“But that’s a lot of work!”
I was mentoring a sales rep that was just starting his career as a sales development rep (SDR) at a high flying tech startup.
“Yes, but as I said, doing it this way will save you time in the long run and generate better results.”
He furrowed his brows and shook his head.
“But you do not even know if this will work.”
“As if what you are doing now is working? You came to me for advice because you felt you were not converting any leads and you wanted a better way. So here is a better way.”
“I know, I just thought it would be less stuff to do. This just seems like busywork.”
“No my friend, you got it all wrong then. You first got to do the work before it pays off.”
I cannot tell you how many of these conversations I have had over the past decade. People want to improve their results, they come to me for advice on what to do, I provide advice, and then they reject it because it seems too hard.
People are not looking for better ways of doing work. People want shortcuts and quick fixes.
The appeal of easy is a bias that we all fall for. Just look the diet industry. What is easier, working out at the gym everyday and modifying your diet, or taking a chocolate weight loss shake every day? Another example is reading books. A see many folks announce new year’s resolutions to read a book a week. They barely get past January, because they would rather Netflix and chill than pick up a book.
Over the past two weeks, I have been deliberately introducing topics that question how we do work. The first week I shared that trying hard and doing more of something that does not work makes no sense. Therefore it is important to think critically about what and how we do work so we do not burnout. I followed that up by explaining that we need more than hustle in order to accomplish results. The planning and strategy are just as important as doing and the tactics that we employ.
If you have stripped away the non-useful work and have taken the time to strategize and plan, the next step is execution. This is when the conflict happens. The new way of doing things can often look like as much, if not more work, than the previous way of doing things. This is known in the world of behavioral economics as Status Quo Bias where people generally prefer the current state of affairs over something new.
In the dialogue from above, the SDR had previously used the company’s email prospecting tool to send out hundreds of emails per day. The response rate however was an abysmal 1% and those that did reply hardly converted to meetings. What I was suggesting was abandoning the automated emails and sending 30 to 50 highly personalized emails per day. This is way more work than sending hundreds of pre-canned emails at a click of a button, but the results could be dramatically better, from 10% to 30% response rates.
In another conversation from just prior to the pandemic, someone reached out to ask how I was able to successfully sell in Asia without a prior network. It was the hardest thing I had yet done professionally, but I was able to succeed by creating a content and event strategy that helped to build up my network and credibility in the region. This person smiled, said that was not for him, and never reached out again. I can only suppose the prospect of hard work was a turn off.
I have never been a believer in sales hacks. They work for a short period of time, but quickly lose their novelty and effectiveness. Remember the “were you eaten by an alligator” break up emails? You do not see them these days because those emails do not work. Another common one was calling people using local presence numbers. People got wise and stopped picking up the phone. I remember reading a sales book in pre-release that the author shared with me that included some proven email templates. One read something to the effect of “your CEO said that we should talk”. A week later I received two emails using that exact same template.
I get the pushback though. A lot of the work seems like drudgery at the start. It seems like climbing a mountain, only to reach a peak and realize you have barely made any progress. The work I put into my newsletter and my prospect methods were super painful and laborious at first. Over time however, it became habit. I found ways to become more efficient and effective.
The key to adoption a new way of doing things is batching. These are the core steps to batching work:
Break up large tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks,
Create regularly scheduled time blocks to dedicate to the tasks,
Focus on doing a small amount at first, then build up volume,
Review your work periodically to see what you can optimize.
I started this series of essays by talking about training for a marathon. You do not start by running the entire 26.2 miles! You start by walking a short distance. Then you start jogging. Then you add some mileage. Then you pick up the pace. After several months, you will find yourself running the entire marathon distance, but you got to that goal in small increments.
Success in any field means putting in the time and making the effort. There are no rewards for avoiding work. Every CEO, startup founder, and superstar enterprise sales rep has put in the hours and focused effort to achieve long-term success.
So the only question I have for you is, what’s stopping you now?
Mark Birch, Founder of Enterprise Sales Forum
The Enterprise Sales Forum is a professional community championing the practice of sales through monthly sales talks at chapters globally. Our chapters provide an open, collaborative and diverse environment to share new ideas, network and learn actionable insights for professional sales development.