I was recently asked whether the old ways of selling – bulk emails, cold calls en masse – still work. Well, I’m going to let you in on a little secret… they’ve never worked. Maybe in a transactional or marketing sense, but when it comes to sales, they’ve lacked one thing that customers can’t do without – personalisation.
As leaders, getting the attention and retention of our customers has always involved a more nuanced approach. One that requires us to lead with authenticity first and the human touch, to understand the “why me, why now”. This involves dropping the sales practice of sending an email and hoping it hits at the right time. Instead, it’s about getting to grips with the customer’s problems, business challenges and what your product can do to solve them.
To achieve business growth now, leaders need to start thinking beyond the numbers.
What growing beyond the numbers looks like
This new strategy doesn’t impact our growth plans. In fact, it supports them. We haven’t stopped building to scale, we’re just doing it in a more human-first way.
In a recent Aircall study, the Voice of SMBs 2024, we spoke to 1,400 small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) worldwide and found that more than half of them (54%) said that one of the biggest growth drivers this year would be increasing their connections and relationships with customers. This was actually the top growth-driver in every region. This is indicative of the changing attitudes towards growth and the realisation among leaders of how important customer connections are.
Survey participants provided valuable insights into their growth strategies for the coming year. Of those surveyed, 45% expressed a focus on enhancing customer satisfaction, while 43% emphasised their commitment to increasing revenue. These stats indicate that addressing customer needs and achieving growth targets are not mutually exclusive; rather, they are interconnected goals.
This is what scaling your business in a human way looks like. But how do we go about implementing this new approach with our teams?
The human approach to sales
Let me share a story with you. My daughter hates cheese ravioli. But one day, we went through the effort of making them from scratch. We made the dough, the filling, everything. And she thought they were delicious. Now, trust me, it wasn’t the best ravioli we’ve eaten, but her reaction was due to the fact that she had put so much work, effort and love into them. She was proud of that, and enjoyed them so much more because of it.
And this sense of achievement translates to the workplace. When you put yourself into your work and you're proud of what you're doing, the results are so much more impactful. This is why the human approach matters, not just for our customers, but for our people too. Giving them the green light to have meaningful conversations with individual customers instead of sending mass emails can only be a good thing.
To put this in more tactical terms, let's say we’re evaluating AE prospecting. Most organisations will just look at the number of dials or the number of calls. We need to reward personalisation, and focus on the depth and breadth of work instead. This means focussing on how many accounts they are prospecting into and how deep they are going into these accounts, and then looking at what the conversion rates are on their outreach.
Like any change though, it requires management. But, you shouldn’t need to convince your people. Let’s say, there are two buckets of people. The first are those indviduals who are imaginative, think outside the box, they’re driven, savvy and always looking to innovate within the guidelines. These are the reps that execute to high standards.
The second type are those who want to be told what to do, how to do it and opt to colour inside the lines. These are the reps that are going to struggle with this new, or any, approach that relies on their input. But it’s our responsibility as leaders to develop this group, and develop them from one type to the other.
To explore how we do this, Newton’s law of motion comes to mind. This principle tells us that an object in motion stays in motion. But the biggest amount of energy you exert is getting it into motion. The challenge for leaders is getting the engine going, and for the reps, it’s about being willing to take it the rest of the way.
Once they see the difference this fresh approach to growth can make, they’ll never look back. And remember, this isn’t just a way of implementing growth beyond the numbers, but something that should impact every part of how we lead, coach and train.
A constant in an inconstant world
As leaders, the one constant we face is that change is constant. This is why we need to be adaptable. As our economy changes, so too will our growth drivers and what we need to give our teams to succeed.
In my career, I’ve seen recessions and one (maybe two) market crashes. Of course, it’s not ideal, but this life experience has taught me there will always be something around the corner. And that as leaders we need to be able to evaluate, adapt and act quickly.
This is why reevaluating sales to be less about the numbers and more about the customers is so key. It might seem like a radical idea, but ultimately it means moving away from something that’s never worked well enough for us. This will undoubtedly benefit our business, but if we enact this change with empathy, it’ll benefit our customers and teams too and ensure that however we’re growing, we’re doing so alongside those we need to take on the journey with us.
Read more about the future of business and uncover how small and medium-sized businesses tackle challenges and seize opportunities, in Aircall's Voice of SMBs 2024 Report.