We’ve seen some amazing and rapid developments in lead generation lately. Many new techniques and strategies have been introduced. Simultaneously, the environment of prospecting has been changing, providing new challenges, like GDPR. At times, it’s hard to keep track of all the new updates. That’s why we talked with RAIN Group President, Mike Schultz, about lead generation market trends.
Mike has made a career of outstanding thought leadership and contributions to strengthening sales teams across the world. The RAIN Group consistently disseminates reliable and accurate data on outbound prospecting. One of the most important surveys in lead gen this past year was the debunking of myths surrounding the outbound prospecting.
As a lead generation outsourcing company, we are inspired by Mike’s work. His insights are valuable for those who want to understand this market better.
Mike Schultz is a best-selling author of Rainmaking Conversations and Insight Selling, Director of the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research, and President of RAIN Group, a global sales training, and performance improvement company. He and RAIN Group have helped hundreds of thousands of salespeople, managers, and professionals in more than 73 countries transform their sales results and unleash their sales potential. Follow Mike on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.
Thank you very much for your time. Tell us a bit about your background. Why are you so passionate about sales and sales training?
It’s a fascinating area. One-sixth of all people working are in some kind of sales role, yet it’s wildly underserved compared to finance, leadership and management, marketing, and a number of other roles in the business world.
It’s also changed more in the last 10 years than it had in the previous 40. What worked for selling just a decade ago isn’t working anymore. So there’s always something interesting and new to learn and teach.
When we apply what we do, and sellers embrace the learning, their careers often skyrocket. We’ve worked with people and companies on the brink of failure, and with changes – not to their product, not to their management or leadership, and not to their structure, but simply in the way they sell – they’ve found tremendous success.
It’s quite fulfilling.
You said that selling process has changed over the past 10 years. So has the lead generation. Let’s talk about its market trends. Can you name the most topical ones in 2018?
When looking at trends in prospecting that everyone needs to pay attention to, I’d say focus on the following two concepts:
1. Buyer expectations about how much energy and customization a seller needs to devote to them in order to break through are increasing. Buyers expect to be impressed! At the same time, because of automation, sellers are taking the lazy way out and spamming or mass-customizing (spamming by another name) buyers in the market.
If you want to succeed, you need to buck the trend and use technology to help you research, then add the human touch to your outreach that says, “I devoted energy to you.”
2. Because the demands on our time are increasing, and daily distraction has increased exponentially in the past 10 years, sellers can’t concentrate and get in the zone on prospecting. Sellers often waste time every day where they could be prospecting. If sellers want to succeed, they have to make time consistently and then focus.
Indeed, they must obsess over time. Learn how to increase the productivity of your sales teams (RAIN Group Training).
Given that your company has helped sales professionals in over five dozen countries, have you been able to identify any trends or sales challenges that are unique to certain nations, cultures, or geographic regions? Or is sales basically the same wherever you go?
The fundamental reasons why buyers buy stay the same. They want or need an outcome, they believe if they buy something it’ll produce that outcome, and they believe that they are selecting the best choice among available options.
How they come to this understanding happens in different ways. There are some cultures where civility and ceremony are more important. How you interact in New York City is different than how you might do it in Tokyo. However, we find that it’s more individual and company culture-dependent than it is country- or region-dependent.
We are supporters of sales specialization. Do you think that existing division to data enrichment, sales development, sales, account management and support is enough? Or can we create a couple of new titles to make job responsibilities even more specialized?
I don’t think you can do this in a vacuum. You have to decide what’s important to accomplish first. This is different from one sales organization to the other. Think of what to achieve, then design the sales roles to achieve it.
What do you think about the automation tools in data enrichment and sales development? Do you think humans can be replaced with AI in the near future?
In some areas, yes. But when it comes to thinking about strategy, problem-solving, and change management, I think it’ll be a long time before the Cylons take over.
Though announced some time ago, the adoption of GDPR has shaken the industry. Your company works in Europe. How did the regulation influence local sales teams?
We’ve worked on GDPR compliance for six months at great expense. It’s a regulation and we’re complying. I think there’s plenty of room to succeed while also following the rules.
I only hope the authorities overseeing GDPR enforce the rules. If they don’t, it’s an unfair advantage to the cheaters.
What should sales team do to tackle the issues caused by GDPR?
B. Jump into the new wild west and try different outreach tactics. Find out what works before you read articles on what works because other people tested and wrote about it, and you’ll be ahead of the curve.
Do you think that similar regulation can be introduced in the US? If yes, what should sales team do?
It can. I think they should do what works until something new is introduce and react to if’s and maybe’s then.
What does the future hold for sales and the selling process – and how will salespeople have to adjust in order to succeed?
Since the term was coined in 1970, consultative selling has been the most widely accepted and pursued sales approach. For the following forty years, advice on how to sell had mostly been a variation on the consultative selling theme.
But as I said earlier, selling has changed more in the last handful of years than it did in the previous forty. It’s changed so much that some respected selling experts and business journals are calling to replace consultative selling altogether – just blow it up and do something completely different. Others claim it’s still relevant today; it just needs to change.
Who’s right? Should we abandon consultative selling? This is a topic for a much larger space.
Let’s talk about other impediments to prospecting success? Can you name the major ones?
Yes, the one that stands out the most is binary: sellers fail the most because they don’t prospect enough, and don’t do it consistently enough if they do.
Sure, they need skills. Sure, they need the right strategy. But success and failure have more to do with insufficient energy and dedication than anything else.
What are the trending prospecting tactics and strategies?
1. Multi-modal outreach, which we call an attraction campaign, is necessary to break through.
2. Technology support for list development and hygiene.
3. Driving and adding value to every touch, being more strategic about value-based outreach.
4. Focusing more on execution; helping sellers get prospecting done. Again, the biggest reason for failure: not doing it.
When a salesperson is finding and contacting qualified prospects, what are some behaviors for him or her to keep in mind?
Target ruthlessly. Start high. Be extremely customized in your approach. Make getting through a campaign, not a one-call or email activity. Finally, in the first call, make sure they get value from talking to you. If you can provide them with an “Aha!” moment by educating them about a new idea or perspective, you’ll start off on the right foot.
Lately, the outreach on social networking websites (Quora, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn) has become popular. What do you think about these methods?
LinkedIn is important for sales prospecting. The others more marketing.
In your opinion what are the most realistic statistics of open and conversion rates in 2018?
We don’t focus on email alone.
What are the most accurate KPIs for researchers, SDRs, and sales managers?
The most accurate KPIs are the ones you track accurately. The most important ones will depend on what you’re trying to achieve.
How can an SDR influence the pipeline?
If they’re good, they can fill it, clean it up/out with a better qualification.
What is the best way of defining the needs of your potential buyer during a discovery call?
Follow RAIN. Build early Rapport, uncover Aspirations and Afflictions, make the Impact case clear, make the case for change clear with a compelling New Reality.
Researchers and SDRs work really hard to set up appointments. How can a sales manager leverage every opportunity and close more deals?
Fifty-eight percent of buyers say meetings with salespeople are not valuable. Sales managers can figure out what, for their own markets,is valuable, and then make sure 100% of their sellers know how to deliver this value on sales calls.
Since you’ve written a book about this topic, could you tell us briefly what sales winners do differently than other salespeople?
Let’s be specific. What we studied for Insight Selling was what winners of major sales do from the buyer’s perspective as compared to second-place finishers. From the buyer’s perspective, sellers:
- Connect the dots between buyer needs and seller solutions, and connect with people as people
- Convince buyers that their overall value is superior
- Collaborate with buyers to achieve said convincing
You’re also an accomplished martial artist. Are there any concepts or approaches that you’ve learned or embraced through your karate or jujitsu instruction that you also apply to sales?
Fudoshin, which translates into “immovable mind,” is one. We’ve heavily studied the concept of top performance in selling. Having what we call a winner’s mindset, including having the resilience to keep getting up when you get knocked down, directly applies.
Another concept is Kuzushi, which translates into “unbalancing.” There’s a trend in selling where if you want something to happen with a buyer, you go on a full frontal assault to get it. Challenge or provoke them, some say, and land your shot right between the eyes. We find that asking questions and providing ideas that can get buyers to simply question their assumptions or see things in a new light is much more powerful. It creates the outcome of being able to influence buyer behavior while at the same time building (and not damaging) the relationship.