Between 22 and 25 million businesses are operating in the United States, according to US Census Bureau estimates. Tens of thousands are registered each week, and just as many close their doors for good. In that climate, what are the odds that “spray and pray” models of B2B prospecting are still going to be effective? One thing is certain: it’s not worth betting a business on.
The effectiveness of outbound sales for a business of any size is a key driver of growth, but strategies based on inaccurate lead-lists, and that rely the sending of mass emails in the hope of converting possible customers, are increasingly ineffective. “Spray and pray” refers to the ancient B2B sales technique where teams would get on the phone and dial as many businesses as possible hoping to find someone with budget authority and a willingness to buy. This was an enormous waste of time, energy and resources for buyers and sellers, and one of the main reasons that so few managers with purchase authority answer their phones anymore. The arrival of the Internet and email only made things worse in the form of massive email blasts that had virtually the same effect, only on a grander scale. Now managers filter their mail or have an assistant do it for them.
So what’s so bad about that, I hear you say? Well, the first problem is time wasted. According to a recent study conducted by CSO Insights, less than 2 out of 3 sales people (and only 57% of companies) hit their own quota, with sales reps spending a full 20% of their time doing qualifying research. That’s one whole day each week… with each minute spent looking for companies being a minute not spent building relationships with the right ones. Secondly, as Inc. magazine pointed out last year, this obsolete selling method can actually drive business away. Successful businesses are using technology to zero in on their most productive prospects while others continue to pursue unsustainable sales prospecting practices. And those who are unwilling to evolve are way more like to be among the more than half will who will shut down within five years, or the two thirds that won’t survive ten years. Bottomline: Winners generate sufficient revenue to cover mounting costs and revenue derives from effective prospecting.
So how, then, can one avoid making the mistakes inherent to this harmful strategy for outbound sales? As Inc. Magazine’s Geoffrey James suggests, following two well-known selling rules will ensure you avoid spray-and-pray:
- Never answer a question that the customer hasn’t asked.
- Never provide information that the customer hasn’t requested.
While these are excellent rules of thumb, the business environment in 2015 is one that is increasingly dominated by Social Selling, where prospects expect every interaction to have relevance and context. Without the ability to accurately identify prospect companies, the sales professional doesn’t have much of a chance to creating a positive first interaction which all too often can spell the difference between a sale or a dismissal. For this reason, we think there’s an important third point to add:
3. Accurately targeting prospect companies based on whether or not your products and services can actually add value to the companies in question.
What are some of the other things you’re doing to avoid the spray-and-pray sand trap?