Stop Chasing Sales Effectiveness and Focus on What Matters Most

By Julie Thomas, President and CEO, ValueSelling Associates
The word focus spelled out with Scrabble letters

In the summer of 2021, I had a call with a frustrated CSO. The leadership team at her company was under immense pressure to win over investors, so they decided to paint a picture of sales activity for them. They dove into the data and began extrapolating: If 100 emails translate to five meetings, then 500 emails will translate to 25 meetings, and 1,000 emails will…you see where this is going.

The mandate came down for every seller to send 800 emails and add 175 contacts to Salesforce daily. They announced this program at their SKO in January 2021, and, by the end of June, they’d sent roughly 226,000 emails to prospects.

How many new opportunities resulted from this flurry of activity?

You guessed it – zero.

While this situation may sound incredible, it happens all the time. Too many sales leaders are hyper-focused on making their reps more efficient so they can conduct more outreach with less effort – but what’s helping them be more effective?

Once they land that crucial first meeting, do they have the skills to connect with executive buyers on a human level and solve their business problems that are getting in the way of key initiatives?

The Consequence of Untargeted Outreach

Don’t get me wrong – sales tech can be tremendously useful. It helps you automate and amplify, but there’s a hidden pitfall here: It can help you automate and amplify the wrong behaviors. In fact, when salespeople began sending roughly 50% more emails to prospects than they did pre-COVID, response rates from buyers dropped to an all-time low (Hubspot).

Chasing efficiency over effectiveness has four adverse effects:

  • Damages your brand: Buyers are bombarded with outreach and have zero patience for salespeople who get it wrong. A recent study by Lusha found that 49% of B2B sellers believe that poorly targeted outreach damages a company’s reputation.
  • Annoys prospects: After all, why should a prospect invest their time with you after you show them you didn’t do your research to understand how you could add value to them?
  • Impacts sales performance: Never overlook the potential impact of bad outreach on sales results. In fact, the same study reported that 52% of sellers believe it leads to ongoing missed sales, and 37% think it leads to immediate loss of sales.
  • Builds the wrong habits: It’s all too tempting for salespeople to lean on tech and untargeted techniques to hit a desired number, but the actual power of sales tech lies in its ability to make sales the highly personalized process it should be.

How do sophisticated B2B buyers feel about having their inboxes and voicemails flooded with irrelevant sales pitches? Buyer backlash is growing; there’s a reckoning on the horizon.

How to Build Effectiveness, Not Efficiency, in Your Team

Build the sales behaviors that drive results: Training changes behaviors by empowering sales professionals with the right sales skills for each stage of the buying cycle.

Give sellers a conversational framework that is flexible enough to accommodate any conversation, and build the trust and rapport that earn them the right to have business conversations that uncover problems worth solving. You’ll want to focus on helping your sales teams establish credibility and trustworthiness with prospects, ask good questions and actively listen, and maintain rapport with buyers during negotiations and when closing deals.

Invest in the sales tech that builds relationships: Buy tech that brings sellers closer to buyers and treats them like humans. Consider tools like LinkedIn’s deep sales offerings to help sellers identify high-potential prospects and deliver the right tailored messages at the right time. Another piece of the puzzle is conversation intelligence. Solutions like Chorus.ai and Gong.io are excellent tools for monitoring the quality of sales calls and enabling sales managers to have more productive coaching conversations. Finally, consider a robust sales enablement solution like Highspot that makes it easy for sellers to send value-added information and measure how potential buyers interact with content.

Measure winning sales behaviors: Most sales leaders (75%) favor lagging indicators such as increased revenue and margins, transaction size, and the number of deals won. That means only 25% are taking a more cohesive approach to monitoring sales behaviors that includes leading indicators. Ensure you’re measuring the behaviors that will ultimately lead to those vital lagging indicators listed above by tracking when sales reps block time on their calendars for prospecting, complete more in-depth discovery calls, and write more follow-up plan letters.

Ultimately, sales will always be about human connection. B2B buyers will always seek out credible sales professionals who can provide them the one thing that all the sales tech in the world cannot: confidence in their buying decision. Investing in the right balance of training, tech, and measurement practices helps sellers to feel like strategic business advisors, better meet buyers wherever they are in the process, focus on their needs, and forge the long-term relationships that will fuel account growth in 2023 and beyond.

For a complete understanding of the behaviors sales professionals must exhibit to put the buyer first and succeed in a virtual environment, download a copy of our latest research: The Behaviors and Skills Sales Leaders Care Most About – and How to Measure Them.