When I speak to MBA students today, they consider the “BC” era of mankind to mean “Before Computer.” They just can’t imagine how sales was done without email, social media, webinars and LinkedIn. For what it is worth, we did get to the moon and back in the 1960’s which was even prior to the arrival of fax technology and voicemail (all you could do was leave a call back request with whoever answered the phone).
So where am I going with this Neanderthal post? Having started in the BC era of technology, one strategy I followed was to prospect in the morning and call on current accounts in the afternoon. If you did not spend around 50% of your time prospecting, the commission plan became uninteresting very fast. There was no marketing department to assist. New accounts were the only way to really grow your income so it was just an assumed behavior for all outside sales roles. If you did close a large, new account, the commission was your reward plus you became known as a rainmaker back in the office.
Now fast forward to today. Some companies are still looking for rainmakers to grow their business but the “AC” technologies have redefined the rules. When I ask executives what is more important – closing new business or keeping the accounts they already have today – they always respond with keeping the current business.
The new technologies are making prospecting into your current account base a 24×7 penetration activity that cannot be measured. As a result, field reps have become paranoid about losing current business and spend virtually all their energy managing the competitive e-interventions causing confusion with even their best contacts. So, prospecting goes under the bus and growth stagnates.
The solution – embrace the new technologies as the rainmaker role and set it up as a standalone function with the same goals and objectives any rainmaker would have to deliver. Loading prospecting into the sales job description is a BC era tactic today.