Does this title surprise you as a sales leader or sales professional? It shouldn’t. Based on a study that The Bridge Group conducted last year, sales professionals are having less conversations in the market. What can this be attributed to?
Other research studies cited point to a reduction in sales activity – i.e., less calls being made – due to more administrative and non-selling tasks.
The elephant in the room that I believe we’re still all ignoring is the fact that our buyers are choosing to speak to us less on channels that are noisy and polluted. This includes email and phone. We know that the response rates on these channels is dropping. As evidence of this and administrative tasks taking over, the Bridge Group’s report further reveals that calls have dropped from an average of 9.5 to 6.6 in about 3 years.
I can share anecdotally what I’ve seen in the market every day. Sales professionals are under mounting pressure. Quotas are going up and the fight to get a prospect live on the phone or respond to email is tougher. A study from Baylor University found the success rate of cold calling to be a whopping 1% to 2%. Unless you’re selling big-ticket items where fewer conversations won’t impact your ability to make quota, you’ve got an uphill climb.
Sales leaders, don’t believe me? There is ample evidence that a good chunk of your sales team won’t meet quota.
Prospects are increasingly going online to conduct mountains of research. With a few keystrokes our would-be buyers can pull up our histories, reviews, and more.
The “Old Way” Has to Evolve
I’m still treading lightly in saying that the “old ways” aren’t working, but our approaches must evolve at the bare minimum.
Gary Vaynerchuk – one of the brightest luminaries in the world of sales & marketing – is rampaging the airwaves with a message that’s so subtle that most aren’t yet picking up. He’s saying (and I paraphrase) that you must view yourself as a media company first followed by your area of expertise/proficiency.
Are you a sales professional? It’s not going to cut it anymore. If it’s working for you now, realize that in the future the odds are against you. It’s about how you convey your expertise. No one wants to do business with a sales person. They want to do business with an expert in their industry. At the bare minimum, someone that can help guide them on making a good decision.
How do they trust you with this ever-important task?
As most buyers are digital in nature, these determinations are starting to be made with what you’re saying. If a buyer can’t determine your expertise level through the phone and email, how will they?
This is what Gary V is talking about, I believe. We must be where our buyers are.
Are Social & Digital The Cures?
There isn’t a single cure for the problem of having fewer sales conversations in the market. Instead, social and digital should be viewed as necessary steps to keep ourselves engaged with buyers today.
This isn’t about landing new accounts. It’s also about being more researched, prepared, ready and knowledgeable about existing clients. If you manage one account or 10 or have a list of 200 you’re targeting, being online will help you. Period.
The Bottom Line
The challenge is we keep on doing the same old things the same old way. Going down this path, which is producing sub-optimal and diminishing results, will lead to our industry needing a defibrillator.
What’s the solution? I believe it’s a well-balanced approach to sales that recognizes that (1) we need to be where our buyers are and (2) building our presence online as sales professionals can only help us.