Old Sales Fails: 5 Modern Selling Alternatives To Your Old Sales Habits

Reading Time: 22 minutes

While not all the things people have been teaching about sales over the years is obsolete, a good amount of it no longer works, especially where it comes to B2B lead generation or sales prospecting. We’ll explore some modern sales alternatives to some old sales habits.


Let’s talk about it:


What Is The Traditional(Antiquated) Selling Approach?


The traditional or antiquated sales playbook relied on a multitude of tactics and tools, which typically

  • Relied on manipulation and technique.
  • Relied on traditional advertising.
  • Relied on payment for information.
  • Relied on the customer having little power.


Relied on manipulation and technique

Think about certain tools of this old school approach like telemarketing, television commercials, and billboards and you will notice that each ransoms your attention for the promise of an end to some pain.


I once had a customer, a staunch supporter of the old way of doing things, affectionately call this “twisting the knife.” And this is what he wanted to do to business people and companies he planned to develop a fruitful relationship with.




In the traditional selling mindset, great value was assigned to getting the signature on the dotted line, think Glengarry Gelnnross’ “coffee is for closers” or “A-B-C, always be closing” to get a picture. You did what you had to do in order to get the money. It was never openly acknowledged as manipulation, more like a battle that you had to win over your future customer.


When I worked in traditional sales roles, I knew and was coached not to accept the word “no” or ‘give in’  to a request to “follow-up.” I was expected to get cash or an agreement in-hand before leaving their place of business || office || restaurant.


Maybe an irate potential customer could get me to leave — but that just didn’t happen that often.


Relied on traditional advertising

One of the ways the traditional selling model hurt small to midsize businesses was through traditional advertising. It used to cost so much. And when you finally ponied up the cash to play that game, it was very clear that you were competing directly with the big sharks of business.


Before smart ads, pay-per-click, and programmatic advertising, you had to blast your latest marketing machination to several hundred or thousand people, with the vague hope someone would pick up the phone and call, order, or visit after noticing your work.


 Also, the analytics were not there to help with contacting only those who were specifically interested in your offer. 


The old line from the executive, “We know that half of our marketing is wasted and doesn’t work, we just don’t know which half,” was never truer than with traditional selling.


Relied on payment for information

Traditional selling relied on payment for information because the sales organization had the power. Think about it, they were dispatched by some of the best-funded and most powerful organizations in the world, with access to trade secrets and built-up advantages, which created a huge moat around all their offerings. 


Why did they have to place nice?


Now when we talk about payment here, it’s important to understand that payment was not always in money or currency. It often involved things that were even more valuable, like time.


When I was in the telemarketing game for a top company in the vacation rental industry, we would offer ‘preferred’ members or sales leads an exclusive deal on one of our exotic resort locales. 


The catch was that they had to sit through hours (or even a day) of sales presentations. All the while, they were expected to smile through the whole thing and bear it.


I mean, we, the big powerful company, were giving them an awesome deal on a vacation. The least they could do was give us back a day of their vacation.


Relied on the customer having little power

I remember how (generally) difficult it was to deal with companies during what we now consider routine customer disputes. Things like 


  • Faulty charges
  • Wrong addresses
  • Product quality issues
  • Technical support issues
  • Returns


The general feeling was that before you called a company, you had to prepare for an informational battle. That meant that depending on your issue, you had your account number, last payment confirmation printed, receipt and product manual at-the-ready, and warranty in-hand before calling. 


For just one example as to how things used to work between customers and sales or service teams, I once had my product receipt, mailing receipt and customer numbers ready while talking with a consumer tech company about getting a replacement device per their warranty.


The customer service guy said they had never received my broken device and was, essentially,  calling me a liar. When I tried pleading with him, I’ll never forget his annoyed response,


“It’s not in the system! What do you expect me to do?! What do you expect me to do?!”


The customer was certainly not always right.


Contrast that experience with today, where a popular way to get a company’s attention is a negative mention or comment via social media and the quality of a company is often based on how they deal with negative comments.


And that is not all that’s changed. Even our most effective ways for engaging future customers have strayed from the old traditional route.



What Are The Differences Between Antiquated Selling And Modern Selling?

Mainly, the differences between antiquated selling and modern selling methods are the differences between a frozen pizza dinner and a hot slice from your favorite pizzeria. It is the difference between cold, warm, and hot.


Where traditional selling operated with the idea that people could be ‘made’ to buy, our current, modern selling approach emphasizes the need to partner with and educate consumers.


Qualities Of Modern Selling

More specifically, modern selling

  • Is about liking, education, and trust.
  • Is about leveraging content marketing and multichannel strategies.
  • Is about giving information away.
  • Is about customers owning their power.


Is about liking, education, and trust

Never have so many experts recommended that people must like and trust you before buying. If I could make a dollar for every person who used “like and trust” in a modern marketing presentation, I would be richer than a royal. 


If I had turned that phrase into a drinking game, I swear I would never be sober!


Even strategies that look cold, to the naked eye, are actually warm outreaches, based on liking and trusting, after further inspection. One popular strategy I see being used on me by other marketers is connecting via LinkedIn followed by a lukewarm email outreach driven by email-finding software. 


There is a greater desire, no, need to be liked in this time of modern selling. If you don’t believe me, consider the difference between 1  traditional sales method, telemarketing and 1 modern sales method, social media.


When it came to telemarketing and cold calling people, we often hit-up over 100 each day. I think the most I did was 140 people in a day. 


We would call, try to work our way past the gatekeepers until we could get to our target and give our sales pitches. Then we’d work through the typical obstacles: abuse, objections, frustration, etc. right on to a sale (hopefully).


But when the day was done, the day was done. We hung up our company phones and went home. For the most part, the workday faded away until we were back in the office the next day.


Now juxtapose that with sending out spam on social media. That spam and the reactions to that spam are not as easy to get rid of. 


When I open my account at home it’s there. When I open my account at work it’s there. Meanwhile, all those reactions show up on my phone as notifications, thereby drowning me a in an inescapable shower of negativity and anger.


It makes sense I would care more about how well I was received in the 2nd situation, doesn’t it?


Is about leveraging content marketing and multichannel strategies

Back to the idea of dealing with warmed-up leads versus the ice-cold leads of traditional selling, a good way to start building that relationship has been the once-forgotten and now-re-discovered art of content marketing. 


The idea is that you would use education and vital information to gently guide new customers into and through your sales process.


This is content marketing.


What makes content marketing extra-powerful for modern selling is that it powers other types of marketing opportunities.


Consider marketing traction channels such as:


  • Blogs
  • Publicity or PR
  • Search Engine Marketing
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Email Marketing
  • Speaking Engagements
  • Offline Events
  • Viral Marketing
  • Business Development
  • Affiliate Programs
  • Existing Platforms
  • Trade Shows
  • Events
  • Speaking Engagements
  • Community Building


And you can argue that most of these are simply different methods of content distribution. A blog requires that you create content in order to charge-up your search engine optimization. Speaking engagements are often promoted during the process of community building online, where you use content as a lure for new members.


The added benefit of turning to a multichannel strategy and modern sales is that it is proven to be more effective.


According to omnichannel, or multichannel, platform Benbria (and Google), and their report, “The Key Omni-Channel Statistics You Need To Know,“ they show that omnichannel shoppers have a 30% higher lifetime value than those who shop using only one channel.


It all works together.


Is about giving information away

The popular method for attracting leads today and powering lead generation in modern sales is using a lead magnet. Lead magnets are valuable informational pieces or collections of useful information that people would be willing to trade value to obtain, in this case their business contact information.


These may come in the form of 

  • Free guides
  • Free checklists
  • Free workbooks
  • Free books
  • Free webinars


While these require significant time and resources to create, companies will easily make the sacrifice in order to reap the lead generation benefit.


This also plays into one of the most obvious shifts behind the move from traditional(antiquated) )sales to modern sales–customers have the power now!


Is about customers owning their power

Acknowledging that customers have the complete ability to choose with whom they do business seems obvious–but it didn’t always seem that way. We know this because businesses stuck in traditional methods will often scoff at and fight off options offered by companies using modern selling. 


Think, for a second, of the heat ride-sharing companies have received from the traditional taxi industry. In some cases, it has involved lawsuits and in others it has involved crackdowns with police. Nonetheless, ride-sharing doesn’t appear to be slowing down due to any of these measures.


This is where businesses built off the back of apps and the internet appear to have the advantage, in opting for modern selling strategies from the start, out of necessity.


But that doesn’t mean that other types of businesses can’t leverage modern selling for themselves. In fact, there are a number of ways to do this.


What Are Good Modern Sales Strategies?


One: Instead Of Cold Calls, Do LinkedIn Lead Generation


LinkedIn has become home to the new cold call we have come to know as LinkedIn lead generation. There are some good reasons why people are leveraging Linkedin In order to get in touch with decision-makers:

  • The chance to reach 660 million professionals online. 
  • Ability to network from anywhere in the world.
  • Creating larger deals.
  • Finding and connecting with the right people at top businesses.
  • Building a network list of sales leads.


That is not to say cold calls can not work. I can see that some people might be more comfortable picking up a phone and lighting up a prospect’s life. They might even thrive off the live-action connection. 


My concern is that cold calling has taken an often-ignored blow, in modern times, from robocallers.


At last count, robocallers are making over 5 billion calls each month! Nothing to sneeze at. That’s enough for the average person to be hit-up several times a day with irrelevant messaging and off-color sales pitches.  


I hear it over and over. That people will not pick up their phone for non-contact numbers.


In fact, this barrage leads many, even myself (at times), not to pick up strange phone numbers. 


People are using these robocall technology and services to harass and abuse innocent people.


Instead of cold calling in the traditional sense, I recommend using LinkedIn lead generation and  the 3 – step process I’ve found helpful for getting sales leads on the platform:

  1. Find the right people
  2. Connect with the right people
  3. Pitch the right people


Find the right people

To find the right people, you’ll want to search for people with decision-making power, mainly those in the C-suite, VPs and Directors. 


These are the kinds of folks you want to spend your time trying to get to as your connections. 


Here’s a side note: Directors are most likely going to be your way into an organization. 


LinkedIn recently released a study that showed about 70% of the deals started on the platform were led by directors. Directors have this good mesh of availability and power that makes them ideal for creating opportunities.


Connect with the right people

After finding the right people to connect with via LinkedIn search,  navigate to the profile of the person you want to connect with. Then hit “connect” and “add note.”


Here’s what you should add in your note, things you have in common such as


  • Location
  • Past employers 
  • Career field


You also want to give a reason for connecting. I like to be honest here. 


So, one thing I’ll say is something like, “I am looking to expand my business.”  This way people can’t be surprised when I pitch them later.


You might send a message like this in order to connect:


Hi [First Name]! [Who You’re Connected With And Why] I noticed your profile: you’re a fellow [Points Of Familiarity]. I’m looking to build new connections and expand my business. Hope to connect on LinkedIn.

-[Your Name]


Pitching the right people

There are also 3 parts to creating the perfect pitch on LinkedIn:


Start personally with your pitch

And by that I mean actually taking a few minutes to look at what the person is posting and what they’re sharing on LinkedIn then mention that.


Say what you’re about. 

You want to spend two quick minutes and just say, Hey, this is what I am doing. This is why I’m reaching out. Think of this like an elevator pitch.


Example: “I’m with Bug-Free IT. We are an IT service company and we help protect your data.”


See how we’re keeping it super simple, right? You don’t have to make it super long. 


Seal the deal.

This is where you finally lay your cards on the table. If you’re going to ask for a sales call, ask for a sales call. If you want to ask for a download then ask for the download. Just seal the deal.


Two: Instead Of Forms, Fire-Up Chatbot Lead Generation

Even companies that have gotten hip to operating online and using apps can still be guilty of relying on the updated version of the old paper order-taking form, the web form.


Ah, the web form. If it wasn’t bad enough that they are often awkward to fit on a web page (in between these two paragraphs, maybe?) they are often abandoned for literally anything else.


According to conversion rate optimization (CRO) company CapSumo, “conversion rates typically range from 1 – 3%” and 78 % of businesses are unhappy about it.


That means your precious gated content (that we spoke about) is not getting read. Time and resources wasted.


Instead, opt for chat lead generation bots such as those provided by Intercom and Drift. They allow you to catch website visitor’s information through messaging


 And before you get too attached to your forms, remember they have a few design problems:

  • They assume that people have the time to fill out forms.
  • They assume that people have the desire to fill out forms.
  • They assume that the gated information is rare enough to suffer through contact collection. 


Instead, try assuming the user is drunk. That is the old programming adage. It ensures that you create a user experience that is straightforward and allows people to win easily, getting what they need from your site. Just assume your user or website visitor is drunk.


And even drunk people can text (or use voice, when on mobile, which chatbots work on as well, by the way). 


I don’t know how but it happens.


Three: Instead Of Mail Or Cold Emails, Leverage Social Media 

Cold email stinks. It is the one place where I, admittedly, will not claim mastery. It is a tricky beast and seems to require nerves of steel.


Cold email has a hit rate of 1 percent or less. This means, most people ignore emails from strangers. Don’t you? More people ignoring you means you need to buy a big email list, say 10,000 emails.


And if they don’t ignore you, what can you expect? Angry or frustrated people, that’s who. They are the ones who enjoy responding. 


Those limited responses would be funny if they didn’t give me anxiety.


Seriously, who enjoys this stuff? Opening up a big inbox full o’ hate is not my ideal morning situation.


But outside of unhappy responses, cold email doesn’t have the high reach people hope for. According to reports from both the Harvard Business Review and  LinkedIn, 90% of CEOs say they never reply to cold email or cold calls.


Social media is better for staying in front of people, even when they aren’t expecting to hear from you. That is where regular posting to social media comes in.


The more regularly you post to social media, the more you will show up in the feed of your network connections and their connections. This way you can get in front of new customers 20, 30, or 50 times if you need to.


What if you want to be in front of people you don’t know? Then send a cold LinkedIn message


Four: Instead Of Watching Traffic, Track Leads

We, my fellow online marketers and I, used to always talk about traffic when it came to creating optimum web experiences. It was all about driving more traffic and more traffic! There was never enough traffic and it was a way to show how important your thoughts and products were.


Some are still selling this idea hard. As I write this, I have two marketing gurus trying to sell me more traffic or hacks to more traffic now. They claim that this is the goal I should be aiming for: more and more traffic!


But is that really what I want? Is that really what you want?


We’re in the game of business for more customers, not vanity metrics that make a nice shape in Google Analytics. We want to impact people through our products and services. And in order to do that we must get them to do business with us, not just stop by our page (or even share something we wrote).


Would you trade receiving money for more web traffic? Of course not!


The trick is, how to best turn website visitors into sales leads.


You can easily turn website visitors into sales leads and eventually sales with chatbot lead generation or website visitor tracking.


And you can set yourself up for better success by using ‘leads generated’ as a metric for the health of your web presence rather than the amount of monthly traffic alone.


It pays to seek out meaningful conversations and not just calculations.


Five: Instead Of Drop-Ins, Do Video Messaging

I had a sales manager complain to me about what was wrong with people my age. 


We don’t pick up the phone. We prefer self-checkout to talking with checkout people (who are never happy to be working the cash register, I want to add), and we would rather take a video call over a visit from a ‘rando.’ Sorry.


It’s not like I don’t know what it’s like. I have been that guy.


In one traditional sales job, I dropped-in on business owners all the time to see if we could close a deal. On one occasion, I had an owner sneak out the back of the building in order to avoid me.


I can’t blame him, during my short traditional sales career, I acted like a sales bulldog. It wasn’t my thing but that’s how I’d learned to play the sales game.


Similarly, video messaging allows us the opportunity to drop in front of our best leads without the drawback of having to tackle them in the back alley. Instead it draws on the the best of human communication.


It allows for more human engagement in the online space through the use of the organic communication we use daily, displaying,


  • Body language
  • Words 
  • Tonality


How to do video-powered messaging

I’ll use the tool Loom (available for the Chrome Browser) and record a quick pitch via webcam. I like to record this in front of someone’s profile while pitching them. 


My goal with this is to get people on an exploratory or sales call. 


The best thing, I am not thrown off if people do not respond right away. That’s where implied consent comes in.


One of the benefits of video-powered messaging is implied consent. When someone watches your video pitch, you receive a notification via email.


When you can see that a lead watched your video pitch, you get the confirmation that there’s at least some interest there.


 If you do follow up, you’re not doing it blindly. You’re not just blasting people, as was the case with traditional selling.  This was one of the pitfalls of antiquated selling. We were often just blasting people who might have had zero interest in what we had to offer. 


Video-powered messaging is an easy solution to that issue. It’s a way to figure out if there’s some interest in your offering and then take it from there. 


What are the main selling techniques to know?

Putting the talk of old school and new school selling aside, let’s appreciate that selling is as old the world. The first time one person needed something from another that they would not normally give without proper motivation, the sales process was born.


In this way, even what we consider modern selling is often a twist on some classic.


Speaking of classic, Here I’ll give a nod to one of the original sales gurus, Brian Tracy who inspired this quick list of top selling techniques that still matter:


  • Clearly define who your customer is.
  • Get clear about the problem you’re solving.
  • Focus on keeping your customers for life.
  • Always make sure your sales messages are clear.


In the end, if we can help the customer while helping ourselves, we can know we’re doing the right thing.


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