Some 32 years ago, as a callow sales youth, I was told to go "smoke-stack hunting" in New Jersey.
This was one of the crudest forms of prospecting ever, second only to taking photos of trucks on the highway and seeing which “prospect” had the biggest fleet. (We called that one "drive-by prospecting", BTW).
Smokestack hunting means you get to the highest physical location in the area (and anything over 300m is high in NJ), break out the binoculars and look for smokestacks (big chimneys) on the horizon.
For below the smokestack would be a factory and in the factory would be a manager who had a latent need for a new computer system to help him – and it was always a him in those days - make and deliver the stuff – whatever that was – to his customers, whoever they were.
Worst case was that you didn’t meet the decision maker that day but you came away with an appointment and the annual report. Which was way better than the inside sales guys could do for you – they would take 4-6 weeks to get the annual report and never get the meeting.
But many times - if you happened to arrive on the same day as the boss hit another glitch in his ERP plan - then you got to speak with him for 15 mins and came away with a gen-u-wine prospect!
Nowadays, it’s much – much – harder to get the meeting, and altogether easier to get the annual report, the quarterly presentation to shareholders and an inside track on who the decision-makers are in any large corporation.
Last time I did this type of online analysis for a client, it took me about 2 hours to approximately quadruple her knowledge of the customer’s situation, leadership, latent and real current needs, decision making process and timeframe.
But as a sales ops person, I still couldn’t get my client the appointment with the CEO that she craved.
Ultimately, a sales person leveraging Sales Ops will always speed up the analysis and outreach processes, but in the end, the customer probably needs to speak with a rep on the phone before committing something to the diary.
Sales Ops, in all its glory, can shortcut the process, build great analysis and even build the value proposition for you. But eventually, you need a sales person to use all these tools and make the call, so that the prospect feels personally invested and won't cancel on a whim.
So, good news - there’s no need to go driving the nation's highways, searching for manufacturer's operational plants any more.
And smoke and mirrors never got a sales person an appointment - well, not at least in this century.
But you do need a smoking hot rep to pick up the phone, to scorch through the personal assistant's heat-deflecting shield and get through to the target, with a superheated message that strikes at the heart of the prospect’s fears and aspirations.
Today's modern approach to smoke-stack hunting, revealed...
Methodical ramblings after twenty-five years in Sales, Marketing and SalesOps.