Category Archives: Cold Calls

Should Sales Stop Teleprospecting? YES!

Sales will be much better off when they get teleprospecting help from Marketing.

Marketing needs to drive higher quality leads and nothing improves lead quality like a telephone conversation. Sales needs to use outbound calling more effectively and nothing warms up that first live connection like a contact who knows who you are and already recognizes that you have good value to offer.

My first sales job actually involved a desk, a phone, a mirror and a telephone book and I did all my own prospecting. Since then, I’ve never stopped believing that a sales person who can’t prospect on the phone isn’t worth the chair they’re sitting in.  I’ve also been irritated anytime I read that teleprospecting should be handed over to marketing.

I admit it.  I’m a dinosaur.  Worse, I have been a closed-minded dinosaur ( the worst kind)  but now I finally see that for a myriad a reasons, outbound calling is something that both sales and marketing need to work on together.

Marketing can put campaigns and systems into place to help warm up contacts before sales invests the time into a live connection (because they’re hard to make) and I’ve found through personal experience that when the contact has even a hint that I might have something useful to offer before we actually connect, performance ratios improve dramatically.

Here’s the article by David Green in the B2B Lead Blog, which made me finally see how the two groups are stronger together.

 

Research or Procrastination?

I was just looking over an earlier post that included a link to 12 Prospecting Rules and one idea stood out –  confusing prospecting research with actual prospecting.

It resonated with me because in my experience, the “need” for precall research, is one of the most frequently cited reasons for not picking up the phone and often nothing more than a thin excuse to rationalize call reluctance.

Just to define the space, I’m talking about telephone calls made to a list where you have a contact name and title in a company that should generally be a good fit for whatever you are selling.  They have not asked for a call so I’m calling this “cold” although that research need often extends to companies who have not necessary asked to be called, but have expressed some interest in a problem you can solve as evidenced by a white paper download. ( I call that a warm lead.)

So what you need to do is pick up the phone and establish contact. That is called prospecting.  But what most people do – is first go to Linkedin and look up the person ( which is just fine- take a minute and do that) and then go to the company website to gain an understanding of the company.  If you ask most reps – certainly the junior ones why they’re doing it, the answer you’ll usually get is that “I don’t want to sound like an idiot”.

You have to ask the juniors because they don’t know better than to tell you that perfect unvarnished truth. They’ll explain that in looking like an idiot they are convinced that it will reflect badly on the company they represent.  So sorry. That’s a crock. Its an ego protector and does not serve the interests of the company.  What serves the interests of the company is to pick up the phone.

So, how do you manage precall research?  First, by understanding it’s purpose, which is NOT to ensure that you can intelligently discuss the company’s recently issued financial statements or their competitive positioning The purpose of precall research is to quickly find a hook to hang your introduction on.

For example, Boxpilot provides a service that has been successfully employed by hundreds of companies to boost their event registrations and attendance conversions, so my precall research goes immediately to look for upcoming conferences, road shows or other events.  We can also help stretch the reach of a sales group- so I’ll quickly check to see if they’re hiring sales people.

I’ll note their main line of business, in case I have some specific client experience in that area.  It’s prospecting research with a purpose and you get no more than 3 minutes, otherwise you’ll find you lose the discipline of a quick specific search and instead fall into the rabbit hole of web research.

 

Sales Time is Irreplaceable

Time has always been the most precious sales commodity.  It is finite, unstoppable and a minute passed is gone forever.

While technology has certainly helped sales people operate more efficiently, it has also opened new areas that demand to be covered. Thank about Social Media/Social Selling and LinkedIn.  For the successful B2B Sales person the opportunities created here can’t be ignored.  But what about the other things that your sales reps do to earn a living and keep your business away from the competition? Is there not continuous pressure to stay in touch with new contacts, new prospects, possible leads, lapsed customers, long term buyers and inbound inquiries (to name a few)?

There are some who will say that outbound sales calling is dead.  I, and a few million other “bosses” beg to differ.  Calling and writing are alive and well and happening in almost every business organization.

Even the oft quoted CEB Study –  source of the infamous stat – 57% of a  (B2B) customers progress in purchase decision making is complete before they engage with a sales rep – also clearly shows that high performing Sales Reps engage customers early to disrupt and challenge their customers assumptions.

Early engagement, is critical to reset a prospect’s buying criteria, unless you’re OK with potential customers doing all their own research, based on their own assumptions, developing preferences and only engaging your company when they’re ready to grind you down on your pricing.

So, sales is still dialing and writing and researching new opportunities and now using social media as another route to build credibility and contacts.  It’s a lot of ground to cover and too many days can pass  with the uneasy sense that you simply didn’t make enough of an impact on your market.

Sales has always been an exclusively one-to-one contact model and that has to change to have any hope of covering your market and staying in front of the many, many prospects who will happily move down the sales cycle without engaging a sales rep.

Create an opportunity to challenge their existing assumptions about:

  • how to achieve their business goals
  • what solutions are available for the problems they face
  • what new opportunities exist to correct problems they’re not aware of, only because they’ve been taken for granted for so long
  • what is and isn’t good enough
  • where is the best value to be found

At the same time you need to be heard in a very, crowded marketplace. That usually requires a lot of repetition, persistence and message variety.  The phone, alone, is not enough. Email alone is not enough.

Nowadays, top performing sales reps need to master both one-to-one and one-to-many communication styles, which means taking some lessons from marketing on list management, campaign management, progressive content creation and integrated communications.  Top performing reps know how to talk to a single person, now it’s time to learn something new.

Smart sales campaigns will cover more ground in the same amount of time as individual outreach and that boost in productivity seems to be necessary, now.

 

 

 

You’re One in a Million…..(Sales Callers)

How many times have you dialed a new contact and made the connection, only to hear the complaint “You’re the 10th call like this I’ve had today”?

It’s not an uplifting experience. Yes, there is some exaggeration, but there is also considerably more than a grain of truth and you need to find a way to deal with it. That means accepting that until you have actually done something unique and memorable you’re just one more person in a nameless thundering herd of interruptions, pushing an undifferentiated and unasked for product or service. Let’s accept that once you have the opportunity to engage your new contact you will do your job and brilliantly differentiate yourself, your company and your offering.

But the real problem is what’s happening before that connection is made.  Are your messages doing anything to genuinely further your efforts to have a  real conversation? Or, far more likely – are your messages so brutally “me too” that you might be damaging your future with this prospect?

You might be thinking that this is the part of the post where I line up my blazingly brilliant answers to this dilemma. Sorry.  I don’t think that going back to the tried and true practices of yesterday are going to cut it any more. Yes, you might get a lucky and hit the right pain point at the ideal time to create a Eureka moment, but you won’t be the only one using this tactic either.

It’s time for something new – Who has an idea?

 

Reach out to Sales People to Meet a Decision Maker

Here’s a great idea to get your 2013 off to a spectacular start.  Too bad I didn’t think of it!

This week from the blog Eyes on Sales Mark Hunter a.k.a. “the Sales Hunter”,  shares a brilliantly simple bit of wisdom you can try if you’re having difficulties opening the door in a new company.

I suggest you read his entire post, but I can tell you that the key is to enter through the Sales Team if you’re looking for a supportive door opener who can not only provide you with some decent information but also become an advocate for you as well.

It’s just another example of the simple truth that if you’re really looking for it, there is always a way to succeed.

Now, if you’re looking for another great idea to get your year off to a good start, check out this video from Victor Antonio with his Top Ten Sales Books:

What Will Your Sales Team Do Better This Year?

On your last birthday, you didn’t magically become a year older. On the first of January you didn’t automatically get a clean start.

So, what’s the big deal with new years? Actually there isn’t one unless you have the good sense to take advantage of the opportunity and make it a big deal.  Decide that you do have a clean slate and the mistakes you made last year (and possibly before then) belong in the past.

So, as the leader of a sales group whose success is vital to your company, what do you want to see happen this year that is new and improved and better?

Measurement is a big plus.  Ouch, was that a huge collective groan from every sales rep that just felt this disturbance in the force?  Can’t say I blame you and can’t say I don’t feel exactly the same.  But that’s what I feel and NOT what I know.

Because measurement improves performance and if there is one thing you need to bring your team onside about it would be this – they want to keep score.  That isn’t necessarily a competitive thing, like running contests and rewarding who made the most calls on a given day. That will eventually pull the focus away from the result of those calls.  Instead I talk about “keeping score” because its something that we actually seem to be pretty good at, as long as we don’t look at ourselves.

Think for the moment about the stats we collect about sports – baseball, football and racing, (and a ton more, too) but we seem to be universally awful about tracking our own performance in our work.  It’s more than a little ironic when you consider which is actually more important in our life.

Look at it this way, you start with a goal – also known as the quota.  You know you have a certain amount of time to get to that number – let’s work with a quarter. When you track your progress you have the opportunity to know at any given point in that quarter if you’re on track to hit that number.

There are three mental places you can be with regard to reaching your goal:

  • You can know that you’re winning.
  • You can know that you’re losing.
  • You can be clueless.

Now, everyone loves to hear that they’re winning.  They love tracking when it shows that they’re ahead of the game. But do you realize that, if given the choice between knowing for a fact that they’re losing or not having a clue what’s going on, the average sales person would rather be blissfully ignorant.  The trouble of course with blissful ignorance is that when you won’t face a problem you don’t have an opportunity to fix it.

Maybe that’s why they’re called average.

Grab the spreadsheets, set the goals and make your team track their performance.

Why Sales is Like Baseball

My first presentation of these test results was a total flop and it was very frustrating. The results showed the impact of adding a regular cold call voicemail program in support of a sales rep (who was also cold calling).  I was excited about the findings that showed- among other things a 50% improvement in responded messages and 33% growth in raw contact rates, but what my audience saw was a weekly total of 14 contacts growing to 18.5 – just a little more than one more contact a day.  She was totally unimpressed with one more contact a day and announced that it wasn’t worth her time. And that was the end of that presentation.

Now I’m smarter and gross up the numbers so nothing smaller than quarterly raw numbers show and put the real focus (where it belongs) on the ROI.  But still, if you want your sales team to get better results, there are some very important lessons to take away from the value of small daily improvements.

Let’s take some of the findings from our inhouse study to help make the point and I hope give you a way to encourage your own sales team of the incredible value of even a small daily improvement.

Background:

Like many sales teams, the Boxpilot sales reps also make cold calls -when necessary.  And given that our list of potential customers is pretty extensive we found that a large percentage of each territory was not receiving a personal contact on a regular basis. It was a perfect opportunity to measure the impact of changing that contact rate.

We had some starting metrics and they looked like this:

  1. Live connect rate on rep dialed calls ran from 5-7%
  2. Responses to a voicemail + email message from sales averaged from 1-3% – twice the response rate of  email alone.
  3. Average Marketing campaign response rates ran from 2-4.5%
  4. Regular contact is vital to database quality. Campaign delivery rates fall sharply when contacts are not called. At 90 days results were 25% poorer than monthly contacts and when left unmessaged for over 180 days- many campaigns had less than 40% overall delivery.
  5. When leaving voicemail messages and email follow ups it was realistic to expect an average of 40 contact attempts a day.  When voicemails were not left (as a rule ) the attempts increased by about one third.

For a three month period, 1600 contacts were selected and divided into two groups. The 800 contacts who ended up in group one were added to a monthly messaging program. Each name on the list received guided voicemail and synchronized email campaign messages “from the sales rep” with a message focus on providing interesting, relevant information with a call back request.  The remaining 800 contacts, we’ll call group two.  These 1600 contacts by the way did not represent the full territory count.

Because the contacts in Group One were receiving the monthly “rep” message, the sales rep did not leave another when working through the list, although a previously written email was sent.  The added calls increased the daily average contact rate from 2.8 to 3.7 – a little less than one more conversation a day. Responses to the emails averaged about 1 per week and created 2 additional live conversations a month.

When failing to connect with the contacts in group Two, a voicemail and follow up email was sent by the sales rep – one at a time, and this messaging generated about 4 responses a week, 2 of which turned into another live conversation

The voicemail+email messages left by the sales rep had the same response rates as the voicemail+email messages left in the reps name via the guided voicemail and synchronized email program.

It was also noted that the marketing campaign responses against both group one and two were almost doubled compared to the untouched portion of the sales territory.

So lets compare group one and group two.

Group 1 – Rep cold calling + Campaign messaging-  accounted for an average of 4.2 daily live conversations

Group 2- Rep cold calling only –  accounted for an average of 3.2 daily live conversations

One more sales conversation a day might not sound like much, but this is where the baseball analogy comes back into play.  Do you how many hits separates the #1 all time best batting average from the person who is ranked at #1000?  One in ten at bats. Think of it this way, if you miss the ball 8 out of 10 tries you’re just another guy  but if “You only fail 7 out of 10 tries you could be the greatest hitter in the game.” Ted Williams (#7) said that.

So although one more conversation a day doesn’t sound all that awesome, think of the impact that 20 more conversations in a month or 60 more in a quarter will have…… and just for the record, you ought to know that you can sustain those 800 monthly messages for about a dollar a piece.  Would twenty more sales conversations be worth more than $800.00 in sales to your company? If you doubled the campaign size you could double those metrics and you can do more than that if you choose.

Told You So

Is there possibly any question in marketing or sales that has been and will likely continue to be so thoroughly beaten to death as the perennial favorite – Is cold calling dead?

First of, I’d like to mention that I saw a survey on LinkedIn today in the group discussions for Inside Sales Experts and it was built using Instant.ly which is a very interesting free survey. If you’re interested in tools like this I suggest you check it out.

So – back to the question and what the survey reported.  At time of writing the results are pretty conclusive. A whopping 88% of the respondents say that cold calling isn’t dead and – just to be thorough – the definition of cold calling was this: A phone call where the person didn’t fill out a lead form, didn’t download your content, doesn’t know you, is not a referral and is not expecting your call.

About 60% of the respondents are in sales and I am yet to see a survey taken among sales people that doesn’t reaffirm that cold calling is indeed alive and well and a critical part of the business building plan for many, many companies.

So where is the “Cold calling is dead” wave coming from?  Who says it’s dead and Why?

Companies who are in the business of inbound lead generation and marketing/email automation will all tell you that cold calling is dead – because they’re doing their best to replace it.

Best in class lead generation marketers will support “cold calling is dead” because over the years they have been able to put the resources into programs to drive, nurture and qualify leads.  No, I doubt that there is a lot of cold calling coming out of the Oracles and the IBM’s of the world.

A lot of people and companies will tell you cold calling is dead – but they’re usually qualifying it with some sort of caveat that allows them to put their own special spin on it and use that spin to tell you why you need their service too.  You know – “cold calling is dead but warm calling is alive and well.”

I love the quote from Trish Bertuzzi on Insidesales.com  “Let’s not kick outbound calling to the curb just because it needs a name change – let’s just change the name.”

What shall we call it instead? – Here are my top choices :

  • Outbound telephone lead generation
  • Outbound telephone prospecting
  • Outbound telephone sales

Calling is not dead. There is a world filled with companies who hire sales people to do what Brian Carrol has described as “Selling like it’s 1992”  In this world sales reps are expected to find, close and service business. If they want to keep their job they need to pick up the phone and make outbound calls to people who did not first ask to speak with them.  They’re usually working with databases that haven’t been properly updated since the original import.

Many sales driven companies either don’t have any marketing department or have one or two people reporting directly to the big boss to make collateral material as instructed, order the annual Christmas gift baskets, run the golf tournament and maybe update a website.  Every sales rep uses their own email templates and presentations. The really good ones (in other words the ones that worked) get shared between the reps. And finally as far as lead generation is concerned, everything that even resembles a possible sales opportunity is passed to the sales team – even the responses that already say “No Go Away” because of course any sales person worth their pay relishes the opportunity to turn them around.  That’s the reality.

So that’s 1992?  No, its not.  It’s 2012 for most businesses. Is there a better way to do things?  Yeah, probably. But unless you have a lot of money to spend on more staff and the technology to manage the new bells and whistles, you’d probably be better off if you just pick up the phone.

The Voicemail Opportunity


In spite of the incredible advances made in email marketing, social media and marketing automation, the telephone is still one of the most powerful sales and marketing tools at the disposal of any company.  True, we often don’t use it well, leaving messages that ramble and don’t speak to the interests of our customers and in many cases we support typical sales reluctance with a misguided perception that sales people shouldn’t be reaching out to customers who aren’t already screaming to buy.

Let’s face it, most sales reps are looking for the path of least resistance to a completed sale. With all the emphasis placed in the marketing press on inbound leads, the value of social conversations, the (greatly exaggerated) death of cold calling and some cockeyed idea that potential clients who don’t want sales people banging down their door day and night is somehow a NEW market condition, it’s all too easy for mere humans to resist the urge to pick the phone and try to talk to someone.

Can you tell that I think that many of these resistance points are bogus? I do. But, one thing does stand in the way of developing an immediate dialogue whenever a sales rep picks up the phone, and that is voicemail.

Now, whether you view voicemail as an obstacle or an opportunity is pretty much up to you.  But how you choose will have a real effect on your success. Obstacles get in your way, they slow you down and in many cases become an excuse for failure. Opportunities, on the other hand offer new ways of doing things and new roads down which you can travel to find more success. In the best of all possible worlds, your competitors will only see the obstacles that voicemail presents and will not see the opportunities.

Voicemail provides a way to take corporate communications created for the universe of prospects and customers and make them yours, by leading with a message in your own voice to say “here’s something I thought would be of interest and value to you”.

Voicemail means that no dial is ever wasted.
Voicemail gives you an opportunity to develop rapport with new contacts.
Voicemail pushes you to the top of a huge group of companies and people trying to be heard.
Voicemail offers you sound bites to start wearing away points of sales resistance.
Voicemail differentiates you from all those competitors who think they can be successful using only email.
Voicemail allows you to automate your outreach on the phone, just as you can with email and even better, allows you to combine the two to drive a more complete message, taking advantage of the personal, persuasive appeal of your voice and the efficient distribution of factual content via the written word.

With all the changes we have seen in the last 5 years, some things have not changed.  If you want your message to stand apart from the cacophony and clutter, don’t just run with the crowd.

Fighting a Change? Measure the Impact

What should be the first words out of your mouth when leaving a voicemail message?

Much of my recent research is pointing in a direction I’m just not buying, but is that just another example of a stubborn old dinosaur resisting change?  What I’m seeing more and more of,  in reports and on discussion groups is that a voice mail message – left for the purpose of lead generation/sales prospecting- should cut immediately to the chase, which is the “pain point”.

What should be pushed aside until later in the message is your self introduction.  That’s the “hello my name is ..and I’m calling from…” For some reason this is just sitting badly with me, but in the interest of ensuring that sticking to an old approach is not damaging my business, I’m going to be making the change and will keep track of the results and report back when a reading comes in on whether or not this makes any difference.

New messages from me will open immediately on the purpose of the call – which is to inquire about  an assumed pain point and point to a potential solution.  Let’s see how a head to head comparison comes out.