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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Does Your B2B Sales Outreach Stink?


I get dozens of emails, phone calls, texts, tweets, PM's, InMail, and every form of communication possible from sales reps each week trying to sell my company "stuff."  The vast majority of it is annoying, redundant, unoriginal, assumptive, gimmicky, and nothing we would be interested in.  This content generally doesn't even explain what they are selling in a way that makes sense, i.e. no value message about what they do, who they work with, and examples of results. 
Recently I received an email with the subject line "You're dead to us." It was just another subject line decoy and the entire email had a mean tone to it questioning why I haven't responded to their emails... it was apparently my "last chance to respond" at this stage.  Another was "Did I make you mad?" The opening line in the email reminds me I haven't responded to their previous emails and now they are going to call me.  Who writes this horrible content?? 
What gimmick-based content writers miss is that it isn't getting "opens" that count, it's engagement, value, substance, and ultimately ROI that count....they miss the point that emails like that aren't drawing prospects in to engage, they are repelling prospects from it. The open numbers are skewed if people look to see what the heck this thing is and then look and think "ugh....(delete.)" 
I presented at a LinkedIn Live event not long ago and I used one of the many poorly constructed InMails I receive via LinkedIn. One person in the audience considered it a success because I read it...I explained that using it as a bad example of what to not do in front of hundreds of people isn't success.
There is a silver lining to this: I get enormous exposure to what people are doing as well as the mindset of the people (and companies) that are doing it.  
I'll tell you exactly why this bad content exists....
It's the same mindset applied to content as is applied to using phone-based lead gen by people that don't have a high opinion of it. It's the same lack of consideration as telling the person that calls to introduce themselves and the next question is "are you the decision maker?" It is being unaware of the negative impact bad content (and ball calls) actually inflict on progressing relationships with prospects.
It's the same mindset applied to content as is applied to using phone-based lead gen by people that don't have a high opinion of it. 
What About Your Current Customers?
Another type of outreach to consider is developing existing customers, which is where a significant level of revenue growth often resides. I have a provider I use (the only reason is it's a hassle to change) that has some sort of trigger that comes up if I am not active on the platform in 45 days. I get an email with the subject "Do you still want to work with us?" In the email, there are 3 options, "a) Yes please run a report, b) Yes but not now, or c) No deactivate my account." It is so lazy it is unbelievable, and a very lame way to manage their customer base with no thought put into it. In my case, they could say "You have worked with us for 10 years, we really appreciate that! We haven't heard from you in a while, just let us know if you have any feedback on what we can do better. Otherwise, we appreciate you and looking forward to seeing you soon."  I would very likely spend more money with them if that was the tone of the communication I got, instead of "should we dump you now?" 
A newer feature added to asking for a meeting is for reps to share a link to their calendar to book something. Shouldn't it be the other way around? You want to meet to present your solution/product and then you want me to do the work to make it happen? It is an unbelievably lazy way to engage and doesn't show they put a lot of value on their prospect. 
What To Consider With Your Outreach
A simple formula to follow with content is outlined below. Especially in enterprise B2B, it's important to leverage those few seconds of the moment you have with your prospects mind to achieve impact by:
  1. Building trust and credibility 
  2. Establishing value in their industry community
  3. Sharing something insightful about their business
  4. Uncovering a situation/challenge they should explore within their environment
While it isn't always practical to cover all those points in every piece, prospects should leave with the experience that your contentwas worth their time to "consume." To really establish yourself as a value source for prospects takes more work, it means you have to spend time to better understand their businesses, their issues, the broken work-arounds they might be doing that you can fix. When you do that, and leave a take-away that made a difference, that is effective outreach.
If you are creating content internally, ask yourself when you tee up any new B2B sales outreach:
  • Are my prospects going to walk away with something they can use now? Is it provable? (stats, etc. post the reference to help them validate)
  • Am I addressing unique challenges and articulating it in a way they will grasp? (Not using internal acronyms many don't know)
  • Have I surfaced situations they might be unaware of or challenged with? Cite examples and sources.
  • Am I exposing an information channel they need to plug into?
  • Are my readers finding this a good use of their time, why? (see above)
  • Have I created a reason to talk with us?
By putting thought into sales outreach the engagement is much more likely, and the numbers you see are real and not inflated by clicks to see what something means. Some content is shorter, some is longer and gives you more real estate to work with messaging...but the important thing is to draw your prospects IN vs. annoy them to a point of avoiding your content. 
I'll look forward to your comments