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5 Observations on Modern Prospecting

No matter what you want to think, or where you are in your sales career – prospecting and cold calling is essential to success in sales.

I have spent the last 10 years focused on improving my sales process to make myself a better salesperson and a better leader. I have grown from an Account Executive to managing a sales team to my current role as founder and CEO of SuccessKit.

In this article I cover 5 core principles that are relevant to anyone who performs, manages, or supports outbound prospecting.

 

1. You have to be even better

In my role as CEO of SuccessKit, I have worn a lot of hats. One of the most important hats was making a ton of cold calls to sales and marketing executives to find and close our first 10 paying clients. Before this, it had been about 6 years since my primary focus was on prospecting, and I can definitively say that the job is even harder than it used to be.

Executive buyers are being hammered by sales reps constantly. Many of them are getting calls about the same things over and over and they know that most junior reps are just pushing to schedule an appointment.

These executives are sophisticated, know all the little tricks, and don’t want to waste time. To get their attention you need to roll into every single call on point and ready to immediately react to skepticism and distinerest.

You have to be extremely sharp to succeed.

 

2. Prospecting is a mental game

Diving back in the sales gauntlet reminded me how much of a mental game prospecting is.

Yes, you always need to sound credible, know your stuff, and approach your prospects with a specific purpose. But you need more than this knowledge.

When my head wasn’t in the game, my calls sucked. All of my experience and former success wouldn’t change that.

When I was in those moments, I thought of all the junior reps out there, with way less knowledge and experience but more passion and drive – and realized they were, at that moment, kicking my ass.

I remember a young sales rep that was extremely excited to have his first professional job in sales. Every day he was energetic and grateful that he could work in an office, and have the opportunity to make more money for himself and drive business for the company. His constant smile showed it.

In his first month on the phone he was still learning and had a lot of gaps in his knowledge, but he was effective because he made up for it with pure enthusiasm. We have all seen this.  

Don’t mistake that to mean anyone can succeed if they just work really hard. The mental toughness to bring your A-game over long periods of time is a unique skill.

 

3. Prospecting is equally important as closing and possibly just as hard

Prospecting is just as hard and just as important as closing.This is not something I would have said 3-4 years ago. Back then, I firmly believed that SDR was entry-level and should earn less in comparison to AEs.

Prospecting is no longer a “go thru the motions” type of activity that anyone can do by just putting in the work. You have got to be just as sharp and creative in opening as you do throughout the rest of the sales cycle.

While I think running the full sales process is still more difficult overall, the gap is closing. I predict that we will see this reflected SDR/AE comp ratios in the next few years.

 

4. SDRs will not be replaced by robots

How many times have you seen a headline like “Robots will replace salespeople by 2040”?

A prospect reviews a website, video, etc., and determines they are not interested. A day later, after speaking to a sales rep, they do a complete 180 and now realize that same product solves a major problem for them. This happens every day, and the power of such a transformation is driven by a human.

Automated, robotic processes are valuable tools for improving the sales process and making it easier, but you can never replace a good sales rep.

Sure, some companies will shift more to an automated model, but for companies selling a medium to large ticket solution, technology will not replace the most effective marketing tool of all time-  humans that can connect with and convince other humans to  learn about something.

Not in this lifetime.

 

5. Don’t bring a knife: it’s a gunfight.

Companies are using advanced technologies to make more calls, send more semi-personalized e-mails, and otherwise bombard buyers wherever they are.

The sales-tech cavalry has been developed and is becoming mainstream. It is very difficult to survive in this landscape without it. Ryan Stewman covered this concept well in this article, where he explains that good sales people need to adapt to these automated processes or risk being left behind.

Personally, I worry about this trend, because most of these tools are enabling people to make more and more approaches to buyers that are more and more tired of receiving calls/emails. I expect to see a major backlash against the automated semi-personalized approach.

 

Conclusion

Most executives have become frustrated with the high-volume sales approaches they are subjected to. This is making outbound prospecting increasingly difficult today.

The good news is you can still break through and succeed by being prepared, credible, and human.

Julian Lumpkin

Julian has focused his career on B2B sales and sales management, specifically bringing new technologies to market. After years as an elite sales rep, he began leading teams, specifically focused on coaching sales reps on how to be direct, credible, and respected throughout the sales process. Julian conceived of and designed SuccessKit when running an 18 person sales-team at Axial, a b2b startup, as a way to help sales reps have better conversations by utilizing customer success examples and other content more effectively.

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