Ah, the good old days. Where do I start?
I remember 20 years ago sat next to the CEO at a well-known publishing company. It was my first really grown-up new business role and I was learning from my boss like a sponge.
We produced some pretty beautiful magazines, as we were already a consumer publisher so the contract titles we were making certainly had some coffee table value.
My modus operandi was to send typed letters to Marketing Directors and enclose the most relevant magazine. I stuffed a few hundred envelopes and off they went. My targeting was based upon companies that seemed right for a customer magazine and that was about it.
Off they went with the poor postman and then, well…we wait.
Within a couple of days the replies would start to come in and it was always a tense time. Envelope after envelope, day after day and then you’d hit a good one.
‘Thanks for the copy of xyz magazine’ it would be good to meet up and hear your thoughts on how we could use your services’
Happy days – another meeting was in the bag. Off I’d trot to the far-flung corners of the UK talking to clients, writing proposals and pretty frequently winning business. I supported the mailings with lots of cold calling and it was fairly easy to get hold of people so that worked pretty well too.
My mailing experiences continued to be positive for years (although the format changed to email) and using a conversational style which seemed more human and appropriate I continued to get lots and lots of business through the door for my clients. That lasted until about 2008.
Oh my how things have changed since then.
Zooming forward to the present day I think anyone in sales will tell you the same story. It’s got tougher and tougher to open doors, get hold of people and find the business that you’re looking for.
My belief is that the principle reason is that everything has become so much more commoditised, there are no USPs left and everyone’s charging around looking for the same business.
Looking at it from the prospects’ point of view (which is critical) they are more harassed, the recession has still left teams running leaner but with more to achieve. There are countless channels to satisfy if you’re to do things properly and mainly people blend into sales slurry where very few stick out.
So if you’re going to succeed in sales and developing new business now there are a number of things you need to be achieving.
– Stand out on an emotional and rational level
– A multi-channel approach
– Being realistic about the size of the task
– Having patience knowing that it will take time to build a pipeline from scratch
– Great copywriting skills
– A real empathy for finding the most true and valued elements of your business
So right now there’s a lot to do and it’s an unrecognisable job compared to years gone by.
The future has started and things are on the change once again. There are those that will tell you that the future is about content and automation but I think we need to really pause and think before we accept this lock, stock and barrel.
Content and automation is still entirely dependent upon the quality of the input so you’ll need legions of outstanding writers and new biz experts to make that work.
I believe things are going full circle. We all have to accept that channels will continue to become more fragmented and higher in volumes and automation will become more intuitive and useful. Social will continue to play a greater part and we’ll all have to work harder to find the right data.
But the great thing is that the future will play straight into all of our hands.
Because there is still one factor that is going to come more and more into play and it’s staring you right in the face.
Sales is going to become more and more re-entrenched in the quality of the relationships you can create as a result of the work that you do. I don’t care what channel, what content, what industry or what price the fact is that if you aren’t focused on how you develop high value relationships you are going to sink.
So until Terminators roam the free world my advice is to hunker down, really look at the truest and most valuable human assets within your business and tell your story like a boss. That’s what will open doors.