13 Minute Read

Rethinking B2B Sales: Why Traditional Outbound Tactics Are Falling Short and How to Adapt

As the CEO of Red Branch Media, a B2B marketing agency, I’ve observed a trend that’s irritating AF. Despite 86% of B2B companies relying on outbound tactics to achieve their goals, many are struggling to see results. The reason? (Aside from 2023 being a total dumpster fire for sales) … We’re trying to force outdated methods onto a rapidly evolving market.

I’ve written about this many times before but for some reason, it takes about six months to a year for me to impress upon our consulting clients that the old stuff just does NOT work (except for rarely and with massive effort behind it, and that costs lots of (wasted) money.)

The numbers tell a sad old story: while 59% of B2B companies plan to increase their investment in outbound strategies next year, 53% admit these tactics aren’t working as well as they once did. So, what’s changed?

Um, everything? We’ve gone through massive political upheaval, a worldwide pandemic that changed how people work, waves of distrust for formerly venerated institutions (universities, law enforcement, rampant capitalism, government, the media), oh and rising wealth inequality. Oh yeah and also AI is gonna take all the jobs (to be fair, it has taken a LOT of jobs so far, if only as a smokescreen for shareholder value.)

Of COURSE, we’re gonna have less tolerance for some things and more bandwidth for others.

1. The Rise of the Buying Committee: A Case for Strategic Segmentation

One of the most significant shifts in B2B sales is the move from individual decision-makers to buying committees. Yet, many sales teams haven’t adapted their approach to this new reality. It’s worth noting that this isn’t the case everywhere. SMBs dont always have buying committees, it’s true. But many are deciding to share the responsibility (and the blame) as software gets more complex and expensive. But OSM (Old School Marketers) are still pitching as if they’re selling to a single person when, in fact, they need to convince an entire group with diverse priorities and concerns (but still remember the whole humanity of the gig.)

  • Example: Imagine selling enterprise software to a large corporation. You’ll likely encounter IT managers concerned with technical specifications, finance executives focused on ROI, and end-users who care about usability. A one-size-fits-all pitch won’t work, but you also need to consider how they interact with one another, and that takes a bit more savvy than using Google to figure out which restaurant is down the street from HQ.
  • Solution: Develop buyer personas for each member of the buying committee. Craft tailored messages that address their specific pain points and goals. Utilize account-based marketing (ABM) to deliver personalized content and experiences to each individual. Quick hint: If none of your buyer personas describe how and if these people want to be personally contacted, you have crummy ones.

2. Generational Disconnect: Bridging the Gap with Relevant Content

Today’s buyers are different from those of a decade ago. They’re more tech-savvy, information-rich, and skeptical of traditional sales pitches. However, many sales managers and CROs are clinging to old playbooks, insisting that SDRs and marketing teams use tactics that simply don’t resonate with modern consumers. For one, NO ONE WANTS A PHONE CALL!!

  • Example: Millennials and Gen Z buyers prefer to do their research online and interact with brands through social media and digital channels. Cold calling and generic email blasts are unlikely to capture their attention. Worse still, it’ll piss them off. They interact with the content THEY want to interact with WHEN they want to interact with it.
  • Solution: Invest in creating valuable content that educates and informs your target audience. Utilize social selling to build relationships and establish credibility. Offer interactive demos and webinars to engage buyers on their terms. Also, for the love, include a scheduler on your demo page or (gasp!) a way to call YOU.

3. The Outbound Dilemma: Rethinking the Approach

So, what exactly broke outbound? Several factors are at play:

  • Example: A salesperson sends hundreds of generic LinkedIn connection requests with a templated sales pitch. Most recipients ignore the requests or mark them as spam, further damaging the company’s reputation.
  • Solution: Focus on quality over quantity. Research your prospects thoroughly and personalize your outreach. Offer value upfront by sharing relevant insights or resources. Utilize multi-channel outreach, combining social selling, email marketing, and targeted advertising. What are they talking about? Did they just make a great comment? There is still a place for good old-fashioned sucking up.

Aligning Marketing and Sales to Fix the Broken Buyer Journey

The key to success lies in aligning marketing and sales efforts to create a seamless buyer journey. This involves:

  • Driving more high-value ‘calls’ from search and digital marketing: Optimize your website and content for search engines, invest in targeted paid advertising, and utilize lead nurturing campaigns to attract qualified prospects. No matter how good your organic content is, they won’t find you if they don’t know who you are and what you do.
  • Focus on their pain and future utopia to convert them: I cannot tell you how many demos started with the history of the company or the story of the founder. Great, coo, but I am here because you promised me a solution, so get to it. Base your presentation and demo on their needs and interests. You might have a great price point, but if your prospect says, ‘Money is no object’ (OK, not super realistic) don’t lead with that. Instead, use that research and discuss how a bad onboarding process can lose valuable new recruits and impact retention and morale (since in this fictional scenario they complained about new recruits leaving quickly or ghosting them. The future utopia is they fix their retention issue and the CEO notices them because that’s top of mind for CEOs in 2024. (Real talk.)
  • Delivering buying experiences that turn clients into loyal customers: Provide personalized consultations, offer flexible payment options, and proactively address customer concerns to build long-lasting relationships. I will be honest, when folks used to ask for strategy or ideas on an exploratory call, I’d say, nope sorry, you get this brain when you sign the contract (but nicer.) Now, I am changing my approach to accommodate for the vast amount of information, strategy, and ideas hitting people on a daily basis if they have half a brain to look for it. You know what they don’t get hit with a lot? Help. Actual, tangible, HELP. (Also, and this is probs for another post, but they rarely run into simplified analogies that assist and deepen their understanding of complex and sophisticated theories or ideas.)

The Way Forward: Embracing a Buyer-Centric Approach

It’s clear that the way we sell hasn’t kept pace with how buyers buy. While buyers have become more self-sufficient and informed, many sales teams continue to rely on outdated tactics that no longer resonate. It’s really quite a (don’t @ me) a Boomer approach to expect the way the world works to stay the same for your entire career, and now Gen X is coming into the mix with our careworn, chip on the shoulder, well we did it the hard way why can’t you mindset. Now, if you are selling to a Boomer or a Gen Xer, maybe apply an augmented version (Gen X also hates the phone btw because we weren’t supposed to answer because we were latchkey kids) of the above thoughts. The key is “BUYER” centric. Stop centering sales playbooks, theories, and old pop psychology nonsense, and start centering the person you want to buy your dang product.

Also see below; this is what GPT wants me to say.
Do you see how it’s not very smart and doesn’t ACTUALLY tell you anything at all?

To succeed in this new landscape, B2B companies need to:

  1. Embrace a multi-stakeholder approach: Tailor messages to different members of the buying committee. Ok fine, but obvious.
  2. Prioritize quality over quantity in outreach efforts: Invest time in researching and personalizing your outreach. Yes, but pay attention to HOW you are reaching them and also WHEN.
  3. Invest in understanding the modern buyer’s journey: Utilize data and analytics to track buyer behavior and identify areas for improvement. IDK, I suppose if you have everything else well in hand (personas built, marketing engine running, all the other stuff I said before) sure go in and do this, but I put MUCH less stock in this than most.
  4. Leverage technology to enable personalization at scale: Invest in CRM and marketing automation tools to streamline your processes and deliver targeted messages. See, this? This is foolish. Everyone has a CRM and access to some sort of marketing automation first of all and secondly, personalization at scale is NOT awesome. However, if you MUST ‘personalize at scale’, then personalize YOU. Be truly extraordinary and fascinating, and interesting, and funny. Otherwise, I am a 1-1 gal.
  5. Focus on providing value and insights: Share educational content, offer free consultations, or host webinars to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry. Yeah okay, fine. But no podcasts. JK

The future of B2B sales lies not in doubling down on outdated tactics, but in evolving our approach to meet the needs of today’s buyers. It’s time to retire the old playbooks and write new ones that reflect the realities of the modern B2B landscape.