Updated April, 2020
There has been a lot written about the status of sales prospecting and gaining access to decision makers. Most comes under the banner of social/digital selling vs. cold calling. Why does it have to be one or the other? In fact, we believe it’s imperative to use an “all of the above” strategy that combines human-to-human (H2H), digital and social in a highly-coordinated fashion. I mean, how can you get one-on-one with your prospect without the use of the phone?
We completely understand that the Covid crisis changed the way we communicate with people. As more and more prospects began working remotely, it was harder than ever to get folks on the phone. But remote work is here to stay, and we are finding that a growing number of people are now using their cell phones as primary business lines. So while the challenge will be getting those numbers, the increase in potential conversations (including texting!) is worth the extra effort you put forth.
Actions speak louder than words
Despite the agreement we seem to get in the market about the importance of including the phone in sales prospecting, we see the actions manifesting themselves in a very different fashion.
Whether it is ease, comfort or fear of rejection, we constantly see sales people succumb to the gravitational pull and (perceived) path of least resistance….which is ‘drive-by’ selling activities limited to LinkedIn, Twitter and email. I won’t label those actions as lazy, because I believe they have a place in sales prospecting efforts. But when reps are sending dozens of emails and aimlessly scrolling through LinkedIn posts, haphazardly liking and commenting, THAT is drive-by selling. And THAT is lazy.
For those who give lip service to using the phone (there is irony in there somewhere…) here are 5 reasons why the phone (landline or cell) is a critical component to your outreach strategy.
1. It personalizes communication – Not to be confused with “personalization”, when you use your voice to communicate, you make the communication more personal. People buy from people they trust, and your “voice” makes you real. An email is like the lyrics of a song- reading them communicates something, but it’s the audio (your voice) that gives the lyrics meaning and feeling. If you want to connect personally, your voice and personality is a critical tool.
2. It can socialize your message internally – This is one of the least understood elements of sales outreach. We hear reps say “I don’t leave voice messages because no one ever returns my calls.” (insert sound of crickets here). Huh?? If you don’t leave a message, how would they know you called and what you were offering? How would you build awareness for further outreach attempts? (I’m going out on a limb here to assume you would be following up multiple times…)
Here’s the thing few sales reps understand: While the person you are reaching out to may not be the correct individual, you give them every opportunity to socialize your message to the right person via email communication, meetings and conversations. Leverage the internal communication system of your prospect to create a mini branding campaign and reach more key players.
3. The phone gives you an opportunity to find the “real” right person – When you use LinkedIn and email and lists, you are making the grossly erroneous assumption that you know who the right person is. “Joe” may be the VP of XXX, who you think “should” be the right person, but as Challenger and other venerable sales methodologies teach us, “Joe” isn’t necessarily the VP in Charge of Buying Your Solution. There is often someone with a benign title who is the true “mobilizer” in a deal.
Many use the inane and now annoying tactic of just sending emails asking an executive to direct them to “the person in charge of……”. Really? Senior executives have a lot to do, and sending an unsolicited email that adds a task to their plate isn’t going to get you very far.
While your initial phone call you may not get you to the right person, you can use your human-to-human communication skills to gain assistance from the admin or whomever you speak with. People love to help people.
Don’t believe people are willing to help out when asked? Next time you are in New York City, stop a stranger on the street and respectfully ask them “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” You will almost always get a positive, constructive response. (Although at least once, you’ll get the smart-aleck reply “practice, practice, practice”.)
4. The phone is a differentiator – How many of your peers actually use the phone?
Executives have limited time and even if they wanted to speak with you, they have lots of other demands that limit their ability to do so. In most sales situations, you aren’t just competing against your direct competition, you are also competing against a host of other priorities and initiatives. At most, an executive can only meet monthly with 2-4 vendors of any kind. There are hundreds of reps, selling all kinds of stuff, who are vying to be one of those 2 or 4. By regularly using the phone as one of your tools, you differentiate yourself from reps engaging in drive-by selling and put yourself in the best position to succeed.
5. Texting – when done right – can accelerate sales cycles
What seemed an invasion of privacy a year ago has become one of the most effective ways to reach prospects: the cell phone. But there is a proper way to use that cell number, and a very improper way. Here’s your guide to cell phone etiquette:
- If the recipient of your call doesn’t know you, call them. No texting. Who wants a text (which is still a more personalized form of communication) from a complete stranger? Be respectful and call.
- Once you have connected with them personally or they have reached out for more information and provided their cell, call AND text for maximum efficiency. I don’t mean blow up their phone with promotional texts for months to come. But texting can quickly ‘break through the noise’ and help you set meetings faster, and accelerate the sales cycle. (But don’t get lazy and rely solely on texting! The phone call is still important!)
It’s time we stop thinking about using the phone as cold-calling. Instead, let’s think of the phone in a positive way—as a sales prospecting tool that allow us to connect personally with our buyers. Unless someone has reached out to you (inbound) and asked to speak with you, every outreach attempt (phone, email, social or text) is ‘cold’.
Will every executive pick up the phone or be receptive to hearing about your solution? No way. But when you are friendly, professional and respectful in your calls, you leave a positive impression that no email will ever convey. [Here are some actual unedited comments we have received from clients about the impact of professional phone outreach.]
Just pick up the damn phone. You won’t regret it.
FRONTLINE Selling is a premier lead generation company that empowers sales teams by taking the guesswork out of prospecting. Through the work of our dedicated and fearless business development reps and powerful Staccato™ methodology, we reach out to your prospects and create Meaningful Interactions to convert prospects into REAL LEADS. Contact us to learn more!