There are countless sales blogs and LinkedIn posts that discuss the challenges of sales prospecting and lament the fact that prospects ‘don’t answer their phones’, ‘don’t reply to emails’ and ‘ignore requests via social platforms’.

When searching for the reason, it seems the author or the commenters cite 2 common culprits:

  1. Cold anything doesn’t work.
  2. Your message is poor.

I wholeheartedly disagree with #1, and while #2 is possible, bad sales behavior is more likely to blame for lousy outcomes than poor messaging.

Let’s Talk Messaging

Just today I read yet another post that asked, “How can you tell if you have a weak value proposition?”

The writer went on to say that one telltale sign is that virtually no one responds to your emails or returns your phone calls. Another indicator is that prospects quickly brush you off with statements like “We’ve already got that handled…” or “We’re already working with XYZ Company.”

Is this really a “telltale sign”?

Organizations are too quick to blame a weak value proposition for the lack of results. As I said, a weak value proposition could be the problem, but to leap to that conclusion without investigating other possibilities can lead to disaster.

What else could be responsible?

With outbound sales prospecting, there are three principal variables that must be considered.  We call them “The Three M’s”: The Marketplace, the Message and the Messenger.

You need to nail all three in order to maximize responses.

If you are like most companies, you know your market very well.  While a good message to the wrong market will never yield good results; most don’t struggle with that problem.

That said, a good message delivered poorly to the right market will also yield radio silence.

So, is the problem the message…or is it the messenger?

It could be one, the other or both.

Now what?

To eliminate the message as a problem, revisit your message with your team. Include a variety of roles in this meeting to get various perspectives to ensure you aren’t too married to the current message. At FRONTLINE Selling we do this periodically to make sure we aren’t ‘drinking our own Kool-Aid’, so to speak.

Now that you are confident in your solid message, it’s time to investigate the other culprit. The one I (and probably every one of you) experience every day: Bad behavior by the Messenger. In other words, the actions and tactics employed by the inside sales reps are so egregious, the prospect really doesn’t care what they’re selling.

Here are the Top 8 Bad Behaviors that dilute even the best message and kill your outreach efforts.

  1. The Fishing Lure – This is when you get disingenuous LinkedIn request asking for your “opinion”. What they really want to a time to speak so they can pitch their products and services.
  2. The “Dude” – My phone rings. I pick up and hear “Hey Mike, it’s Ryan.” Ryan who, from where?   Do you have a last name, Ryan? I know about 100 people named Ryan. Do yourself a favor. Tell your prospect who you are (first and last name), where you are from and exactly what you want, such as a meeting to discuss how you can help run their business more effectively.
  3. The Assumption Email – This is one where the sender of the email assumes your title dictates what you care about. For example, “As CFO, you are concerned with not spending money.” News flash: Most CFO’s want to spend money! They care about lots of things and each is different.  Some care about revenue, some care about reporting, visibility and a whole host of other topics. By assuming incorrectly, you alienate your audience regardless of message.
  4. The Ole’ Bait and Switch – You get a LinkedIn request and a note :“Hey Mike, looking to connect with like-minded people and expand my network”. Then the moment you accept, you receive the 6-paragraph sales pitch with a link to a video and other content. Talk about an instant turn- off!
  5. The Weatherman – Phone rings and I pick up. The call starts with “Hey Mike, how’s it going?”   When a call starts like this it sets off alarms in my brain: Meaningless chit chat about the weather is about the ensue. Thanks for wasting my time!
  6. I Need You Do Some Work for Me – I’m sure you all get these emails. The subject line says, “Right Person?” or “Can your point me to the person who handles your …….?”  Why am I obligated to help you do your job? If I want a project to do, I can just ask my wife. No thank you.
  7. The Horrible ‘Pick One’ Response – This one just baffles me. You don’t respond to someone’s emails and they outline the possible reasons:
    1. I have done something to offend you.
    2. You are working with another company already and just don’t want to hurt my feelings by telling me.
    3. Your data and insight concerns resolved themselves.
    4. You want desperately to hire us but are trapped under something heavy and cannot reach the phone.

I would consider it a personal favor if you would let me know if the problem is one of these, or something I didn’t think of. 

If it is #4, reply to this email and I will send help!

If you are current sending this email, just stop. It adds no value and completely erodes your credibility as someone who can solve their business problem.

  1. The Divine Intent – You’ve downloaded a white paper or some report because it was interesting (of course it was…that’s why you downloaded it!).  You’d probably expect to get calls and emails because you understand that is the reason for putting that content out there.  What is frustrating is the assumption that you had some intent other than interest in the subject of the report. Like you’re ready for the full sales pitch. I would personally prefer an email that simply said “I hope you found the report valuable. Can you tell me your reason for downloading?  Interest in the subject matter?  Evaluating solutions? Competitor?” That would enrich the buying process by starting to build a relationship from my real needs—not their guess.

Sales prospecting is the hardest part of sales, and many are quick to blame an anemic pipeline on the method of prospecting or the messaging. But the behavior of the messenger is often the greatest reason for ineffective prospecting.

Take a close look at how you or your team are reaching out. Is the outreach authentic? Delivering value? Professional? Consistent? If the answer to any of these is NO, fix that before you spend the time trying to change your message. Because no matter how spectacular your message it, it will fall on deaf ears if your outreach erodes the trust so critical for successful B2B sales.


FRONTLINE Selling helps salespeople solve the challenge of effective sales prospecting. Our technology-driven process was created from the analysis of 1.8 million outreach efforts. The process provides a blueprint on how to navigate target accounts, identify key players, turn ‘gatekeepers’ into tour guides and ultimately create more first meaningful business conversations. Your reps can leverage our unique call simulator to perfect their execution of that first call, overcome objections and gain mastery over any prospecting situation. Call us to learn more! 678-638-7300.