Still using Old-Skool ‘Hunting’ tactics – Oh Boy!
Just for clarity, let’s start with a question: What are ‘old-skool’ prospecting tactics?
These are the older more dated methods used by sales organisations to generate enquiries or leads from other companies looking to make a purchase sometime in the future. To be fair, a little further back in time, these were the main methods that sales organisations had to generate interest pre the internet and social media, so let’s list the main ones:
Door knocking (Canvassing)
A salesperson physically walking around a business area and visiting each and every business, each time asking for a compliment slip on which would be written, the name of the person that makes decisions for that salespersons product or service, what product or service is currently being used, how long they’ve had it, how long was left on the contract, etc, etc. Very often asking the receptionist these questions, who may or may not know. The savvier receptionists would tell the visiting sales person “oh, we’ve just renewed” hoping to see the back of said salesperson for a long-time and discouraging any further contact (even though that product or service may be up for renewal soon but they’ve been told to say this).
Endless calls to lists of companies hoping to hit one of them at the right time that wants to look at purchasing. Trying all kinds of ‘tactics’ to get past the ‘Gate-keeper’ like ‘I’m just returning the call from XXXX can you put me through’ to ‘I’ve just missed a call from someone in your company, we sell XXXX who would that have been’ and so on. Very often it would be the sales person making these calls whilst doing their quota of ‘Self-Generation’ activity or the lead generation team. No wonder receptionists did their best to deflect or block these calls.
This was a practice that required, often the sales person, to have a long list of company names and addresses typed onto envelopes or sticky mail labels, often copied straight out of the local ‘Business Directory’ and put into the post. Usually not personalised and poorly photocopied (depending on the quality of the photocopier) these would hopefully land on the right persons desk in hope that they would complete the returns slip with their details on. It was estimated that the return rate per 1000 mailers was 2%, I guarantee it was not even half of that.
Usually in business directories and if you delayed in booking and paying for your space you missed it for a year!! If you used local papers then it would have to wait for another week or month.
Used to be expensive and problematic, having to have (a sales person) come to see you, talk about the ad, have a proof authorised, choose a voice-over person, etc. etc and it didn’t guarantee any leads.
Yes, companies still use these methods for generating enquiries even now in 2019 (nearly 2020). Let’s not forget TV advertising and referral plans that still have a part to play today, although I will quickly add, TV advertising is most likely diminishing except for the larger organisations who can afford to use it for PR. One thing is for sure, the tactics listed above are dying, rapidly, they are time consuming, inefficient, expensive, disruptive and generally seen as un-professional these days to a point that they could potentially damage your brand.
So, what are buyers looking for in an approach these days? Let’s look at some key methods that are opening doors today:
- Personalise your approach – get to know who they are and the market space they are in, don’t immediately try to sell to them, ease off on any pressure which just put’s their defence response on high alert.
- Connect using social platforms – be polite, let them ‘see’ that you know what you’re talking about, that your company is solving problems for similar organisations to theirs and you have value to add. Look at what they may blogging about or comment on posts so that you can inter-act from the fringes.
- Share and Educate – do what you can to make their access to useful information easy, you are a supplier of your product or service, periodically share interesting and innovative data with them without expecting anything in return, especially information that may not be easy to find on the internet.
- Anticipate change – get to know their industry, their environment, what’s important to them, what’s changing and do research so that you can potentially guide and advise.
- Network – build your network with other supplier companies within their market space, let them see that you are in-touch with other important people in their supply chain, you can use this network to gain introductions – be smart!
Now, just go back and re-read these two lists and compare the approaches and the styles – which do you think a modern buyer would prefer? I would also say that any company you work for as a sales person, should be preferring the latter list, as it’s a much more measured and professional list of ‘tactics’. Don’t get me wrong, many organisations, even today, still rely on the high volume, scatter-gun approach to generating enquiries and it can’t be changed over-night, but a plan for phasing to the more modern approach should be being explored and quickly, The ‘Old-Skool’ style of generating enquiries is yielding less and less return for the high investment needed to feed the need for revenue.
If you own or run a sales organisation these days, stop your teams from ‘hunting’ the buyer, stop ‘driving’ the activity KPI’s, stop ‘raising targets’ without supporting market growth data, stop having ‘war-rooms’ with your sales people and so on – it’s old fashioned, 1980’s style desperate sales management. Believe me, I know it’s difficult and the pressures on you to deliver your number, but start pushing back. Buyers/customers know your tactics these days and any ‘old tactics’ are now being exposed, buyers are sick of being treated like ‘fair-game’, it’s potentially destroying your company’s credibility.
Put yourself in the shoes of a buyer, they most likely receive attempts to ‘get to them’ from every angle these days, for a multitude of products not just yours. No wonder selling these days is harder than it’s ever been, buyers are more aware than ever before and are skilled at understanding how sales ‘tactics’ work and they really don’t like being pushed.
Companies with sales functions need to start taking a look at how they coach and guide their sales personnel from Marketing through to deployment for the product or service. Pressure is always going to be there to hit revenue numbers but how you hit them needs deep thought and modernising and yes it could cause some short-term pain, but it will be worth it, if done properly. Using ‘Old-Skool’ tactics will make your organisation look out of touch, desperate and unprofessional, driving enquiries to your competition who may have modernised their contact strategy. Getting it wrong can have consequences, now buyers are starting to expose poor contact strategies, bad sales experiences and poorly communicated messages like never before. It’s at your peril if you consistently disrupt buyers with a poorly targeted, badly worded bombardment of disruption as it can end up on social platforms for the world to see!
So, Sales Leaders, it’s time to start looking in the mirror, analysing, gathering feedback and researching the modern buyer and modern methods of ‘connecting’. Achieving sales targets or sales quota is an ‘output’, continuing with the ‘numbers game’ and hunting for the slightest whiff of a sale is damaging to the whole sales industry and costing your company a fortune. If you’re still pushing your sales team to self-gen through the old methods of prospecting (see above), stop it, you need to update your strategy (if you have one).
Modernise your practices, educate your sales team and collaborate within your organisation like never before. Be obsessed with customer satisfaction and stop driving your sales personnel with over-stretching, un-achievable targets; as it creates bad behaviours. Ultimately its your company that will lose; as good people will move on to competitors with more modern sales practices.