The salesperson had just sent me his eighth email. The text of the email hadn’t changed, except for a short line asking if I had read his earlier emails. I had indeed read his initial emails—all seven of them. I had politely responded to one of the first emails, explaining that my company wasn’t a good prospect for him and that we have other priorities right now, only to open my inbox two days later to the very same email.
Undeterred in my desire to help him not waste his time and mine, I sent a second response, explaining again that I appreciated his persistence, but that I have zero willingness to shift my priorities in 2020 or 2021. This second attempt to stop the emails did no better than my first attempt. Through the couple of weeks this salesperson pursued a conversation, he never once picked up the phone and called me.
He did not offer me any indication as to how a meeting might benefit me, a significant violation of the Trading Value Rule from The Lost Art of Closing: Winning the 10 Commitments That Drive Sales.
On the eighth attempt using the same email with the same text, I picked up the phone and called him, recognizing that he wasn’t sending me the emails. It was a fully-automated prospecting sequence, designed to improve the salesperson’s efficiency in gaining meetings, with no concern whatsoever about its effectiveness or how the prospective clients might perceive the salesperson.
When he answered, I asked the salesperson why he continued to send me emails after I had replied to him twice. He had wanted my attention, and now he had it. He had no idea who I was, and he admitted he hadn’t read my emails. He blamed the mistake on the marketing agency his company used to set up their prospecting sequence before recognizing that as a mistake, taking responsibility for the failure and apologizing.
And then, unable to restrain himself, he started to pitch me, attempting to share his company’s value proposition.
There Must Be Some Misunderstanding
There is nothing inherently wrong with the careful application of technology to increase efficiency. There is, however, a problem with leveraging technology as a brute force attempt to acquire a meeting with your dream client. The idea that one might be able to use technology to do the work of prospecting and scheduling meetings with prospects is Silicon Valley’s dream of printing money by eliminating the need for human beings by replacing them with technology.
Success in sales isn’t the result of activity alone. It’s a combination of action and effectiveness, one without the other leads to lesser results than the combination of the two. Why anyone in B2B sales would choose to spam their prospective clients as a way to create new opportunities is a mystery. Surelyhose who want to send these fully-automated sequences must also be the recipient of the same approach.
I imagine there is a level of Hell where those who use this approach sit in front of a Pentium 286 computer, deleting a single spam email only to have it replaced by two more—for the rest of all eternity.
Some Rules for Prospecting Sequences
Here are a few rules that will help you with a better, more human—and more humane—prospecting sequence.
Start with a Call: You should never start a prospecting sequence with anything other than a phone call. You should start the series by calling their prospective client, ensuring not only that you know who you are pursuing, but also reducing the need to run the sequence at all, should you get an appointment.
Trade Value: The content of any message must create value for the prospect—whether they agree to a meeting or not. Most of the emails in prospecting sequences are generic, leaning on the company’s unique selling proposition, an approach that is no longer relevant. When this is not true, the content attempts to convince the prospect to meet by naming well-known companies they count as their clients. You earn your prospective client’s attention when you share something valuable enough to command a meeting.
Don’t Ask, Nurture: If you want to nurture a relationship over time, something necessary to a competitive displacement, you have to switch your content from asking for a meeting to providing something useful to your contact. The mistake most salespeople make is the same as trying to make a significant withdrawal from a bank in which you have made no deposits. Instead of asking your prospect to click on a link to get your white paper, mark it up with your notes and send it to them.
Active Participation in the Sequence: You do not need a sequence that requires no active participation from the salesperson in the way of customizing the content, taking actions like making phone calls, leaving voice mails, and using other tools besides email. To do otherwise is to believe that the right way to start a relationship is by spamming your prospects.
Of all of the terrible things you might do to a salesperson, allowing them to believe that they shouldn’t have to prospect is a cardinal sin. It not only hurts the salesperson, but it also damages the sales organization that believes technology is capable of the same outcomes as a human being, something that is impossible, as technology is incapable of caring or intimacy.
Technology isn’t capable of replacing a human even if your Uncle Enrico has his eye on a robot girlfriend, one that won’t be high maintenance or expect an expensive gift on her birthday.
It is a mistake to try to make challenging outcomes easier by eliminating the effort necessary to obtain them. You can put these approaches to prospecting in the same category as “get rich quick on the internet” schemes and “four-minute abs” approaches to fitness. The fastest way to get what you want is to give yourself over the work necessary to succeed, giving it your full focus and your energy.
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