The interesting thing about being in my role, is I'm CEO of a firm that does Tele-based B2B Lead Generation. AND, I am also a CEO of a company everyone wants to sell stuff to....so I get a LOT of sales calls. And because sales reps often do searches on LinkedIn to pull a bunch of names but not really look at who came up, I also get outreach from companies I wouldn't be a prospect for under the best of circumstances...like buying uniforms. I get at least 20 requests for meetings, calls, coffee, lunch, blah blah blah...each week. I am a typical executive B2B prospect, and I have the same distaste for bad outreach...But, I have a unique vantage point from working in this space and can provide some insight to sales leadership to get the results they want and identify where there may be failure points in the engagement model.
If you want to wreck a possible connection on LinkedIn, connect and ask for a meeting to "learn more" about their company.... FYI you can learn everything you need spending 5 minutes on Google to not waste our time with that question.
Last week, I got a call from a company that has called me 4x this year already. I told them two calls ago I will talk to them end of Q4, then another person called a few weeks later that had access to that note in their CRM. I said "Do you have the notes from the last call I had with you guys and when it said we would reconnect?" They said yes, but just wanted to call and see if they could talk to me sooner. I reminded them that I told them I would call them if anything changed, but otherwise, they should create a "task" in SF to call me at the end of Q4....like I said last time.
I get an overabundance of "You haven't responded, let us know if you have been abducted by aliens" or "if you have fallen and can't get up" or the latest, "giving me one more chance before they give up." Gee, thanks, I am so glad you gave me this final chance...and you provided your calendar access so I can do the work to make it happen.... how thoughtful. Asking a prospect to schedule their own sales call is a perfect example of what it's all come to.
But the live calls are really a perfect example of what is going on out there in the B2B space, most of them are pretty bad....and I mean really bad. And this is what makes people think calling people doesn't work, because most calls they get are like these. And no one is going to respond to calls that are a complete waste of time.
Today, I get a call on my direct line and the person asks if I am Mari Anne "Vanelli"... (I have no clue why people can't get that right.) I asked who the caller is, and they choose instead to push if I am me.... okay it's me. I like to see what other organizations are doing with their outreach; I'll bite.
The call went something like this:
"That's great. Did I catch you at a bad time?"
What can I do for you?
"Is this a good time then?"
"Well Mari....I'm calling"
"I go by MariAnne "
"Oh okay sorry....well what we do, is we are a B2B marketing agency that can get you in front of more customers and set appointments for you. Do you want to get in front of more customers?"
"Did you look us up on the internet before you called?"
"Then tell me what we do..."
.....long pause..."You provide services for B2B Businesses that do business with businesses. Do you want to get more customers? We are a marketing agency that does lead generation and can get appointments for you."
I asked "Do you work for this company or are you a 3rd party that does appointments for these guys?"
"I work for them directly! Do you want more customers?"
"Okay so tell me again, what do you think we do after you researched us before you called? When you look at our website, what do WE do?"
"You are a consulting business?"
"Okay... well we work with organizations and identify sales cycles for them, so we aren't going to outsource what we do."
"That's fine because all I want to do is set up a free strategy session with one of our executives! Wouldn't that be great?? When are you available to schedule this..."
"I'm not.." She was very disappointed actually....
I looked up their website, they offer "High-Performance CSR's" to "get the business!" Obviously, the call I got today is what companies would be paying for, and I know calls like that only diminishes a prospect base and further reinforces the belief that tele-based outreach is a bad idea.
A lot of my articles are along these lines of what is happening on the front lines because so much effort is spent on buying more applications, investing in data, marketing automation, CRM add-ons, so many digital enhancements...but those aren't the fix when the human connection that's in place is a train-wreck, and no one even knows.
I'm sure the CEO of this company that called me today thinks they have something great going on, they are looking at their dashboards and seeing dials and think "wow it takes a lot of dials to get a meeting, good thing we bought that bingo-bango dialer!" But the truth is they are alienating many prospects and wasting their data investment.
The only way you will know what is happening is by being involved. But you have to know what your prospects are experiencing to really troubleshoot the problem. If you hire inexperienced people, you are going to get the above calls happening. People with zero people skills are calling executives and blowing calls all day long, and really that isn't fixable because the problem isn't training or a script...it is the hiring profile or lack of one.
If you want to engage with executives, you have to have a peer call them. The hiring profile should be based on a person's ability to engage as more of a peer or colleague vs. a sales rep.
The sales organization has been lagging in modernization if you compare it to other parts of the business. Marketing has had to become much more tech-savvy, IT has become more digital and transparent, and leadership, in general, has become much more in-tune to the actual human dynamics involved in being a solid leader....but sales....sales is still sticking to the tactics that have earned the car salesman reputation a sales call brings. Reps are hired based on their ability to manipulate or fast talk, front line CSR's are hired because they are inexpensive and can read a script, and certain agencies are picked because they are cheap. Prospects refuse to engage because it is a bad experience.
Doing an overhaul of sales to put real business and executive fluency on the front lines does nothing but lift results across the board. Companies could hire fewer people for 2-3x the results.
It really is going to take a massive transformation for executive sales leadership to say this needs to stop.
The truth is, it will stop as individuals take control of their own organizations. There will not be an "Age of Enlightenment" for sales because there will continue to be those that ignore or dismiss bad engagement for the sake of closing a deal, saving a buck, or what they believe selling is. But the reality is that for your company to really get the most out of your potential prospect base, you have to know what is happening when they get a call from you.
So what can you do?
- Look at the actual records from calls the team had with prospects. Ask what happened, what was the conversation like? See where there may be some breakdowns. Do you even have any detailed accounts of what happened?
- Have your newer team members leave YOU a voicemail they would leave for prospects...ask yourself if you would delete it? Would YOU talk to them?
- Look at the data sources, and what happens to the data? Do you have large patches of records not getting coverage? Do you have a data governance model for prospect data?
- How do you know when deals are coming up? Is the team only focused on the near-term, or are you actively factoring in deals that will become active in future quarters?
It sounds basic but you'd be surprised how many organizations don't have the above in place.
I'll look forward to your comments!