August 8, 2011

New Sales Theories (and washing machines) Aren’t Necessarily Better

Newer is newer, but not necessarily better. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not all retro. I like new fashion, music, homes, hotel rooms, cars, technology and toys. Direct fuel injection, smartphones, the cloud – all good. I’ll be in line for the iPhone 5 just like many of you. But newer isn’t always better.

Saturday was one of those days where two completely unrelated topics began building bizarre bridges in my brain. The result is this post. I installed my new “old-style” washing machine and I spent a lot of time reading and writing sales content – specifically about prospecting for new business. You’re thinking, Weinberg, you’ve lost it and you’re losing me. I understand.  Allow me to rant for a minute and my madness might begin to make sense…

Five years ago we took the plunge and sprung for a new washer and dryer. These high efficiency front-loader washers were all the rage and we just had to have one. Pretty much, from day one, we hated the thing. It was a piece of crap that felt like a beta test from GE. It broke a few weeks after delivery and we should’ve taken that as a sign. It never seemed to wash the clothes that well. Water would get trapped in the rubber seal and it constantly smelled like mildew. The cycles took forever and a day. Some of you enjoyed my explosion on twitter a few months back when I publicly lost it. The thing would shut down in the middle of a cycle. It wouldn’t spin or drain. I won’t even get into discovering the hidden lint filter that is not mentioned in the manual and was invisible behind a vanity panel secured by four screws…that unmentioned, invisible filter that would clog and cause the motor to overheat and shutdown. I’m still mad about the stupidity of it (as if you couldn’t tell).

My point? Newer isn’t always better. I’ve been seeing first hand the damage done by supposed sales gurus espousing new theories on sales and prospecting. Under-performers who never did like to prospect for new business are struggling mightily these days. Reactive order-taking and responding to inbound leads is not getting it done. But now, today, these failing reps come armed quoting myths and false teachings that claim prospecting and proactive targeting are ineffective for acquiring new accounts. They tell me calling on prospects that aren’t pursuing you doesn’t work. It’s new, it’s nonsense and it’s not helping.

Do you see the connection now? Sometimes new isn’t better. The very salespeople who most need the help putting together a solid, proactive new business development sales attack are the ones most susceptible to these new lies telling them they don’t need to do it.

Newer isn’t always better. It used to take 30 minutes for a complete wash cycle. Old-style washers had dials and manual controls. You could add more clothes at will. They actually used water, that plentiful resource, and agitation to do what they were supposed to do – wash clothes! So why was it considered an improvement to spend 3x more money on a washing machine that takes 2x as long to wash the clothes – and do it less effectively?

There are some timeless truths about new business development sales. We strategically select target markets and then specific prospects that look, smell and feel like our best customers. We create some simple weapons to approach those customers. We view ourselves as problem-solvers and value-creators and then set out to open doors, build relationships, identify issues, pains and opportunities for which we can help these prospects. We plan and execute a very clear, focused attack against this strategically selected list of target prospects. We get more proficient at using our weapons (nurture marketing campaigns, the phone, voicemails, email, social media, video, face to face sales calls, probing questions, presentations, case studies, proposals). And we time-block our calendar to ensure we are doing it over and over and over again.

So I’ll tell you what, you can keep your new theories about prospecting being dead, and keep promoting an over-reliance on inbound marketing, blogging, tweeting and Linkedin-ing as a superior alternative to old-style sales hunting. And you can keep your stupid smelly new washing machine too. From the picture above, you can tell where I stand on the matter. And if anyone is looking for a really nice five year-old GE high efficiency washer with a hidden lint filter, it’s sitting in my garage about to go up on Craigslist.