Recently, I responded to a Quora poster who was asking for "some creative ways to schedule appointments with decision makers, other than cold calling..."
Given that I'm the founder of a company which specializes in B2B cold calling, I'm sure it's not surprising that I fundamentally disagree with the premise of this question. In any case, I was grateful for the question, because it forced me to really clarify my beliefs on why B2B cold calling is (and always will be) the most effective tool for generating sales.
In this post I am going to talk about the reasons why B2B cold calling is one of the most effective forms of generating a pipeline for new sales, and how it needs to evolve in order to remain highly relevant.
1. Humans make decisions based on emotion, and then search for rational justification.
A typical decision process looks like this: The decision-maker has an emotional connection with an idea/product and then looks for rational data to support the decision he/she has just made. Even in the world of business, the "emotion, followed by rational justification" model of decision-making is highly prevalent.
In fact, according to this Fast Company article, emotions are the root cause behind many of the decisions which we would expect to be rational. The example given in the article demonstrates how the stock market can be affected by rainy days. After having spent a few months in rainy Portland, OR, I can definitely see how that would be possible.
So, how does all of this relate to cold calling? To begin with, cold calling is an excellent medium through which your reps can use empathy to create an emotional connection with a prospect. Think about it... How can an email create a feeling of warmth? How can a blog post demonstrate a concern for the unique problems being faced by your prospect?
I'm not saying that different forms of prospecting don't have their place. They certainly do. But when it comes to creating an immediate emotional connection with a prospect, a properly executed phone call is key.
Cold calling can't put a face to the name, but it does put a voice to the name. It introduces the human element. Of course, this can go the wrong way fast, and you don't want to create a negative emotional experience with your prospect.
Which brings us to the next item on our list...
2. A phone call gives your reps the opportunity to listen.
... and in case you've never had a good sales manager, listening is the most important thing that a sales rep can do.
Why? Because when you listen, it demonstrates that you care about the prospect's situation. You are assuming the role of a friendly collaborator, here to help craft a solution. Rather than a pushy dictator, here to hawk a product.
However, active listening does much more than position your rep as a trusted advisor in the eyes of your prospect. It is also an extremely powerful tool which allows the rep to extract information that wouldn't fit neatly into an online contact form.
In other words-- Listening is how we did "data mining" before "data mining" was a thing.
And there is no better platform to receive authentic feedback about the problem your prospect is facing than to ask open ended questions on an introductory phone call. The rep should go into every call trying to uncover the prospect's challenges, rather than promote their product.
3. It is a highly adaptable tool that accelerates other forms of B2B lead generation.
The next evolution in the world of B2B cold calling is the use of sales development reps to promote "alternative" entrances into the sales funnel. I am talking about using cold calling as a way to get more webinar attendees, free trial opt-ins, whitepaper distributions etc.
How many more webinar attendees would you have if you enlisted your reps to promote your last webinar? Many businesses don't think to go this route, because all of the "how to" guides and "online gurus" swear up and down that it can only be accomplished with an email list.
The reality is, if I were to receive a phone call from a sales rep inviting me to a webinar about something I cared about, I would be impressed. Number one: a phone call is far more professional than a cold email that clutters my inbox. Number two: here is a rep that is trying to deliver something of substantial value to me, for free, prior to asking me to buy something from him. What a concept?
Obviously, I see tremendous value in using reps for "alternative" cold calling practices such as this. You should train your reps to do more than just set appointments. They will have much better success if you invest in a few pieces of high value educational content that they can distribute via professional introductory phone calls.
4. It is the most cost effective form of B2B sales prospecting. Period.
A typical in-house sales development rep can be had for around $50,000/yr. While that may be a substantial investment, it should be thought of in terms of ROI. How many qualified prospects can I buy for that $50k?
If that price is too high, there are outsourced services available such as Outboundify. For just $13/hr we provide a Rep, a phone, and a list of prospects. You can start with as few as 2 agents, and there are no long term contracts.
Now here's a real question: Think about how much you spent on keyword advertising to promote your last webinar. Did your results match what you would expect? What if you had hired an outbound B2B sales rep to invite attendees to your webinar for 40 hours instead?
Many businesses are starting to see the value of using a rep to invite prospects into their sales funnel, especially as keyword advertising and content production become more and more expensive. If one click to your website costs $30, I would suggest that you might be able to reach more prospects by paying the same price for 2 hours of targeted outbound calling.
5. It keeps your sales team out of "preparation" mode and fully immersed in customer engagement.
This last point is a little more abstract, but it is possibly the most important item on this list.
The worst thing a sales rep can be allowed to do on a daily basis is spend hours "researching" their prospect on LinkedIn and sending a timid email every other day. I'm not advocating that reps should ever enter a call unprepared -- but, at some point, you need to just pick up the damn phone and make a call.
After all, if your sales reps never had to speak with anyone, why not just hire a team of Virtual Assistants to sit on LinkedIn all day and type out emails that no one will ever open? No. The point is, you spent a lot of time assembling a sales team filled with bright minds and magnetic personalities. You need to leverage that asset to its fullest.
You need to remove your sales people from "preparation" mode (aka, procrastinating the phone call and nursing their anxieties) and instead keep them focused on curating highly enjoyable customer interaction.
When this happens, you will see a tremendous culture shift in your sales floor and the resulting increase in revenue that comes along with it.