Social selling promised sales organizations they would no longer need to make cold calls to create new opportunities. When this turned out to be false, many sales organizations turned to inbound marketing to fill their B2B sales pipeline.
Unable to succeed using inbound marketing and social strategies, salespeople have now turned to sales automation to do their prospecting, believing they are becoming efficient by using automated prospecting sequences. However, almost all the automated sales emails get deleted or sent to the spam folder. Those that get through often remind prospects to unsubscribe from your prospecting list. This can hardly pass for efficiency.
Because the cost of emailing is essentially zero, sales leaders who employ this new version of “spray and pray” have nothing to constrain them from acquiring a large list of contacts and sending four or five emails over a couple of days.
We have known for a long time that sales is not a numbers game. The larger the list, the less likely it is that a contact will be a prospect for the company employing automation. Sales is an effectiveness game, one that requires the sales force to pursue strategic targets, which are the companies facing problems the salesperson can solve.
The High Cost of Sending an Email
The monetary cost of sending automated email is zero, but the cost to the contacts is high. An average knowledge worker receives 140 emails each day and sends around 40. If it takes 3 minutes to read and respond to an email, dealing with 140 emails will take about 7 hours to address.
We are all overwhelmed by the many communications we receive every day. If you are a busy executive, the last thing you need is more email flooding into your inbox. With nothing less than a passing glance at the email, the recipient deletes it. It doesn’t matter what the subject line says or how valuable the sales organization’s solution might be.
This places a huge tax on organizations and salespeople who send prospecting emails. Over-reliance on email and automated sequences makes it next to impossible to send an email that gets opened. In the past, the negative stereotype of salespeople was that they were too aggressive and self-oriented. One must understand that spamming the hell out of people leads to a new negative stereotype, one that harms salespeople and sales organizations.
I like to imagine a CEO that allows the spray-and-pray approach opens their inbox one day and finds it full of emails sent to him by the thousands of companies he had spammed with automated emails. Overwhelmed, the CEO would recognize how awful this practice is.
Freezing Cold Outreach on LinkedIn
LinkedIn doesn’t allow automation, yet there is a cottage industry of companies that automate invitations followed by perhaps the worst pitch you will ever experience. Because they are playing a numbers game, they trade no value for a meeting or a conversation.
I can always tell how mature a salesperson is by their pitch. Any pitch that includes their solution in the first couple of paragraph exposes they know nothing about sales, and even less about human psychology. None of the content of the message trades value for the contact’s time.
In the movie, The Outlaw Josey Wales, there is a scene where a bounty hunter confronts Wales in a bar. The bounty hunter asks, “Are you Josey Wales?” Wales says that he is. Wales asks the bounty hunter if he is a bounty hunter, and he responds, “Man’s got to do something for a living.” Wales tells him, “Dying ain’t much of a living.”
The Future of Cold Outreach
There will always be people who care little about the damage they do. You and I will not prevent software, including automation, from eating the world. Those of us who believe that selling entails more than a transaction feel differently about what we do and who we are. In The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need, I wrote, “Sales is not something you do to someone. It’s something you do for and with them.” I hope you believe this is true.
As more sales organizations turn to technology to compensate for their lack of interest in increasing the sales effectiveness of their sales teams, those who pursue their strategic targets will have an extreme edge over salespeople who rely on technology to the detriment of their own development. Technology has never won a deal.
For those of us who care about their results, we are left with the cold call, and in the future, we may need to go back to the real cold call, where salespeople walk in the front door and ask to speak to the decision maker.
If you use email to reach your client, the first rule you must follow is to ensure what you send is valuable to them. Pretend that you must send them something that will help them improve their results. It should also position you as someone that cares about the client’s results.
The second rule states that you follow up an email with a phone call instead of another email. There are other ways to communicate and create value, like printing an article from your website, highlighting the important ideas, and mailing it to your contact.
You and I will need to become more creative in our cold outreach if we want to reach our prospective clients. Creativity and novelty have always helped capture a contact’s attention.
You can expect legislation around the use of data, making it more difficult to employ automation. Fines will follow, causing some salespeople to quit using automation and others to find some new way to communicate with large groups with no interest in what they sell. The best thing you can do is to pursue your strategic targets instead of contributing to making it more difficult for salespeople to communicate with their prospective clients.