I was fortunate enough to spend last week in London. A beautiful city steeped in history and tradition. I spent most of my time meeting with a number of customers and prospects, but thankfully I was also able to take a few of my calls while walking around town. The weather was perfect and even though I walked little out of my way to pass by Big Ben only to see it under renovation, my mood didn’t waver!
While there I also had a chance to attend the European SiriusDecisions Summit; a two-day event focused on helping B2B Sales, Marketing, and Product leaders grow their business through market research and operational frameworks. The sessions were jammed packed full of content geared towards helping organizations understand how to achieve best-in-class results. But despite all the insights and presentations the thing I remembered most was a conversation I had with a marketing leader at the event. In our chat about prospecting and sales execution he told me a story about a rep from his company who, in an effort to reach a decision maker and close a deal at month-end, decided to FaceTime his customer while on vacation. “What do you think about that?” he asked. I have to admit my initial reaction was viscerally negative, but then, something strange happened.
For context, as a sales leader at a B2B technology company I get routinely prospected. I’m also a firm believer that the future of sales won’t involve bothering customers until they buy something from us. That’s why my initial reaction was similar to how I felt when Gary Vaynerchuk, perennial straight shooting and occasional f-bomb-dropping entrepreneur, asked my New York City audience this simple question; “Who HATES IT when another human being calls them on the phone?”. 40% of us, including me, raised their hands. Why? Because in this age of extreme distraction many of us are conditioned to reject unwanted encroachments on our precious time. But strangely, my negative sentiment concerning Mr. FaceTime quickly turned to admiration. While I personally don’t like getting sales calls on vacation (never mind video calls), I whole-heartedly applaud that rep for trying something new and different!
From prospecting and pitching to discounting and negotiation, all too often sales reps fall back on old, familiar tactics despite the fact that their effectiveness has diminished. I recall with loving fondness, the first enterprise sales job I ever had where I would sometimes see even experienced AE’s walk into customer meetings armed with the first call deck from three sales kickoffs ago, and the logo of the company they presented to last week still emblazoned on the cover. Even in modern sales organizations, reps are finding that the tactics or messaging they used as recently as last quarter aren’t landing as well as they used to.
Despite their familiarity and tendency to work from time to time, here are three reasons you should never fall in love with your sales tactics.
1. Times change quicker than you think
The number of outreaches it takes to connect with prospect has increased by about 15% in the past 18 months alone. And between 2014 and 2016 the average tenure of a BDR decreased by 36%. Arming new reps with dated tactics for connecting with buyers that are increasingly harder to reach (like me!) is a recipe for failure. The game keeps changing. You need to change with it.
2. You’ll use them too often or incorrectly
Have you ever been on the receiving end of a generic prospecting email or phone call that showcased the fact that the seller had no idea what you do? Or have you ever received a product demo where the use cases and terminology that were clearly intended for a customer in a different industry or role? Chances are if you have it was because those tactics worked for the rep (or someone they knew) in another instance and they figured, it might just work on you too! As the famous American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, postured, if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Don’t be lazy. To connect with modern buyers you need to deliver a personalized approach and speak their language during each interaction.
3. You’ll sound the same as everyone else
Like the latest fad, sales tactics quickly come in to favor because they work for while, but then quickly become so pervasive and cliché you can’t help but cringe when you’re exposed to them. Perhaps it’s a cold connection request on LinkedIn quickly followed by a sales pitch the moment you accept. Maybe it’s receiving a first-time email with a subject line that begins with “Re:” in attempt to boost open rates. Or even better, the old alligator email. News flash; you sound the same as everyone else, and in the sea of sameness, you will be ignored! Want to stand out? Change up your tactics.
As I’ve said before; sales is hard! Advances in social and mobile technologies combined with the sheer numbers of solutions flooding the market have made modern buyers more skeptical, peer driven, and empowered than ever before. With immunity quickly building up to many sales tactics, modern sales professionals need to adapt. To quote one of the great Marshall Goldsmith‘s most famous books, “what got you here won’t get you there”. Don’t fall in love with your tactics!