Women in Sales Blog

What is the Future of Sales Prospecting?

Posted by Nov 23, 2016 10:44:49 AM Ali Powell


Over the past 6 years I have mastered what I believe to be fairly good, fairly helpful, fairly researched prospecting.

The art of great prospecting across different industries and across different kinds of sales reps differs. Though, there is 1 thing that remains the consistent: the way we as sales reps prospect today (from industry to industry) remains similar.

All prospecting is outbound.

Regardless of if the sales rep found the prospect or the prospect found your company, you (the sales rep) have to reach out to the prospect somehow to connect with them. That in itself is very outbound. It is on the sales rep to connect with the prospect. That process of connecting takes time and effort. You (the sales rep) are the one trying to connect with the prospect regardless of if the prospect knows about your company or not. Regardless of if the prospect sought out your company for your services or not.

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Any new outlet that could potentially be a way for me to connect or get in front of my prospect I have embraced and will continue to embrace!

I will do anything and everything (off the beaten path) to get in front of a prospect that I think based on my research could see potential value in what we help with.

When I first started at HubSpot 6 years ago I did the traditional things a sales rep would do when prospecting. I still do those things and what frustrates me is there are only a handful of outlets that we have added to the traditional mix that a sales rep uses when prospecting.

The normal means of communication when prospecting as a sales rep are:

  • Phone calls

  • Voicemails

  • Emails

  • Direct mail (maybe)

Slowly but surely other outlets of communication have been introduced to sales reps. There are now things like:

Linkedin and Twitter have become a part of any good sales rep’s day when prospecting. I would consider these two the main stream outlets when it comes to “social prospecting.”

Will the way we as sales reps do our job prospecting remain this way for that much longer?

There has to be a better, more helpful way for us sales reps to interact with our prospects. There has to be a better, more helpful way for our prospects to interact with sales reps.

Just as buyers have blocked out our voicemails (no phones at their desks, or the voicemail goes straight to email), just like how our buyers have spam filters for emails from people they don’t know, etc. (I could go on and on).

Even if we the sales reps have potential value we can demonstrate to a company, it is getting harder and harder to get those conversations going in the first place.

These things that I see day to day doing my job prospecting not working make me wonder if a change is coming.

Great sales reps don’t just pick up the phone and dial a number. Great sales reps are the ones who research companies and from that research strongly believe they could potentially help that company they researched. We as sales reps need to all become seen as WAY more helpful. We have to change the stigma of a sales rep from one as salesy to one of helpful.

How will sales prospecting change in the near term and longer term future?

What does 1 year look like from now in the world of sales prospecting?

What about 2–3 years? 5 years? 10 years? 20 years? 50 years?

I am someone who likes to question the way things are done and WHY they are done the way they are done.

I always have questioned things that I do. Why is it done this way? Why is it not done that way? Why? Why? Why?

I am a curious person with questions that I want answers to. I like to think about the future of the world and future of how sales people will do their jobs.

The thing I love and care about in the world of sales is how we can better help our prospects.

I truly enjoy helping people find something that will help them in their job, change the way they do their job for the better.

This is what sales is for me. For me, sales is about helping and always has been about helping.

Sales is helping people who don’t know they are doing something inefficiently or ineffectively find a better way to do that thing they are doing.

Here is where I see a problem and where in that problem, I see an opportunity that I want to solve.

  • Even if you as the sales rep do all the research in the world.

  • Even if you have great triggers and reasons to reach out to a company because you know that you can help based on what you have researched.

  • Even if those reasons are VERY timely.

  • Even if that prospect has come to your site a million times, researched your company…

There are still only so many ways for a sales rep to reach out to a prospect and well, prospect them.

Sales reps put so much effort into prospecting a company and the mapped out people in the account but here is what happens to your outreach…

  • 1/2 the time your email won’t even get through to their inbox.

  • They don’t pick up their phones, or they don’t have a phone at their desk, or the receptionist doesn’t let you through.

  • The prospect doesn’t answer inmails. Or let’s be more precise- the prospect just denies your inmail on linkedin without even reading it.

  • They scan your tweet. But don’t respond.

  • They throw your book out that you send to them in the mail because why are you sending this to them in the first place? They have no clue who you are?

  • They block you.

Even if you are the most helpful person, they do not know that because sales people have a stigma of not being helpful.

The prospect knows you are a sales rep.

And a sales person is not who they want to talk to.

Even if you know something the prospect doesn’t know and have a way to help them, they don’t care because once again, you are a sales rep! Sales reps are not usually seen as helpful.

Or at least that is how the sales reps of the past have made the sales reps of the future seem.

What if the prospect that you have researched doesn’t even know a solution exists to their problem? What if the prospect doesn’t even know they have a problem?

But, you as the sales rep think you know something the prospect doesn’t know. You know that you can help them. If only they would pick up the phone and hear you out. If only the prospect would read your email! You put so much work learning about them to find good reasons you might be able to help them.

I would bet that most decision makers would want to know about products and services that could help them in their role or help their team to do better work.

This is why we have a problem in sales prospecting that is BEGGING to be solved.

From both sides there is a need.

The prospect who cares about learning about new technology and new solutions that could help them in their roles…and…the sales rep who does research and has timely reasons to reach out and believe they can help.

This is where the next generation of sales prospecting comes in.

I don’t know what this looks like completely yet. I just know there has to be a change.

What I do know is this…

Prospecting and the way you get in front of your prospect is changing. It is not working the way it used to. People are blocking sales reps out.

In sales we tend to do things over, and over, and over, and over… even if the results aren’t there. Why? Because that is how sales works.

How will we communicate our message and reasons we as sales people are prospecting a company in the first place?

There has got to be a better way, a better way that prospecting should work for the prospect AND the sales rep. There has to be a middle ground where it is a prospecting process that helps both sides of the table.

Think of a world where it is all about HELPING and not about necessarily SELLING.

Sure the sales prospecting process might end up in a sale. I envision a world of sales where it is about showing how you could help your prospect. Then the prospect decides if they see value. (The important part is that the prospect might not know you exist. They might not be searching for you or doing research on something like you. Or if they are, maybe they didn’t think of you as an option).

Instead of waiting for the prospect to come to YOU, it is about you as the sales rep being seen as a more research driven, more helpful and proactive person who presents solutions to potential problems that they might have based on your research that you have done.

I am not talking with the traditional methods we use now. Don’t even think about prospecting with our traditional tools we have today like email, with phone, with twitter, with linkedin, etc…

It is something that doesn’t exist yet. It is something that we don’t use today but will be helpful to both sides of prospecting equation: helpful to the prospect and helpful for the sales rep in getting through to the prospect.

Thoughts?

I  keep a community that is specific to Women in Sales that you can join here. (Yes, you have to be a woman, who works in ANY sales function, at any kind of company). Join the Slack channel for Women in Sales here.

Topics: future of sales

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