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Is sales Outreach destroying your Career?

If you are still performing 20th century outreach tactics like "cold calling" then you are not just destroying your own career, but you are also destroying your employers brand and therefore their business.

Lets be clear, modern empowered buyers have 4 standard expectations when it comes to purchasing decisions: 

1) Know them

2) Personalise every engagement

3) Teach them

4) Anticipate their future needs.

Given that traditional sales outreach completely ignores all of the above, is it really any wonder that so many buyers now refuse to engage lazy sales people whom continue to use the old spray & pray mentality? These outdated forms of outreach are lame because the engagement is not personalised to the buyers context, effectively treating the buyer as 'just another number'.  

We all know that interruptive push outreach annoys buyers modern buyers because we ALL hate receiving those unsolicited calls from telemarketers, and for those that still operate this way, your career is now in jeopardy. If you need proof then just read the next paragraph: 

Mr David Preiss - Chief Technology Officer at RMIT University in Australia recently wrote to his suppliers: 

“Dear IT market-placers, the unsolicited phone-calls, emails, and LinkedIn requests have to stop. If you continue to use LinkedIn as your lead generation tool, we will remove our details from LinkedIn for good. Please re-consider before cold approaches are made, we are being bombarded with hundreds of requests to meet or listen a week. It is totally out of control”.

Sales leaders, imagine if you can, what it must be like for buyers in medium-large organisations, who are being targeted by practically every single vendor sales person on the planet that has a widget to sell. Then ask yourself how you would respond if the roles were reversed?

Again, just last week, yet another IT buyer told me “when I first started my role, I received more than 100 phone calls in the 1st month with sales people saying: "Hi, I sell you stuff". I was soon forced to hold an all-vendor briefing session in which I delivered the bad news that vendor engagements would be via a public procurement process only”.

Remember, it’s not just you that is interrupting your buyers….these poor unfortunate buyers are getting hammered everyday by desperate vendor sales people from both existing and new suppliers. Yes, yes, I know…we still need to get the buyers attention, and I totally understand the pressure that all sales people are under to find new prospects, but you have to find a better method of approach, or a better combination of methods. Don't get me wrong, after 30 years in sales, I'm still on the side of the sales person, but the cold hard truth is that we have to learn how to sell smarter in a world of smarter buyers. 

Pre-outreach research:

On the very slim chance that you do actually manage to get the attention of a prospective buyer through a crude interruption, then please ensure that you have your narrative highly personalised and well rehearsed.....we all know that you only get one chance to make a first impression. 

Yet another direct quote from an IT buyer (CIO) that I interviewed last year: ‘the next idiotic sales person that walks through my door and says to me “So, Mr Customer, tell me about your business?”…...or the even more cringe-worthy old chestnut: “so, Mr Customer, what keeps you awake at night”….seriously I will instruct security to march them out of my office, and out of the building”.

This buyer was not laughing, nor was she exaggerating. Imagine that you have dozens of desperate sales people, many of whom wreak of “commission breath” (James Muir), calling, emailing, InMailing, poking and IMing you every day…some of the real desperado’s even stalk you by waiting in the foyer and then pretending that it's a chance meeting. This old school (hustle) approach only makes you look desperate by comparison with the sales professionals that have taken the time and one their homework. At the very least, just do a little research BEFORE you ask dumb questions. It’s no longer 1990, so lets all evolve our approach.

Consequences of annoying Buyers?

What most lazy sales leaders fail to realize when they drive sales people this way is that their increasingly exasperated target buyer is not just going into ‘sales person avoidance mode’ (Tim Hughes), but they are now proactively voicing their disgust with these outdated sales tactics. Of course, some just vote with their feet by going directly to a competitor, whilst also blacklisting your company. Worse, there is now an increasing movement (like the RMIT example above) where buyers are proactively ‘slamming’ these lazy vendors on social. Can you afford to have your brand or company reputation portrayed in this way?

"Opening is the new Closing" 

Given this type of direct customer feedback, and its propensity to create backlash for vendors, ‘opening’ is now the sales persons biggest challenge by far. The way that we go about getting our buyers attention, and then how we gain their commitment to spending time with us is so critically important. To succeed with today's buyers in gaining any 'cut through', your opening approach needs to be personalized, valuable, conversational, not disruptive - educational, not distracting. You must be focused on helping, not selling. If sales people continue to get the initial customer approach wrong, it will fast become career destroying. 

“You sell more when you stop selling” – David Meerman Scott

In 2019 interrupt your target buyers at your peril, and if you are vendor CEO or sales leader then I strongly suggest that you mandate that “no sales person is to interrupt a prospective buyer" UNLESS they have done some solid research on the buyer/company/industry and have a very well rehearsed, personalized and succinct narrative ready to roll out.

“Increased personalisation equals decreased rejection”

This plays directly into my recent post(s) about moving away from push selling which buyers now despise (don't beleive me then just ask them), and more towards a true customer centric culture that actually places the buyers needs, ambitions and outcomes ahead of quotascommissions and other short-term vendor focused financial imperatives.

Shifting the old-school approach of cold outreach to ‘warm' outreach where the modern tools of digital and social are “combined” with the phone in just the right balance. Everything in business has always been about balancing tensions and competing priorities, and sales success is now simply about adapting our approach to give the buyer a more enjoyable experience. It's not rocket science is it?

We have to sell smarter in a world of smarter buyers!

So, if you are in sales, do your career a favor and think seriously about how you go abouit getting the attention of your prospective buyers. If you are still just doing the same old rubbish that every other sales robot is doing (treating customers like they are a number) then you might want to consider a career change before it’s forced upon you. 

The successful sales people of the future will gather customer intent data (buyer tastes and preferences) and then work really hard on creating a compelling, personalized opening narrative. When they do, they instantly differentiate themselves from all of the rabble that the RMIT’s CTO was referring to in his plea at the beginning of this post.

Adapt-Learn-Change….and when you do, there's never been a better time to be in sales. 

By Graham Hawkins