On episode 20 of The Insiders podcast, hosts Richard Lane and Simon Hazeldine have a chat with Richard Smith, VP of Sales EMEA for Allego. 

Richard is an experienced sales leader and coach. After funding Refract in 2015, a software company that allows professionals to analyse and improve their sales conversations, he co-authored the book Problem Prospecting?! With Mark Ackers and Stuart Taylor, a practical guide to making effective cold calls, writing compelling sales emails, and gearing up your social selling approach. 

From the truth about the best sales channels to the antidote to call anxiety and how to reframe the reluctance to approach the C Suite, Richard delivered a crash course in modern sales. 

No one channel works for all types of customers 

Richard is a firm believer that some channels for prospecting are more effective than others. However, this largely depends on the prospect, rather than the tool itself. For instance, there’s been a lot of bold proclamations about the death of cold calling, but Richard’s data backs up the opposite view: 

“I still believe that the phone as a channel when it comes to prospecting is alive and well. And I see that in the data and our own team. So, it’s not just my hypothesis, I see this in the pipeline that we create as a business using the phone but I do feel like the route to a successful prospecting strategy is using all these channels that are now available.” 

Richard recalls that, when he started his first sales role, there were only two prospecting channels: cold calls and emails. Today, though, there’s way more choice, and he invites young reps to experiment with all of them: 

“I think there are so many other methods at people’s disposal now to break through the noise. You’ve got, you know, the phone, you’ve got email, you’ve got social, you’ve got direct mail, you’ve got video, you’ve got audio notes, you’ve got text messages. The truth of the matter is: if you just rely on one channel, you’re not going to maximize your potential.” 

Yet, some people never pick up the phone, and others don’t use social media. So, rather than distributing their efforts equally across all channels, for Richard, the key to a winning approach is “making sure that you use the right blend but also, spending more time on the channels that you do have the most success on”. 

Coaching your way to sales excellence 

For Richard, the prejudice against a specific channel comes from reps feeling uncomfortable with using it. The best way to overcome this challenge is to acquire the skillset necessary to manage the channel effectively. 

“Quite frankly, most things don’t work if you’re not that good at them. And call anxiety is a real thing. To build confidence though, you have to give people a structure and a framework to make cold calls. I think as soon as you get a methodology to leverage a structure or a format, then things start to get easier: you’ve got an actual thought process to what you’re doing.” 

For Richard, once this framework is in place, coaching makes the difference between great and average sales teams. Yet, often organisations fall short on this aspect, and Richard has one key suggestion about it: 

“A lot of people feel like what they’re doing is coaching. But that’s not being perceived in the same way by the reps. What salespeople are actually seeing is being interrogated on their deals and the number of calls. What you need instead is a support mechanism, and coaching is a skill that you have to develop, I’m always trying to get better at it myself.” 

Approaching the C Suite 

Most inexperienced sales reps dread calling the C Suite. The task seems too daunting for them, especially at the beginning of their careers. Richard has one final word of advice for them: 

“Typically, they are the people who are most open to speaking on the phone. If you talk about the things they care about, they’re going to hear you out. And secondly, believe it or not, they’re actually the people who are getting prospected less because there’s loads of people who are too scared of contracting.” 

durhamlane has developed a program that enables our reps to prospect, on behalf of our customers, into the C Suite with no prior experience. This is part of our unique methodology called Selling at a Higher Level and feeds into the support structure and coaching schedule our SDRs can count on. Reach out today to understand how we can help you overcome your B2B sales challenges, and to hear more thought leadership in sales and marketing listen to The Insiders podcast. 

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