Optimistic Prospecting Part 6. (Reviewed May 2022).

As the gap between articles and my reviews starts to close, the differences would naturally decrease as the themes start to overlap.

My apologies to my readers, but I may have inadvertently given some sales managers a new tagline later in this article.

‘Seeking out the M.A.N.’

Marketing Know, Like, and Trust and sales Need Like and Trust, leaving just the Know and Need as differences are good dividers; knowing about something is no reason to open your purse.

The cycle of takeup is a matter of alignment; those innovators amongst us will queue for hours if our desire is stimulated; likewise, the laggards will only purchase if their need has no other alternatives.

The marketing mission statement to create awareness is set in stone; despite the ever-growing range of tools on offer, the effectiveness of the tools used and the cost of those tools will continue to be an agenda line in budget meetings.

Most Sales pros will continue to focus on the early adopters, and early majority as these sectors offer the best profitability. As always, by the time the late majority start to engage, the competition will have started the battle of doing it for less versus what makes us different.

Normally, by the time the late majority engage, the cost of manufacturing a product will have decreased; however, if you’re providing a service, such as building, cleaning offices and cooking dinners, doing the same for less is not easy to achieve.

The business model of economies of scale took a hit a few years back in the UK service sector when Carillion collapsed, reporting half-year losses of £1.15 billion and £900 million of debt. Apart from major building projects, it also offered outsourcing services for the public sector, offering contracts to provide school dinners, maintain and operate buildings and estates, security and housekeeping, and cleaning and catering at NHS hospitals.

The business banner “No one gets paid unless some one sells something.”

Somehow, the business banner above mixed up between ‘Profit is a requirement in business, and the drive for turnover only is an icy road.’ Got lost in the mist.

Seeking out business opportunities is the role of sales professionals worldwide; making sure that ultimately the business is profitable is the role of the management.

Sales professionals must possess the winning gene; making sure the deal contains sufficient profit is not part of the mantra of many sales professionals. They believe that their bosses will have considered the pricing structure they provide them to have sufficient money to pay their wages and bonus and fulfil the contract to the customer’s satisfaction.

During my many years in sales, I have had many variations of presenting the price to a prospective customer, price list, discount structures, budget estimates and quotations.

The budget estimate and quotation always fascinated me due to the built-in uncertainty; on more than one occasion, disruptive elements outside the companies’ control caused problems.

In conjunction with two fellow coaches on the eLearning and Virtual workshop site khbsm.com, we have created a selection of virtual workshops, the first of which is the SWOT analysis, in both the Marketing & Sales and the Higher Education sectors. Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

SWOT is not just about personal or business analysis. SWOT does have a natural next step for those that operate across borders and continents may need to go up a level; for a few decades, there has been a realisation that we are all part of one global village; that said, PESTLE analysis. Political, Economic, Social, Technical, Legal & Environment might be a more realistic analysis for many.

I will be taking more on SWOT and PESTLE in greater depth in a future article and the challenge of ‘Seeking out the M.A.N.’

Opportunities only become apparent when you seek them out!

The open door of opportunity.

Opportunity is said to be everywhere in B2B sales; data logged in January 2020 lists 5.9 million private businesses in the U.K. at the start of 2019 – more than 99% are small or medium-sized businesses (S.M.E.s) with 1 to 249 employees.

In the United States, In 2020, the number of small businesses in the U.S. reached 31.7 million, making up nearly all (99.9 %) U.S. businesses. The majority of small businesses hire fewer than 100 employees.

As 2019 turned into 2020, the Covid 19 pandemic revealed itself. Covid 19 has undoubtedly damaged and destroyed many lives and lively hoods and continues to rewrite how we see our futures.

It may be some time before we know the full extent of the impact on life, health, well-being, business, the prosperity of our nations, and the world.

Business transitioning.

Many businesses are now starting to create a vision for their future post-Covid 19 for their enterprises; inevitably, much of the rebuilding of revenue streams will fall on sales & marketing.

While sales & marketing departments start picking through the bones of the challenge of replacing those customers lost to the Business in the last months, the coming months are filled with challenges and change.

Commoditisation of products and services has taken a huge step forward; NOT being online is not an option anymore. An eCommerce tab on your website has become part of the company’s core website activities.

Companies shift towards the commoditisation of their products and services online. The rebalancing of the revenue streams will fall to the sales & marketing to absorb and transition.

Building back.

Outbound sales activities, for those working at the coal face good stats, are a core requirement; I keep hearing some resight that prospecting is not a numbers game, spoiler alert, yes it is.

The number and frequency of the times you hit the target matter, and the length and time you take to get there also counts.

Despite the constant advances in sales aid TECH, the trusty phone still outperforms all other forms of outreach; and until the bots take over place orders, it will continue.

Humans as social creatures will keep being required to have a conversation; our emotions and gut feelings will always form part of the decision making process.

B.O.T.s & A.I. as buyers.

Those with a desire to have B.O.T.’s / A.I. take over the decision making in buying for us; logic dictates that they would always buy the cheapest option.

Banging the drum.

Banging the drum on the need to have more quality conversations, I defiantly am not the one banging that drum; sales & marketing seem to have an inherent ability to overuse the tools available to them, email being the most common example.

Somehow having a conversation with a prospect seems not to appear on any list example of overuse.

Perhaps like me, you are struggling to think of an occasion when you have heard of a salesperson brought to task for having too many conversations with prospects.

Quality engagement.

Selling to others it’s not about the number of outbound activities actioned but rather the number of successful engagements you have. “Spray and Pray” should be a feature of sales activities left in the past.

Judging by the number of emails that land in my trash folder daily address to  info@ or mail@ and a few other variations, “Spray & Pray” is alive and still kicking.

And yes, I know that most are being generated using a B.O.T. tool – A.I. algorithm; regardless of the low cost of creation, poor data always end up in the trash bin. The only exception to poorly addressed outreach is those to Father Christmas.

Whether you’re an S.D.R., B.D.R., or any of the many titles that sales like to churn out for sales roles, hitting your sales number requires you to calculate what you have to do to get there; it has always been about the maths.

Doing the maths to hit the required number I will cover in detail in a future article.

Success pays the bills and puts food on the table.

Suppose you send out 1000 targeted emails; your read rate is 5 per 100. In that case, you may have 50 leads, creating 50 conversations; if those 50 conversations result in 10 costed proposals, this may well be felt as a good result.

Important spoiler alert, we are in an age when 50% of all proposals result in a ‘No decision outcome.’ Have you taken this into account?

Perhaps you’re an S.D.R. or a B.D.R…. on the phones doing targeted B2B outreach; your company has invested in some quality Tech aids to reduce lost time. Conversing with those who don’t fit even the most basic qualifying criteria is damaging.

Qualifying criteria – Seeking out the M.A.N.

Let’s start with the most basic criteria (Old School)  Money, Authority & Need. or at least a conversation with someone who can direct you to those who have M.A.N. this basic of all criteria still has value.

M.A.N. & BANT and other acronym forms might help you qualify a potential lead. I will cover this in a future article.

Having a conversation with someone that does not fit the basic criteria even at M.A.N. is, by definition, no more than having a conversation with a nice person using a phone.

Such activities fall into procrastination, distraction, avoidance and waste, hindering potential success.

Spending time researching a prospect is also a form of avoidance, procrastination, and distraction, which all significantly impact the success of those engaged in sales roles. I will be covering this in more detail in a future article.

Success is won by skill, effort and determination.

Success comes from using the best people with the best tools available and combining them with the best data and support available.

It would be inappropriate for me to misjudge the level of fear and anxiety held by many salespeople ringing significant numbers of strangers to discover possible opportunities are not easy. Cold calling is defiantly not for everyone.

My first sales role was in face to face cold calling; it consisted of me driving to a Village, Town, or City parking up. Then folder in hand, walking into retail outlets & hospitality outlets promoting my company’s range of capital equipment.

Cold calling in that way is, I believe, now fairly rare, mostly due to R.O.I., technical advances, the marketplace and the information age we live in today.

One thing I fondly miss from those days is the prevalence of the sign on the door that read, “Reps by appointment only.”

Reps by appointment only.

Not that it worked that well; it just meant that I and many like me changed our script. My favourite script at the time was.

“Hi, Your notice says I need to make an appointment. Can I.”

I never felt I was disrespectful to those I sought; I followed orders as instructed by the people who resided within the building I was standing in.

For Retail and Hospitality, I did not come against the “Reps by appointment only.” I often notice it more when I move on to my next sales position.

Cold calling on Construction companies, Builders and Subcontractor’s offices, the “Reps by appointment only.” was a part of the fixtures and fittings; however, I can’t recall being turned away as I politely asked, “Who do I need to make the appointment with?

I might not have spoken there and then to the key person; however, I always came away with their name; on many occasions, I nearly always received the offer to arrange an appointment there and then.

Regardless of perceptions I or others may hold, I was offered the opportunity to have a conversation with the appropriate person, perhaps just 10 minutes but always worth the ask.

With the growth in mobile phones in the last twenty years, asking for referrals from customers took a twist; having asked the question, “Is there anyone you know that could benefit from our “XYZ” on occasions, I was handed a mobile phone ring at the other end.

Exemptions and Opinions.

Before, somebody jumped in and said, but that was then, not now; a year ago, I took on a short term project, a side hustle to set up and revamp some old and establish some new distributors for A European manufacturer.

Despite the passing of many years, you can still walk in regardless of a sign that reads; Reps by appointment only. Yes, again, there are businesses out there that might not be appropriate, and yes, again, there are those that would be a waste of time to call in on the off chance. But that doesn’t mean you should go with all presumptions.

But as indicated by the numbers quoted in the opening words at the start of this article, the B2B marketplace is considerable in size and diversity.

However, having said cold calling into B2B is rare; I did meet a chap a year or so ago at a networking event that still sells his photocopiers in that way. And a couple of years back, I had a young chap ring the bell from a local Conservatory company asking if I had thought of having a Conservatory on the house.

In our brief conversation, he did reveal that he was not having much success, mostly due to not many people being at home during the day. Prospecting into B2B or B2C as in comedy, timing is everything.

Walking & talking into Business 100% cold is not for everyone; I’ve worked with many who could not.

100% cold prospecting is hard and requires resilience, determination, self-motivation, a growth mindset, and some natural ability to think on one’s feet. But if you can, then you are one of the few who have a niche ability many would live to have; if you possess the niche and find yourself looking for a job, put it at the top of your C.V.

If you are reading this article, you may be screaming, “But I do cold call face to face outreach into B2B.” If so, I would love to have a conversation with you on The Sounding Board Podcast.

Eating their lunch.

In those early days of my first sales role, I always felt at a slight disadvantage that I did not have a Home office/showroom in my sales area; consequently, I never had the advantage of a flow of enquiries.

For six years, my territory always had me working in my competitor’s backyard; every sale I made was a win for me and a loss for them. My example of ‘Eating their lunch.’

‘Eating their Lunch’, a book by Anthony Iannarino, is one of my top ten sales book reads, essential reading for those engaged in account development at this time when more and more buyers are turning towards trusted advisors rather than account managers.

Selling in my competitor’s backyard and a reasonable distance from my company’s Home office/showroom did have some advantages. My director was not able at a moment’s notice to decide to spend time with me as he did with those with their territory encompassing the Home office/showroom.

Within my list of takeaway from my early years in sales, number one is my need to develop a high level of independence and self-confidence in my sales ability.

The second takeaway would be working for a group of directors committed to investing in sales training for those in their care; I still carry the value of their investment today.

Moving on to the next level.

When I moved on to my next sales role, working for my first multinational, my sales activities were split into 40% developing existing accounts, 30% following up sales leads, and 30% prospecting.

Regardless of the marketplace change, my prospecting calls now on building sites, I never felt out of my depth, even if I received a cry out on occasion from the chaps on site. “Can I have that suit when you’re done with it?”

As I moved on to my next sales role, it was just as the sales world started turning from sales-centric to customer-centric; the personal computer, the internet, and mobile phones quickly came as part of my tool kit, even if my first mobile was the size of a shoebox.

At that time, my employer’s marketing department’s role consisted of producing posters & giveaways and making sure the sales force had an adequate flow of literature.

Fear and anxiety are real and understandable.

Fear and anxiety are a reality held by many salespeople; the ability to have a meaningful conversation with strangers constantly has to be part of a salesperson’s D.N.A. I do not put my success down over the years to my natural ability alone; I would always put an element of it down to my need and ignorance.

D.N.A./Natural ability is helpful; I do not feel it is essential, and it is no guarantee of success; training, knowledge, understanding, and practice are essential for success. Past life experience can play a part; my several school changes undoubtedly prepared me for connecting with strangers.

Time, systems and processes for sales engagement have moved on significantly during the 30 years of my career in sales and sales operational management. I would like to believe the days of just sitting a newbie down at a desk with a script to read from and telling them to ring these numbers have passed. Spoiler alert; it’s still happening. “WHY?”

Going deep into your mental resolve.

Post- Covid 19. In many sales roles, serving existing customers and prospecting for new the mix is likely to change; for every customer lost to the consequences of the pandemic, a replacement customer will have to be found.

If 80% of your revenue is derived from just 20% of your customer base, you are stable and vulnerable, even pre-pandemic.

Ultimately the cost of not replacing lost Business for a company is measured in the employees and those directly connected, ultimately measured in the employment statistics.

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”  Constantly resighted at any opportunities by one of my earliest sales managers as a cure for all sales aliments.

Growth Post-Covid 19.

One small piece of business trivia I have discovered in my career is that most ignore or place only a small amount of resources in the direction of the 80% of their customer base that provides just 20% of the revenue.

However, when one of your 20% accounts giving you 80% of your revenue fails, their business is nearly always taken up from one or two of the 80% ignored.

In my experience, nearly all established companies I come across ignore those past customers that have dropped into the lapsed customer category.

Those often forgotten the qualities held by lapsed B2B customers:

  • You have a history together.
  • You know a past need they had.
  • You are a known commodity to them.
  • You will most likely hold the name and number of direct contact.
  • You ringing a lapsed customer does not carry the same feel as a cold call.
  • You will have better results when conversing with a lapsed customer than cold calling.

 

Constant perpetual prospecting for new customers has never been easy or overly enjoyable; facing the fear of what awaits you beyond the open door of opportunity will test many and break some.