How long are they spending on a page? What content is interesting to them (and what content is not)?

The great thing about working with digital technology is that it gives you data to analyse and learn from. You can experiment with different marketing messages and offerings – what’s known as A/B testing – to validate assumptions and see what prospects are responding to.

Then you can apply those insights to make the content you produce – and the connections you make – more authentic.

If anyone has any questions, please feel free to email me at