In our last article in this series, I pointed out that the evangelist in the business world has all but disappeared, yet in the past was an integral factor in the success of companies such as Apple. Now, let’s have a further look at why evangelism needs to make a comeback in this digital age, and what being a sales evangelist is all about.
A major problem today is that salespeople are spewing out millions of emails, but are hiding behind a computer (or smartphone) screen and are no longer building communities.
Sense of community is one of the most important factors in a society. In his excellent book Thank You for Being Late, author Thomas Friedman discusses the importance of community. Part of community—which very much applies to sales—is having the message and the messenger in one. While technology has made us more productive and healthier, it is also causing a disconnect from real life, which we’re seeing in many ways—one of which is that the message and the messenger have become totally separated.
An important part of reviving the concept of the evangelist is empowering the community in which people are living. Right at Pipeliner now, we’re working on a program in which salespeople reach out right in their own communities and perform this exact function. This is in exact opposition to where sales is often functioning today—remotely in a cubicle in an office.
We are the most technology-connected generation in human history, and yet people are more isolated than ever.
A recent study entitled State of Sales Development, from InsideSales.com, shows some revealing statistics about the ineffectiveness of a digital-only approach. For instance, between 2017 and 2018, the number of accounts managed by Sales Development Reps (SDRs) went down by 13.3 percent. What’s interesting, though, is that the number of contacts per SDR needed to manage these accounts went up by 40.5%. That means that there has been a tremendous amount of activity by SDRs to manage fewer accounts, with rep activities coming out at an astounding 107.8 per day.
We can see from these statistics that there is an unbelievable marketing machine at the front of the pipeline for the production of pipeline traffic. The traffic is then exported to SDRs, and they work like crazy to contact people. But also according to the statistics in this report, the SDR closing ratio has actually dropped by almost 25 percent—“opportunities accepted” in 2017 were 15.4, compared with 11.7 in 2018.
If you look at the math, you have 107.8 activities per day in managing accounts. For 20 days (a working month), that comes out to 2,156 attempts at activity, resulting in 11.7 opportunities accepted—the equivalent of a close for an SDR. That means that only .5 percent of the accounts that activities are taken on are actually closing. Conversely, 99.5 percent of activities turn into nothing—no opportunity. That means SDRs aren’t closing.
I’m not knocking technology—it has certainly produced some great things, no question. But is that the future? Half a percent of all my activities actually result in something?
A Person or a Machine?
Think for a moment about a person doing that on a daily basis. How does such a person feel? Like a robot. Do you think this is satisfying? No. When that person is burning out, what will happen to them? They’ll be replaced because we need people who are productive, who are fulfilling the quota. There is no compassion in this business model because it’s all math. If someone isn’t fitting in with the math, kick them out.
Further, we have separated out all the sales roles: SDRs, sales reps, customer success managers. They each perform their function, machine-like, taking us even further from human relationships.
If you have technology fronted with a nice (recorded) voice to do outbound calling, then you wouldn’t need an SDR, would you? If only 0.5 percent of prospects are willing to accept a call from an SDR, why not increase the number of outbound calls from 2,156 per month to 2,156 per day, which a computer could do? In addition, if you’re then able to have the technology, or even a virtual robot, that does perfect presentations, why have human beings at all?
The problem with such a scenario is that we totally lose human interaction. It makes me stop and think about what would happen to people. We can turn to the Torah, the book of Jewish law—according to an ancient rabbi named Hillel the Elder, “That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow. This is the whole Torah. Go and learn it. The rest is commentary.” This sentiment is echoed in the Golden Rule of the Bible: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
We can turn to another rabbi who said, “When has night ended and day begun? For it’s getting a little colder in the world.” And the response: “When you look into the person beside you, and you can see that person as your brother or your sister, then finally the night has ended and the day has begun.”
What is the evangelist doing? They are not necessarily the brother or the sister, but are creating a relationship. That’s what great salespeople do, and the message and the messenger become one. Therefore it is crucial that while we maintain the digital world that we have, that we don’t lose contact.
That personal contact becomes crucially important when a salesperson is working within a community with a couple hundred businesses, and the salesperson is reaching out. A prospect won’t be slamming the door in the face of a friend, as they might delete an email.
Now that I’ve made it clear why an evangelist is so sorely needed today, let’s take a look at the characteristics of an evangelist.
1. They find it easy to talk to people.
2. In many respects, the evangelist should back up what they say by how they live.
3. They ask other people questions—about themselves, about their businesses, their problems. This allows the salesperson to relate to prospects on a higher level and causes prospects to open doors. An evangelist practices empathy. They understand.
4. An evangelist isn’t after an immediate sale—they are planting seeds that they know will eventually bear fruit. What marketing automation attempts to do with nurturing campaigns, the evangelist naturally does with people.
5. The evangelist is proud of what they are presenting. The evangelist must be convinced they have a good product or service, and a good message. If you don’t believe in the products or services you sell, it will be hard to be an evangelist. You not only need to be convinced they’re good, but you need to be convinced they’re the best you can sell.
6. An evangelist can’t hide behind a computer screen. They need to be out and about.
7. An evangelist is responsible for their appearance. They should dress in similar ways to their prospects—it’s part of relating to them.
What makes the evangelist convincing? Inviting? What makes people respond to the product or service, and the message and the messenger? It’s the evangelist themselves. They’re the connection. I really think that was the key of the traditional sales rep of the old days. I know that technology has changed everything, but I say that we lose something if we go astray from humanity. We’re then only communicating with machines.
It is, of course, possible with some products—mostly B2C products—to sell through automation only. There must be no need for asking questions or negotiation. But the more complex the offering is, the more it cannot be worked out in algorithms. That’s where the human interaction is really needed—the human touch cannot be minimized to 2 or 3 little functions.
The “General Practitioner”
Comparing this to a different field, in medicine we used to have the general practitioner. Today, instead, we have an endless array of specialists, and we don’t always know where to go.
The same is with a product—who do they call? With so many different products, it can be really tough today. We need a convincing argument from someone we can trust, that we can relate to.
This also creates, as it once did with the general practitioner, loyalty to the evangelist. With a strictly technological approach, is there generally loyalty to the product and company? Not at all. But when you have a personal relationship to people who help, and there is real interaction on a human level—and of course assuming a great product or service—the relationship will always win out.
And that is why I believe we once again need evangelists!
In our next article, we’ll discuss how you learn to become an evangelist.