The Changing Sales Landscape – The Hunter

The traditional sales “hunter” is in trouble.

That “large Rolodex” is about as dated as the strategy of hiring a well-connected veteran rep to lead the new business charge.

Most b2b purchasing decisions today are made by committee – not by that one key contact. Plus, more tactically, decision makers (and the public) simply don’t pick up their phones anymore.

And voice-mail? Well, a recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) blog post title says it all, “Time to hang up on voicemail!”

Sophisticated auto-dialers, including some that mask caller ID, have basically killed the cold call as a reliable tool for sales people.

Even the venerated PewResearch struggles with response rates for their highly respected surveys:

The growth in the number of unsolicited telephone calls has also resulted in people employing more sophisticated technology for screening their calls (e.g., voice mail, caller identification, call blocking and privacy managers). This has resulted in fewer people participating in telephone polls … response rates have continued to decline over the past decade. (2012. PewResearch)

With the outbound phone call nearly dead, what does a hunter need to do to grab a b2b buyers attention?

LaughingSquid reported a case of a photographer creating action figures of himself and sending them out to prospects to get their attention. This story went viral. As creative as this approach is, doesn’t it smack of desperation? After all, getting in the door, even with an action figure, hardly guarantees you will win the sale.

As a result, smart companies no longer seek veteran sales pros to smile and dial their way to the next big contract.  Instead, they focus on lead generation vehicles like organic and paid search, AdWords, webinars, and email campaigns – mostly all the domain of marketing – to find the next qualified prospect.

And in this brave new world of prospecting, what matters most? Timing.

Again from the HBR,

… leads go cold—a phenomenon we explored in a separate study, which involved 1.25 million sales leads received by 29 B2C and 13 B2B companies in the U.S. Firms that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead (which we defined as having a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker) as those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later— and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.  Oldroyd J., McElheran K. & Elkington D.. “The Short Life of Online Sales Leads.” Harvard Business Review. March 2011.

Consequently, many organizations with an eye to winning new business are investing in sales enablement tools that quickly route leads to the right person. Along the way, these prospects are scored and appended with rich internal and 3rd party intelligence that helps the rep better qualify and ultimately move the sale. This blend of sales and technology is the new frontier. Done well it’s art.

Even when done poorly, it is still better than ‘there are your phone and computer, now go make some sales Tiger!”

Hunters today should:

  • Be adroit with technology. CRM and sales enablement tools are mission critical to winning a new deal.
  • Be quick studies that are good on the phone. A rep who can quickly digest information about the customer and then casually bring it into the conversation will elevate the conversation and gain trust.
  • Be happy being part of a team. Being able to hand off at the right time to the right person keeps the sales process alive. Customer acquisition, once the domain of the lone wolf,  is now a team sport loaded with effective handoffs.

Next time: The Changing Sales Landscape – The Account Rep

References

PewResearch retrieved from: http://www.people-press.org/methodology/collecting-survey-data/the-problem-of-declining-response-rates/

HBR retrieved from http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/09/time-to-hang-up-on-voice-mail/

HBR retrieved from: http://hbr.org/2011/03/the-short-life-of-online-sales-leads/ar/1

Laughing Squid retrieved from: http://laughingsquid.com/photographer-makes-400-action-figures-of-himself-for-clever-self-promotion-mailer/