Thousands of years of buyers and sellers. Before currency. Before travel. Before mass distribution. There were people who needed things they couldn’t produce on their own, and there were salespeople.
The last 100 years have marked the greatest acceleration in sellers’ ability to scale their outreach efforts.
Before 1920, it had to be face-to-face. While you could place ads in newspapers or send something in the mail, the selling happened door-to-door, village-to-village, tribe-to-tribe, during events like “medicine shows”, or going where people congregated to shout it from the street corner.
Manufacturing was accelerating, and the demand for sellers far outweighed the supply. Every newspaper had hundreds of sales jobs listed in the "Want Ads".
Then came the gift of technology - which allowed sellers the ability to get a direct line to more prospects with more efficiency:
And, for the most part, salespeople have ruined them all!
It started with...the TELEPHONE:
No longer did we need to leave the office to connect with prospects. With the phone, sellers who could only visit a few prospects per day could now communicate over wires directly to as many as they could call in a day!
But we ruined it.
Unwanted generic pitches. Metrics and call targets incentivizing quantity over quality. Aggressive tactics. Autodialers. Robocalls.
And the world invested in more technology to prevent it - starting with Dr. Shirley Jackson (pictured) whose inventions led to the creation of caller ID. Then came answering machines & voice mail. Call blocking functions.
It got so bad, the government had to step in and create laws leading to the "National Do Not Call Registry".
Then, we were given the gift of...EMAIL:
We could now deliver a note instantly and directly to the person we are trying to reach, and that person could consume that message at their convenience versus being interrupted by the telephone. Like a hand-written letter, email provided the means to have a written conversation instantly.
But we ruined it.
Unwanted generic emails. Thousands of them, aka - SPAM. Email cadences.
And the world invested more technology to prevent it - junk email boxes. SPAM filters. Email blacklists.
And once again, sellers made it so bad, laws had to be created including regulations like The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 regulating commercial email.
Even better, we were given LINKEDIN:
While social media touched everything, the business & sales profession's prize was LinkedIn. Our targets essentially displayed their resumes, pictures, titles, backgrounds on a platform for the world to see. We could now hyper-target, educate, and build digital relationships directly with the right titles in the right companies.
But we ruined it.
Sales pitches as our profile headlines. Blind, generic “connection requests” followed immediately by a “pitch slap” (I didn’t make that term up, but I love it) - a pitch the second the connection request has been accepted. Auto-generated connection requests - many with inapplicable pitches. Spammy content. Algorithms.
The world is investing in technology to prevent it - we can count on it.
And now, there's....VIDEO:
We’ve been given the gift of internet bandwidth and technology to communicate digitally and instantly in video clips - sent with a small footprint directly to our buyers allowing us to deliver messages in full context versus just words.
I can already see it happening...
We’re starting to ruin it!
Sellers putting together generic videos then spamming them out en masse, trying to trick the viewer into thinking it’s just for them. An executive can filter through an email inbox full of prospecting messages in seconds - but with video, it’s now adding time - and friction! It’s teaching buyers to resist video.
As the old saying goes, one rotten apple spoils the bunch. There’s a small percentage of sellers responsible for the consistent positioning of the sales profession on Gallup’s annual “Most Trusted Professions” list at the bottom.
That small percentage of rotten apples is the cause of the near demise of these great gifts.
How about we go back to...DOOR-TO-DOOR?
While it may have been a comedy, it represented the under-regulated door-to-door sales world. Scams. Aggressive sellers. Swindlers. Techniques and tricks - including those to get ”past housewives and into homes.” (described in The 5 Great Rules of Selling, Percy Whiting, 1947).
Homeowners combatted it by keeping their drapes closed to pretend not to be home, and placed “No Solicitors” signs on their front doors. The government had to get involved, of course, to establish the guideposts due to a group of salespeople taking it too far. And of course, technology continues to be developed to combat door-to-door shenanigans. The Ring Video Doorbell, which is essentially sales prevention technology, was acquired by Amazon for a whopping $1 BILLION to help residents monitor their front door.
But it’s not too late!
Step 1: When you ask yourself, “How can I use technology to scale relationship building?”, take a deep breath, then…
Step 2: Then repeat to yourself,
“To build a one-on-one relationship with someone, I must first be committed to building a one-on-one relationship with them.”
Step 3: Finally, write down on a peace of paper, then post it on your computer monitor:
“The greatest first step to convince a potential prospect or partner that you are genuinely interested in helping them is to be genuinely interested in helping them.”
Use these gifts to be a giver - deliver personalized and valuable information and guidance. In your calls. In your voice mails. In your emails. In your LinkedIn content. In your videos.
Every interaction is an opportunity to build trust, or erode it. Choose wisely.
It's that time of year again...sales kickoff planning season. When thinking about the goals for yours, here's my checklist. These are the four elements that should be equal in priority - and balance!