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CEO Blog: ‘Outbound Prospecting’ — The Cold Calling Tactic That Works

Steve Richard |Co-Founder, Vorsight
Monday, 21 Mar 2011 | 10:17 AM ET
Stockbyte | Getty Images

Many supposed “experts” are claiming that cold calling is dead and has been replaced by inbound marketing, where potential buyers raise their hands during marketing campaigns. While inbound marketing is appealing and can add incremental revenue, research tells us that outbound prospecting is alive and one of the predominant driving forces behind business growth.

In a recent e-book called “Sales Speaks” we surveyed 1,150 B2B sales reps on the effectiveness of inbound marketing versus outbound prospecting within their companies. Seventy-one percent of sales reps say that their best deals “probably” or “definitely” come from self-generated outbound marketing efforts, while only 29% say that their best deals come from inbound marketing leads.

CSO Insights recently surveyed hundreds of Chief Sales Officers for their 2011 Sales Performance Optimization report. Sales leaders are placing a heavy emphasis on lead generation challenges. Forty-nine percent of those surveyed name “revising/enhancing our lead generation programs” (an outbound marketing effort) as a top sales effectiveness initiative. The next closest, at 39.6%, is “more closely aligning sales and marketing.” This interestingly shows that inbound marketing campaigns are proving insufficient when it comes to finding new customers or developing additional business with existing accounts.

Successful businesses do not sit back and wait for the phone to ring or marketing leads to fall in their laps. They proactively make business happen. The fact is outbound prospecting (a.k.a. cold calling or warm calling) is one well kept secret to 21st century business growth, especially for B2B service and technology companies.

Salespeople need to pick up the phone and generate their own leads. Since we know this is easier said than done, here are some specific, actionable insights that are easy to implement and can quickly grow revenue:

1. Engage the prospect over the phone. While email marketing is immensely popular, tune out rates are at all time highs. After tracking the origin of 635 scheduled meetings with VP level executives, our reps discovered that 78% of meetings were scored by conversations over the phone and only 9% through e-mail with no conversation. With today’s many distractions, it is vital to catch prospects via phone and engage them in a quick conversation to begin the buying process. The best sales reps methodically set aside time to hit the phones in search of those crucial conversations.

2. Research and create 3 talking points. Utilize online tools like LinkedIn, Jigsaw, InsideView and ZoomInfo to gather info on the person and company you are calling. Vorsight advises clients to do 3 minutes of research to identify 3 key talking points before any conversation. Seeing that an executive previously worked at a company that you do business with, for example, is invaluable information that can warm up any call.

3. Get the cell phone number. Potential buyers are more mobile than ever, and US attitudes toward cell phones have relaxed. By dialing their cell phone, you instantly get past the gatekeepers and electronic barriers. Placing a cold or warm call to a cell phone requires excellent call opening technique and the ability to engage in a conversation quickly. If you know how to get cell numbers and start conversations the right way, you’ll have a very loaded pipeline fast.

4. If the cell is out of reach, go for the direct line. Our internal research indicates that calling direct lines is up to 3 times more effective than calling through the switchboard to make a connection to an executive. It is a time investment that shows big payback when it comes time to try to get the prospect on the phone.

5. Speak as a peer, not a marketer. Executives do not enjoy talking to telemarketers, but they love chatting with peers. You may not ever be a peer to the executives, but you can at least look like you travel in their circle. By using a technique called “Client Voice” you can transcend the typical cold call and become an advisor to the executives earlier in the buying process.

6. Utilize new dialing technologies. It takes an average of 22.5 dials to connect with an actual decision maker over the phone (most calls lead to voicemail or assistants). With such a low ratio of dials-to-connects, smart organizations are looking at new tools. The InsideSales.com power dialer allows sales reps to make two to three times the dials in the same time. The ConnectAndSell service dials on your behalf and patches you into the call once your desired contact is on the line. Not inexpensive, these technologies have the potential of delivering massive ROI (assuming the sales rep is highly skilled).

Vorsight’s sales meeting scheduling team tracks the source of their meetings. Live conversations via phone routinely blow away email as the most effective means of landing a meeting with a prospect.

Steve Richard is the Co-Founder of Vorsight.com, a sales effectiveness firm that helps B2B sales teams generate more opportunities with qualified decision makers at target accounts. Vorsight’s services include sales prospecting training, management training, ongoing coaching and reinforcement, speaking at sales kick off meetings, outsourced meeting scheduling, and building client lead generation teams from scratch.

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