Sales Strategy

Track THIS Instead Of Sales Activity

The daily 60/40 cold call and email cadence is no longer effective. Track this new metric instead...

July 3, 2021

Activity Still Matters But The Unit Economics Has Changed

Cold Calling Worked Until It Didn't

Cold calling certainly isn't dead, but there's no denying the significant headwinds. That wasn't always the case. Cold calling was back on the upswing until the pandemic. Fueled by HubSpot's "inbound" marketing in the early years of the last decade, email was more manageable to execute than picking up a phone from a pure volume perspective. Why spend two minutes making a single dial when you could hit a few hundred prospects with a single click?

Right. Every rep under the sun thought the same thing. Who has time for rejection from a call, or worse yet, make fifty of them without talking to a single soul when we can click our way to an appointment? Slick automation tools like Outreach and SalesLoft exacerbated this email overload over the last few years. Now, prospects delete twenty sales emails each day (we can hear some of you laughing right now, "ha, I delete twenty before my coffee!").

This deluge of emails made calling more attractive. With average reps spending more than ten hours a week on email, the more ambitious kind returned to the phones and made more connections. Naturally, the conversion rate to meetings booked spiked as well. Cold call conversions at their pinnacle found reps booking an appointment for every three to four connections made.

Then, the pandemic hit.

Omnichannel Outreach Needed More Than Ever

Prospects – like all of us – dispersed from offices and set up WFH environments that accelerated digital transformation efforts relegating the "office line" to a nice-to-keep. Now it's much harder even to get a connect, let alone convert. Cold calling is not dead. Reps set meetings using this medium, but the best appointment setters use variety.

We provided 12 tactics to break through the noise a few weeks ago. Video, gifting, LinkedIn, email, phone, in-person events, and online communities all appear. Depending on what we sell – software, insurance, a manufactured product – will determine which channels are most effective, but an all-of-the-above approach feels right in today's selling environment.

"RPM" is the New Unit Economics of Sales Activity

New relationships per month. Relationships are back as the bee's knees in sales. If the pandemic taught us anything, it's that empathy and human connection matter. Sales pros are needed more than ever to quickly build trust and help sellers navigate the overwhelming options in the marketplace.

Tracking activity siphons sales down to a numbers game instead of what's at the core of why we do what we do – build relationships, be a thought leader, solve problems, and make customers happy.

Why did we get into sales?

How many and how quickly we as sales reps can build those relationships is the new unit economics, not how many dials you make or emails you send in a day, week, month, or quarter. Imagine a high-performance framework centered on our ability to build relationships across the enterprise. As basic as it sounds, aren't relationships at the core of why we love this thing we call sales?

How's this different from a booked sales appointment?

Most of us have seen the upward trendline showing the number of stakeholders who have to weigh in before selecting a vendor. At last check, it hovered around seven. Why not incentivize SDRs and Account Executives to get as many stakeholders into the sales process as quickly as possible? Establishing more relationships earlier gives you a chance to build those new connections in parallel at a similar pace. Deal velocity and sales cycles should accelerate.

Why do we expect account-based marketing and selling to work further down the funnel magically?

One thing that needs to be non-negotiable in the power dynamic between buyer and seller is the latter exercising our right to build as many relationships as possible. All too often, we relent to the initial contact who explicitly says, “everything filters through me; no need to contact anyone else.” Be fearless as it's our right and livelihood to reach out to multiple contacts who could benefit from a relationship with us.

Some tips to consider:

  • Think in terms of end-users, not buyers. Ramp up prospecting efforts and add complementary or secondary contacts, whether or not they buy your product.
  • Go Sandler or Never Split the Difference mode and state upfront during the discovery call that they probably won't like it, but we will continue reaching out to other stakeholders.
  • Overcome the inevitable pushback with research showing seven stakeholders need to weigh in, and the buyer's journey is already 60-70% complete before a salesperson gets involved. If your contact tells you not to reach out to anyone else, try Chris Voss's "how am I supposed to do that?"
  • When we book a meeting, ask the contact to invite others to the call. Send individual meeting reminders to each attendee with key takeaways to ensure everyone shows (instead of a group reminder simply regurgitating the agenda).
  • At some point with most deals, we encounter the team demo or meeting. Send follow-up messages individually to each contact to keep building those other relationships.
  • If we're hyper concerned with the initial contact's objection to contacting others inside their organization, LinkedIn messages appear more casual than an email. The former is excellent for follow-up after team demos too.  

Why not experiment?

Consider ditching the activity metrics and the number of booked meetings for the number of relationships. How many different people can we get in front of to help? Suppose SDRs could set just three meetings a month for an Account Executive, but each discovery call includes three or four contacts from each account. Wouldn't that be more impactful than eight meetings with a single individual from eight different companies?

Experimentation is key. Shifting focus from tracking activity to relationships has potential downstream consequences with how we bonus, code MQLs and SQLs, enter data into the CRM, and set goals. Managers and sellers might fear appointment setters will build too many "below-the-power-line" relationships. These fears are justified.

But what if? Reps gaming activity numbers for activity sake cease, deal cycles shorten, win rates increase, fewer deals stall, negotiations work in our favor, getting the signature becomes easier.

There's only one way to find out!

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