That marginal philosopher (and world champion boxer) Mike Tyson famously said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
This quote really brings home the fact that how you react to adverse situations is the difference between being a champion and getting your butt whooped.
When asked what this quote meant, the man who bit Evander Holyfield’s ear explained what happens to people when their “plan” goes awry:
“Like a rat, they stop in fear and freeze.”
This is a lot like what happens in the world of B2B prospecting. Reps get on the phone and the best laid plans go sideways. But with all the amazing tools reps have at their disposal, how is this still happening?
The Right Tools for the Job
Ten years ago, the biggest issues facing B2B sellers were:
- Getting more Sales opportunities
- Getting more “At-bats”
- Generating more leads
Over the last 8-10 years, we have seen a proliferation of tools and technologies, from sales acceleration to social selling, all designed to solve this problem.
All these tools (the ‘sales stack’ or the ‘toolbox’) are designed to make salespeople more efficient. Far and away the most common use case for these tools is at the front end of the funnel to generate more leads and opportunities. Some solutions bill themselves as Account Based Something. Others promote sales or prospecting training, but most include processes that are difficult to implement and any benefits are short lived.
Despite all that investment, the number one problem facing sales organizations today is (drum roll please): You guessed it…finding more sales opportunities.
In other words, despite all the investment in technology, the number one problem remains the same.
Does that mean the tools aren’t any good? Not at all. In fact, the tools that sales people are given are excellent but sales people don’t know how to use them effectively. As the old saying goes “It’s not the arrows, it’s the Indians.”
I don’t blame the reps here. They get incomplete advice and training, and tools vendors hype their technology to the point where reps may believe that the tool will do their job for them. The best quote to illustrate this concept was from a FRONTLINE sales rep, Chris Duncan, who wrote “With all the tools on the market today, sales people feel like they can do everything without doing anything”.
I am convinced that this same mentality is behind what Tony Hughes calls “the rise of the silent sales floor”.
So what does Iron Mike have to do with all this?
Well, this brings us back the former champ. Just like everyone having a plan until they get punched in the mouth, all this technology is great until you get on the phone and have a conversation (which you will eventually have to do). It is at that exact time that most sales people stop in fear and freeze like a rat…or at best, bumble and fumble like a middle school boy asking a girl out for the first time. Just ask your own executives (who get cold called and emailed all the time) what their experience is like and they will concur.
This is a problem that needs technology AND methodology to solve. You see, prospecting is like diet and exercise. You can’t just buy a piece of equipment and magically shed those pounds. Everyone knows what they need to do to lose weight and get in shape, but knowing what to do isn’t enough:
Doing it, doing it the right way and doing it consistently is the key.
The same goes for prospecting. Merely having the tools clearly hasn’t solved the problem. Here’s what is needed:
- The know-how to maximize the use of the tools
- The human-to-human communication skills
- The ritualization of the process to drive effectiveness
To create a methodology around prospecting, we did an analysis of 1.8 million outreach efforts to understand what to do (when to call, what to say, how often to follow-up etc.) in order to drive the best results. What we found was that knowing what to do wasn’t quite enough to enact lasting results. We had to ensure our team and our clients could handle every situation flawlessly, 100% of the time. So we are talking about execution—we had to tackle the ‘how’.
Train like Goose and Maverick
We decided to train our clients and our own business development team like Top Gun fighter pilots: with simulation. We built a digitized, customizable call simulator where reps practice every scenario like a fighter pilot. The simulator scores them on what they say and how confidently they say it. Once they have practiced enough to achieve the required score, they are ready for prime time. Not only do they know what to do and how to do it, they have the confidence to execute.
Simulator-trained reps don’t freeze because the moment is never too big for them…even if they find themselves in the ring with Iron Mike.
So whether you train your team with a simulator or take another high-quality approach, training your reps on the tools you provide for them is CRITICAL to success. Don’t hand them a hammer and nails and ask them to build a house.
Give them guidance to accompany the tools and set them up for success—not a punch in the face.