It’s often a lot of fun working in sales and technology. They’re 2 of our personal passions. And whilst we’ve been around a while we like to think we keep current with modern trends. But one thing we find we’re regularly amused by is the latest groundbreaking claim:
“THAT OLD WAY OF <insert sales tactic here> IS DEAD, YOU SHOULD DO <insert new idea> INSTEAD!”
Depending on where it’s come from it can be easy to become either a) dismissive and stubborn, or b) full of outright panic!
On balance reality usually lands somewhere in the middle.
Regardless, inaction and overreaction are unlikely to help if you’ve got sales to make – which most people do.
What does help is a measured practical analysis of the developments in sales – related to your industry – so you can turn ideas into action that delivers real results.
We often play the part of debate moderator so we assembled a collection of experienced sales professionals and asked them to share their thoughts on 5 of the biggest questions that come up in modern sales prospecting.
1. Cold Calling is History
What is true is that random, unresearched, unqualified cold calling doesn’t tend to get you very far. However, the reverse still works wonders particularly with getting buyers to agree to a next stage eg a meeting or a further discussion with a subject matter expert.
Everyone we spoke to stressed that making the initial call is still an essential part of reaching out to prospective buyers. But they also suggested that other methods of prospecting can be really valuable if done well.
Regardless of these other prospecting tactics – you can be sure that cold calling works, as long as you target your approach to relevant prospects to quickly establish credibility, trust and rapport. Only then can you start to establish if they have a need and the purchasing ability to take it to the next stage.
2. You Always Need the Human Touch to Make a Sale
False (but sometimes a little true!)
For many in sales it’s a given that only the human touch can identify potential new customers or clients. It kind of fits with our own sense of importance.
Prospecting is about establishing new relationships and developing existing ones – things that haven’t come easily to technology, tools or robots. But with machine learning and AI that advancement may not be far away.
A person will ultimately be behind the design of the interactions and sales process, but from there software can already handle a lot of tasks and it will only improve. If we take a look at ourselves I’m sure there’s times where you know you want to deal with a company, but on your own terms WITHOUT having to deal with one of its employees. Think about big firms in particular. Chances are, coincidentally, that those companies know this too and are already working on ways to bring that experience to life. Upshot – expect to deal directly with humans less and less.
We’ll round off this section by saying there are plenty of industries and niches where having the right people with the right skills to identify new leads is an effective use time so all is not lost yet for the personal touch.
3. Scripts are for juniors or call centre reps only
Anyone who says this has a big opinion of themselves, or a very long work day.
There will always be salespeople who refuse to use a script, or think they have graduated beyond it, but this is probably to their own detriment. Templates don’t just save you time, they help you develop consistent, quality messages while abolishing grammar, spelling or pronunciation errors.
The truth is a script can provide a sales team with a useful written plan to keep conversations on track, eradicate uncomfortable pauses and ensure the correct language is used. And for those who say they don’t use a script and do just fine, they probably do a script really – they’ve most likely just wired one into their thought process through sheer practice.
Scripts save time and help you progress leads through your pipeline. The trick is to personalise and rehearse them, so you don’t sound like you’re reading from a script.
4. Prospecting Takes a Long Time
False (but true in some circumstances!)
Ideally, prospecting would only take a few minutes and a few quick questions to figure out if a lead was promising enough to translate into a opportunity. In reality, prospecting can sometimes take weeks or even months.
It can be argued there’s a necessity for warming up potential prospects – no matter how long it takes, as this ultimately moves them through your pipeline faster when they are ready to buy. It can also avoid mistakes and ensure they haven’t bought too soon.
Sometimes you can speed through your prospecting and ruthlessly dump cold leads fast, so long as you’re left with enough warm ones to meet your targets. But if you’re new to a market or your sales cycle is long, it can be counterproductive to move too fast. Research, patience and a cautious approach can maximise opportunities in the right situation. The harder part is in judging the situation!
5. Buyers Don’t Want to Talk to a Sales Person
Of course people want to speak to us, right?
Although it’s true that a high percentage of purchase decisions are made before a customer even speaks to a supplier, that doesn’t necessarily mean customers want to shut out the seller completely. Quite the opposite.
There are times when finding out what your prospect really needs can only be done by a two-way conversation and through building a rapport. The best way to sell is to actually get to know someone. Build up trust in people. An informed salesperson can prompt a customer to reach a decision. When a buyer is unsure – and knows they’re unsure – they will usually welcome a discussion with a knowledgeable, personable sales representative.
So where does this leave us?
However you do it – this way or that way – prospecting is a continuous process that is fundamental to the process of selling.
And with any important process, the fewer pitfalls and hazards there are in the way the better. Any sales expert we’ve ever known always points to having a well kept CRM at the very least, as a way to make life easier for sales people to help start more conversations, find and keep better quality opportunities, and to ultimately convert more prospects into customers.