If you’ve lived long enough, you’ve run into them. They have the answer to every question, can talk your ear off about anything from sports, to gardening to reality TV. When they tell a story, you hang on every word. The Myers-Briggs test would call them ESFPs (Extrovert, Sensing, Feeling, Perception). This is also known as “The Entertainer” personality type.
As a natural introvert who’s had to work at being outgoing, I’ve always admired the natural instincts and no-fear attitude of ESFPs. These individuals are a rare find and usually gravitate towards sales positions where they tend to excel. They’re also masters of the “cold call.” They pick up the phone, find a way to connect to the right person, and use their natural charm and stellar call prep to whip their future customers into a hypnotic trance. After the call ends, the prospect realizes they’ve committed to a deal and are left waiting for a contract to land in their inbox. A contract they will end up signing.
Over the past ten years we’ve seen a decline in cold calling, and unfortunately, an art that takes decades to master has slowly faded away. HubSpot recently wrote about this in this recent blog post.
Part of this is our fault. As technology marketers, we’ve done an excellent job of generating and nurturing leads and moving them through the traditional funnel. We have systems like Marketo, Pardot, HubSpot and Eloqua in place to manage and report on all of this. We’ve successfully encouraged prospects to read our white papers, visit our booths and explore our sites to boost inbound requests. Best of all, we’ve helped train our sales and LDR teams on how follow-up with these prospects.
Much has changed since the days of “Glengarry Glenn Ross,” when a lead was a name and a phone number on an index card. Today, through our marketing efforts, we know a lot about individual prospects and their interactions with our brand. We pass all this intelligence to our sales executives to not only help them guide the conversation, but to eliminate the need for traditional cold calling.
To our sales teams’ credit, they are taking advantage of this and responding to a changing buyer dynamic. Sales pros now know how to have a conversation with content downloaders vs. direct site visitors. They’re starting to get a better handle on lead stages and specific talk tracks. Marketing has helped build a system to create relationships with prospects, and technology sales pros have learned how to convert those relationships into revenue.
We have this great system now for one-to-one interactions, but what does this mean as we turn our focus towards ABM? Account-based marketing (ABM) flips all this upside down. Our old system was built around contact first, account second. But ABM is the opposite; account first, contact second. How will this new model change the sales dynamic and the systems we’ve worked so hard to construct?
I’d argue that the sales approach is going to have to change with the model. One of the main advantages of account-based marketing (ABM) is that you’re identifying accounts who have the propensity to buy from you, but individual contacts from those accounts may not have engaged with you directly. This means your sales team is going to be calling into some of these organizations somewhat blindly. You can do the work to invest in account prioritization tools, contact lists and account nurturing, but if you’re going to have real success with ABM, you’ll eventually need a sales person calling on target accounts that the marketing team was not able to crack.
To have success with ABM, it’s going to require the right kind of sales professionals doing the outreach. This brings us back to the ESFP. If you have a few ESFPs (AKA Entertainers) within your sales organization, make sure they’re following up on your ABM programs. They will be most comfortable with this call approach and will be able to make the most out of your investments.
But what if you don’t have a strong team of ESFPs? As I mentioned above, just like hiring a COBOL programmer to work on a mainframe, finding a true cold call artist can be a real challenge. If your current sales team lacks the skill for ABM “cold” calling, here are a few things the marketing department can do to help.
- Identify and aggressively market your content to target account contacts to pull them into your traditional lead management funnel. You’ve already built a follow-up system around these types of leads, so this can be an easy path towards progress.
- Scrap the scripts. Instead, create a list of common questions sales should ask when cold calling target accounts. One core characteristic of the successful cold caller (outside of charm and perseverance) is preparation. The best sales executives will do this on their own, but you can’t expect it from all of them. Do the work for them and it will improve your results. When creating these questions, think about the buckets your accounts will fall into, including industry, company size, department, and function.
- Use the data and tools at your disposal to prioritize the specific accounts where your sales team should put in the most effort. Rather than calling a thousand accounts once, make sure they’re putting in multiple calls to the accounts that are most likely to close. A TeleNet and Ovation Sales Group study found that it now takes eight attempts to get a cold prospect on the phone. In 2007 it only took three. It’s only going to get harder and harder to connect with prospects, so make sure they put the effort in where it matters.
- If the sales organization is willing, put in a few cold calls yourself. It’s amazing what you’ll learn by just having a few conversations with potential prospects. Not only is this a great way to bond with the sales team, but it’s amazing how much it will help you with your future outbound efforts and content plans.
As we all begin our journey into account-based marketing (ABM), it’s critical that our marketing teams have the right tools and operational resources to make it successful, but let’s not forget the ripple effect that this dramatic change will have across the organization. Without proper preparation and support for sales, our ABM programs will end up being a failed experiment instead of the catalyst that breaks us into new accounts and expands our customer base. Having a few ESFPs on deck doesn’t hurt either.