2021 will bring sales professionals a host of new challenges and trends to consider, and it could be tricky to adapt. Of course, reps will need to add certain strategies into their repertoires, but "adapting" doesn't stop there.

Several salespeople are coming into this new year holding onto some dead weight — outdated strategies that are bound to undermine sales efforts instead of enhancing them. Remaining mindful of these inevitably ineffective sales tactics will only help your case in 2021.

To help you understand which strategies aren't worth your time, we reached out to some experts to offer their takes on sales tactics that brands should avoid, going forward.

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1. Holding Onto Outdated Positioning Statements

According to HubSpot Sales Manager Korina Ortiz, sales professionals need to avoid holding onto outdated positioning statements in 2021. By her account, "These last 12 months have dramatically changed the challenges (and goals) that organizations are prioritizing."

She suggests that sales reps forget a lot of what they "know". Instead, she advises salespeople to "be 100% curious about their customers' new reality."

She says, "Reps need to understand how those customers have had to pivot, what they’ve had to reprioritize, and then figure out what can be done to help them pick up the pieces."

2. Relying Heavily on Discounts

Ortiz also warns against leaning on discounts when conducting sales efforts in 2021. She says "It’s also important to know that putting the pressure on and relying heavily on discounts will be the least effective strategies.

"Many companies aren’t really looking for a 'deal' — they’re looking to choose the right solution to help them both survive this period and future-proof their business."

3. Cold Calling

HubSpot Sales Director Dan Tyre also had some advice for sales professionals in this coming year. First and foremost, he suggests that reps stop cold calling.

He says, "Don't cold call anymore — cold calling returns about 1.25% yield if you take a list and indiscriminately call 100 people at random and say the same stupid script. You may want to adopt a sales strategy of warm calling, which is decidedly more evolved.

"This includes defining the niche where you add the most value, researching the contact before you pick up the phone, calling four times over 12 days to professionally pursue the prospect, and using video in your sales prospecting outreach."

4. Qualifying on the Connect Call

Tyre also insists sales reps should stop qualifying on connect calls. He says, "Don't qualify on the connect call — many sales methodologies suggest that you qualify the prospect the first time you engage on the phone to ensure you're not wasting your time. But things have changed.

"If you ask qualifying questions like 'Is this a priority? Do you have the budget? When will you make a decision?' on the connect call, you won't get far. The inbound methodology is all about helping, not putting someone in a sales funnel."

5. Neglecting Your Customers

Tyre also stressed the importance of giving existing customers the time of day. He says, "Don't neglect your customers — lots of salespeople close the deal and walk away. But your install base is the fruitful compost pile of your sales garden.

"Calling only when a renewal is due is so 2014. Set up four quarterly updates — if only for 15 minutes — with the client to check in every three months, create a quick agenda, consider using an NPS survey to gauge value, and make sure your customers have your cell number. And never forget to ask for referrals periodically."

6. Over-Reliance on Case Studies

HubSpot Senior Sales Manager Dan McAdam also offered some input — specifically about how sales reps leverage case studies. He says, "Sending case studies too early in the process or using them as a crutch is one that's always been a pet peeve of mine.

"Case studies are great for underscoring the value you can provide once you've dug in and figured out how your product or service solves the problem. They should be used to reinforce the value — not to handle objections at the beginning of the process or do the selling for you."

7. Trying to Reinvent the Sales Wheel

HubSpot Principal Channel Account Manager Coman Doyle suggests sales reps try to keep things simple in 2021. He says, "Don’t try to complicate things too much. Just because there is an economic, cultural, or social shift does not mean that you try and reinvent the sales wheel.

"You still have a product, service, or solution that helps companies overcome a challenge. The most successful sales organizations around the world stick to a basic sales process that is easy to install, learn, scale, and track."

8. Using Cookie Cutter Sales Pitches

Doyle also stresses the importance of avoiding generic pitches. He says, "This might sound counterintuitive but don’t use a cookie-cutter ‘sales pitch’. The first step is to sincerely listen to what your prospect is saying. If you’re using a cookie-cutter sales ‘pitch’ you will alienate the prospect.

"You will probably irritate them into agreeing to the next steps, creating a false positive. However, if you actually listen and have a ‘heuristic sales pitch’ you will motivate them into wanting to progress with next steps and therefore create a net positive step."

9. The "Drop-In"

When we reached out to Trygve Olsen, Director of Business Development at BizzyWeb, he discussed how sales professionals will need to shed one strategy in particular. He says, "One of the things that I really like to do if I can is a 'drop-in' — find a reason to be in the neighborhood and just visit a prospect.

"Obviously, that doesn't work right now — so I do more research, visit a prospect's website and social profiles, and take note of personal connections I can use to forge a connection. If they're a football fanatic, I reach out after a big win or horrible loss.

I took a page out of Ted Lasso's book, and if there's something about their hobbies that I'm curious about, I take time to learn about that as much as I learn about the prospect's business. Setting a social media alert within HubSpot for the prospect is a great way to keep up as well — you could even set up a Google alert about the hobby."

10. Lazy Linking

Dave Meyer, BizzyWeb's owner, also put in his two cents. He says, "One of the biggest things I see sales professionals do is what I call 'Lazy Linking' — or 'Linking without Thinking'. It's when people send lazy connection requests in LinkedIn or spam LinkedIn groups with self-serving posts that don't add value.

"Our job as sales professionals is to do the work to be legitimately helpful to our prospects. Sending dozens of connection requests — hitting them with the old 'Hi, I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn' — or buying an automation tool that fakes engagement is a big turnoff.

Nobody likes spam, and it doesn't take much to make a personal connection. Like many agencies, our company has an 'About Us' page with small biographical tidbits. One time, a sales professional read through my bio, discovered that I like Nerds candy, and sent me a 2-pound bag with an invitation to connect. Now that stands out!"

There's no telling what the sales landscape in 2021 will look like, but that doesn't mean you can't make some educated adjustments to approach it more effectively. Refining your sales game means trimming some fat. If you're looking for a good place to start, consider the points on this list.

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Originally published Feb 9, 2021 7:30:00 AM, updated February 09 2021


Sales Methodology