The recent film, Sorry to Bother You, presents a dystopian (yet very funny) view of sales, where the most important message is STICK TO THE SCRIPT – no matter what is going on with the person being called. It reminded me of one of my earliest days in sales and being handed a script and a list and being told to get cracking. The image of salespeople toiling away in a boiler room is the stuff of pop culture – and it portrays a past that’s become mythologized and, frankly, needs to be done away with once and for all.
Making Calls Is No Longer Strictly a Numbers Game
The easiest way to accomplish this is to toss the cookie-cutter approach out the window. Did that kind of selling ever really make sense? Maybe if you were selling an undifferentiated product to prospects you didn’t know very well. It was a numbers game – the more calls you made, the better your chance of racking up some sales. But that approach isn’t made for the current environment (and it is soul-killing!).
A step above that approach is to try to get a fix on a prospect by asking an endless series of qualifying questions. Amazingly, those questions always seem to lead to opportunities to crow about some product or feature. Like I said, it’s a step up – but it’s still a pretty transparent approach to explaining how awesome whatever you’re selling is.
Today, it’s possible to learn a lot about customers and prospects even before we pick up the phone or start to draft an email. Getting to know about your customers online (LinkedIn, social profiles, etc.) is a great start, but it can only take you so far. The next step is to get to know them and their needs first hand. A technographic profile is also helpful in building a complete picture of a customer and his or her needs.
Forge Relationships by Asking Questions
Thankfully, this type of data – whether contact, firmographic, or technographic – is readily available from trusted sources. This can help grease the skids for the types of conversations that actually matter to customers: What problem are they facing? What types of things have they tried in the past? How well have those things worked? How does the problem they are facing impact them, their department, their organization, their customers, etc.? These are all critical points. Asking these questions well can help forge genuine relationships that create opportunities for thoughtful and consultative sales.
Maybe throwing away the script is going too far; maybe the script just needs to be rewritten with our new reality in mind. That reality includes having a good sense of who your customer is. Confidence that you’ll be able to reach them when you need to – and that you’ll have the ability to demonstrate a genuine awareness of the challenges they are facing and how your product or service can help meet their needs.
Your New Sales Script
Maybe that new script and playbook can include conversation prompts rather than leading questions. Maybe it can be acted on over time, allowing trust to build. Maybe it can recognize the fact that you and your prospect are people trying to make the best use of their time and resources. Maybe new metrics can be imagined – ones that aren’t based on sheer quantity, but more on the quality of interactions.
These are all interesting possibilities, as they should be in the interesting time we are all living through. And these new times require a new sales playbook with a little more personality.
Ned Leutz is director of sales at ZoomInfo.