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Break Through The Noise Using “Problem Prospecting”

In today’s episode of the Salesman Podcast, Richard Smith joins us to discuss if it is indeed possible to eradicate all prospecting troubles. Further, we talk about the reasons why salespersons experience troubles, the fear of prospecting, how to get over it, and a whole lot more.

Richard is the Co-Founder and VP of Sales of Refract.AI. He is also the author of the book Problem Prospecting?!: Completely Eradicate Your Prospecting Troubles. 

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Featured on this episode:

Host - Will Barron
Founder of Salesman.org
Guest - Richard Smith
Co-Founder and VP of Sales at Refract

Resources:

Transcript

Will Barron:

Coming up on today’s episode of the Salesman Podcast.

 

Richard Smith:

One of the reasons people have troubles with prospecting and I’ve experienced these myself. I continued to experience these through other people that work on my team. People I don’t work with who share their troubles with me. And it kind of whittles down five main points really. One, for a lot of people, they just don’t know how to get started. I’m sure there’s people that start listen to this podcast right now thinking, yeah I experienced that, but I can get around it. And I experienced that and I can get around that. But actually for so many people they don’t go somewhere to address these…

 

Will Barron:

Hello salesnation. My name is Will Barron and I’m the host of the Salesman Podcast, the world’s most downloaded B2B sales show. In today’s episode, we have the legend is Richard Smith. He is a VP of sales over at Refract. And he is the co-author of the book, Problem Prospecting. And that is exactly what we’re getting into on today’s episode of the show. Where you should learn how to prospect, the fear of prospecting and how to get over it and a whole lot more. So with that said, let’s jump right into it. Richard, welcome to the Salesman Podcast.

 

Richard Smith:

Will, pleasure to be here. As a longtime listener, it was very nice late Christmas present to get an email inviting me to come on. So yeah, really, really excited to be here and chat with you.

 

Can Salespeople Completely Eradicate Their Prospecting Troubles? · [01:35]

 

Will Barron:

I’m excited to have you on and chat with you as well Richard. So today’s episode, we’re going to get into how and I’m somewhat quoting here, how to completely eradicate your prospecting troubles. Now, just to frame up the conversation, because it’s a bold claim and it’s going to get loads of clicks and downloads for sure this episode on a title as that alone. But is it really possible to eliminate all of our prospecting trouble?

 

“For many people, and I find this is a really big problem, they’ve never actually been told how to prospect. And when I say that, I mean specifically what to do, what to say, tactically how to approach prospecting.” – Richard Smith · [02:53] 

 

Richard Smith:

Yes, but it’s not easy. I’m sorry to say. I think what’s important to put some meat around the bones on that answer is one of the reasons people have troubles with prospecting. And I’ve experienced these myself. I continued to experience these through other people who work on my team. People I don’t work with who share their troubles with me. And it kind of whittles down five main points really. One, for a lot of people they just don’t know how to get started. I know that sounds very basic but it’s kind of like they start their working day probably in their spare bedrooms right now. And they know they should be doing it, but they just it’s kind of they’re procrastinating. They don’t know where to begin. For many people, I find this as a real big problem. They’ve never actually been told how to prospect.

 

Richard Smith:

And when I say that, I mean like specifically what to do, what the say, tactically how to approach prospecting. Number three, they don’t make time for it. So many people are guilty of this. They just think, they know it’s that thing that it’s like going to the gym, should do it but too busy. Haven’t got time for it, where do I fit it in my day. Number four, out of the five, they’ve got a fear of it. And maybe we can dive into that. And number five, this is a trouble that is really emphasised by the ever-changing world of sales and digital sales. It’s harder than ever to get the attention of our prospects. And there is the whole world of prospecting and digital selling has made it in some respects easier for salespeople to prospect. In other respects it’s made the whole world a bit noisier and difficult. So anyway all these things are solvable Will, every single one of them. It’s not easy though, but they are all solvable.

 

Why New Salespeople are Struggling to Address Prospecting Troubles in 2021 · [04:02]

 

Will Barron:

I love it when you frame it up like this because when you break it down, we’re not trying to solve world hunger are we. We’re not trying to do an Elon and get people on Mars. Which if that is possible, and there’s at least billions, tens of billions of dollars being thrown at that. These are, I would frame it like this, these are easily solvable for most people right.

 

Richard Smith:

I’m sure there’s people who started listening to this podcast right now thinking, yeah I experienced that, but I can get around it. And I experienced that and I can get around that. But actually for so many people, they don’t go somewhere to address these troubles. I feel for some people, especially if you consider what a lot of people have experienced over the past coming up to 12 months now. Young people just getting a start in sales, SDRs, BDRs is an example, all they’ve ever known is kind of their spare bedroom. They’ve never met their manager in person. They’ve never met their colleagues and they’re expected to every day be on it, create new conversations with their target audience. And they’re experiencing all of those things that I mentioned and they feel a bit isolated and cut off and a little bit lonely. And it’s more difficult than ever for those people to address those troubles even though on the face of it they seem like their things are like, I’ve got it in me to tackle those things.

 

Should Salespeople Come Into The Job With Some Understanding of Prospecting or is it the Organisation’s Mandate to Teach Them How To Prospect? · [05:55]

 

Will Barron:

Sure. Yeah. I’m not belittling, especially when we talk, we’ll talk about fear shortly as well because that’s something that I physically had to know how to break through. And I wish I had a better way, but I just got my head down and like a knuckle dragging idiots just made enough calls, knocked enough doors to knock out myself. There may be a best strategy than that because that was perhaps not advised. But where I want to start with, you mentioned, I think it was point number two there that people are just not taught how to prospect. Now, should this be surprising to us in that there’s so much information online, we put out so much content, there’s this podcast, all your podcasts, the training that we do. Should salespeople, and clearly you hire salespeople as a VP of sales. Should salespeople come to the job knowing how to at least do the gist of this, to have some frameworks of how to prospect? Or is it on an organisation to train them from scratch?

 

Richard Smith:

Ooh that’s a good question. I do think it’s maybe the politician’s answer but it’s a bit of both. I think when I think back to when I started as a, what was essentially an SDL role, it wasn’t called that at the time in sales. The amount of information that I had at my fingertips was actually really limited. And we’re not going back to the doctors here even though I am getting on with it. My access to sales knowledge really was maybe the odd YouTube video here and there. But even YouTube, if you go back 13 years ago, wasn’t what it is today with the depth of content. And podcasts weren’t really a thing. And LinkedIn, which is such an enormous source of information was really nothing more than just a kind of a digital sort of CV network insight at the time.

 

“It’s the difference between learning and doing. I can sit and watch a video about how to lose weight and feel good about myself but whether I actually go and do the diet properly, do the exercises is the other thing.” – Richard Smith · [07:52] 

 

Richard Smith:

And so actually fast forward to 2021, there is so much content for any sales person to essentially learn the ropes. I mean I post every day about various things to do with prospecting or general sales tips. There is so much free content there that I think rewind back five years ago people will be charging access for. And so there’s really no excuse for people not to absorb that content. The difficult thing is, again it’s like the it’s the difference between learning and doing. I can sit and watch a video about how to lose weight and feel good about myself but whether I actually go and do the diet properly, do the exercises is the other thing. And that’s where I think that the company has to come in. They have to help salespeople execute. Salespeople have to want to do it first of all.

 

Richard Smith:

But I do think a lot of companies do let their salespeople down. I think a lot of companies when it comes to prospecting is a little bit like, hey here is a phone, make it happen. And they say, make cold calls, objection handle. But they’re not actually specifically breaking down exactly the steps, the process, the frameworks that salespeople need in order to do those things. So yeah, I think it’s really a bit of both.

 

Will Barron:

So we may be coming out to some of the frameworks and stuff in a second because that’s practical and the audience can take something away from that. But I feel like I love the issue here is just it’s almost an overabundance of people. We clearly sell a training programme over at salesman.org, but really what is, is a curriculum that we’re selling. You could listen to every single podcast that we’ve ever produced and all the podcasts I’ve been on on other people’s shows where I talk about our research with our sales code assessment and the tools that we have. I don’t tend to talk about them so much on this show because I don’t want to kind of like pitch the audience aggressively. But you can listen to all that content and you probably get 90% of the curriculum that we share.

 

“You could know everything but not put it into practise because you’re fearful of prospecting.” – Will Barron · [10:14] 

 

Will Barron:

But the value in our paid training product is the fact that it’s laid out day one, day two, day three, day four. And I feel like when we talk about the fact that there’s so much information out there, a lot of it is just finding where these puzzle pieces are put together. So that could be done with corporate training. It could be done whether you pay for training yourself. There’s books like your book Richard, Problem Prospecting that covers this as well and puts it in a framework. So I don’t think the problem is, or I think you’re being somewhat lazy and you’re not making an effort if you’re saying the problem is you don’t know how to prospect. And clearly there’s data that can come from your internal organisation to refine the prospecting but the general strategy it’s out there. So I don’t want to cover that too much on this episode but fear is something that could hold you back. You could know everything but not put it into practise because you’re fearful of prospecting. So how do we get around this hurdle?

 

How to Address Your Fear of Prospecting · [10:20]

 

Richard Smith:

Yeah. And I think fear when it comes to prospecting is probably most relevant to certain activities when it comes to prospecting than others. And I’ll single out the phone and making cold calls as being probably the thing that most people fear the most when it comes to prospecting. And believe me, I’ve been there. When I was starting in this role in lead generation, here’s what the scene looked like Will. I was part of a small company that was maybe about seven or eight employees. Sat in an office. At times that office was quiet even sometimes deadly silent. And the one person who was expected to get on the phone all day was me. And someone who’d never been trained or coached on what to say or how to say things on a cold call.

 

Richard Smith:

The thought of me picking the phone up and feeling that the entire office was hearing exactly what I was saying and hanging on every word I was saying and hearing my mistakes. And when a call clearly hadn’t gone very well. Feeling that everybody would know that and it was kind of like they were judging me on my performance was terrifying. And what happens? You kind of just, you think of every other thing to do that isn’t picking the phone up. You naturally go hide behind emails or you sort of kid yourself that you’ve made more calls in a day than you actually have.

 

Richard Smith:

And this fear is when I’ve shared this kind of story is like resonates with so many people, people are like that is me. And so it’s first of all, I just want to make the point that it’s real. I understand why people have it. It’s like it goes against all of your human nature that you’ve ever been told as a young kid of like calling strangers.

 

Will Barron:

It’s stranger danger.

 

Richard Smith:

Exactly. It’s like it goes against all of your human morals and inhibitions in some respects. But there was one big thing that I realised that the lesson that I learned which really completely addressed my idea of a fear of cold calling was to just completely remove yourself away from the outcome of the call. And what I mean by this is I think so many companies have got people in who are prospecting at the mindset of you need to make every single conversation, every single connect that you get got to make sure. Do everything possible to meet that, convert a meeting or a demo or whatever that outcome is.

 

“If you just have the mentality of, hey, all I’m doing here is finding people who either want to talk with me or have a problem that I know I can help solve or find people who don’t have a problem that I can help solve and that’s my objective, and I’m totally happy if I find people who I can’t help right now, then everything else just feels easier.” – Richard Smith · [13:32] 

 

Richard Smith:

And you’re going to get far less conversations than voicemails and gatekeepers. You’ve got to make the most of those. And if you don’t get it, it’s like a disaster. And when you have that mindset that finally the decision made the person that you want the call answer the phone and they don’t want to meet with you. It almost feels like you failed. And it kind of strikes that fear. And you want them to go again, to pick the phone up again. But if you just have the mentality of, hey, all I’m doing here is finding people who either want to talk with me more or have a problem that I know I can help solve or find people who don’t have a problem that I can help solve and that’s my objective.

 

Richard Smith:

And I’m totally happy if I find people who I can’t help right now. Then everything else just felt easier. It was like every conversation I had. I didn’t have any fear anymore. I was just like, hey, all I’m doing here is just trying to find relatively small number of people that I can actually help. And yes, knowing the structure and the frameworks, that all contributed to me feeling more confident. But simply just detaching myself from this kind of pressure of I need to make sure every person on the phone has the best possible chance of converting and we’re meeting. I just deleted that from my whole mindset and the fear just kind of dissolved away.

 

Will Barron:

I know from my perspective, I’m regressing as you’re saying this Richard. My first day in the first medical device sales job I had, the first task was here’s your laptop. Here’s access to the CRM, I want you to book some meetings. And then he was my favourite sales manager of all time. I sometimes ponder where all these individuals I’ve not spoke to in like 10 years have gone. In fact that’ll be an interesting podcast episode to see if before I was a complete dick or before I was all right as a salesperson when I got started. His name’s Steve, I might do that as a future episode. He literally sat behind me. So we’re all sat, it’s like almost like a classroom we’re in. I’m sat forward, he sat behind me. And I’m sat there going, crap I’ve got like 10 minutes to get on the phone call now and book a meeting with one of these surgeons.

 

Will Barron:

I’ve never spoken to a surgeon before in the whole of my life. In hindsight, it was a dead easy task because the company I worked for, all surgeons loved them because of the market leaders. And so you ring any of them up and they’re desperate for you to come in because they want to get some free toys or get some demo equipment off you. They’re always trying to grab something from you. So in hindsight, kind of 15 minutes after the first conversation, I was like this is it, this is easy this. But I sat there and I was so, I was literally, there was literally sweat just rolling off my palms. And then as I said, I made that first phone call. I was like, oh, okay, we’ll come and see you on Wednesday, that’s fantastic. And then the next one, next one, next one. And it wasn’t an issue.

 

“I was very conscious that if I got rejected in sales, I wanted to programme myself that that wasn’t a reflection on me as an individual.” – Will Barron · [16:10] 

 

Will Barron:

But two things I did from that, or three things. Two books and then one thing that I really focused on. The thing I focused on to get started was this, I tried to separate my personal self of wheelbarrowing outside of sales and wheelbarrowing in sales. So I was very conscious that if I got rejected in sales, I wanted to programme myself that that wasn’t a reflection on me as an individual. That person who they pick up the phone the wrong time, the dog’s just been run over, who knows what’s just happened and they slam the phone down. Or they’re rude to you or you can’t get past a gatekeeper. And you’ve done everything that you should do and you can’t get through to the person you’re trying to communicate with, it doesn’t make you a bad person.

 

Will Barron:

It’s just something I learned early on to split those two. But then I read the book, how to feel, how to, something about fear and do it anyway, Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway. I’ll link it in the show notes. That was a great book. I think it’s basically cognitive behavioural therapy that it runs through. And then the other one, and you might laugh at this because I laughed at it at the time. I don’t know if this was a placebo effect or what, but it seemed to work. I don’t think I’ve ever shared this on the podcast before because it’s so ridiculous. Paul McKenna is a hypnotist and he has a book called Instant Confidence. And I would listen, I must have finished the book. It wasn’t very long, but I listened to his CD on confidence.

 

Practical Coping Mechanisms Salespeople Can Use To Overcome Their Fear of Prospecting · [17:10] 

 

Will Barron:

And I don’t know whether it was because it was so boring or whether I was actually being hypnotised but I would literally drop off and then I’d wake up towards the end of the 20 minutes CD and go, oh, okay. And again, I don’t know if it actually works. I don’t know if it, he [inaudible [00:17:26] a great guest for the show. I’ll think about that as well. But I don’t know whether it works or it’s just placebo effect. But I found that in the first few months in that first sales role as I was trying to get over these fears of prospecting, I thought that really helped me.

 

Richard Smith:

Yeah and I think everybody has their own methods and mechanisms for this type of thing. People have even things like just background music whilst they’re prospecting can just kind of mask that deathly silence. Some people just can be when they’re with that kind of herd mentality, obviously that’s difficult to do right now for obvious reasons. One of my colleagues kind of said whenever he has these things in his head about, oh, this prospect has a scary LinkedIn profile pic. Should I call them? He kind of says reminds himself but there’s actually people in the NHS and on the front line right now who are actually having pretty scary jobs right now. And calling this person just to see if they’ve got a problem he can now fix is just insignificant. So yeah, everyone’s got these little quirks and coping mechanisms that they have to help them overcome this. And it is a big problem. I think it’s for me one of the single biggest problems that generates inaction and ultimately generates more fear and ultimately failure in sales. So yeah, so it’s a really big topic.

 

Will Barron:

I think you’ve, you’ve touched on something really important here. So regular listeners will know, you probably know as well Richard, my partner is a elderly medicine doctor in the NHS her in the UK, she’s a geriatrician. And I say this regularly on the show, I’ll come and be like, ah, I can’t believe this deal fell through. Or this guest was a bit of a pain, I had to like wrangle them to get them to back on topic. And she’ll just turn around and she’s not taking the piss, she’s not being untoward of it. And she’ll say, “Oh, my day was all right. I had to ring this family and tell them this bad news. I had to sort out this. There was a cardiac arrest and a crash cart needs up.” And the person’s head and negating or like manning the whole operations to keep this person alive. And I go, I’m an idiot. Why am I stressing about all these things? But we all get in our own heads a little bit don’t we?

 

Richard Smith:

A hundred percent. And that’s a very real pertinent example. And it’s not to say that fear in sales and prospecting is a irrational. As I said, it’s a real thing. It’s just sometimes you just have to widen your perspectives.

 

Why Don’t We Spend More Time Prospecting Even Though We Know It’s Important? · [20:05]

 

Will Barron:

For sure. Okay, so we’ve covered, we touched on there’s enough training out there that you can go and pick it up, your book included. We’ve touched on the fear and we both gave some anecdotes here and some potential solutions. Let’s touch on this elements of time now because I find this fascinating that it’s because it’s common sense. If you’ve got a sales funnel and you want to get deals at the end and your job is based around customer success and other things as well. But for most B2B sales people, it’s closing deals. Why don’t we spend more time prospecting to get the front of it? Clearly it’s the most, everyone likes closing deals and talking with your customers in the middle of the sales process. Some of it is common sense of why we’re not doing it. But it also should be massively common sense that from nine till one every single day we should be doing pretty much nothing but prospecting. And obviously those numbers can vary, but why don’t we spend more time prospecting Richard?

 

Richard Smith:

I think part of the time we get too busy. Sometimes, I’ll speak for myself here, I wish life was straightforward where you say, hey, every morning, every morning without fail is left for prospecting. And in the afternoon is where I’ll do everything else. Life doesn’t always pan out that way.

 

Will Barron:

Why can’t it be that way though? Just to push back on your slightly. In a B2B, clearly it’s different for working from home. We’ve got other things we need to be doing, fine. But if we walk into an office, especially inside sales, why can’t we just block off our calendar? And when people come to dump crap on our table, we tell them to get lost for a few hours. I know this, I appreciate it isn’t practical, but why isn’t it practical?

 

“I think the best salespeople that I’ve worked with have been the most disciplined to make use of those time blocks for prospecting.” – Richard Smith · [22:05] 

 

Richard Smith:

Yeah, I think part of it is it’s probably a lack of discipline that people have. I do have some sympathy that things can come up. Like somebody, a prospect wants to call at a certain time and it’s really difficult to move that time and it’s really key in progressing a deal forward. And I think there are extenuating circumstances where things can get in the way. But I think the best salespeople that I’ve worked with have been the most disciplined to make use of those time blocks on. So I was working with this person who had real trouble feeling like they weren’t being productive with their prospecting output. And I asked them to show me what they would do in a working day. And even use that same day as a perfect example.

 

Richard Smith:

They loaded that calendar. They showed me they had this two hour block between [9:30] and [11:30] labelled prospecting. And I said, “Okay, great. You’ve made time in your calendar. You’re one step ahead. A lot of people that I actually see here. That you’ve actually made a concerted effort to block that time. So talk me through what you achieve in that two hours.” And they said, “Oh, well, that was the frustrating thing. I didn’t really get started until about [10:00] AM. And then I had to find him, I wanted the contact and that took me another half an hour. Then I was doing a little bit of research and I probably only really started to contact people about 11 o’clock. And so I only…” they were actually sending out video emails, video prospecting emails. He said, “I probably only sent out like six and overall.” I kind of said, “Well, so you essentially did about 20 minutes worth of prospecting in that two hour block?” And they were like, “Yeah.”

 

“People kid themselves that all of the stuff that leads up to actually doing the activity is prospecting when actually most of it is preparation, diddering, procrastinating, not being focused.” – Richard Smith · [23:19]

 

Richard Smith:

And I think people sometimes kid themselves, people kid themselves that all of the stuff that leads up to actually doing the activity is prospecting when actually most of it is preparation, diddering, procrastinating, not being focused. And when you actually break it down and say okay, so imagine if you came into that two hour block with everything prepared, with no other distractions and literally from [9:30] you just did actual activity. What I mean by that is you were making engagement with your prospects or attempted engagements, how many attempted engagements do you think you could make? And when you worked it out let’s just say five minutes, generously per contact. Suddenly and then you’re like, okay, so you could do let’s just say in that two hour block, you could easily do 50 contacts. And much if you then you multiply that by five each day of the week, it’s 250 attempts.

 

Richard Smith:

Imagine if you multiply that by four for each week of the month, it’s a thousand. And I kind of said, “What do you think you could achieve if you made a thousand attempted engagements with prospects every single month?” And they were like, “I think I would blow things out at the border.” And it’s not until I had actually broken it down into what are you actually doing today? In their head they thought, oh, I’ve got this two hour block on my calendar. It kind of feels good, I’ve made time. But actually they weren’t making that time productive. But actually when they thought about it, if they could make that time productive, when you actually do the maths of your prospecting, suddenly it’s actually easy. Two hours a day could count out to be to a lot. It’s like a snowball effect. But sometimes people just need that realisation as to what they’re actually doing in those blocks.

 

How Much of Prospecting in B2B Sales Comes Down to Numbers? ·[25:11]

 

Will Barron:

I want to wrap up the show by talking about again attention because clearly this is incredibly important for us at the moment. But just on this point Richard, how much of prospecting in B2B sales is just down to the numbers? We strip all the nonsense, the fear, the irrational fear, the rational fear, everything from it, how much of it comes down to just doing the numbers everyday?

 

“There’s more noise than ever when it comes to prospecting that salespeople have to be exceptional about engaging with their prospects. They have to be of high quality to get the responses that they’re looking for.” – Richard Smith · [26:15]

 

Richard Smith:

A big part of it. And I’m someone who will speak louder than most about the quality of what you actually do. But I’ve seen it like time and time again in my career, the people who are you can get by in prospecting by being okay at what you do but with just having high activity and high consistency. If you are great at what you do with high activity and high consistency, you have exceptional results. It’s too often I see people they kind of feel like they need to do little bits and bobs here and there and they never get the desired results. That being said, and I do think in the world that we live in a day, because there’s more noise than ever when it comes to prospecting, salespeople have to be exceptional about engaging with their prospects.

 

“Activity drives success but ultimately consistency is the big thing. Unless you’re consistent, you’re only ever going to get very mediocre results.” – Richard Smith · [27:06] 

 

Richard Smith:

They have to be of high quality to get the responses that they’re looking for. And I’ve often challenged a lot of people to say, hey, I can guarantee I can get more responses from sending 10 highly considered, highly personalised, highly relevant emails to… I can guarantee I’ll get more positive responses than if you were to blast this generic email to 500 people. I can guarantee it almost every single time. And it probably will take marginally maybe it might take a little bit more time, but I’ll get more pay backs. So yeah, I do think people have to… I think it would be laying out to ourselves if we said that it’s not really about the volume anymore because I do think activity drives success but it’s ultimately it’s consistency is the big thing. Unless you’re consistent, you’re only ever going to get very mediocre results. Even if you could have one day where you’ve got high output, if you don’t have high output the next four days, you’re never going to get the the predictable results that everyone’s looking for.

 

Will Barron:

Sure. I love this, breaking it down into these three sections. I’ve never had anyone describe it like this of quality of engagement, the quantity of the engagement and then the consistency. So I know myself wherever I’m prospecting for ad space or the podcast or we shouldn’t really do so much anymore because we just get so much inbound inquiries on it. Or if I’m doing outbound for which is becoming more and more a part of our business, to do more outbound for our corporate sales training. I know that the quality of one point out is great. And clearly I’ve got the robe of being I’m a personal brand and an audience and stuff like that. So some of this is somewhat skewed. The quality is great. The quantity when I put my mind to it and actually make an effort is great. My issue, and this may be same for other people as well is consistency.

 

Richard Shares His Thoughts on Which One is More Important During Prospecting: Quality, Quantity, or Consistency? · [28:14] 

 

Will Barron:

So I will do X, I’ll time block it in my diary, I’ll do prospecting for so many hours. I’ll break it down into, as you described, so many individuals or so many contact points or so many calls, whatever we’re aiming towards. But that will only do for three weeks because I’ll let the pipeline. And I appreciate, I mean a different case scenario to other salespeople listening to this because I set my own goals. So maybe I need a coach to push some of this harder. But the prospecting we do it can be hit or miss and it’s because of consistency, even though the over two are perfect. So out of those three, I know this is difficult to objectify, which is most important. If you could have a rep that naturally did one of them and you were going to teach them or train them on the other two, which rep would you rather have on board? The best writer, attention getter, the best and who can just slog it out the longest or the most consistent sales rep?

 

“Too often there’s this kind of talk of prospecting about the quality and the quantity levers that you have to pull, but rarely do we talk about the consistency. And that’s the thing that drives long-term sustainable results.” – Richard Smith · [29:57]

 

Richard Smith:

Wow, that is one hell of a tough question. I would go for the consistency just because I think it’s like anything in life, consistency pays off in so many disciplines. And even if you were to do a little bit at an okay level but do that every single day without fail, you will still achieve more than the people who are great but don’t do very much. Or the people who do loads and aren’t very good. Like you’re just over the long run. And this is all about long-term results in sales. How we grow, how we develop. It’s about consistency. And yeah, I think it’s a really interesting dynamic, a topic of conversation because too often there’s this kind of talk of prospecting about the quality and the quantity levers that you have to pull. But rarely do we talk about the consistency. And that’s the thing that drives long-term sustainable results.

 

Will Barron:

For sure. One of our 20, I’m not trying to make out themselves massively self-aware here. It’s only from trying and failing that this has come to light as opposed to kind of any light bulb moments. But one of our goals over at salesmen.org in 2021 is I think it’s from the book, Good to Great. I think it’s James Collins. He talks about this 20 mile march of great companies. They don’t sprint. They start a project and they do 20 miles then they go home for the day. They do 20 miles, they go home for the day. And they do this over 10 years and then they become great. There’s very few companies that sprint for 50 miles a day and then five miles a day then a hundred miles a day then seven miles a day and really get anywhere over the long-term. Those sprints tend to burn out both culturally in larger organisations and a massive staff turnover and other things as well.

 

How Can Salespeople Break Through The Noise in 2021? · [31:21]

 

Will Barron:

So as I said, I’m not trying to make out that massively self aware but I know it’s an issue that I’ve had with prospecting in the past, this consistency and this mentality of 20 mile march, 20 mile march, 20 mile march. If you’re fresh and you’ve got loads of energy, I still end at the end of the 20 miles so I’m fresh in the morning because that’s when I’m focusing on. Okay, so we’re running out of time here Richard. I want to really get into this. You’ve alluded to some of this perhaps with video calling or video messaging. How can we break through the noise in this 2021? Everyone’s working from home, there’s shenanigans going on. That’s less so in the UK but in the US and everywhere else, there’s all kinds of things politically. COVID’s here, there’s new strains all kinds of nonsense going on. How do we break through all of this? Not just sales noise, but even just the noise of the media as well?

 

Richard Smith:

Yeah, that’s a great question. I’ve talked about personalised and relevance, two words I’ve used in this podcast so far. And sadly Will, as someone who gets prospected by salespeople, I still don’t get very much myself. And I feel like even though this message has been hammered home so much by so many people for so much length of time, I still am over the course of a year getting a handful of approaches from salespeople which I would describe as personalised and relevant. And it’s tough because the more that you don’t get that, the more difficult it is to grab the attention of someone like myself because you just assume, you start to assume the stuff that’s coming in your inbox next is just not going to be either of those things. And it does punish in some respects the good salespeople out there.

 

Richard Describes a Recent Encounter Where a Recruiting Agent Impressed Him During a Sales Call · [32:50]

 

Will Barron:

So what do we do? Let’s get practical. What do we need to do to get your attention? Or you can share examples or kind of talk about it more loosely and anecdotally if you like, but who has got your attention recently? And what did they do?

 

Richard Smith:

One of the people who got my attention recently was someone who actually called me up. It sounds crazy, but they called me on my mobile and let people, I say this a lot, this kind of myth that people are being inundated with cold calls every day. It’s just a myth. I’ve received some, I could probably count on one hand the amount of cold calls I received in the entirety of last year. And this one person called and basically at the time it was actually they get a bad name but it was someone, it was a recruiter. It was somebody who was like noticed online that the team was growing and therefore it was a relevant contact. They didn’t just kind of sound like every other recruiter. When the call started, they actually just got me into a conversation and referenced something about the company and some of the changes that they’ve just, simply stuff that was readily available if you spend literally five minutes on LinkedIn, you could find it out.

 

“There’s no excuse for people not to make that contact personalised and relevant.” – Richard Smith · [34:55] 

 

Richard Smith:

So first of all, it was just using the phone which is just a method of contact that seemingly people just don’t make use of. And here is the evidence. I’m saying I got called five times last year. Compare that to the amount of emails or LinkedIn messages I got, there’s just it’s a different planet. Secondly, just invest that literally tiny bit of time doing some sort of research. What can you find about me? What have I posted about on LinkedIn? What’s happening with my company right now? Who are the latest people who have joined the sales team at Refract? There’s tonnes of content out there. I’m on podcasts, webinars, reference something that I talk about. There’s kind of no excuse for people not to make that contact personalised and relevant. But also just make sure that you’re using every tool available to you. I’m a big proponent right now of LinkedIn voice notes. I’ve received again, a handful of these over the last year. Every single one I’ve listened to.

 

Why Most People Feel Obligated to Listen To or Watch Video Messages on LinkedIn · [35:21]

 

Will Barron:

Yep. I feel guilty if I don’t listen to them. And that might change if they’re used more and more often. But I don’t feel guilty ignoring a text message, whether it’s an email or a LinkedIn message. For whatever reason, whether it’s societal pressure is being laid on top of me, I do feel guilty not watching or replying to a video message or not watching or listening and replying to a voice message. Is your experience similar?

 

“So much of prospecting is building intrigue, it’s building curiosity. It’s getting someone to want to read out, read more, or to find out more.” – Richard Smith · [35:55] 

 

Richard Smith:

It’s exactly the same. I think it’s intriguing. It’s new, it’s stuff that you’re not used to. So much of prospecting is, is building intrigue, it’s building curiosity. It’s getting someone to want to read out, read more or to find out more. But right now, again, I’ll say it like you made a good point. Maybe when these things get overused then that might change. We’re a long, long way away from those things being overused. Like again, the volume of video messages and voice messages I got last year was tiny compared to emails and LinkedIn actual text-based messages. So make hay while the sun shines. Embrace these methods of conduct that your competitors aren’t using or people in your field aren’t using because there will be another method that will come along once those things get overused, it will happen. So just make use of it. And don’t forget the phone which is under utilised in my opinion.

 

Will Barron:

For sure. I think Gary Vaynerchuk said it in that he said marketers ruin everything. And what he meant by that was when he first started his organisation or when he started working in marketing, in his dad’s business this wine company, he would just email people and he would get like a hundred percent open rates because everyone would open an email. Because email typically was just your friends and your family. This is kind of like 20 years ago. So if marketers ruin everything, so marketers spammed email and ruined that, reduced the effectiveness of that massively. The issue is, sales typically comes in after marketing have ruined it and they try and do it themselves at a less sophisticated level. And so they have even less effectiveness. But what LinkedIn is offering us that kind of traditional marketing and direct marketing hasn’t is that a marketer they can’t do individualised voice messages to 20,000 people on LinkedIn.

 

Is it Fair to Say That Salespeople Should be Focusing on the Complete Opposite of What Marketers are Doing and Leverage the Things That Can’t be Automated? · [38:28]

 

Will Barron:

It just doesn’t exist. LinkedIn doesn’t want the spam on the platform because it’s closed, they can control that. And also it’ll be very difficult to scale the messages. So use it as an opportunity. I always say this. Tell me if you agree, I would say this is an opportunity for salespeople to break through all the noise that marketing is making by we should just juxtapose what they’re doing with what we can do. They can do with large scale branding efforts. We can’t do that as salespeople very effectively. But we can go so in-depth and go into such detail with our potential customers that they can’t compete with us on that perspective. Clearly the ideal is this silo that we’re all working in, this happy kind of place that I’ve not seen any organisation really pull off just quite yet. But yeah, am I right in saying that we should be doing almost the opposite of what marketing is doing and just doubling down on the things that can’t be automated just yet?

 

Richard Smith:

Yeah, but I’ll maybe offer a different perspective in that I’m seeing some of the best salespeople are becoming the best marketers. They’re people who can attract awareness to themselves online. They know that in order to master the messaging that’s going to grab their prospect’s attention it’s probably very different to what their marketing team are chucking out. And marketing teams can actually start to learn from the sales reps.

 

Richard Smith:

And one of the big things that we do at Refract is we get our marketing team to actually listen to sales calls, listen to what the actual, specific words and phrases that are being used by our prospects. Because it’s very different to how if you go on most companies websites that describe their customer’s problems, it’s probably very different to what their prospects are moaning about over the dinner table on an evening with their partner. So yeah, I think there’s definitely a place for both but I actually think they should just learn off each other. And I think you’ll actually see more and more salespeople over time actually become moving to marketing or maybe just perform this kind of dual role because they’re essentially becoming masters of creating awareness and bringing prospects inbound which is really what marketing’s all about.

 

Parting Thoughts: Richard Talks About His Book “Problem Prospecting” ·[40:05]

 

Will Barron:

For sure. And I always use this word. So when a sales person can do that, they become almost, not quite, but almost unsackable because you are such a viable research as an advocate for the brand. And you just happened to be working in a sales role that you should be negotiating. You might not like this as a VP of sales, but you should be negotiating up your salary. You should be positioning yourself as not just another sales person but like a lead generation mini company. And I think there’s tremendous value in that. I know you talk about personal brand in the book Problem Prospecting, so we’ll wrap up there Richard. Tell us a little bit about the book and where we can find it.

 

Richard Smith:

Yeah. So Problem Prospecting was a project that we, myself and two of my colleagues, Mark and Stu and embarked upon last year after the success of running some virtual boot camps, essentially glorified webinars that we did for salespeople when lockdown hit. Where we just thought, hey, let’s do something good for the community and let’s just open up all of our tips, tricks and things that we found as well for us when it comes to prospecting over the years. And we were pretty staggered by the volume of salespeople who signed up to these things. Like week after week we had like hundreds of people coming along. And we suddenly had the crazy idea to say, hey, why don’t we actually do something about this and actually turn it into a book. At the time I was like, what? Only really famous successful people write books. But it’s actually never been easier to get a book published these days. But that’s not to say that it was easy, lots of evenings, lots of weekends on Zoom together writing, editing, changing, changing stuff.

 

Richard Smith:

It was a labour of love. But what we wanted to do Will was create a book that was a little bit different to maybe other sales books that you find out there. Which I almost, we wanted it to be seen as like the little handbook. Like the little handbook that as a sales person who is prospecting that you could just have almost by your side when you’re starting your work in there. That if you need some quick inspiration when it comes to cold calling or building a brand online or voice messages, you can just flick to chapter 40 and just quickly learn the players, learn the frameworks and actually put it into practise. We wanted it to be totally practical. And thankfully that’s the feedback that we’ve got from people is exactly that. People have said it’s been… They’ve been able to literally read a chapter, put the stuff into practise and had a good result afterwards which is exactly what we were hoping to achieve.

 

Richard Smith:

You can buy Problem Prospecting on Amazon paperback and Kindle copies are on there. The week that we launched which was in November, we were listed as a number one bestseller in a couple of sales categories, which we were totally staggered by when you saw some of the books that were surrounding us. And I think we’re still kind of up in the top 10 in some categories. So we’ve just been blown away by how many people have bought the book and how well it’s been received. But yeah, Problem Prospecting and yeah, it’s been written by myself but also my two colleagues, Mark and Stu who I work with.

 

Will Barron:

Well congratulations on the book and on all the success of it so far. We’ll link to the book in the show notes for this episode over at salesman.org. And with that Richard, I want to tank you again for your time, your insights on this. I think we only got through like half of the points that we kind of had outlined to talk about the top of the show. So it just shows the depth of your knowledge. So I appreciate that mate. And with that I want to thank you again for joining us on the Salesman Podcast.

 

Richard Smith:

Pleasure Will. Thanks for having me.

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