The Gist:

  • We are increasingly choosing prospecting approaches that harm our professional relationships.
  • The automation that claims to solve the problem of getting meetings causes the exact opposite outcome.
  • We cannot continue to choose prospecting methods that destroy any possibility of a future relationship.

The salesperson who sent me a connection request on LinkedIn wrote that he wanted to “connect, learn, and grow,” an admirable set of outcomes. A few minutes later, he sent me a message listing all of the technology projects his company could help me with. There was a rather long menu, and at the very end he asked me if we could schedule a meeting so he could better understand my requirements.

Just to play devil’s advocate, I suggested that his first project should be not lying to people about his intentions and violating their trust. He conceded that he only wanted to pitch me. My radar is fairly fine-tuned, so I can normally detect the “connect and pitch” variety of LinkedIn spammers. This was a case of “doing whatever it takes,” even if it means having no integrity and no pride. This person felt no sense of shame, and that is a shame.

The stereotype that defines salespeople as pushy, smarmy, lazy, high-pressure, self-oriented, entitled, and willing to do absolutely anything to win a deal hasn’t been true for decades. Few professionals would sell something to someone who wouldn’t benefit from what they sell. There are some salespeople, however, who seem hell-bent on reproducing the stereotype—especially during discovery—because they lack a sense of pride in themselves and in their craft.

Lazy, Sloppy Poseurs

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Lazy, Sloppy Poseurs

The approach I described above is terrible in its own right, but it was made worse by the salesperson’s outright lie. Sadly, this is an indication of what sales organizations allow or condone. First, the connect-and-pitch model is sloppy, trying to skip several necessary conversations. But even worse, it’s lazy: he refused to do the work to research the individuals and the companies he should be pursuing. This is too haphazard to be called professional sales.

It’s a good idea to assume other people have good intentions, so I’ve decided that the hapless and helpless salesperson who pitched me is a poseur, not a psychopath. While I was not in any way harmed, his attempts to cheat the Gods of Prospecting will only harm himself. They are vengeful and unforgiving, and will ensure that his pitches keep failing until he either does the work or stumbles into a values-optional job, like bureaucrat or local politician.

Brute Force Approaches

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Brute Force Approaches

If you need a well-designed, value-creating prospecting sequence, you’d do well to follow the same rules the United States military uses for drones. The military is prohibited from having any autonomous technology fire a weapon on its own: an individual must always pull the trigger. Likewise, a fully automated prospecting sequence that isn’t controlled and managed by an individual is not only lazy but also tries to use a brute force approach to something as simple as booking a meeting. Oh, and the condescending inclusion of previously deleted emails “just in case you missed this” is even more artificial. Every time the sequence runs without a human being doing any work, it reinforces the idea that selling requires neither effort nor competence.

Lazy, sloppy, and condescending isn’t a great look, as all it contributes is a new negative stereotype of salespeople. If Tatooine had LinkedIn, they would be the Tusken Raiders.

Passivity Dressed in Entitlement

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Passivity Dressed in Entitlement

While clickbait masquerading as news hauls in thousands of clicks, the poor, sad, lonely Calendly link—innocently loitering at the bottom of an email signature—rarely gets as much as a mouseover. They don’t deserve that fate, being actual conduits of potential value, and when nobody is looking all those “book a meeting” links tell each other stories about the one link that got clicked. Some say it even led to an actual meeting, with actual people in an actual room, and the most elaborate tales brag about the million-dollar deals that started with the humble link. Alas, the whole story is really more a myth to keep the young calendar links optimistic, brimming with hope that someday they will be clicked. Sadly, many have given up hope.

No one owes you a meeting. No one has to book themselves on your calendar, and your automated meeting pitch isn’t going to create one iota of value for them. As a salesperson, your job is to actively pursue meetings with your clients. Especially in markets where you must displace a competitor to win an opportunity, passively waiting for calendar clicks won’t help. Not only is it weak, but it broadcasts that you really have no idea how to prospect.

We cannot think so little of prospecting that we outsource it to self-oriented bots. Until my AI is able to negotiate with your AI, it’s important to remember that you are human—and so is your client. Humans will always exceed technology when it comes to caring, empathy, understanding, patience, and commitment to relationships.

Besides, if Calendly cheerfully informs your contact that you’re available at 8:00 AM, 8:30 AM, 9:00 AM, 9:30 AM, 10:00 AM, 10:30 AM, 11:00 AM, and 11:30 AM but not at noon, you’ll face a very boring morning of refreshing your calendar every two minutes. At least you’ll build up an appetite—I just hope your competitors haven’t already eaten your lunch.

Do Good Work:

  • Avoid using any approach that promises to get you meetings without having to work for them.
  • Do the work to identify a set of prospects that deserve your time and attention, so you don’t have to rely on a spray and pray approach.
  • Remember that prospecting starts a relationship—make sure your approach begins that relationship in the right way.
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Prospecting
Post by Anthony Iannarino on July 13, 2021
Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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