Entering Spamalot



Over the past year or so, I have noticed a trend. Many of the unsolicited emails I have received seem to have all the same look and feel to them. These messages are shorter than the previous generation of cold emails (thank goodness), but still seem just as pointless. The “innovation” is that many of these messages are now strung together in chains that seem ever more desperate to make a fleeting connection. And I have been seeing more of these emails…a lot more and I am not alone in this observation.

Ever since the release of Aaron Ross’ Predictable Revenue, a cottage industry has exploded onto the B2B sales scene. Prospecting, once that dull and tortured aspect of sales, was lifted to a new pedestal and given the glorious name of Sales Development. A new army of intrepid cold callers was gathered and armed with the new shiny methodology to help them scale Mount Outbound and do battle against inboxes and phone trees with confidence.

As more and more tech companies were adopting the Sales Development religion, crafty entrepreneurs saw an opportunity. All of a sudden, there were tools to help these bold prospectors be more efficient and faster. An entirely new sector of “Sales Acceleration” arose.  Flush with VC dollars and eye popping valuations, these newly minted companies flooded an ample market ready to buy products promising to further “accelerate” their selling efforts.

As the methodology and the technologies started to take hold, legions of “Sales Hackers” entered the battlefield to help companies hack their prospecting efficiency. They shared their sales hacks in various forums and gathered at big conferences and built momentum that spread the religion of sales acceleration to the masses. We had arrived at a new golden age of sales!

Or had we? Much has been made of efficiency and speed, but have we actually become more effective? Efficiency alone however is not enough. We can be faster and expend less effort in selling, but all the acceleration in the world does not matter if we are not making connections that matter. What moves the needle in sales is not the number of prospects reached per week or open rates on our sequences of emails. What matters most in sales is revenue.

Instead of accelerating sales, we have entered the gates of Spamalot. We are doing a lot of dumb things, but faster. You might say that we have gotten marginally better, but I would say not so much. There are a few wise teams that understand that with great power comes great responsibility, to borrow a famous comic book character line. Most sales teams however have simply created an engine to piss off the vast masses of untargeted prospects.

Maybe at this point you are thinking you are doing just fine and that you are not in that same crowd. I would invite you to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do your email reply rates hover under 20%, even after pummeling the same set of contacts with seven or more emails?
  • Do you believe that 1 actual sale out of every 100 leads is a reasonable result?
  • What percentage of emails end up unsubscribed, bounced, or replied to angrily?
  • When was the last time a prospect phoned you after receiving an email from you?
  • Does anyone ever click on any of the links / call to actions in your emails?
  • Would you be excited or even mildly interested in receiving the same emails you send to your prospects?

Now you may not even care that much after reading this and that is fine. You have sold your soul to the god of spam and are just another minion churning out more digital exhaust to pollute innocent inboxes. However, if you are even the tiniest bit uneasy about all of the turmoil and angst we are creating, if you value results over effort, and if you think respect for your customers matters, then there is a shining path for you to walk into the light of effective prospecting.

That light is built on three core principles:

  • Only reaching out to appropriately targeted individuals within your ideal customer profile
  • Creating content that is of value and relevant to your targeted prospects
  • Respecting your prospects and caring about their needs

When you apply these principles to what you are doing today, you might find that you have been less than noble in your sales approach. My hope is that as a profession, we can look upon these spammy tactics and call them out for what they are. Ultimately, it is respect and value that wins the day and wins deals.

You might be wondering at this point how to get started. That is why we invited Heather Morgan of Salesfolk to join us and speak at a recent Sales Development Meetup. She disussed how to apply these principles in a practical way in our outreach. The outcome was focused on you specific ways to improve your approach and the copy in your emails to be more targeted and relevant to prospects. We even live critiqued some emails we have received recently, to compare and contrast spammy emails with emails that generate results.

Even if you weren’t able to attend the session, if you take these principles and use the advice Heather shares on her blog, you are well on the way to getting out of Spamalot. It is time we stop sales acceleration from accelerating us into a brick wall. I have nothing against automation and useful efficiency tactics that can scale our efforts. Aaron Ross did us a huge favor and many of the technologies in the Sales Acceleration space are incredibly useful. Like anything worthy though, in the wrong hands it can enable the bad actors. Let’s get our act together because we are not doing ourselves justice as professionals or as an industry if we continue to relentlessly bombard prospects with canned emails.



Reprinted by permission.

Image credit: CC by Mike Mozart

About the author: Mark Birch

Mark is an early stage technology investor and entrepreneur based in NYC. Through Birch Ventures, he works with a portfolio of early stage B2B SaaS technology startups providing both capital and guidance in the areas of marketing, sales, strategic planning and funding.

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