The comments were all over the place, and some of the direct messages I got were colorful, to say the least. It’s always funny to read the comments on my column because I’m either considered really smart, or I’m an utter idiot and shouldn’t even get out of bed in the morning. This time through, the jury was split.
I’m still holding strongly to my point of view: To do a good job selling a product, you have to understand your targets, establish a relationship with them and provide them with an offering that’s aligned with their needs.
The challenge is, we operate in a cluttered, multimedia environment where your audience is inevitably a cynical one. As a result of those parameters, many companies default to a numbers game in which salespeople are held to quotas for outbound calls and emails, and sales CRM systems are overwhelmed with poor open rates and even poorer response rates. This creates a situation where the audience receives a message that’s clearly not personalized, and in many cases not even accurate. This means salespeople are unable to build a relationship because they have to start five steps behind just to catch up and overcome any damage that may have been done by a poor quota-driven outreach.
I don’t think this method of spray and pray or mass outreach negates the opportunity for personalized, relationship-based selling. I understand the difference between prospecting and selling. Prospecting may indeed be based on a law of averages, but true selling is still a relationship-based effort. It’s easier to sell a product once than it is to sell it over and over and retain a customer for the long haul.
Customer retention is also part of a good salesperson’s job. I know from my own past experience that if your sales team oversells, no retention effort will be plausible, no matter how much effort you put into it. This creates the perception that the sale person didn’t do their job, but that’s simply not fair.
So my point of view remains as it was last week: You may cast a wide net, but aim for some level of personalization even in your prospecting. The more you can understand and even group your target into smaller segments of a much larger audience based on some kind of similar interest, the more likely your net is to snare some initial engagement.
Once you snare that interest, it becomes significantly easier to develop that next stage where a true relationship can form and be managed. That relationship can lead to a sale, with a customer more likely if the salesperson stays involved and helps ensure that what was sold is what was actually delivered. Retention is just as important as the sale to the ongoing development of your business.
All that being said, salespeople should never be tasked to work the process of prospecting through to retention on their own. A good marketing team should be feeding that sales team qualified results. Without that effort, salespeople are set up for failure.
A good sales team should be managing leads, qualifying them from initial media outreach and establishing a base for the sales team to reach out to. A strong marketing effort will deliver solid leads to your sales team. With some basic level of insight, the sales folks should be able to convert leads by establishing a a relationship — but I guess that’s a topic for next week’s column.