When B2B sales professionals tell you they are “afraid” to pick up the phone and call a prospect, you have a problem.
But plain old fear of making a “cold call” was cited by about half of the respondents to a recent survey as a major roadblock to B2B outreach over the phone. And more than half of those sales pros said they get easily frustrated and give up on a call far too quickly.
What we have here is the most basic of human fears — the fear of the unknown. “Cold calling” is so intimidating because, when done incorrectly, an inside sales rep has little or no idea of who they are actually calling. They just have a name, a number, maybe a job title, and a generic call script that probably doesn’t address the prospect’s current role in the buying journey.
Too often, “cold calls” are just a shot in the dark. And in the era of data-driven B2B sales and marketing, that’s not going to cut it.
Phone Outreach is Alive and Well, Thanks
Here at True Influence, we are big believers in the value of phone-based outreach as part of a comprehensive B2B strategic prospecting strategy. Our ActiveBase™ demand-generation service is built on the confidence that key B2B decision-makers will respond positively to phone outreach, if the caller is prepared with valuable information that supports an in-market buyer’s purchase decision needs.
It’s the preparation part where so many “cold call” programs fail. To prepare for a call, your inside sales reps and BDRs need to:
- Know that an account is in-market for your solution
- Be certain that they are reaching out to someone who’s in the buying group for your product or service, and
- Be ready to evaluate and address the specific needs of the prospect
To do this, you need data-driven market intelligence and expertise.
Without both, “cold calling” gets pretty scary.
Intent Puts You On the Right Line for Success
Like all our demand-gen programs, ActiveBase uses the power of our proprietary intent data and Relevance Engine™ analytics to identity accounts and individuals who are actively researching a purchase. We collect and analyze millions of online behaviors — whitepaper downloads, blog post reads, social interactions, and more — then map them to B2B buyers who are in-market for your product or service.
Intent-based targeting dramatically improves the ROI of any sales and marketing program, and for phone-based prospecting it’s incredibly powerful. Call programs are a real commitment of resources, and improving conversion rates by even a few percentage points can have a huge impact on the bottom line.
One entrepreneur who participated in a “cold calling” trial reported that it took him on average 17 attempts to actually get on the line with a B2B decision-maker. Keep in mind — this columnist concluded that phone calls are actually a great way to reach high-level decision-makers. Most of the connections he made were with senior managers and higher; as our COO Craig Weiss noted last year, the 4 percent to 10 percent of executives who respond positively to phone outreach probably are not inclined to read emails or follow you on Twitter.
Still, making 17 calls to reach an IT director who simply isn’t shopping for what you are selling is going to seriously cut into the payoff of your voice programs. ActiveBase couples intent-based targeting with our database of 50 million verified B2B contacts to ensure we are calling on the right contacts, at the right accounts, with the right message.
Which leads us to our second point:
Phone Prospectors Must Come Bearing Gifts
An inside sales rep can’t just get on the phone with a VP and say, “Hi, I’d like to sell you something.”
First, you must establish that you understand the prospect’s business challenges. Then, you must prove you have the expertise to help meet those challenges. And you do that by asking smart, informed questions and being prepared to offer resources that build trust with the prospect and help her continue her purchase journey.
You have to have a plan.
Our Activebase team has decades of experience in designing call flows that identify a prospect’s needs and directs the conversation to a helpful resource or appropriate follow-up strategy. We work with our customers to identify key criteria and decision-points to direct the conversation to the best possible outcomes – even if that’s a gracious “thank you for your time” and marking the contact as closed.
Occasionally, prospects might be ready for escalation to a field sales call; more often, they are a good candidate for an offer of a whitepaper and routing into an existing nurturing program.
We deliver ActiveBase leads in these four assessment tiers, based on what we determine about the contact’s engagement level during our conversation with them.
We find this categorization gets results. If you are conducting in-house phone outreach, you definitely need to develop a similar model for growing your relationship with prospects you reach on the phone.
Phone Prospecting Done Right
For an outreach channel that makes so many sales people uncomfortable, there’s no shortage of tips and techniques out there on how to do “cold calling” correctly. Bottom line: It works, if you do it right.
Of course, we here at True Influence advocate intent-based market intelligence as the backbone of all your strategic B2B prospecting programs. It’s essential in making our own ActiveBase programs successful, and it can be a huge difference-maker for any in-house calling campaigns you execute, as well.
In addition to intent, here are three tactics that are fundamental to our success in phone-based demand generation. Before selecting a partner or launching your own in-house programs, be sure these three pillars are in place before you pick up that phone.
You have to tie phone outreach efforts to metrics
The “cold calling” survey we mentioned earlier noted that 60 percent of respondents were inconsistent in the effort they put into phone prospecting. Let’s face it — the idea of making 17 calls to reach someone can be pretty daunting, and shiny new distractions are always right around the corner.
The best way to ensure that your phone prospecting campaigns are seen through to completion is to tie them to leads delivered, across engagement stages as we discussed a little earlier. Setting quantified goals ensures that inside sales and BDRs see a prospect contact effort through to close, and are selective when identifying accounts to call on.
We’d be remiss here if we didn’t add that sales and marketing organizations’ difficulty in sticking with phone prospecting is a compelling argument for working with a partner, such as True Influence. Out ActiveBase programs are built around lead deliverability and quality — the metrics are cooked in from the start, and we are completely committed to making good on our agreements. We also have the capacity to scale up phone-based programs if marketing find a gap in its funnel for a quarter. It’s what we do.
Make sure that phone outreach doesn’t overlap other programs
As we noted before, voice is still the preferred contact channel for some B2B decision-makers. Of course, some prospects would much rather communicate via email until it’s time for a field call. Our analysis here at True Influence has found that prospects who do respond positively to voice tend to ignore email.
If a prospect or named account is not responding to other outbound channels, they are a great candidate to move to a voice program. And you can use voice as part of your touch-point mix to begin an engagement. But if a prospect is actively engaged an email nurturing flow, don’t call them. Let the prospect determine how they want to talk with you.
The problem here, obviously, is that at many B2B sellers, the email team has no idea what the voice team is doing. This kind of siloed approach to sales and marketing is the ongoing bane of B2B commerce, but it can be particularly corrosive to ROI on high-touch programs like phone outreach.
Remember, it’s not just a sales call – it’s account research
With every question you ask a prospect on the phone, you should be learning something about their business. Do they have a challenge you have not yet considered in your marketing plan? Who within the account is actually influencing this decision? And what other solutions is the prospect considering.
Getting somebody on the phone is a lot of work. Get the most out of it. Make sure your call plan includes questions that grow your overall market intelligence and informs your Account-Based Marketing (ABM) strategy.
Voice Prospecting Doesn’t Have to Be Scary
With the right plan, phone-based outreach is still a great tool in your over B2B strategic prospecting program. With advanced market intelligence, such as intent date, and an experienced, dedicated team on the line, you’ll keep your pipeline healthy and learn a lot more about your best customers.