Sales Automation: A Race to the Bottom

Sales Automation

Stop doing what everyone else is doing and be creative about how your brand engages with consumers – Glenn Llopis, Author

What’s Your Brand Worth?

People’s willingness to buy, recommend, work for and invest in a company is driven 60% by their perceptions of the company, and only 40% by their perceptions of their products – David Edelman, McKinsey

The holy grail is future advocates, yet you treat people as prospects — this is shaving 16% off of the lifetime value of your customer.

Moreover, the spray and pray (read: linear) model doesn’t quantify the value that leaks out of your figurative bucket from irritated or unengaged buyers. Traditional funnel marketing relies on a linear buying process, and yet marketers and sales leaders continue to use this method to push buyers into customers.

Sales and marketing are two ends of a continuum. At the sales end your outreach is narrow and deep. At the marketing end it is broad and shallow – Jessica Livingston, Y Combinator

If we assume there is still some value left in the funnel model, a defined and generally quantifiable number of buyers will reach the bottom and make a purchase. This number is not only diminishing but may not actually define your ideal customer.  

This results-driven focus has a long list of shortcomings, however, the bigger question remains: why are sales and marketing leaders choosing short-term gain over long-term value?

41% of online revenue comes from Returning and Repeat Purchasers, who represent only 8% of all visitors – Adobe

But this is for consumer-facing businesses, right? Wrong.

State of Diminishing Returns

Does the image below look familiar? It should. The same Marketing funnel that was developed by St. Elmo Lewis in 1898 was adapted by Aaron Ross and others to illustrate the process of outbound prospecting (circa. 2011).

5 Steps To Creating A Lead Gen Machine & The Predictable Revenue That CEOs Love

Example Spears Funnel (Cold Calling 2.0)

But wasn’t this model used by Salesforce to increase recurring revenues by $100M? Yes, in 2004.

The average corporate employee in 2015 receives upwards of 84 emails per day, and at the F500 executive level, that number can be as high as 2000. If we assume the volume of the email will continue to rise, how can we expect the same results by asking for a referral from the C-Suite?

Imagine this scenario: urgent emails from my boss, emails from colleagues requesting meetings, and a few emails from vendors that I’ve worked with previously. Which do you think I open? Urgent from a boss, the majority from colleagues, and maybe, if they’re lucky, one from a salesperson. Which salesperson do I choose? Which do you choose? The one who sends incessant, repetitive communication, or the one who has demonstrated value, given you information that you’ve used as ammo, and is generally respectful of your time? 

Today’s buyer expects a different approach to communication, and yet so many sales organizations continue to leverage a linear conversion model to forecast results.

With the advent of Sales Automation, the modern salesperson has access to technology that supports emailing and calling 1000s of people with just a few clicks. Furthermore, established email marketing metrics (open rate, click rate, and reply rate) are now being transposed into sales to determine the effectiveness of sales campaigns.

This is a slippery slope. More email does result in more customers, and so the cycle continues.

Activities: The Lazy Manager’s North Star

If you have to tell people how to do their job, you have the wrong people or the wrong people running the people. Either way, you have the wrong people. – Jim Keenan, Author

Activity-based sales management assumes that through the execution of a set number of activities, an individual will achieve the desired results. This model is built upon a linear assumption and observes the same shortcomings found in the marketing funnel.

Moreover, activity-based management assumes that every buyer is at the same stage, possesses the same challenges, and is generally responsive to the same message. This binary approach to sales also assumes that salespeople are merely the delivery mechanism for your marketing message.

In contrast, a Results-Based approach involves outlining a set of actionable metrics that can be measured throughout the sales process. Taking a holistic view of the process, a sales leader can look at the following:

  1. Qual Call % (Phone calls that result in a meeting)
  2. Email to Opportunity % (excludes calls, marketing events, and LinkedIn)

While these metrics still measure conversion, the magic happens when you’re able to use them when coaching reps to guide them toward improving their conversations within email or over the phone. Using email engagement data (opens, clicks, and replies) or call recordings will further unlock the secrets of the hyper-performers.

Human Personalization vs. Sales Automation

The purpose of a pitch isn’t necessarily to move others immediately to adopt your idea. The purpose is to offer something so compelling that it begins a conversation, brings the other person in as a participant, and eventually arrives at an outcome that appeals to both of you. – Daniel Pink, Author

Sales training often follows a familiar track: 1) learn the product 2) learn the pitch and 3) rinse and repeat. This curriculum is designed to enrich the recipient with the necessary skills to discuss the product offering, while simultaneously building a conversational foundation to engage with prospects.

The missing link in this model: the customer.

In both B2C and B2B sales, the sheer volume of communication noise is overwhelming for today’s buyer – no one wants to listen to a non-tailored sales pitch. Unfortunately, this organization-centric model of sales training is often directly transposed to outbound email communication.

Sales Email Example

Referral Example #634

Furthermore, with the advent of Cold Calling 2.0, sales teams will often use the Appropriate Person or Quick Question format within email as a guise to peddle their pitch-first ask later message. The above message was sent by a leading provider of API integration to a member of my team (who works in Sales, not IT).  

Sales Automation providers fuel the fire by supporting this model via platforms designed to automate the salesperson. Consequently, sales and marketing management have a new level of control in the messaging sent by their salespeople.

Without personalization, what value does the modern salesperson provide?

Are you employing people simply to create another email address to deliver your marketing message and press send on an automated voicemail?

Before jumping to conclusions, I support the use of technology to empower the modern salesperson. This nuance involves combining a level of human personalization to engage the future-advocate while providing persona-based value through the delivery of content.

What’s the delta between Human Personalization and No Personalization? 230% increase in replies. Thank you to Peter Kazanjy for the data below:


Personal Email Selling Graph

Human personalization can be broken down into three layers:

  1. Affinity to support the emotional connection
  2. Assessment of buyer sophistication
  3. Delivery of tailored content that assists the buyer education process

Enter Sales 3.0: Personalization at Scale

The framework for the modern salesperson requires 1) leverage technology to remain competitive 2) remain human 3) combine the best of both worlds to achieve personalization at scale. The cost of the remaining status quo is detrimental to your brand, and will likely land you in the spam folder.  

Let’s leave behind robo-mailers that turn sales into a number game – and inspire salespeople who create advocates, not opportunities.

Also published on Medium.

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    • The new breed of sales tech is a decoy in this argument. Like most things in sales, this comes down to the human sales person. Reps who have a compelling reason to start a conversation and are looking to improve themselves are leveraging sales automation to be even better at establishing connection.

    • Great research Daniel.a little confusing, is sales automation good or bad? The title “race to the bottom” makes it sound like it’s bad. If I understand you correctly it’s good as long as it is personalized. I am a big fan of personalization and with the right platform this can be done easily, quicker and with the right kind of data to test the messaging– inline. Spray and pray is not the way to go and varying your messages is also important. The sales model is changing, I do think that looking at all available data is important. Thank you for the post

    • Interesting article. Sales needs a human approach instead of automated one..perhaps it’s good to balance it somehow. We’re using marketing automation with GetResponse.

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