On April 13, 2017, I attended the #OutBound conference in Atlanta, GA. Remarkably, despite the road destruction in downtown Atlanta, everyone got there on time – about 400 attendees. The event was held at the Hotel Intercontinental in Buckhead and Cirrus Insight did a great job as a sponsor. The coffee was hot and the lunch was great. Thank you.
The entire day was spent talking about prospecting. One of the presenters, Mike Weinberg, summed up the sentiment in the room: “Many in what’s called the Sales 2.0 movement harshly declare that proactive targeting and prospecting for new business is dead. These so-called experts proclaim that cold-calling is ineffective and pursuing prospects that aren’t coming to you is a waste of time. These false pronouncements are having a severe negative impact on sales performance,” he said.
Here is what I learned:
Jeb Blount – From Jeb's bio: "Jeb is the bestselling author of eight books, including "Fanatical Prospecting", and among the world’s most respected thought leaders on sales, leadership, and customer experience. As a sales acceleration specialist he helps sales organizations reach peak performance fast by optimizing talent, leveraging training to cultivate a high-performance sales culture, developing leadership and coaching skills, and applying more effective organizational design." Here are inspiring snippets from Jeb from the conference:
“The pipe is life.”
“Prospecting sets you up for everything else in sales.”
“The more you need a deal the less likely it is to close.”
Prospecting is “systematic, adaptive and relentless.”
“The more you prospect the luckier you get.”
“When it is time to go home make one more call.”
Mike Weinberg – From Mike's bio: “I’m on a mission to simplify sales. The longer I do this the more convinced I am that those who tell us sales is complicated are either confused themselves or using complexity as a smokescreen to hide their lame efforts and poor results. My business is split evenly between speaking and consulting. I travel a ton, and the Southwest Airlines 737 feels like my personal Sales Force One.” Mike is author of two of my favorite books: “New Sales. Simplified.” And “Sales Management. Simplified.” Buy them both. Here are few more quotes from Mike:
“When we prospect it is not what we do, it is what we do for them.”
“We sell outcomes. What are their pains and problems? How do we give them new and better results?”
“No one defaults to prospecting.”
“Time blocking yourself for prospecting is the highest value opportunity.”
“Sales’ biggest mistake: ‘pitching instead of probing.’”
Anthony Iannarino – From Anthony's bio: "Anthony has helped people in a wide variety of industries and markets think through and overcome their biggest business challenges. His greatest strength is in getting others to build consensus around what must change, and identify the resources within themselves that will drive positive results. He is a trust builder focused on leading transformational conversations, those that create and sustain relationships of value. He brings business acumen, situational knowledge, and experience to each engagement, and encourages leaders to stay focused on laying the solid foundation for future growth." Anthony is the author of “The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need." The following summarizes Anthony’s presentation last week:
“Convince the prospect that they can’t get to the outcomes they want without us.”
“Provide insights to make prospects unhappy. What should they change?”
“Elements of becoming a trusted advisor: Value (you are not selling your company or a price, you are selling what needs to be done and how); Care; Proactive in approach; Accountable (you sold it you own it); Insight driven; Future oriented; Strategic.”
“Don’t ask what is keeping them up at night, offer to them what should be keeping them up at night.”
Mark Hunter – From Mark's bio: “After 10+ years of working with companies and salespeople through my consulting work, I felt it was time to write my first book, "High-Profit Selling: Win the Sale Without Compromising on Price", which released in 2012,” he shared with the group. “Now my second book, "High-Profit Prospecting", is available. A key piece of both books is my firm commitment to showing others that by targeting better prospects, it is possible to close more deals at a higher price. With two well-received books and proven sales methodologies, I travel much of the time, typically more than 200 days per year, not only in the United States, but globally as well. I’m able to reach many more companies and salespeople through my video streaming programs." Themes from last week’s presentation:
“Sales is all about one-to-one connections.”
“Spend more time with fewer prospects.”
“Sales is NOT customer service.”
“The two magic words you want to hear from a prospect: ‘Great question.’”
“What is the outcome the prospect is looking for?”
Laura Madison – From Laura's bio: “As a conversion & social selling specialist, I have educated thousands of dealerships, and salespeople on how to get REAL results converting business from the telephone, internet, and social media to the showroom. Over the past six years, I have developed a fierce social media presence rooted in generating sales, and have created an online instructional course on the topic of social selling. I have been featured in major publications including featured by Automotive News, Advertising Age and Edmunds.com for my unique social media marketing and self-promotion efforts.” At the conference, Laura talked mostly about her success with social media:
“Post with a purpose – teach them something.” (An example: “Six steps to a perfect test drive.”)
“Debut something – a new feature, new model.”
“Educate, add value, provide clarity, show ‘how to.’”
“Social media is NOT a popularity contest – vanity metrics don’t count.” (She gave the example of one blog post that had tens of thousands of readers but produced no business, another post had 17 readers and resulted in revenue for her business.)
“Don’t flood your connections and remember that you are making a HUMAN connection.”
Some Additional Take-aways
Jeb Blount made the very interesting point: If you have 30 prospects and a 20% close rate, when you close two deals you should replace 10 prospects – not two. Because there are eight prospects that you are going to lose once you have sold two deals. I must admit that while I didn’t like what he said – he is right and I went home worried.
Mike Weinberg’s workshop offered the most important element of building a compelling story – OUTCOMES (such as pain removed, problems solved, results achieved). For example, right now our website says: “PointClear is 100% focused on proactively reaching out to prospects that fit your ideal profile. Our dedicated, degreed, and seasoned associates follow a super-targeted account-specific marketing plan.” This is too “me” and not enough “you” focused. How could we fix it? Well, I am still working on that but the answer includes focusing on the prospect with phrases such as “helping CEO’s overcome the challenges around hitting forecasts,” “protecting revenue by filling in the gaps in market coverage” and “demonstrating why a solution presented by a competitor might actually waste sales reps time and waste dollars.”
Anthony Iannarino explained The New Buying Cycle: Identify a better future state, build consensus around needs that will move the prospect to a better future state, eliminate price as an element of the evaluation, getting agreement to take the steps necessary to get to the best possible future state.
Mark Hunter summed the day up by saying: “Prospecting is not an activity. It’s a lifestyle.”
Did you attend the session? Do you have insights to add?