This video training was originally presented at the 2019 Sales Hacker Success Summit. In it, Founder and CEO of social centered selling, Barbara Giamanco, shows us that there are no shortcuts in selling.
Sadly, Barbara passed on from our community on May 20, 2020. We’re so honored to claim her as one of our own. This video, presented at our 2019 Success Summit, was a wonderful parting gift that we hope you’ll enjoy. You’ll be missed, Barbara.
What You’ll Learn
- Why cheap sales tricks don’t work
- Focus on quality over quantity
- The importance of personalized, customized messaging
- Why you need to do things differently
- It’s all about #DoTheWork
Outline, Timestamps, and Transcript
Hi everybody. I am Barb Giamanco, CEO with Social Centered Selling. I’m also the host of the Conversations With Women In Sales podcast.
It’s my pleasure to be part of Sales Hacker’s Success Summit, and today, in the bit of time we have together, I’m going to talk about the importance of banishing magical thinking.
Much as we might want them, shortcuts in selling just don’t exist. If you really want to make sure that you’re achieving your goals on a consistent and ongoing basis, you’ve got to do the work.
I’m going to talk about the reasons why it bothers me when people talk about proven methods, hacks, and cheap tricks that are supposed to get buyer’s attention.
It gets buyer’s attention all right, but maybe not the attention you’re looking for.
Why Cheap Tricks Don’t Work (00:57)
This is the reality we continue to live in today. Buyers are blocking us, deleting us, ignoring us, and that’s frustrating. I know it can be really frustrating, but that’s also part of the job.
There are ways that you can get on a buyer’s radar, because they will pay attention if you do some of the right things, but the bottom line is that cheap tricks don’t work.
I know people like to come up with fancy ways of promoting hacks that’ll 10X your sales, and subject lines that are designed to get somebody to open your emails or pay attention to you. The truth is it’s really more about the guts, the message, and the approach.
The cheap trick might get the message opened, but what does it do for you after that? I’m going to talk in a little more depth about it.
Status quo remains our biggest competitor, and there are some other things that are now causing status quo to be an even tougher competitor to break through to, and I’ll talk about why that is.
Here’s the thing, you can’t win if you can’t connect. That’s the starting point. If you’re not able to connect and engage with your target buyer, you don’t have any chance of moving to the next phase in the selling process.
Getting the meeting, having the sales conversation, collaborating on potential solutions, closing deals. That’s really what we’re all about. But, similar to baseball — I just rewatched Moneyball which is a great story about Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s, and how he started shifting the approach to bringing players onto the team — You know, in baseball you can’t win the game if you don’t make runs. And you can’t score if you don’t start by getting on first base.
Sales is kind of the same way. If you can’t get on first base, if you can’t make it clear to a buyer that investing time in you is going to be worth it, if you can’t get the sales meeting, it is very unlikely that you’re going to hit sales goals.
Because, if you keep getting all these people ignoring you, then how do you get to where you need to go?
That’s what I’m going to talk more about.
Prioritize Quality over Quantity (03:19)
What happens is people resort to a lot of activity. And I put the responsibility on sales management here as well. Yes, it’s important to have key performance indicators. We need to measure activity, but we shouldn’t be measuring activity just to measure activity. It isn’t the number of phone calls and emails, necessarily. It’s whether or not that activity led to the next result in the sales process that you’re looking for.
So, yes, you need quantity. You need to reach out to a lot of people on an ongoing and very consistent basis. But it’s also the quality of that activity that makes the difference.
It doesn’t matter if you call a hundred people if none of them ever respond, if none of them ever agree to meet with you. But, if you call 50 of the right people with the right message and the right approach, and you get half of those people or 10% of those people or 15% of those people responding to you and booking meetings, now you’ve got a better shot.
The cost of spray and pray is huge. Because first impressions matter, and you cannot build trust if you keep sending out these cheesy emails, even if they’re automated in cadences. Cadences, nobody is paying attention, I guarantee you they’re getting annoyed. They’re paying attention, but they’re getting annoyed.
If I get one more sales message from somebody that says, “Did you see my last email? Did you see my last email? Did you see my last email? It’d be really great if you responded.”
Listen, that stuff doesn’t have any value for anybody, and it’s lazy selling in my opinion.
You want to think about what it’s doing to your brand as a sales professional, much less the brand of the company, when you keep this spray and pray approach going. It’s not working. You need to do things differently.
90% of decision makers say they don’t respond to cold outreach. That doesn’t mean you cannot reach them. There are other ways that you can go about reaching them.
Even if it’s cold, as in you don’t know the person, they don’t know you, you don’t have a relationship, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make the calls. It doesn’t mean you can’t send the emails. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to connect with them on LinkedIn or follow some of their content or share some of their content or even comment on some of their content so you can kind of get on their radar.
The reason decision makers aren’t responding to outreach from people they don’t know is because the outreach is usually not relevant to them. It’s not tailored. It’s not personalized. It’s not relevant. It’s more spam, and it’s easy for them to ignore.
But, as I said, buyers will talk to you. They will talk to sellers. They’ve said so over and over again in reports and research, like, from Salesforce.
My good friend Deb Calvert, she released her book last year with two coauthors, Stop Selling And Start Leading. It was all based on buyer research that was done. And buyers made clear that they will talk to salespeople, but it has to be the right salespeople.
Those salespeople are the ones who take a very consultative, leadership approach to selling. When you can demonstrate that you’re more focused on helping that buyer achieve their goals, and thus achieve the company’s needs, versus making it clear to them you’re just trying to make a quick sale, they will pay attention.
The problem is so many people get hung up on, “Oh my gosh, that’s going to take more time. That’s going to string out the sales cycle.”
Going back to what I said from the very beginning, it’s like baseball. If you can’t get on first base, you have no chance of getting to home plate.
What I want people to think about who are watching and listening and paying attention to this is, think about the first end goal, which is make a great first impression. Demonstrate your value. Demonstrate your capability and credibility. Prove to the buyer you know something about their business, and then you win the opportunity. You earn the right to get them to meet with you.
Really, what it comes down to is how you sell is more important than what you sell. That is more true today than it has ever been, and I’ve been selling for over two decades.
Messaging matters (08:11)
It’s really important that you think about this very, very intentionally. I want you to think about looking at all of your habits. What do you do day-to-day? Are you more focused on what you sell or do you have more focus on how you sell?
What is it that you offer?
I get it. We all have something to sell. I understand you’re probably super passionate about your product. I know somebody probably told you that, given the opportunity, tell everybody and anybody everything you can about what it is your product does.
That does not get you in the door.
We’re dealing with a different buyer today. Somebody who’s much more sophisticated, and we’re also talking about buyer teams — especially in business to business and mid-sized enterprise companies.
You’ve got to do a whole lot more in terms of your overall process and the quality of how you go about approaching people. That’s far more important than the widget aspects of whatever it is that you do.
So, your messaging, your approach, really matters.
Avoid hacky sales (09:21)
I see a lot of blog posts, a lot of articles, I see the eBooks, I see the catchy, “Come join our webinar and listen to the proven methods for getting a prospect to respond.”
Awesome… Most of the time that is a hack. Somebody selling a shortcut or just trying to, you know, pull you in.
But, the reality is if you want to 10X your sales, you got to put in the work.
The goal, you know, when I see so many of these things, they talk about, “Oh my gosh, our data, our artificial intelligence. We ran the data and it shows that when we use X subject line, we get X percent increase in people responding,” or, “we get X percent people saying yes to a demo.” What we almost never hear is the real results you need to know about.
First of all, we don’t know, is that working in business to business or in business to consumer? We don’t know the size of the deal. Is it a small business with a short sales cycle? Is it an enterprise deal with a much longer tail in terms of getting to closing the deal?
No. We just hear these, “Hey, if you just do this, you get X people responding.” Well, I don’t know what they call a response. I don’t know if that means opening an email (which is often what they mean by a response) or if that’s somebody who responds and says, “Sure, send me more information.”
But, hey, sending me more information, even agreeing to a demo is not a sales qualified lead. What your goal is, is to get a response that actually converts to somebody saying yes to that one-to-one sales conversation. That then converts to a qualified sales opportunity. That then converts into a deal.
Please ignore the so-called proven methods that are nothing more than cheap tricks. And buyers are wise to that.
Ditch the pitch (11:21)
Ditch the pitch. I even have this in my LinkedIn headline. I’ve been saying it for years. Cheap tricks don’t work, and buyers are smart. They are aware of the things that you’re doing.
When you do things like putting “RE:” in your subject line as if you’ve already had a conversation over email. When you do that in a brand new message, yes, I’ve heard the stats. People say, “Oh yeah, people respond.” Well, the moment they realize that they’ve been fooled and they’ve never really talked to you, that’s the moment when you have just demonstrated to them that you’re somebody who maybe can’t be trusted.
Will some of those people continue a conversation? Probably. Is it worth risking creating a very negative impression about how you do business by trying to fool them? No.
Same thing with “see you next week,” or “our meeting later today.” “I’m following up my phone call,” when you never called me in the first place, and by the way, I know if you called me or didn’t.
I think most targeted buyers, most of the people you’re prospecting, they do. “The information you requested.” If I didn’t request the information, I know. I know if I asked for information or not. You don’t want to start off with what is basically a lie. That is no way to kick off the relationship.
Stop worrying about whether or not somebody opened the email. If they don’t agree to meet with you, or they’re literally not even the right sales qualified buyer for you, you’ve got to stop wasting your time.
Know your target buyer (13:00)
On that notion of the right sales qualified buyer, everyone breathing is not a potential buyer for you. Technically they can buy the product, but if you’re trying to market and sell to everyone, you’re marketing and selling to no one.
You need to get really clear on who you’re focusing on. What’s the role, or it could be a couple of different roles. For example, VP of sales, chief revenue officers, and chief marketing officers in tech companies that have sales forces of 100 people or more, and here’s the one problem we can solve for them.
You know, you need to make sure that you’re focused on the right people. Stop wasting time. Time is finite and you don’t get more of it when it’s wasted with the wrong people.
Just because somebody says they want to talk to you, make sure that talking to them makes sense. Because, as a friend of mine said to me a long time ago, “The next best thing to getting a yes is a fast no.” You have to be as good at disqualifying quickly as you are at qualifying, so that you ensure that, number one, anything you put into the CRM, into the pipeline is clean, relevant, and realistic data, and you don’t need a lot of fluff in there.
Just because someone talked to you doesn’t mean they’re qualified to buy. It also doesn’t mean they necessarily have influence in the organization.
Personalize Your Approach (14:28)
Now, as I said from the beginning, one of the sales realities continues to be that when we’re in the sales ring, status quo is still our biggest competitor. It’s getting tougher and tougher to knock people off status quo.
Again, this is where feature pitches are amateur. That doesn’t do it. If you don’t understand the problems that buyers are facing, and if you don’t know things like,
Is this important enough for them to put resources behind it and make the effort to change what needs to change in order to get to the next place?
You know? If you’re not able to do that, you’re going to have a hard time winning.
Also, you need to know if they know there’s a problem. Right?
In discovery, you’re asking questions, you find out there’s problems. You might even come to the table with identifying a few things that you think are problems for them. They may say yes, they’re important.
But you need to find out how important.
Is it important enough that somebody in the C-suite is putting money to back an initiative to change? Or is this just one of those things that sounds like it’s important and it’s nice to have, but not important enough that we’re going to marshal the resources it’s going to take to shift.
You need to be able to call it straight out. How important is this to you? Are you willing to continue to sacrifice revenue, productivity, profit, whatever it might be that is clearly the result of them not making a move?
Beware of content overload (16:00)
You have to remember that status quo remains the biggest competitor, and as I’m going to talk about in a little more detail, you know, Gartner has done some research recently that has proven what I knew was going to happen. And probably many of you watching and listening knew too.
Content is a beautiful thing, and at a certain point it’s now become overload for people. I’m not talking just about content, because there’s a lot of content that’s just not even very good. I’m talking about even high-quality content.
Buyers are now starting to confirm that even high-quality content, because it’s got different opinions and different things happening, it’s just too much.
Buyer teams now are starting to stall out because they’ve done early stage research. They’re accessing a lot of information. Now, you have to be the seller that helps them make sense of information that’s going to be the most valuable and relevant for them.
Now, we have another level of complexity that we need to overcome and help buyers with. Because, in the absence of you being able to clearly demonstrate why, if they don’t make a move where they can’t make sense of some of the information that they’ve got a hold of so they’re just saying, “Hey, we’ll just hold off,” or they resort to decision-making that’s more gut feel and gut instinct, like back in the day, then you’re going to have a problem.
No more generic sales pitches (17:31)
I want you to stop stalking buyers with generic sales pitches. It’s just not working. It hasn’t been working for years. And yet, the insanity continues. Because we have more and more productivity tools, because you can automate messaging, and because you can set up these cadences.
That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t matter if you can send more email or make more phone calls. If the quality of the message is not clearly demonstrating value to the buyer, then you still are not going to be able to capture their attention and get to your end goal, which is a yes to a meeting.
You’ve got to focus on the problem that you solve, and it’s not the features of your product. It’s also not demonstrating the features of your product. You’ve got to know what kind of problem you solve for people.
For example, perhaps your software helps companies make faster data-driven decisions. Because they (your prospects) are in manufacturing and they want to bring a new product to market, they need to make quick, real-time, in the moment decisions about do we make it? Do we buy it? How do we get this product to market more quickly?
That’s a problem that you can solve with your technology, and you need to know what that problem is going in. But, even if you know the problem and you know your technology can solve it, the worst thing you can do is roll into a feature pitch.
You’ve got to speak to the strategic problem — how your product strategically helps them fix that problem, and what that ultimately means to their business in terms of revenue, profit, productivity, efficiency, all those sorts of things.
Finding a personalization balance (19:15)
When you’re doing your outreach, take the TPR approach. Make it tailored, personalized, and relevant.
Now, this is where there are a couple of different camps. On the one camp, it says trying to personalize everything takes too much time.
In the other camp, you know, you’ve got people who say, automate everything, and no personalization is required, and you’ve got other people who say oh no, you got to tailor every single message.
Well, I believe there’s a balance. There’s something in the middle. I like to batch my work. In other words, I do engage my brain. I do think about what’s important to the buyer that I’m selling to. I do think about the problems I can solve for them. I do know what’s happening in their industry, competitive challenges, and oh by the way, when I see that there are growth opportunities, I can use that as a way to get someone to pay attention.
Then, I can batch that and create templates that have just a few sentences that speak to the problem and how we might be able to help, how we could potentially add value.
Then with those templates, you’ve got them structured in your CRM, you could set them up on a timed cadence. That’s all good. But, you can also then go in and put a line of personalization in before you send each one.
Now, I happen to use HubSpot, so I set up templates for different industries and role types, and then it’s connected in through my outlook email. When I’m doing prospecting and I want to email people, what I simply do is I create the email, I click on the template. I’ve got the guts of what I want in there, and then I add a sentence or two to really personalize.
Now, people will say, “Well, that takes a little bit longer than just pressing a button and let those emails fly out the door.” That is true. But not very much longer, I will tell you. And the guts and the main message is already there. Now I’m personalizing a little bit more to the individual and what they care about so they know that I’ve done a little bit of homework, that it’s not a generic message going to everybody else.
That little extra investment in time nets me, not just responses, but actual booked meetings anywhere from 25-50% of the time, depending on the situation and depending on what I’m trying to accomplish.
But, you know what? For any of those campaigns, for any of those outreach efforts I’m making, I put in the time to do a little bit of learning about what I know these folks are going to care about. Then I learn a little bit more about the individual, because when people know that you care about them, they’re going to be more interested in what you have to say and what you have to offer.
But, unfortunately, what’s happening is most sales outreach is focused on what you’re trying to sell, and buyers aren’t interested.
Do Things Differently (22:27)
As I start to wrap it up, I just want to remind you that insanity literally is the definition of doing the same thing, the same activity, over and over again expecting a different result. If you want different results, the only way you can get there is to do things differently.
Quantity does matter. I’m not saying sacrifice quantity. You need a combination of both [quality and quantity] in order to reach enough people to fill your pipeline, to help you hit your goals.
First of all, you need to know more than just your revenue goals. I have coached individuals who I’ve said, “All right, what’s your quota?” Then the next question is, “Tell me about your activity day to day, week to week, month to month, quarter to quarter. How many people do you need to engage and touch? How many meetings do you need to book? How many meetings does it normally take in order to move people along to close?”
Which means, you need to know how much time it really takes to close a deal.
You would be surprised to know that many people don’t know those things. Knowing the number is one thing, but if you’re not able to then break it down so that you can establish the right behaviors and habits, it’s going to be hard for you to hit that goal.
You need to know what you need to come into the office and do day in and day out. How many phone calls do you need to make? How many emails does it really take to get someone to say yes to a meeting? How many meetings do you need to hold so that you can progress to the next level?
What activity is getting you the better result? Is it the phone call? Is it email? Is it starting conversations on LinkedIn by commenting on an article they wrote, or a post they wrote, or something they commented on?
Do you know what happens once you have the sales meeting? How many more meetings does it need to take after that in order to move you closer to close? If you don’t know those things, then what happens is it’s like me trying to drive from Atlanta to California without a road map.
You need a map, and you need a process, and you need to follow it very consistently. Different results mean doing things differently.
Let me wrap by saying that my hack is #DoTheWork. Make sure that you have established processes and you execute consistently. Follow a formula for making sure that your funnel is thriving. Right?
A lot of ghost information in the CRM is not helping your cause. Don’t talk to anyone who’s breathing. Talk to the right people. Invest your time wisely. Prepare. No matter what it is you’re doing, prepare.
Don’t book meetings on top of each other (25:26)
I know that people have a habit, and maybe this is pressure from management — and if it is I would ask managers to really listen up — stop booking meetings on top of each other. You need to have some breathing room in between meetings.
I buffer 15 minutes in between calls. It allows me to do a couple things. One, just quickly note the things that I know I need to follow up on, and some of those things can be followed up on immediately and the people who follow up more quickly than their competitors are the ones that move deals along more quickly.
The other thing it allows me to do is it allows me to stop, be present, take a quick look at somebody’s LinkedIn profile, make sure I’m ready for that next call, and that’s hard to do if you’re rushing from one call to the next.
The other thing is you need a little extra buffer time because, let’s say you’re in a sales call and it’s going well. Do you really want to stop them just because you got the next thing coming when this call is really going in the right direction?
Not only prepare, but stop booking meetings on top of each other.
Avoid Spray and Pray (26:37)
Remember that spray and pray is not a winning strategy, and your message does matter. It really doesn’t take a lot of extra time to do it well. With all the tools that we have available — LinkedIn, the internet, Twitter, business intelligence. I happen to use Inside View, but there’s also Discover Org. There’s all kinds of other tools that let you quickly and easily learn so much more about the buyers you’re targeting and the companies that you’re pursuing.
Solve the buyers problem (27:08)
Focus on solving the buyer’s problem. That means you need to really do a little homework and understand what those problems might be. Put your creative thinking cap on.
Stop leading with features. Nobody cares about that, not in the beginning. At some point those things may be important, but leading with features and leading with booking demos, that is not the way to kick off the sales relationship that you’re looking for.
Measure, track, and adapt (27:31)
Finally, I want you to make sure that you’re measuring, tracking, and adapting your activity. You may find you’re getting better results starting informal conversations with people on LinkedIn that then leads to them saying, “Sure, I’d love to talk to you more about what you do.”
Maybe your phone calls are working well for you. Perhaps it’s email. Maybe it’s a combination of the three, but the point is, if you’re not evaluating what’s really working for you, and you’re not adapting, then you’re going to find yourself doing the same thing over and over again. Doing the same things, but not really knowing what is and is not working for you.
I appreciate your time today. It’s been a pleasure to be part of Sales Hacker’s Success Summit.