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Sales is Broken: Let’s Just Admit it!

Sales is broken. There I said it. 

Whilst this is critical and I may take some hits from the sales industry, I am going to put forward a solution which will help salespeople and businesses. 

Outreach volumes have increased, but response rates have fallen by more than 30%. We’re doing more outreach and getting fewer responses. Based on the outreach I’ve received, it’s no wonder why. 

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Here are the pitches I’ve received in my inbox in the last 24 hours:

  • Company offering managed car parking solutions 
  • Software development services
  • Lead generation services 
  • “Hormozi-style” video editing service 
  • Custom Software Development / Mobile App Development 
  • R&D Tax credits 
  • LinkedIn training 
  • Cybersecurity 
  • Data lists for Expo’s
  • Podcast booking services 
  • PEN testing 

From this list, I excluded five pitches from people using ‘gmail.com’ addresses to beat the spam filters.

Most of these pitches weren’t scams. Some of them came from businesses that employ hundreds and thousands of people.

Now imagine how a senior executive at a major company feels after receiving three times the volume of pitches I receive. 

All these pitches were templated.

All of them were unresearched and just used random data to “appear personal”.

Sales has lost it’s way. 

I’m not anti-technology, but the tools at our disposal have damaged the sales profession. 

It’s given a machine gun to people who should be snipers. 

Marketing’s job is to speak to many while sales job is to speak to individuals.

Every marketer worth their salt knows that sending untargeted and unsegmented messaging to anyone is a terrible idea. 

Somewhere this has got confused and now we have salespeople running around with machine guns.  

My case in point…

I was recently talking with a technology company that had a list of 250 prospects, each prospect if successful would net the company £100k+.

We’re talking £1m+ revenue if they landed 5 or 6 of these clients. 

Their first thought was to set up an automated email cadence. 

Inside I was thinking “What the F are you thinking?”

I politely suggested that with such a high-value sale and a limited supply of prospects, it’s unwise to leave success to a series of email templates. 

They sat on the fence on this issue. 

Think about that for a minute. 

They wanted to delegate the success and their pipeline to a series of template emails. 

What planet are we on?

If you are selling something for under £1k I can understand it, but when this approach is being used for high-value services, something has gone wrong. 

The logic of the approach is simple, if we fire the machine gun enough, we will hit something. 

Is this really marketing? 

Is this sales? 

Again, if you are selling low-value services and products, there is an element of a mass market strategy. 

BUT

If you’re not mass marketing, there is no skill in your marketing or sales process, you’re just playing the numbers. 

I take the view that sales and marketing is a qualified numbers game, not a machine gun approach. 

We’ve trained decision-makers to ignore emails and our prospects are tired of the poor communication attempts. 

We’ve made our own job harder for ourselves.

Why is this happening? 

I could give a litany of reasons as to why this is happening, but these are the top reasons from what I see:

  • Increased access to automation 
  • The cultural shift to short-termism in many companies 
  • Sales quotas being missed 
  • Sales fatigue with decision-makers 
  • Poor data quality 

The easy wins of automation are over. 

I talk to marketing and sales leaders and they tell me privately, they need to keep doing the automated outreach because the business model is built on it. 

Like companies who built their business on cold calling. 

Things have to change. 

We’ve got to get smarter with how we use automation and we’ve got to know when it’s a terrible idea. 

Companies stick with it because their team have never really developed a human-to-human approach and in their words “they can’t afford to take a hit in the pipeline to fix it”.

In the short term, if they turn up the noise of their outreach and keep the numbers up, all is well. 

In the long term, however, they are building up a massive ‘do not contact’ list and further embedding a low-skill sales environment. 

I’ll also just add unless you were born yesterday, the majority of people can spot automated outreach. Some of it is so cringe too.

I’ve seen them all from the circling backs, the follow-ups, the ‘personalised coffee mug’ and the website screenshot. 

I also see Guru’s preaching about ‘pattern interrupts’ which to be honest is jargon for finding a way to pester people better. 

It’s time to go relationship-first

Despite the rise of AI, automation and a gazillion different tools, in a B2B context, relationships matter. 

Relationships are a key driver in getting deals over the line and building champions in your prospect’s business. 

No deal is done without a relationship. 

How a prospect connects with the sales rep on the call is a major factor which determines if the deal will move forward. 

In our current trend, relationships come second to getting the sales call or worse, come after the deal is done. 

Building ‘Digital Rapport’ before sales outreach results in higher win rates 

The Impact of Digital Rapport can increase calls booked and win rates

Salespeople who exceed their targets by more than 150% spend 10% less time selling, whereas average performers spend more than 25% of their time selling products and services 

Top performers spend more of their time researching, prospecting and building relationships. 

The top performers build the relationships BEFORE the sales meetings. The average salespeople build them afterwards.

LinkedIn Assessment

So, how does this work in practice?

Sales Navigator has a wealth of insights to help salespeople to understand their prospects better, find openings and leverage buying intent to learn the right time to outreach. 

Instead, many companies use LinkedIn as a database. 

Our own experience in this space confirms this, when you see that sales reps have built up a digital rapport with prospects in the month prior to outreach, they have a 1 in 4 chance of securing a sales meeting.

That stat is incredible when you realise how simple and easy it is to build digital rapport. 

As I travel and help companies build a digital sales strategy, I see that the big challenge is joining the dots in the process. 

Giving salespeople a process with example actions can help shift people into a relationship-first mindset. 

In one recent example, a sales team’s target was to secure one meeting per week. That seems low, right? For many, one meeting per week with senior decision-makers is a success. 

Their close rate on this was 30%.

Once we implemented a relationship-first strategy, they were getting an average of 3 meetings per week. 

Their close rate increased to 38% with 3x more meetings booked. 

A huge increase in outcomes. 

By leveraging the intelligence from Sales Navigator and opting for digital rapport building before any sales outreach. 

We created the seven steps of social selling as a framework to give salespeople something to work within, which is now used by hundreds of companies across the world. 

But it’s not enough to just give sales teams a workflow. They need senior leadership support for this process. Old habits and behaviours are hard to break. 

It’s not a once-and-done process. 

It’s ongoing support and guidance to help sales teams adopt and embrace a better way of selling. 

In the end of it, sales and marketing teams are tied to revenue and profitability. 

It feels like the current sales activity is a race to the bottom. 

All the data support that we’ve got to get smarter with automation and we’ve got to focus on building relationships before outreach if we want to achieve higher win rates. 

Let’s stop the machine gun and start creating snipers. 

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