6 Outdated Sales Techniques Hurting Productivity

outdated sales techniquesHave you ever felt your productivity slipping, despite the fact that you’re putting in the same amount of effort you always have?  Have you ever wondered, “If I’m working as hard as before, why I am accomplishing less?”

If you answered yes to the questions above, your sales process may be out of date. Strategies that worked five years ago just aren’t as effective now—and if you don’t abandon your bad habits, your sales productivity will suffer.

Keep reading for our top six outdated sales techniques, and learn how to remove them from your workflow and boost your day-to-day productivity.

1. Outdated Sales Technique: Overselling the product.

Before the age of the internet, prospects procured information about a product directly from a sales rep. Sales calls in these days were highly involved, complicated, and often very lengthy.  These days, prospects are nearly 60% through the sales cycle before even talking to a sales rep. This means, your prospects are more informed and as a result, they’re less likely to care about your sales pitch.

New Approach: Let the prospect take the lead.

As a sales rep, you can tell relatively quickly how informed your prospect is. As you get a feel for their familiarity with your offering, tailor your sales pitch to their particular questions and concerns.

2. Outdated Sales Technique: Manual administrative work.

Believe it or not, sales reps only spend about a third of their time talking to prospects (source). So what makes up the rest of their day? Other tasks include emailing (21% of their day), data entry (17%), prospecting and researching leads (17%), internal meetings (12%) and scheduling calls (12%) (source). That’s a lot of time spent away from the most important task – selling.

In the past, some of these administrative tasks were an unavoidable annoyance. But with new tools and technologies, manual administrative work is a thing of the past.

New Approach: Embrace Automation.

Sales enablement tools and general task automation can help you cut down on the busywork that distracts you from your main goal. Invest in tools to handle menial tasks, and spend more of your time selling.

Check out The Essential B2B Sales Stack for some sales tech inspiration.

3. Outdated Sales Technique: Spending time on unqualified leads and prospects.

In the past, the only way to qualify a lead was to speak to them directly. This often led to hours of unnecessary conversations and ultimately caused a lot of sales reps to lose valuable selling time.

It’s a familiar feeling – you go through the sales process only to realize the person on the other line isn’t a good fit for your product or service. Unfortunately, this is still a common issue for many modern sales professionals.

But, here’s the good news—just a few simple adjustments can give you better insight into your leads so you can prioritize more qualified buyers.

New Approach: Sales and Marketing Alignment

When sales and marketing departments don’t work toward the same goals, everyone loses. For sales reps specifically, misalignment results in unqualified leads. Consider this – 61% of B2B marketers send all leads directly to sales, but only 27% of those leads are qualified (source).

To achieve sales and marketing alignment, organizations must define the characteristics of a sales qualified lead (SQL). Once a definition is settled on, both teams must work towards generating and following up with more leads that meet these criteria.

Surprisingly, only 8% of businesses say they have good alignment between their sales and marketing departments (source). Yet, sales and marketing alignment won’t just help with lead qualification. It can completely transform your overall sales workflow and lead to long-term revenue gains. Consider these statistics:

  • Companies with strong sales and marketing alignment achieve 20% annual growth rate (source).
  • Companies with poor sales and marketing alignment have a 4% revenue decline (source).
  • Sales and marketing alignment can generate 209% more revenue from marketing (source).
  • When sales and marketing teams work together, companies see 36% higher customer retention and 38% higher sales win rates (source).

We’ve covered sales and marketing alignment extensively in the past, so check out the following posts to learn more:

4. Outdated Sales Technique: The Universal Sales Pitch

We can all picture the cliché sales rep, standing in an elevator, rehearsing a sales pitch under his breath. For decades, this has been one of the most important parts of selling. Sales professionals develop a pitch and perfect their delivery before approaching prospects.

Having one “perfect” pitch may seem like a time-saver. After all, developing a new pitch for every prospect would kill productivity, right?

However, the marketplace has changed in recent years and a single, one-size-fits-all sales pitch is no longer sufficient. Buyers want to build relationships with companies that address their individual needs and concerns. Approach them with the same script you use on everyone else, and you’ll lose their business.

New approach: Prioritize personalization.

Your prospect’s don’t just want a personalized sales pitch, they demand it. They want to know why they, specifically, should buy your product and how it’s going to solve their specific problems. Research confirms this (source):

  • 90% of business professionals agreed that sales outreach personalized to their industry is very important.
  • 83% of business professionals agreed that sales outreach personalized to their specific business problem is very important.
  • 70% of business professionals agreed that sales outreach personalized to their specific role within their company is very important.

The key to personalized sales efforts is prospect research. Luckily, this is a topic we covered recently. Check it out: The Sales Rep’s Guide to Prospect Research.

5. Outdated Sales Technique: Dialing a company’s main phone line.

Traditionally, if a sales rep wanted to speak to a prospect, they’d call a company’s main phone line and rely on a switchboard operator or receptionist to direct their call accordingly. Yet, naturally, the more people you must go through, the less likely you are to reach your intended target.

New Approach: Work with a contact information service to access direct dial phone numbers.

With the proliferation of data and contact information, it’s much easier to secure a prospect’s direct phone line.  And, doing so has proven to be an effective way to increase sales productivity and spend more time selling. Consider these numbers:

  • It takes 22 minutes to connect with a prospect using switchboard numbers, compared to only 5 minutes using direct dials (source).
  • A sales rep using a direct dial is 46 percent more likely to reach prospects at the director level, than a sales rep not using a direct dial (source).
  • A sales rep using a direct dial is 147 percent more likely to reach prospects at the VP level than a sales rep not using a direct dial (source).

We won’t bore you with the math, but if you’re interested in learning more about the use of direct dials, check out this blog post: The Impact of Direct Dials on Sales Productivity.

Use the following tips and tricks to choose the best data provider for your needs:

  • Request a free trial to put each vendor’s contact information to the test.
  • Ask how often each vendor’s database is updated.
  • Determine where each vendor gets their information.
  • Check review websites to get customer feedback on specific vendors.
  • Make sure each vendor has the market segments and territories you’re looking to contact.

Ultimately, choose whichever company has the most accurate contacts within your target audience. For more information about selecting a data provider or prospecting tool, check out the following articles:

6. Outdated Sales Technique: Cold calling

While many have declared cold calling a dead practice, we wouldn’t go that far. After all, it’s the quickest and easiest way to get in touch with potential buyers. But now, there’s a better, more productive alternative to consider.

New Approach: Warm calling.

The problem with cold calling is that it catches people off guard and often irritates them.

As its name suggests, warm calling is the opposite – it means calling a prospect you’ve established a prior connection with.  Warm calling is about beginning the conversation before you pick up the phone. In today’s digital landscape, there are an increasing number of effective methods to do that

By establishing prior contact with a prospect, however brief, you’ve built a certain level of trust with them. Therefore, they are more likely to listen to your pitch and consider making a purchase from your business.

Here are some effective ways to warm call prospects: Warm Calling vs. Cold Calling: A Guide for B2B Sales Reps.

Key Takeaways

Sales professionals will always have their favorite techniques and tactics– the tried-and-true methods that produce results. In some cases, these practices will stand the test of time and continue to be effective. We aren’t saying you have to change everything. As the saying goes, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

However, we do advocate taking a step back to observe how the world of sales has changed. When you’re determined to get more work done, you often forget to look at the big picture. Figure out which outdated sales techniques need reworking or updating, and which ones are best left behind – and you’ll be more productive in the long run.

Sales is always evolving – and, to be successful,  you must evolve with it!

Want to learn more about how to increase your B2B sales productivity? Join us at the 2018 Growth Acceleration Summit, where the industry’s leading experts and influencers will speak on this year’s theme: Sales and marketing productivity.

Growth Acceleration Summit