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How to Talk to Partners and Prospects Without AI Chatbots

Navigate the delicate balance between leveraging AI for efficiency and building out authentic partner relationships.

Do you ever open up your inbox to an email where a word like “delve” sticks out like a sore thumb? Paul Graham, of Y-Combinator fame, recently went viral for pointing out the clue in a cold email he received as a telltale sign of ChatGPT at work.

For anyone working in B2B SaaS, navigating the uncanny valley of communication in your email inbox has become an all too common experience. The thing is, those AI-crafted messages can do real damage when it comes to B2B partnerships. While chatbots like ChatGPT continue to get more natural in their interactions with new product updates (that include more natural voice interaction, live translation and video capabilities) they can also strip away the human touch that helps you create genuine connections — and that is fundamental for long-term success in partnerships.

In this article we’ll explore the impact of AI chatbots on partner relationships and how to navigate the delicate balance between leveraging AI for efficiency and building out strong partner relationships.

Cold outreach using AI chatbots

Related: Jobs that are growing with the rise of AI.

AI chatbots and the depersonalization problem

Since OpenAI’s ChatGPT burst onto the scene in late 2022, everyone's been looking for ways to shoehorn AI chatbots into their tech stack. With leaner teams and partnership managers who are expected to juggle managing, engaging and growing their partnership programs, AI feels like a natural solution to do more with less by automating tasks.

Here’s the problem: depersonalization runs rampant when you try to scale relationship building with AI. Depersonalization refers to the feeling of being treated as a transaction rather than an individual with unique needs and preferences. Think of those emails that start with a vague, “I was impressed by your work…” without ever specifying why, and end with a hard pitch.

It feels like it came straight from an AI-generated CRM template where the extent of your personalization was being a personalization token. Remember, you only have one chance to make a first impression and many discerning partnership professionals can detect AI-created email templates. 

Are chatbots sabotaging your B2B partnership opportunities?

Scaling a partner program while nursing existing partner relationships is no easy task. It’s no surprise that partnership managers fall into the trap of automating everything, including those initial outreach messages to new partnership prospects.

Unfortunately, AI struggles with demonstrating that you actually understand a potential partner. Those cookie-cutter introductions miss the chance to hook a partner's interest. With no personalized insights or tailored propositions, there's no basis for trust – and you won't get that vital connection. This doesn't just hurt the relationship, it directly translates to missed deals and lost revenue potential.

See more: Critical points of trust within your ecosystem.

How depersonalized B2B interactions damage partner experiences

In an industry increasingly focused on automation, it's easy to forget that partnerships are about people. Here’s what happens when the human element gets lost:

  • Trust takes a hit: Templated language that misses the mark on a partner's needs could make them doubt your sincerity. Partners won’t feel valued and will wonder if you care about the partnership itself or just want to make a sale.

  • Less opportunity for innovation: Strong partnerships thrive on open communication and sharing ideas. When a partner feels like a number or a revenue target, they'll be less likely to share the kind of insights that spark big things for both of you.

  • Bad for brand: How you treat partners is how others perceive you. While it’s true that chatbots can be trained on brand voice, if you’re not taking care and continually sending depersonalized messages (which everyone associates with AI now), it makes you seem like a company that doesn't value real relationships. That makes attracting the best partners way harder.

Bots need not apply: Partner outreach needs a human touch

The best way to get a potential partner interested is to show them that you’ve done your homework. Take the time to understand their industry, their pain points and their north star goals. You’re not just blasting out emails, you’re looking for a collaborator who fits your mission and vice versa. This tailored approach builds trust and lets you both see the potential of working together.

AI chatbots need not apply

You might also like: Recruit your first 100 revenue-generating partners.

Where AI chatbots can be useful in partnerships

Let's be clear: AI has its place in this whole thing. It can be super helpful for things like:

  • Scouting leads: AI can quickly gather basic information about potential partners like their company size, areas of focus and recent projects. This gives you a starting point for further research.

  • Data crunching: If you have access to large data sets on partner performance, AI can help you identify patterns and potential successful collaborations that might not be immediately obvious to a human.

  • Scheduling and reminders: AI-powered tools can automate the scheduling of follow-up emails or set reminders to reach out to specific partners at the right time.

However, it’s crucial to remember that AI is a tool, making it most effective for mundane or analytical tasks, freeing you up for the things it can’t do like relationship building and strategizing.

Think of AI as a helpful assistant rather than the lead in your partnership outreach. It can streamline certain processes, but genuine connection and thoughtful strategy are the foundation of success.

How to use AI outputs as a strategic starting point

AI tools can provide some basic building blocks, but it’s up to the user to transform them into meaningful interactions. Instead of blindly using AI-generated content, leverage the information it gathers as a launchpad for more insightful communication. 

For example, instead of just mentioning a company's recent project, connect it to their broader goals by asking something like: "Your recent project on [project name] looks fascinating – how does it align with your company's overall expansion plans?" Or take that AI-generated "hello" and punch it up with a specific observation: "I loved your recent article on [topic]. Particularly the point about [insight] – how does that play into your current strategy?".

The future of AI chatbots in B2B partnerships

Let’s face it, the flood of impersonal, AI-generated outreach signals a worrying trend: cutting relationship corners in the name of efficiency. Unfortunately, in B2B partnerships that’s going to directly impact your revenue. While AI helps with some tasks, only humans have the capability to build lasting, successful partnerships. 

Tech is awesome, but don't let it replace the effort and careful communication that makes these collaborations shine. Want to really stand out? Be the company known for thoughtful outreach and a focus on genuine connections.

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