“Cold calls” still has some life left in it.
Don’t get me wrong. On the surface, the numbers don’t look great.
A recent survey found that only 4 percent of B2B decision-makers respond positively to “cold call” marketing efforts, as reported by eCommece Times. Other sources typically put the odds of making a sales appointment from a cold call at somewhere between 1 and 3 percent, while the Direct Marketing Association — a champion for old-school tactics — puts the overall response rate to phone marketing at about 9 percent.
But here’s the thing — even if a telemarketing effort is met with only 4 percent favorability, that’s 4 percent of your audience that you’re likely not otherwise engaging.
When we analyze response across channels here at True Influence, we find that the B2B prospects who respond positively to voice marketing tend to ignore email, online advertising, social blasts and other digital channels. (As you might expect, the inverse is true for folks who actively engage with digital.)
Perhaps prospects who respond positively to voice skew slightly older. Perhaps they are overwhelmed with email. Or perhaps they are just wired differently. Whatever the case, they are part of the audience mix for your product or service, and multi-channel marketing is all about reaching customers where they feel most comfortable.
Before I go any further, a full disclaimer — I spent two decades of my career in phone marketing, so this is a subject that’s close to me. But voice marketing has been a bread-and-butter tactic for B2B marketers for decades, and recent advances in data-driven digital marketing haven’t made good-old fashioned phone calls obsolete.
In fact, data-driven Account-based Marketing (ABM) strategies can help refine voice marketing campaigns into an even more effective channel for reaching an audience segment you’re likely missing out on.
ABM Helps You Identify the Best Cold Calls Candidates
For any active ABM target account, you’ve sent dozens of emails and other digital efforts to begin an engagement with key contacts. And you’ve successfully connected with a few key decision-makers. But some folks are just not responding.
It’s probably time to pick up the phone.
Look, you’ve already invested a lot of energy in researching and testing an account’s interest level, both in first-party response to your outreach and broader third-party Intent Data monitoring solutions, like True Influence’s InsightBASE account acceleration platform. You have a good idea that the account is moving toward a buying decision.
Just because a specific buyer hasn’t engaged with you through digital channels doesn’t mean they aren’t on that journey, too.
“Cold call” contacts may be hardest wins, but they also are a payoff in your investment in ABM. And when executed smartly, that 4 percent positive response rate for the modest expense of a voice campaign looks pretty good.
Which leads me to my next point…
“Cold” Doesn’t Mean “Blind”
The key to converting in voice marketing is to know know more than just the phone number of the person you are calling.
ABM research will provide intent, firmographic and account-level details that can warm up your sales person for that “cold” call. And even if you’re not completely invested in ABM at this point, your caller needs, at a bare minimum, to know:
– What’s the contact’s role in this purchase decision?
– Has the contact already been introduced to your brand, even if they are not currently engaged?
– Who are the other contacts at the company who are likely to also be involved in the decision?
As COO at True Influence, I get a ton on calls weekly. Often these sales people want to talk to me about tech infrastructure, which is not really my area. Not a great way to make a first impression.
This level of preparation requires some homework, obviously, but it’s a worthwhile investment. We see the positive results in our own Waterfall demand generation services here at True Influence. We couple our highly vetted and researched contact information with third-party Intent Data to refine our call lists and come prepared with the right messaging when we pick up the phone.
It works. We’ve built a business around it.
Have a Plan for Monetizing the Call
Look, it’s lunacy to think you are going to jump in at the end of a sales cycle with a phone call. Miracles happen, but not that often.
The industry wisdom here is “Leverage the Connect” – when you do get that favorable response to a call, you have to have a clear plan of how you are going to monetize the engagement.
For most B2B marketers, this means quickly identifying the contact’s current purchase journey stage and engaging them in the appropriate nurturing activities. These may be a bit accelerated, since you are on the phone with the contact, but a personalized invite to a high-value webinar or other value-added learning experience is probably a sound option for most receptive phone contacts.
Have a Plan for Getting Off the Call
I mentioned earlier, I sometimes find myself on calls about tech infrastructure or other issues that aren’t really a fit. Sometimes, we’re 15 minutes into these calls and I am find myself saying, “Look, you really want to speak to my colleague …”
Your salesperson needs to be prepared to spot that a call is going nowhere, and have a clear plan to graceful ask for a reference to another contact or just say, “Thanks, and goodbye.” If the answer is clearly going to be “no,” move on.
This tip sheet at Sales Hacker has a lot of good advice for sales calls, but among the best is to simply not waste anyone’s time, either yours or that of the prospect who you are calling.
Hedge Your Bets
Voice calls do come with an elevated risk of negative brand exposure. Again, this is mitigated if you smartly select only prospects who aren’t already engaged with you via digital channels — there are folks out there who like getting phone calls, if the call offers some value to them or their company.
Come prepared with a research-based eBook or other high-value asset as a “thank you” for making time to speak to you. This asset should encourage a deeper engagement with your company, of course, but it also be genuinely useful to the prospect if they decide not not go further down the road with you.
Voice marketers in our TeleLEADS demand gen program follow this tactic, and we find that most prospects, when carefully selected for a voice program, come away with a overall positive view of the experience. (I’d be a bad marketer if I didn’t also note here that we call under our own brands, further limiting the possible negative exposure for our own demand-gen clients.)
People don’t hate being marketed to if the message has value to them, and that goes for voice marketing as well as digital channels.
“Cold” Calls Still Have a Little Heat in Them
They may not be fashionable these days, but cold calls to prospects who aren’t currently engaged with your company are still a great tool, particularly when viewed as a channel to flesh out your audience mix. Even the eCommerce Times article I referenced at the start of this post notes that voice programs can be a cost-effective device for demand generation.
It just takes a little homework and a commitment to reaching prospects who are likely to respond to both the message and the medium.