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Buying Has Changed But Prospecting is Stuck in the Past

4 min

While B2B buying has evolved, we are basically fumbling around in the dark, relying on the same old bag of tricks for prospecting: forms, spam, and cold calls.

Ever since marketing declared “content is king,” we’ve been trying to lure prospects out of the dark by gating the content we think they need in order to make an informed decision (or make us sound really knowledgeable). The thinking is that a prospect will step out of the shadows and give up their anonymity in exchange for some exclusive, or even relevant content. However, marketers are beginning to wake up to the fact that B2B buyers aren’t willing to sacrifice their anonymity to access information that is readily available online, so content gates are dropping, but so are leads.

Even with this realization, we’re still holding out hope that if we gate some of our “high value” content this approach will continue to deliver enough quality leads to meet our pipeline goals
because, well, anyone who fills out a form must be a good prospect. The other thing we love to do in order to lure prospects out of the dark funnel and turn them into “leads” is scan badges at trade shows. There is nobody faster than a demand gen manager at a trade show with a scanner in hand. “I got 437 scans today!” she’ll declare, forgetting all about the drawing for the Bose headphones, or the mini drone with the HD camera. And so Fred Formfiller and Sally Swaghorder are now “leads” who will need to be processed, scored, and followed up on. This, of course, means they’ll likely go in our “nurture track,” where we’ll send them every video, eBook, blog post, article link, and customer testimonial we’ve got – relevant or not – which is basically putting them on the fast track to unsubscribe island.

Maybe they open one of those emails, maybe they don’t. It doesn’t really matter, we’re calling them anyway.

After all, we’ve determined they’re an MQL and, by God, we’re following up.

The SDRs pound away on the phones, leaving message after message until finally one day the “lead” shows up on the “stuck leads” report where sales management can ask about why no one is following up. This was a trade show lead people!!

Nevermind the fact that this may be an account we can’t even sell into (too small, wrong industry, incompatible technology). It also doesn’t matter that they have exhibited virtually no buying behavior other than doing some research or perhaps throwing darts at the trade show booth to get a squishy ball. And we don’t care that this is just one person of an entire buying team… We’ve got a lead!

I’m exaggerating to prove a point. (Or am I?) Forms, spam, and cold calls aren’t working. The way we prospect is broken, and we know it. Want proof? The total number of business emails sent and received per day will exceed 293 billion in 2019, and is forecast to grow to over 347 billion by year-end 2023.1 There are only 7.7B people on the planet! Of the 293B emails sent, 249B of those will never be read (15.1% open rate). They will immediately be deleted or IDd as junk/spam upon receipt. Of the 44B emails that are opened, only 1.4B of those will elicit a click (3.2% click-through rate on opened emails). That’s a .4% effective engagement rate, meaning 99.6% of email doesn’t drive engagement. If those numbers sound too big to get your head around, let’s bring it down to a personal level. If your prospect works in an office she receives an average of 121 emails per day. She will open 18 (103 will be deleted or filtered out as junk). Of the 18 she opens, .5 will elicit a click. That’s right, she will engage with one email every two days. Will it be yours? Unlikely.

The numbers aren’t much better for cold calling. According to, only 1% of cold
calls actually result in meetings, and 90% of B2B decision-makers say they don’t respond to cold sales outreach. Further, only 28% of outbound calls result in any conversation at all! The good news is 74% of B2B buyers say they will talk to someone who is providing value and

The bad news is buyers report that only 20% ever do (add insight).2  And it is precisely this lack of insight – what remains in the “dark funnel” – that is making it so difficult to effectively reach prospects in this new era where B2B buyers are anonymous, fragmented, and resistant. And costly too. Altify, a customer revenue optimization company, crunched the numbers and discovered companies with salespeople carrying a quota of $1 million and an average deal size of $100,000 suffered a loss of $218,000/rep over the course of a year by pursuing the wrong leads and opportunities. Well, don’t fret. Leave it to the marketing technology industry to make a big splash with a fancy new thing called ABM that has come to breathe life back into our prospecting efforts and take us all to the promised land.

ABM TO THE RESCUE? Account-Based Marketing shifts the focus from a “lead-based” to an “account-based” approach, where knowledge and insight about an account are used to create targeted, personalized outreach. It also comes with a smorgasbord of side benefits including getting into deals earlier, larger deal sizes, higher win rates, and the elusive marketing and sales alignment. So thanks, Marketing industry! But now what? What does this really mean for your business? Do you need to string together 57 disparate tools to make it all work, or hire consultants to deploy a 70-page success framework? My guess is, if you ask 50 people, you’ll get 100 different definitions of what ABM is and how to do it right.

Herein lies the struggle. What is the best way to execute ABM? At 6sense we break it down into its simplest form:

  1. Select the best accounts.
  2. Know about them.
  3. Engage the right way.
  4. Collaborate with sales.
  5. Track real stuff.


  1. The Shocking Truth about How Many Emails Are Sent, CAMPAIGN MONITOR – MAY 21, 2019
  2. The Staggering Cost of Chasing Bad Sales Leads, Posted by John Ternieden, INSIDESALES.COM – APRIL 26, 2016
Latane Conant

Latane Conant

Latané Conant is the Chief Market Officer of 6sense and author of the bestselling book, No Forms. No Spam. No Cold Calls. She’s passionate about empowering marketing leaders to confidently lead their teams, company, and industry into the future. Latané is laser-focused on leveraging technology and data to build marketing programs that result in deals, not just leads. She’s known across the industry for her creativity, competitiveness, and boundless energy.

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