I've had a sour sales experience recently. No it wasn't a cold call.
Here's a personal story that would soon teach me a lesson.
A good friend of mine I haven't seen in a while invited me to catch up.
I was glad he reached out, because I've been meaning to set something up too for the longest time. We've traveled together, hanged out on Christmas eve once, and he was also planning to come to my wedding but couldn't get a visa in time, etc. We haven't seen each other in at least 6 months. So anyways when he called me, I said let's do it.
He said he wanted to talk to me about a business opportunity.
I asked him what it was, and he said he'll tell me when he sees me. He asked to meet in a fancy hotel cafe. I have no problem going to a fancy spot if I need to, except I can't usually afford them. Me and him would typically hang out in one of those pizza joints that only does take away and barely has one table, or grab a burger somewhere.
Friend: Na lets go to this hotel cafe [NAME].
Needless to say I was a bit intrigued with his choice of location.
He also mentioned that a friend of his who's also in the business, "if we're lucky", may join us. That's when I started to feel like this is a bit weird, since my initial goal was to catch up with my friend and not to discuss a business idea per se.
Fast forward to the day, all [three] of us show up to the hotel, and my friend introduces me to his colleague as his "mentor". I knew right then exactly what this was, but I heard the mentor out. For about 10 seconds.
"So tell me Kareem, are you interested in... business?"
"Are you interested in making money?"
I stopped him right there. Unfortunately my intuition was confirmed, and this was a network marketing pyramid scheme type thing, where you sell products and get commissions, and get money to sign up your friends. It comes with a hefty sign up fee - classic. They want you to travel on your own dime to attend this and that workshop, designed to help you get better at your "business". The sky is the limit! You will get a mentor! Don't give up! Ambitious people only! And so on. You've probably heard of this stuff before.
Unfortunately the reason why I was familiar with this script is because around 10 years ago another contact of mine rings me out of now where and insists to jump on a Skype call to "catch up". I'm just unlucky guys!
The thought of my friend shadowing this mentor to see "how a deal is closed" made me sick.
I have nothing against people who do it, but it's definitely not for me for various reasons.
I wasn't upset at all that my friend brought his mentor, since me and my friend go way back. I just wished that I could've gotten a heads up on what this really is. The mentor left coincidentally 3 mins after I expressed my disinterest, but I appreciate that he picked up our tab of hot drinks, while we stayed back. After that, I've shared with my friend my views on such business models and we moved on. It was all good.
After going back home, weirdly, I was so grateful for that experience. It taught me an important lesson in:
On to the topic of today.
When we first started out, we had a dilemma. We knew that inbound marketing and content creation is the best way to go about building attention, trust, and mutually valuable relationships along the buyer’s journey. But there was a problem that any startup or new division faces.
Our thought process went a bit like this:
"I get it, but how reliable is content like that in the short term, when we have targets to hit? We do not have the luxury of waiting around for the content from marketing to 'kick in', do we?"
Sure, it's a common opinion that cold calling may not be completely dead yet and is still worth squeezing till the last drop. However, just like how getting an email today is a lot less exciting than it was when Gmail was still in its invite-only stages, cold calling success rates aren’t getting any higher.
To paraphrase GaryVee from one of his vlogs, everything [in sales and marketing] works. It’s just a matter of what’s the most effective thing to do most of the time.
We've realized it becomes a challenge when Sales VPs and Directors put all their team's [outreach] eggs in one basket. Commonly, sales reps are often either departmentally divided into outbound and inbound, or simply have targets to simultaneously monitor both. I've worked at companies that supported both models in the past.
I believe it's important to diversify, and to remind ourselves that X amount of work per hour is not the same as X amount of results per hour.
In other words, we always try to optimize for results and not output or tasks completed. It sounds basic, but it's something we often catch ourselves doing when we get stuck into the work, without remembering to step back, analyze, and course correct based on results.
With that, I believe there is a lot of things that can be done that can improve the rate of building a relationship from the get go, regardless of whether it becomes a sale or not. It worked for us, and it worked for our clients to shorten sales cycles.
According to Adam Grant’s bestseller (and one of my favourite books) Give & Take, there are three types of people: givers, takers, and matchers.
From Grant’s research, most people are statistically “matchers” - that is, they are happy to give value as long as they trust that they will get it back. That’s fair enough, as you would agree.
The ones who experiences the most success out of the group though were givers, people who simply got into the habit of giving without necessarily expecting anything in return.
Not only do they develop a positive ripple effect that counterintuitively helps them get a better return, but because they’re dealing with people that are most likely “matchers”, those matchers will be eager to reciprocate in some way shape or form.
For us in sales, it could mean giving you their business when the time is right, making a key recommendation to an industry peer, or at the very least hold you in positive regard.
This is where episodic content comes in to the picture. Rather than creating ad-hoc content or
Imagine creating a content series or show where by you invite your prospects and target accounts to feature on the show and share their knowledge. Wouldn't this be a more natural and welcomed outreach, as opposed to someone caught off guard for a sales conversation?
Don’t forget that the contacts you seek at target accounts are humans too.
What I mean by that is that when you recognize and get attuned (a la Daniel Pink) to their personal ambitions and play to them, you get more cooperation. Depending their position in the company, you can bet they would welcome an opportunity to advance their personal brand on LinkedIn and elsewhere to express their knowledge in a specific topic.
Dale Carnegie in How to win friends and influence people famously said, "You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you."
With that, as outreach is still important, you can get a warm intro to get someone on to your show, and use that as a foot in the door to develop the relationship further.
It makes a huge difference if someone were to call me to talk at me and then try to sell something using their script. Once I push back they jump to the next line in their script that's constructed to rebuttal my answer.
However imagine if someone comes from a brand that I've heard of before through their content. Let's suppose I've admired the work that they do from afar (as most people often do), and understand that it overlaps with my interests. If they were to reach out to me to give me a platform to talk about something I care about and have a measure of experience in, the conversation will go completely different.
Reputation here matters a lot. If I understood that this is a scheme, there is no doubt I would back out and not participate. But if I hear that companies so and so are also participating (social proof), and if I could sense it's genuine, I'm likely to go for it because I love talking to anyone who would listen.
If you want to see how this could work for you, chat to us now or book a call below.