For this week's blog post, I sat down with our CEO and Founder, Charles Bernard, to discuss why old school hunting in sales outreach doesn't work in today's market, and what new school outreach asks of salespeople and leaders. Read on to learn more!
Sales Outreach: Why Old School Hunting Doesn't Work
Rylan: “This is Rylan Sylvester. I'm the Marketing & Sales Coordinator here at CFS and I'm here talking to our CFS Founder and CEO, Charles Bernard. Hi Charles!”
Charles: “Hi Rylan!”
R: “This topic that came up the other day which was about old school hunting. And we were saying that old school hunting doesn't work. So I think we should give everybody some context. What does “old school hunting” mean and why is it ineffective?”
C: “So I'll start with why it's ineffective and then maybe we can find out why it came up. Why it's ineffective is that the whole premise of hunting, particularly what I refer to as old school hunting, doesn't work because it relies on salespeople reaching out to make contact with buyers using traditional methods. That's why I say ‘old school' like email, phone call, scouring through Linkedin networks. And most of that activity is unsolicited, so buyers are just increasingly not responding to unsolicited outreach no matter what form it's done in.“
R: “It's interesting that you say that because now we're working in such a remote world. Especially with COVID, a lot more people are working from home. So I think people would go to think, ‘Linkedin or email–these are the ways that I should be reaching out to people'. But you're saying that it's less important to do that; that unsolicited outreach isn't working anymore and that maybe we should be trying to form relationships with people.“
C: “Bingo. Most of the companies we work with at CFS, when they're bringing on new salespeople, they usually want to hire ‘hunters' and when I ask why, it's usually based on a reaction to their view of the salespeople they've employed in the past. And what I mean by a reaction is, whether it's the CEO or the Head of Sales or someone in a senior position in a company, they will often say something like, ‘I want someone who can proactively reach out. I'm tired of order-takers. I can't stand having to push them to make more calls and reach out to more prospects.' There is a horrible perception that salespeople – unless they're poked or cattle prodded – they're lazy. They don't want to reach out because it's hard. But it's almost as though they want leads handed to them on a silver platter. It's a reaction born out of frustration that the salespeople aren't bringing in enough new prospects. So I think we need to get underneath that type of activity because I don't think when people say they want to hire hunters and they give the definition I just mentioned that they're going to succeed. I think they're just going to continue making things worse. It's like what Einstein said, you know, if you keep doing the same thing over and over expecting different results…”
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R: “So let's say these bosses are looking to hire people and they're using words like, ‘We want someone who's really chasing after people or who's really proactive…' You could still do that while you're building a relationship, but you would just be going about it in a different way. So maybe new school thinking is kind of a reframing of the old thinking. Because are you really going to be able to work with a ‘hunter' in the long term versus if you're building a relationship? There seems to be more longevity for the business with new school thinking.”
C: “Yes, so before you get into the activity, think about the why. That's one of my favorite questions: why are you doing what you're doing? And how much time does the company spend on developing salespeople as subject matter experts, right? And what I get back is, ‘We don't have time for that. We have subject matter experts on staff and they can meet with a prospect or a customer when needed or the salesperson can call them in when they need them.' The problem with that thinking is that buyers, by and large, want to talk to people who will give them insights or add value. So why do you have to talk to a gatekeeper who's just there to say they don't have an answer? The old school hunting we've been talking about forces your salesperson to be a door opener. But imagine, you're in the door. Someone asks, ‘What have you got?' And the salesperson will say nothing. Why? Because all I've been trained to do is open doors.”
R: “So what can people do moving forward to break from some old sales traditions that aren't working in today's world?”
C: “Well, the first question I ask is how much time are you as a company investing in training your salesperson to be a subject matter expert, and my suggestion, no matter what the answer is because it's usually a lot less than what I suggest, is that you invest a minimum of ten percent of a salesperson's time in ongoing subject matter expertise development. And you've got to train them in 3 areas.
Area number 1 is train the salesperson on the industry the company is in. Let's say your company provides cyber security. Your salespeople need to understand what is the industry doing, where are the problems, the concerns, the things people care about, what's happening now, what is the history of where are we today, and more importantly, what are some of the future trends.”
R: “So area number 1 is industry. What about areas 2 and 3?”
C: “So if number 1 is industry, number 2 is understanding the company that I work for as a salesperson. What is our value proposition within the industry? Are we leading edge? Are we positioning ourselves for some of these future trends? Do we have expertise that others lack? So if you understand the industry and you understand the company you work for and the value it provides to the industry, that already makes you someone I think worth talking to.”
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C: “The 3rd area is about the companies that you're calling on. So if I'm calling on a prospect and that person works for a bank, I should really be able to understand the nuances that apply to a bank within that particular industry with all the trends, and how my organization addresses some of those concerns and and issues in a bank. And back to what you said earlier, about developing relationship, if you can understand the companies you reach out to, you can now talk to the person because you understand their function. So if you're talking to a Head of IT, and you understand what that particular person's struggling with within that bank, you can create this whole value proposition chain and and help people recognize that – in your function, in your type of organization, in your type of industry – you as a subject matter expert can empathize and can pinpoint some areas that they might be struggling with. So I think if I'm a buyer and I've got someone who's well versed in those 3 areas, I'm likely to at least be curious enough to find out what is that person has to say as opposed to a random ‘Hey, is your calendar open next Tuesday at 10am? Can I come visit you?' I don't even know who you are!”
R: “Absolutely. What about some of those outreach activities we mentioned earlier?”
C: “When I talk to buyers and clients of ours and ask them why they do business with us, largely they say ‘because you're vetted.‘ So what I think a lot of salespeople might want to consider is developing relationships with those adjacent to the people they want to work with. In other words, if I want to get to the CEO of an organization, who do I know that knows people that the CEO knows that might actually vouch for me?”
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C: “And then the next type of outreach would be to do more educational activities, like roundtables or webinars. It's easy to do remotely, people have a tolerance for it today. So that's kind of the summary of where I think people should be spending their time as opposed to just blindly reaching out to people.”
What did you think of this conversation? Tell us in the comments! If you want more from CFS, be sure to check out our company's podcast Let's Talk Sales! which publishes new episodes every Monday. Happy selling!