Category Archives: Cold Calls

Does Cold Calling Still Work?

The debate rages endlessly. Does cold calling work?

If you read the articles and posts coming from the leading edge marketing writers and Sales 2.0 experts, it seems that the consensus is that cold calling is dead. Their reasoning for cold calling being a thing of the past is because no-one wants to get cold calls. Well, since no one ever wanted to get cold calls, I don’t think of that as a strong rationale.

Recently I noticed a post to a group on Linked In with the heading “Does Cold Calling Work? Stop Whining….it Does..” written by Jeff GoldbergThanks for the “Stop Whining” in the header, Jeff.

Jeff is a major proponent of cold calling and his career has been built on teaching people to master the art of the cold call. In his article, he refers to recent meetings he has set with VPs and decision makers at large corporations. If cold calling didn’t work, this would not have been possible.

I’m totally with Jeff on this one. Cold calling works. It always has and it always will. I’ll also add that most sales people have always hated cold calling and that’s not likely going to change either.

The biggest hurdle of cold calling, besides being willing to simply pick up the phone, is making the connection to the person you want to reach. Of all the aspects of cold calling, nothing has changed as dramatically as the connection rate. Only 5 years ago you could easily expect to reach at least 10 out of every 100 business contacts on your list. Now that number is averaging between 2 and 7. Gate keepers are probably less of an obstacle than they used to be, but now one of the culprits is Call Display. The person you are trying to reach doesn’t know you, they don’t know what you want and they aren’t going to pick up the phone.

This is the perfect opportunity to make Call Display work to your advantage. Never fail to leave a voicemail when you don’t connect. Identify yourself and the purpose of your call. Leave a timely, clear, respectful message and lead with your benefit.

Combine a short message like this with some intelligent persistence and patience and eventually the name and number that appear on Call Display will be familiar enough to help you make a connection.

Attn B2B Sales – Pick Up The Phone!

Are are tired of reading about how a typical B2B sale is 50 -60-70% complete before the prospect engages with a sales rep?  I am.  And that’s because that “finding”  which might be true with some mature product/service categories does not apply to what I sell.

It doesn’t apply to what most of my clients sell either. But it seems that their marketing teams are too enamored with the content they’re finding online, which co-incidentally supports ever increasing expenditures on marketing automation software and just about every possible idea to find, nurture and score potential prospects without every actually talking to them. And this is insane, because –

There is NO substitute for a live conversation.None. Nadda. Zip. Zero. Zilch! (Did I make the point?)

But the whole trend towards online, email and demand driven content- which will move your potential sales along a predictable path of their own choosing, is also supported by two simple facts.

  • The first is that most people (and here I’m talking about anyone from a business owner who needs to drum up their own new customers to a seasoned sales executive) really don’t want to  make cold calls. Often they don’t even want to make warm calls either.
  • The second fact is that it’s so hard to reach people live on the phone that calling – while it might actually be the only reasonable alternative available to many companies- demands too much time, too much frustration and a level of dogged determination that’s a drain on most people.

Frankly, there’s another problem with cold calling, too and here – sigh- I speak from experience. When you make calls to countless prospects, and end up leaving voicemail after voicemail, that odd person who actually picks up their phone can stop you dead in you tracks.  You’ve repeated the same spiel so many times that your brain shuts down and you blow the call. This is not good. It kills the immediate opportunity and feeds call reluctance.

Then of course there is the issue of incomplete and/or out of date data – another huge time waster.

Then there’s following up each voicemail with an email message- which is necessary, but also the wrong kind of mental activity for a sales person who will normally be at their best when reaching outside of themselves to connect with another human being versus sending an email, updating a database or – dare I add- writing a post for the company blog 😉

But a sales conversation, a real dialogue with a potential customer can leapfrog over 6 months of marketing’ s measured lead generation or nurturing efforts. (hah- I’ll make a lot of friends with that comment!) But, that doesn’t change the fact that its true.

Voicemail messages are important. They will only rarely get a returned call, but are the best “Passive” means available to cut through all the clutter and start (repeat start) to build you case. And they’re the inevitable outcome of many of the dials that are made, so it stands to reason to make the most of the opportunity.

Email messages are important. They fill in information gaps, point people to useful information and offer an easier (more passive) means for a prospect to either tell you that they’re maybe a little interested, or ask you to get lost.

But nothing trumps a conversation. When want to make more sales- you need to have more conversations. (Do I really need to qualify here that you are having these conversations with the right people in the right kinds of companies???)

Here comes the sales message –

With this simple principle in mind, Boxpilot has put together a sales support service that utilizes our guided voicemail, synchronized email,  desk alert and database cleaning capabilities.  T understand how we can help you and/or your sales team have more live conversations with fewer dials, leave voicemail and email  messages that say the right things and clean up your data – just send a message to Sales@Boxpilot.com and we’ll get back to you.

Blow Me Away

Have I ever told you how much I love telephone prospecting?

I lied.

Yes. It’s good when I make a connection and open the door to an interesting and potentially lucrative new business opportunity and I like to talk to new people. But, let’s be honest. Not a lot of dials end that way.

But for the dials that do end with a connection, I’ve found  it’s very hard to get their attention. Although they might prove to be interested in what you have, there is a natural reflex that promotes a mindless blow-off, even from normally thoughtful people.

Lately, they sound a lot like this:

  • You’ve got the wrong person
  • I’m in a meeting
  • Thought you were my conference call
  • We’ve got that all taken care of
  • I’m too busy to talk, and of course, the perennially popular
  • I have no money for anything

What differentiates a blow off from a genuine objection is that there is no thought behind it, it just comes tripping out of their mouth. To my eternal embarrassment it’s only recently that I’ve realized that most of those people who told me they were in a meeting were lying,. Ditto the conference call dodge.  (No wonder sales people tend to be distrustful skeptics).

I’ve found five things that help to deal with the mindless blow off:

1- Always leave a preplanned voicemail when I don’t connect and follow it up with an email that offers something I hope will be of value and maybe build up a little equity with a contact before we connect.

2. Refer to previously provided information in my opening to both refresh their memory and try and cash in on the equity.

3. In the face of a blow off, address it head on. For example,” I’m in a meeting.” might be immediately met with ” When can I call you?”  It’s surprising how many too-busy-to-talk people were suddenly ready to open up the conversation with ” Well, what’s this about?”

4. Ignore the blow off and dive in.  This is not my favorite thing to do, but I include it as a possibility because I have so many people do it to me and sometimes it works.

5. Rework your opening line.  You have VERY little time to get someones attention so you have to learn to skip that deadly boring recap of your name, your title, your company, their leading clients, etc, etc.  Why not trying something different – like jumping directly into what you hope to be able to accomplish for someone even before you give them your name? (They don’t care who you are until you have something they want anyway). What are your main points? Now re-order them to get the stuff that your contact will care about upfront.

And finally, while I said there were five points, let’s just throw in number six – Most of us are resistant to change, but if what you are doing right now isn’t working, stop wasting your time (and your financial future- not to mention your mental health) throwing blame onto the market, your leads or the people you’re talking to.

Accept the responsibility  and work with what you can control.  Look at what you’re doing and find ways to improve it for a better result.

 

 

 

 

 

Canada’s Anti-Spam Regulations -CASL- July 2014

If you are selling, doing lead or demand generation to any company or individual employee located in Canada – you need to pay attention to CASL coming into effect on July 1, 2014 because my friends, this could be very ugly.

1- Make no mistake that this legislation applies only to messages sent to consumers – It applies equally to B2B communications.

2- Unlike the US regulations that require (quite reasonably) that companies honor opt-out requests, this law ONLY permits you to send commercial emails – like lead generation, sales approaches, download and event invitations to organizations with whom you already have a relationship OR who have specifically opted IN to your messaging.

3- The legislation will not only impose very severe penalties for violators, it also opens up both companies and individuals to Private Right of Action – which- loosely interpreted means that you can be sued as well as fined.

Here is a link to a copy of the actual legislation:

CASL – The Act

While email will no longer be an option – and this act also applies to text messages sent to a phone – voicemail messages are specifically excluded from the act.

Boost Your Sales Ratios

I’ve had to cold call through too many recessions not to recognize that while it might be irreplaceable, it’s terribly inefficient. I resent how it wastes my precious time and I suspect that anyone who shares at least part of the responsibility to generate their own leads knows exactly how I feel.

I’m calling into a very competitive market, to a contact list who rarely answer their phone, are swamped with “sales approach” emails and when I can get them on the phone are skittish to the point of paranoia when it comes to giving a time commitment.  What I was seeing within the recent market is that booking a sales discussion – something I used to accomplish in less than 30 dials was now taking over 60.  I was not a happy girl.  Not only were my contact ratios down, but my close numbers were slipping, too – not for lead follow up – those numbers are steady, but my ability to book appointments on cold connections was down to a half of what it used to be.

Like many other reps, I tried different approaches (but that didn’t help) and I tried to compensate by boosting my outbound volume, which accomplished nothing tangible beyond further frustrating me and eventually burning me out.  I left sales.

And then I came back with a different tactic, one that I had the luxury to test and improve because I happen to sell guided voicemail for a living and one I can share with you.

I won’t speak with a contact until I have a reason to believe they already know who I am, what areas (that hopefully line up with their problems) I am calling about and hopefully have managed to grease the wheels just a little bit with some free information.  Using a combination of voicemail with an email follow up, I use several different messaging series, which are delivered to the contacts on my list before these precious little fingers of mine ever hit the dial.

  • I was disappointed at first with the terrible open rates on my emails, but a lot of headline work has improved that.
  • I was discouraged for a while with the limited number of direct responses to my messaging. But you know that just as much as the message – timing is everything (at least in this market) . My contacts are very focussed on today’s problems, not next month’s.
  • I was thoroughly pissed off that the contact numbers were at first, no better than before – averaging 16 attempts to make a connection: however by ensuring that my database was updated after the initial rounds of messaging, grouping different job titles and an increased calling frequency away from the mid morning/afternoon main meeting blocks, there has been a significant improvement down to an average of 12 attempts. It’s not terrific, but its a lot better.
  • As the different messaging series grew in length, I became encouraged with my improved ratios on booking appointments and getting referrals.

Another aspect of this project which cannot be ignored was the benefit I gained in developing the messages in the first place, really having to think about what an interested prospect could want from me and being more mindful of their needs when I did make that first contact.  Sadly, this isn’t a one size/one service fits all world, (wouldn’t our lives be easier if it was?) so sometimes the messaging doesn’t fit with their interests. But opt outs give me a chance to wait a while and come back from a different direction.

Here’s a look at how the numbers are tracking:

Connections to Dials:

  • 2009/2010 1:10
  • 2011  1:17
  • 2013 Fall 1:15
  • 2013 Fall/Winter 1:14
  • 2014 Winter 1:12

Meetings/Referrals to Connections:

  • 2009/2010- 1:2.5
  • 2011 – 1:3.5
  • 2013 Fall – 1:3.5 ( up to 2 delivered messages)
  • 2013 Fall/Winter 1:3.0 (3-4 delivered messages)
  • 2014 Winter 1:2.75 (5-6 delivered messages)

Meetings/Referrals to Dials

  • 2009/2010 1:25
  • 2011 1:60
  • 2013 Fall 1:53 (0-2 messages)
  • 2013 Fall/Winter 1:42 (3-4 messages)
  • 2014 Winter 1:33 (5-6 messages)

This is still a work in progress, but the results are looking pretty obvious, by using advanced messaging to not only clean up my list but warm up the contacts so that they are more likely to either be willing to give up some time or on the other hand, step forward and help to narrow down the subjects that might have appeal to them I am now  accomplishing in 33 dials what was taking as many as 60 before.

This is a good thing.

 

 

 

 

Sales Prospecting and Quality Leads

If there was ever a good reason for marketing and sales to drop the walls and find new and better ways to work together, the priority the market has placed on generating high quality leads would be it.

In some companies it’s possible that sales is completely out the lead generation (better known in sales circles as “prospecting”) game.  But I speculate that organizations with a marketing organization that enjoys the budget and the staffing to be able to keep sales supplied with a stream of high quality leads are few and far between.  And that means that in thousands of companies, sales reps are still hitting the phones and there is one very good thing about that. In spite of the difficulties that they face, when an experienced sales rep does manage to develop a lead for their use, chances are it’s a good one.

What is this statement based on?

A few things actually, all of which revolve around how most sales reps prospect for their own leads

  • Sales reps tend to work from more targeted lists.  They will spend more time calling into those markets that reflect their current customer base – accounts where there is already a better chance of finding a fit. Cherry picking can have its advantages
  • Sales reps call to the titles who they have found in the past are actually involved in the different aspects of the business decision.
  • Sales reps use a one-on-one more personal outreach than the one-to-many approach that marketing teams are required to follow.  As difficult as it might be to register a message these days, are you likely going to pay more attention to an individual calling you or just another mass message from a faceless corporate entity? (Granted, every message has to be a good one)
  • Messages that sales reps leave are more tailored to the companies and the titles that they are reaching out to than many mass marketing messages will ever be.
  • Sales reps tend to reach out in different ways. Email, phone and regular mail feature prominently instead of just more and more low-cost online messaging
  • Sales leads are finally developed though a live dialogue, with some qualification questions and an indication of interest..

So, when you add up all the factors that are contributing to the sales prospecting process, its pretty easy to understand why and to accept, that when a sales rep develops a lead through their own prospecting efforts, it will almost inevitably be a better quality lead than will come from most mass efforts.

The problem of course, is the time and effort it takes for sales people to get those leads and their failure to consistently keep feeding their own sales funnel….which is why the sales/marketing relationship needs some co-operative effort.

….more to come

 

 

Go Away – I’ve Never Heard of You

Cold call – definition for this post  -“I’ve never heard of you or your company.  I have no idea what you do, why I should value it or why I should listen to you now or talk to you later” Now, that’s cold.

I’ve made thousands of calls just like that and they used to work, but not anymore.  Yes, it’s easy to point out that the disgustingly low connection rates are the issue, but they are not the only one.  I was talking with a friend who is in marketing and he confided that his outbound teleprospecting group engaged the services of a company that boosted their live connection rate…….and it didn’t make any difference in their final results. Yup, they got them live on the phone, but no it didn’t change the sales results.

Within sales teams, that kind of talk is almost heresy.  It means that what we have always done isn’t good enough anymore.  It means we’re not good enough anymore. An unsuccessful engagement means we did something wrong.  Usually it means we we’re not prepared or focussed on what we’re doing.

I say its time to put down the whip  that we’ve been beating ourselves with.  Knowing something about your contact before you engage them live isn’t good enough anymore.  They need to know something about you. And specifically what they need to know is why they should talk to you.

I have voicemail campaigns delivered for me.  It’s a service I can assure you I never take for granted because I have personally seen the difference between a true cold encounter and a live connection with a contact that my voicemails and email messages have warmed up.  Translated into booked appointments I’m 3-4 times more likely to get a meeting if I’ve warmed the contact up before I call.  Sometimes, they even respond to my warm up messages. Sometimes that response is “not interested”,  but that’s ok. It’s information. It’s an acknowledgement and at least I didn’t waste my own time dialing them 20 times to hear it.

I still believe in calling and outbound marketing.  I truly enjoy the opportunity to talk with someone new about their business and how we might be able to help them, but I won’t make another icy-cold dial ever again.

 

 

 

Marketing+Sales=Better Lead Prospecting

Marketing calls it lead generation, sales calls it prospecting.  If we call it “lead prospecting” and I promise that you can do a better job,can we agree to work together?

Because I have no doubt that combining the strengths of the two teams will:

  1. Drive more leads into the revenue funnel
  2. Improve the quality of those leads
  3. Shorten the sales cycle  ……and what more could you possibly want?

So with that in mind,  here are 5 ways for sales and marketing to work together to create a telephone prospecting system.  But first, why the phone?

  • Because it’s the best way to gain account specific answers
  • Because when sales reps need leads they don’t initiate SEO, PPC or advertising campaigns. They don’t design complex autoresponders or build landing pages and webforms. That’s what marketing does. Sales reps pick up the phone. That’s where marketing can lend a few strengths and help them get better results. Everybody wins.

How Can Marketing Help Sales Increase Teleprospecting Success

Build, Update and Clean Data  — What is your ideal customer profile?  What are the MINIMUM number of accurate and updated fields you need to build into your database to direct future lead prospecting.  If exact industry, revenue or number of employees is genuinely relevant commit to having that data accurately included. Just don’t ask the sales team to update that kind of information.  It is however to everyone’s benefit if sales is empowered and required to flag missing critical data.

Record, Measure and Learn from your Metrics –When you engage in any dialogue with a company it will either move a potential sale forward, push it to the future, disqualify it, or worst of all – tell you nothing. To avoid that terrible “tell nothing ” result,  arm your sales team (via the CRM or however you work)  with an “if all else fails” list.  They might just be simple closed end qualifying questions to round out your data when a conversation goes south.  Given that even with your best efforts, it’s likely that your database will have gaps, filling them will  build a clearer picture of who your best prospects really are and how they might be changing over time.  Track the results of every call, match it to you profiles and use that information to fine tune your future targeting.

Bury the Elevator Speech! –Too many sales people use the elevator speech “Who we are and what we do”  as the basis of their messaging and it is an utter waste of a precious opportunity.  This is where marketing can offer the most valuable help – give your reps value based messaging to leave.  Create a sequence of messages, voicemails with their email follow ups that talk about your value proposition and will gradually, by virtue of repetition, build some awareness of the problems you can solve and interest in talking with your company.  The hardest part of this step is to gain the support of the sales management, because many of the reps will resist accepting alternative messages.

Never Give Up  — I know of a company that literally makes millions of calls a year to engage and qualify prospects on behalf of many different B2B vendors.  Their average number of dials to make a live connection is 22 calls.  Most sales people still give up after 3 attempts.  What sales needs are calling campaigns not individual one-off attempts.  Without the structure of a planned, consistent campaign you will never make enough calls.  Marketing plans campaigns much better than sales teams can.  This is probably the single biggest reason that many companies have moved teleprospecting totally out of the sales group, but that hasn’t happened everywhere yet.

Open the Door to Your Nurtured Lists –Some companies have structured outbound sales calling but far more have sales teams who would rather not be making these dreaded calls, but have to because they simply don’t have enough qualified (or not)  leads to follow-up with.  When your sales team is doing their own prospecting calls, be sure that they have a view of the leads that are in your lead nurturing program and a free hand to call into that list at their discretion.

Some marketing teams will resist the idea of letting sales reps call leads being nurtured on the grounds that they are pulling them along a carefully designed path and a ham handed sales rep could make a mess of all their hard work.  It’s true. It can happen, but in the spirit of two teams genuinely working together to improve their results, it needs to happen.  If you need the sales team to trust you enough to take ownership of your messaging, the trust will have to move both ways.

 

 

 

Get on the Phone

Are you frustrated that you don’t ever seem to hear your sales reps on the phone?

You are not alone.

Get on the Phone by John Barrows

10 More Reasons to Change the Way Sales Tele-Prospects

I feel like a Traitor. After 20+ years in sales, believing that a rep who couldn’t do their own teleprospecting was a useless as tits on a bull, I’ve recently been forced to concede that for B2B, in this day and age, teleprospecting might be better managed by marketing.

This blog recently ran a post that linked to an article on the subject by David Green and to that earlier post I’d like to add these points.

Ten More reasons why marketing should manage teleprospecting:

  1. Above anything else, in sales we are judged against the question “Did you hit your quota?”.  Nothing else is as important and therefore, we must always prioritize those actions closest to that quota meeting close.  Tele prospecting is too far from the money and will never be a priority.
  2. Many companies encourage competition among their reps. So tell me why, if I want to be the one to “win”, I’m going to share my best prospecting ideas and approaches with my colleagues/competition?
  3. Some reps are lousy prospectors, but might just be terrific in other areas. Don’t restrict sales achievements to the lowest common performance denominator.  If everyone in your company could do what they’re great at, do you think it would change your results?
  4. Low connection and returned call rates make one-off smiling and dialing inefficient. Sales people though, either by training or inclination, are rarely equipped or willing to create and manage a campaign approach with larger numbers.  But, this is marketing’s bread and butter.
  5. Spoiler Alert! Sales reps cherry pick!  We evaluate a new contact opportunity based on our past experience and place restrictions on what calls are or are not worth our time. Prejudging an opportunity leaves thousands of dollars of potential sales un-prospected.
  6. When quota deadlines loom, prospecting calls are only made out of desperation. Those contacts are often pushed prematurely towards a close.  It’s a great way to kill sales.
  7. Most potential prospects are not “open” to conversations 12 months of the year.  There are windows of opportunity if you want to engage them.  When prospecting is not executed consistently, year round, these opportunities are lost until next year.
  8. Prospecting can uncover many different opportunities, but if your sales team is specialized it’s entirely possible that even when conversations are engaged, opportunities will be ignored.  To put it simplistically, if I’m only selling a copier (or software upgrade)  and you turn out to be a potential laptop prospect, many reps will not take the time to either collect the relevant information or pass the name to another rep. Some do, but don’t bet the bank on it.
  9. With longer buying cycles and more influencers involved in the decision, many sales take more time and work to close than before. Your reps are already managing a bigger workload, potentially to turn the same revenue.  Somethings got to give. Guess what it will be.
  10. Finally, have you noticed that almost every job is more specialized than it used to be?  The marketing person who used to do everything has been funnelled into areas that are increasingly specialized.  So, why do your sales reps still need to manage the entire process?  Don’t forget a Jack of all trades is a Master of none.