Is The Way We’ve Been Doing Marketing And Sales All Wrong?


On March 2, 1962, Wilt Chamberlain poured in 36 field goals and 28 free throws for a total of 100 points.

100 points. By a single player. In a single NBA basketball game.

And while it might not surprise you that 100 points in a single game is a record that still stands 52 years later, here’s something that might:

Those 28 free throws that he made? He shot them all underhand.

Wilt Chamerbalin UnderhandImage Credit: Complex

When was the last time you walked by a park and saw a bunch of kids playing basketball — shooting underhand?

You don’t have to be a big sports fan to know that no one shoots that way.

But Chamberlain was terrible at shooting free throws, so he made the switch to underhand — and lo and behold — scored the most points in a single game in NBA history.

But then Chamberlain did something even crazier: he stopped.

Not because shooting underhand stopped working. But because no one else around the league shot free throws that way, so Chamberlain felt silly. He felt out of place. He was the only one doing it.

Why We Do The Same Things As Everyone Else

As I was listening to Malcolm Gladwell tell that story about Wilt Chamberlain on This American Life (it’s a great episode if you’re interested) it hit me.

This is what’s happening in the world of marketing and sales right now.

We know that most people don’t click on ads.

We know that most people hate filling out forms.

We know that most people avoid talking on the phone at all costs.

And as people, we hate all of those things! When we’re the ones interacting with a business or buying something, we don’t want to fill out a form and then wait to get a call from a sales rep.

But we keep using those methods every single day in our jobs in marketing and sales simply because “that’s how everyone else does it.” That’s how traditional B2B marketing and sales work.

And we know this method is breaking.

When we made the decision to get rid of all of our gated content and lead forms at Drift, the collective response from marketers was: YES! ABOUT TIME!

But we tell ourselves that we don’t have the “hard data” that we need to convince our boss and make the switch yet — even though we can point to companies like Slack, Trello, MailChimp, Zapier, Quip, InVision who are succeeding by going agains the grain of traditional B2B marketing and sales.

And we do it all because of the Threshold Model of Collective Behavior.

The Threshold For Marketing And Sales

Now I know.

You didn’t come here to read about social theory.

Which is why I’ll let Gladwell and Stanford socioligst Mark Granovetter explain the science behind it at all — it’s all in the podcast episode about Wilt Chamberlain if you’re interested — but the basic principle goes a little something like this:

We’re all driven by peer pressure.

And our threshold — how likely we are to go against the crowd — is driven by the number of people who have to do something before we join in, too.

Sure, if one person starts taking a new approach to something, they are easy to ignore (or write off as a crazy person or just an outlier). But what happens when 10 people adopt something new? Or 100? Or 1,000? Eventually we reach a threshold where that first person — the outlier — doesn’t seem so crazy anymore.

And this especially applies to marketing and sales.

Think about how much of what we do in this industry that is driven by best practices, thought leaders, playbooks, and benchmarks.

On one hand, that’s a good thing, right?

Since there are a ton of best practices and benchmarks, we can spend less time trying to figure things out and more time creating.

But this also works against us, too. It’s the reason why we keep marketing and selling to people the same traditional way: because that’s how everyone else does it.

Why Marketing And Sales Might Be Broken

But the way everyone else does it is starting to break.

We spend our days tweaking forms to see if we can get more people to request demos, sending more follow ups to our follow up’s follow up to see if we can get someone on the phone to chat, and changing the images in our ads to see if we can re-target more people who didn’t end up buying — even though we hate when people do those things to us.

Even if an ad really did catch your attention, did you click on it?

And if you did click it, did you follow through to the ad’s landing page to fill out a form?

And if for some reason you filled out that form, did you react to the nurture emails you got after?

Did you want to hop on the phone and talk to the sales rep who was just assigned you as a lead?


But if you’re like me, when you’re buying or browsing, you actively try to avoid all of that stuff.

“Can’t I just see a demo?”

It’s 2016. Information is free now. Marketing and sales don’t get to play gatekeeper anymore.

As a result, the buying process needs to match the way that people want to interact with a business.

In this world of on-demand information, why should someone have to fill out a form in order to talk to a sales rep to see a product demo? Why should a customer who has a question or is frustrated with a bug have to fill out a “contact us” form to wait 24 hours for a support rep?

On our quest to automate everything we can in marketing and sales over the last five years, we forgotten about the most important aspect of doing business: people.

At Drift, we think there’s a better way to do marketing and sales today: by having one to one conversations. Treating people like people, not like leads.

The best businesses today are already doing this. They let us buy things the way we want to buy them — on our own time. Want to try before you buy? Go for it. Want to buy something entirely through messaging? Great. You can. Have a question and need to talk to a sales rep? Great. You can do that, too.

So don’t let “how everyone else does it” be the reason you don’t make the change, because from Slack to Trello to Buffer, we’re already seeing businesses who are breaking the mold.

We think that the current way of doing marketing and sales is broken.

Why can’t every one of your prospects and customers always get connected with a real person?

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