A Modern Approach to Sales Automation

The hot tool of 2017 was definitely sales automation.  The idea was simple, if you looked at successful sales people in the era prior to sales automation, they had “hustle”. They would diligently follow up with prospects, often ten times or more.  They would check if the prospect had received their email if they had not heard from them.  They would be in touch with hundred of potential buyers at once, each going through a steady cadence until they ultimately relented and took a meeting.


It was effective.  It was effective because it was rare and it was human.


When a buyer received that “hey did you get my email” message, they felt empathy for the sender.  Clearly it was a person sending the communication.  Not wanting to be rude, impressed by the persistence, and envious of the rare level of hustle on display, the buyer ultimately said yes.


But that was BEFORE sales automation.

For Gmail, Outreach, and Salesforce.

Too Much Of A Good Thing


sales automationSeeing this, the technology industry did what it does best, and found ways to systematize and automate the best practices of the top sales reps.  Instead of manually reaching out, it was automated.  Instead of remembering to follow up, sequences were triggered at the push of a button.  Instead of building off of the last outreach, the automated system just faked the look of a forwarded email.


For a brief while, the game worked.  Buyers took a while to learn that it was all automated and the pretense of there being a diligent, persistent sales person was just a sham.  The salesperson was not hustling, the buyer was being hustled.


The Crash


Sometime in 2017 it became clear.  Sales automation wasn’t working.  Response rates to automated outreach crashed as every buyer became acutely aware of the approach, and, as many said, “able to ‘smell’ that email in milliseconds”.  


But what should sales teams do instead?  Quota needs to be hit, quarters need to be made, and there is still something to be said for the underlying idea that you need to work hard, and stay top of mind with a buyer in order to make a deal happen.


Building, not Hustling


The focus needs to be on building rather than hustling:


  • Building one relationship is more valuable than sending 100 outbound “did you get my last email” emails.  
  • Finding a way to help, educate, or challenge a single buyer is more valuable than 100 asks for “a 30 minute meeting”.  
  • Expanding the group of people you know at one organization is more valuable than 100 “can you introduce me to the person in charge of ___” attempts.  
  • Finding common ground with one buyer is more valuable than 100 “I see that you’re the <role> at <company> in <industry>” attempts at personalization.


If your team is still trying to automate “hustle” rather than building real relationships, you are setting yourselves up for failure.  


Sales Automation Today


Many parts of sales can be automated, and in doing so, your sales team can be made significantly more effective.  


Targeting: Knowing the next company to talk to or the set of key buyers you should connect with is something machines are good at.  Automation can help with this.


Research:  Finding key insights on buyers, their companies, and their industries is something that artificial intelligence does better and faster than humans.  Automate this.


Discovery:  Can you discover common ground, mutual acquaintances, or potential introductions?  Is anyone at your company talking to anyone at their company already?  Let automation help discover this for you.


Persistence: You need to stay in touch with buyers over the long term.  Let sales automation assist with this by showing you who is falling through the cracks and helping you find the right reason to reach out. Don’t let sales automation grind out an automated sequence of generic emails and voicemails.


There is plenty that sales automation can and should be doing.  However, the building of relationships is one thing that cannot, and should not, be automated.

For Gmail, Outreach, and Salesforce.
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