by Tony J. Hughes
The central issue in 2017 is that the rise of the “silent sales floor” is threatening to kill business as we know it.
At the same token, I am one of the biggest proponents of the social selling revolution you’ll ever find. So how can I reconcile the two and maintain credibility as a centrist in this “third rail” argument that will go on until the Earth explodes into the Fireball known as the sun or we inherit Mars with Elon.
I’ve heard horrific stories recently of reps being penalized for making an outbound call from their cubicle in the common area, even asked to reserve time with special calendar for going into a phone booth that they can barely get access to. There are literally reps reading this right now that by dint of “phenomenal company culture,” replete with ping pong tables and beer kegs that runneth over, are supposed to use email and social based methods only – to generate net new prospects.
Even comically sadder still, are those AEs relying solely only on SDRs and inbound marketing schemes (from Marketing) to put appointments on their calendar.
Fact: SDR driven appointments are seldom qualified.
Fact: Until your CMO spends a day with you in the field, no matter what he/she reads, they’ll never understand your pain or needs. Ever!
This is not because there aren’t many talented SDRs. It’s the fact that carpet bombing Marketing departments flooding Search, Social and Events with your media collateral blitzes, typically pull in the least common denominator people. And even SDRs (unless you find a really good one) are going to default to “path of least resistence” and work only the inbound leads.
Ask yourself, do you respond to cold emails, an onslaught of tradeshow badge scanned follow up or any semblance of native advertising no matter how relevant? Unlikely.
So this sets the stage for what I would say is the sharpest arrow you have in your sales quiver toward 2020. Go get good on a telephone. Get devilishly, black belt level good.
Social selling although powerful, is quite passive. It’s been my experience that senior decision makers have their LinkedIn profile monitored and screened by their gatekeepers and may log in infrequently to check messages. This leaves 999 sellers out of 1,000 sitting in the sales church daily, sending out emails that typically only vary by first name or are so “stalkery” and “needy” that they all sound alike. Mentioning the school in common, name dropping, picking out a tidbit on their profile and putting in the subject line. All these social selling hacks used to work until they became hackneyed.
This reminds me of a hilarious anecdote of a C-Level decision maker who used to fill his office with pictures of a family that wasn’t his (fresh from the drug store frames), pennants from sports teams (he didn’t follow) and a large marlin (he didn’t catch) – just to test how many slick, smarmy sales people referenced them to build rapport.
It’s getting to a point where the extremely limited subset of executives in the Fortune 1,000 (yep, only 1,000 companies) can almost respond macabrely, “Are you Sandlering me? Are you Challenging me? Are you Spinning me? Are you uncovering pain? Are you Solution Selling me?” They get a huge kick out of the slick, data dump presentations and Sales Engineer technical API lectures they yawn through, and then take it to RFP almost every time because everybody sounds alike. Everybody has the same unique differentiator and world class service and the NASCAR slide of amusingly (often the same exact logos.) It’s all smoke and mirrors so trusted advisor is not really going to happen if you haven’t prewired your meeting with massive discovery with every character in that room many times before showing up to the dance.
Drop the BS and the systems and simply have a conversation when you call people, when you interact with people and most importantly when you are face to face. What I call what most salespeople are doing out there right now is a “nonversation.” And that’s typically with a “CE’NO'”!
We’ve all been advocating in this community (I have the privilege of orbiting) for the efficacy of “blended approaches” at every stage of the funnel. It’s really a mindset shift. Find out who in your territory your boss most wants to close. Then start relentlessly picking up the phone, email, social, leveraging referrals (common connections) and networking to go after these accounts.
The beauty of the phone is you’ll fail faster. You’ll get to NO faster and you’ll uncover Yeses in the buying phase of their sales cycle. I’m beginning to think the lack of phone work is not just fear, call reluctance or lack of self-esteem. It’s really a game of Russian Roulette. You’ve got 25 key target accounts (bullets) to fire and if they all say no – done, you’re terrified you’ll lose your job. So they pussyfoot, soft shoe and circumlocute around the real hammerhead shark type activities hoping the golf ball may just roll in from an ambivalent putt – semi in the right direction – into the hole.
Be deliberate, get off your social media. Get out of your email “only” approach and make the phone, the tent pole of your strategy, at all phases of the funnel. If you’ve got live opportunities, manically follow up by phone and voicemail. If you’ve got impossible to reach accounts, go call everyone in the company until they collectively say no. Push much, much, harder.
I don’t think you’re scared to do this. I think you underestimate the level of superhuman activity, success in sales now takes. A friend of mine just closed a deal where there were 25 competitors that looked nearly identical. He was in earlier, on-site more often, more interactive and probably got ten times more phone and face time. He credits the phone.
Someone commented in one of these threads that a rep “would have to be superhuman to be successful in sales in 2017.” It’s actually just a job that always took much more work than anyone ever bargained for. That’s why it’s so well paid and why about 15% of sellers hit their quota and are actually well paid versus the journeymen that cannot figure it out. It’s a bummer or call to arms: You have an 85% likelihood of missing your numbers.
When you get in front of a human, the secret is easy: Cultivate Curiosity and Confidence.
Cultivate a true interest in everything about your prospect’s business. They will know you by the quality of your questions. I’ve seen a weaker vendor win an enterprise deal on questioning, listening and EQ skills alone. They drew out the use cases, they drew out the root causes and they built trust by helping the prospect understand themselves. They leverage real “insight” – not just case studies statistics or “challenger facts.” They helped the prospect see their business challenges in a new way. This wasn’t done before to get the meeting. This wasn’t revealed on the internet at all. They were publically traded, so there was no resource but lots of interaction to get to the heart of the matter. See my point!
Two people are given the identical wood materials, the carpenter sculpts a beautiful table and chairs and the other ends up looking like IKEA post Hurrican. The point is, it’s not what you’re doing, it’s the confidence and mastery by which you do it. Repetition is the mother of skill and the more you learned to drive a car – for example – you developed an unconscious competence, didn’t you?
This all reminds me of some joke where two men are running from a lion and only have one pair of shoes. The one that wins just has to steal the shoes from the other, not necessarily worry about the lion, yet. I’m not suggesting to be cutthroat Machiavellian. Just don’t buy into the prevailing norms of the church like quietude of your sales floor. Go find any room they’ll give you – even the stairwell – and make sure you’re getting in at least 3 hours a day of strict outbound calling. The best analogy I’ve heard is, wouldn’t you sleep, shower and brush your teeth every day to “live.” That’s how fundamental the phone is and always will be!
I like the Weinberg 33/33/33 distribution of calling a funnel – top, mid and bottom. But until you have 1.5 – 3X pipeline and at least 3 qualified meetings per week going, you need to be spending 80% of your 9-5 picking up the phone.
Sales is a human job. It’s blood, sweat and tears. It’s seeing the whites of their eyes. It’s more like therapy than it is diamond mining. All this digital stuff is meaningless because so much of it is happening. CMOs are getting 2,000 emails a month. That means they’re getting 25,000 alerts per month. 250 times a day, their phone buzzes in their pocket with people like us bugging them to fix their CRM or Marketing or what have you. They don’t meaningfully interact with a lot of people.
The more and more we trend toward the social selling revolution, what it’s really creating is an aperture for the next Cold Calling Renaissance. The same way the dot coms crashed in the late 90’s and tech came back, the phone bubble popped and it’s coming back. To many who stayed on top – that elite 5%, it never really went away. You just kept on grinding.
Now I know you’re getting a ton of answering machines, so there are a few strategies you can avail yourself of once you’ve got direct dials from ZoomInfo, DiscoverOrg or RainKing:
1) Relentlessly call the same numbers at multiple times per day until connect.
2) Use a service like ConnectAndSell to massively increase contact rates.
3) Use COMBO Selling which speaks to FAST combinations of prospecting touches (Call, Vmail, Email) – to mitigate Executive ADD.
4) Be where your prospects are at events and conferences and get in front of them – not at the booth where they hate to go but out at night. A brilliant GM used to book a hotel meeting room across the street and schedule 2 dozen meetings at the conference and entice all his contacts to come to him. This strategy works very well in Europe.
Great effort is required to arrest decay and restore vigor. One must exercise proper deliberation, plan carefully before making a move, and be alert in guarding against relapse following a renaissance. – Horace
You can check out Tony on Linked at linkedin.com/in/hughestony