Let’s consider a new way to interact with customers and prospects.
In my recent conversations with smaller high tech companies, it appears that it is business as usual. In that I mean, revenue goals have been distributed to the sales management team, and now sales management is looking for sales people to “hit the ground running.”
On numerous occasions, I have asked for clarification for what was meant by “hitting the ground running,” and I have received a number of both unoriginal and non-answers. Some of the responses included:
- Expectation of sales people to have a rolodex of ready and willing buyers
- Ability and desire to cold call in high volume to win new customers
- Desire to “Grind it out” (I asked what this VP meant by this statement and he said that the difference between success and failure in his jurisdiction was the ability to “grind.” He could not explain further. Needless to say, he was not referring to the skateboarding term.)
After my discussion to this point, I inquire about how 2009 turned out revenue wise, and to a person, all have stated that ultimately they came up a bit short. Let’s just take the macro economic picture out of the equation. I wonder why sales are down?
On the buyer side of the business, I have discussed the situation with trusted associates to get their view.
Specifically, I asked them if they were taking appointments or perhaps buying via solicitations from cold calls. All said that they do their initial research via a search engine, overwhelmingly, Google, and they develop a short list to conduct their research. Beyond that, they take this short list to their personal networks to get both recommendations as well as relevant senior contacts at the companies on their short lists. This leaves the typical sales person out of the process entirely.
All said that they only take appointments from folks that they had a prior relationship with. While my “survey” is far from scientific, I gathered this info from personal interactions. As such, I view it as more anecdotal and directional in nature.
This begs the question:
How can you expect a different outcome from approaching new business the same way?
Might it be better for companies to develop relationships with prospects so that when they are ready to evaluate a product or service, there is already some familiarity and comfort?
Cold calling is not a numbers game. The chances that there is a latent need to be fulfilled that will be discovered in this manner are very low. A downside is that many decision makers feel ignoring this sort of outreach is wasting their valuable time. This tends to reflect negatively on the company doing the cold calling and could hurt their chance in a future sales cycle. Has a colleague ever shared an insensitive “salesy” email with you without the salesperson’s knowledge?
I am not suggesting that sales people sit back and wait for the phone to ring. I am suggesting that Sales and companies overall look at their prospects as people with needs instead of prospects that will fill a revenue hole in their quota