There are a number of people out there that believe it's a bad idea to call prospects directly. That opinion is usually based on their own bad experience, either calls they have received or telemarketing agencies they have worked with. But direct outreach continues to build strong relationships with prospects and huge enterprise deals closed in 2022 due to an initial unplanned call to a prospect. What explains these conflicting data points?
Cold Calls vs. Business Calls, What Do YOU Make?
There's a huge chasm between an actual "cold call" and an unplanned "business call." A cold call is an utterly uninformed call made with zero preparation. An example of this is when I was in my early 20's, I called a financial services firm, and assumed it was named after the principal--so I asked for him. I was informed he has been dead for 30 years. THAT is a cold call. I'm sure they thought "oh brother..."
An unplanned business call is reaching out to the right company, in the right market, and connecting to the right stakeholder(s.) You understand the issues they are potentially dealing with and are prepared to open an informed dialog about meaningful topics to the prospect. It is a peer-level discussion and a good use of their time when there is interest to explore the topic.
What makes the difference between a call being an annoying interruption or a positive engagement is your telemarketing strategy that factors in the above and also has the correct support systems in place to maximize the effort. It's not just engaging someone to make outbound calls and good results magically happens; it's having the right person making the calls, the right information is gathered, and the best workflow in place to execute the next steps.
Experience Matters With Who Makes Initial B2B Cold Calls
And this is where the challenges are because it is a high-value effort and result. But, many times the most inexperienced people are put on the front lines to make those calls. This goes back to the act of calling not being appreciated, so little value is put on it. Therefore they hire resources that are not peers or able to have a discussion that is complex and rich with detail. They aren't communicating as a peer, and often get shut down just after saying a few words. I get those calls daily, and I think "who is hiring these people??" The person that doesn't know what is happening on the front lines is who hired them.
Is Launching a Telemarketing Campaign Based on Cold Calling a Good Choice for My Solution?
Outbound telemarketing services are not a fit for everyone. It depends on your target market and the objectives of making outbound calls to determine if it fits.
If your objectives are:
- To understand where deals are developing
- Identify stakeholders
- Gain the intel that puts your sales reps in the "right place at the right time"
- Build sales pipeline
- Get backdoor intel that accelerates revenue
- Gain insight on the sales landscape in an account
...then you are on the right track with a great way to identify potential customers. The connections you establish through outbound calling are beneficial relationships with a long shelf life and will contribute to the bottom line.
What IS a "Sales Call?"
"Sales call" is a term that is anathema to potential buyers and the last thing they want to spend time on if it's a bad experience. BUT....it's the experience that makes it a bad call, not the act of phone calls themselves. People call people they don't know all the time, and it's a normal part of developing business opportunities or connecting with a peer to discuss a matter.
Especially in B2B enterprise sales, which is where we operate. A "sale" is a long and complex process that has many moving parts along the way. There are multiple stakeholders and many steps involved, so reducing the description to a "sales call" is inaccurate. But the experience is what makes a prospect immediately think "ewe, this is a sales call."
A business call is a different experience than a traditional outbound call from a low-level telemarketing team. That kind of telemarketing experience is the turn-off, not the act of making direct contact with prospective customers.
I get those bad calls all day (I've linked some articles on that topic at the bottom of this post,) and that is what gives the whole effort of engaging a telemarketing agency a bad rap. Really at this stage, the words "B2B Telemarketing" bring up memories of people calling looking for "decision makers" or pitching something that is so far outside of what that person does or wants to discuss.
What Does Telemarketing Success Look Like?
Outbound marketing is the most effective way to:
- Identify new business
- Reach your target audience
- Introduce new products
- Discover the sales cycle you had no previous visibility of
- Find both long and short term sales leads
- Deliver quality leads to the sales people.
- Identify decision makers
- Add new leads to the funnel
- Support email campaigns
- Support nurturing of qualified leads
- Secure new clients
Outbound sales does not hinge all on one thing though; success will be determined by your sales process and how your sales funnel is managed. The management of the output of those calls is what makes your telemarketing efforts shine.
Those potential clients can be lost if your lead generation campaigns don't have the workflow designed to deliver the best way for sales representatives to engage. Your lead generation process needs to discover the pain points you can solve and guage the interest of your prospect, they also need to be managed through the process so they don't fall through the cracks.
What do you need to manage results?
- Delivery process of information to sales reps
- Management of information (CRM)
- Hand-off process
- Understanding of actions needed
A lot of programs can appear to perform poorly if the workflow falls apart. One of the things we do is make sure the support system is in place to succeed because that is a key element to success.
What is the Number of Calls to Get the Best Results?
The typical call amount to reach someone is between 8-15 attempts. Remember, that's just the initial engagement. There's still the follow-up call, the lead qualification achieved through open discussion, and the in-house sales team taking the baton and continuing the process. It's continuity and transparency of process.
Also, before you even start, have the right expectations. Do prospects know your company? Do they know your solution? Your current brand awareness needs to be considered. If prospects know who you are, it is a bit easier to engage vs. if they don't know who you are or what your solution does. That's why you should have a plan for digital channels to be part of the model. If you can create a landing page that you can post on social media platforms that support your overall effort, that's where you will gain a more significant imprint than just telemarketing calls.
The critical information you can gain through a peer-level discussion with open questions and capturing that information in real time is what leads to revenue. The number of calls you make will depend on the demand on the time of your prospects. A CIO at an F500 company isn't going to be as available as someone over a function at a different level. So it's important to know what your main goals are. Some people want appointment setting only, but that also throws out the baby with the bath water because you are missing more developing deals, insight to gain access to stakeholders in accounts, timing, current landscape in the account, and much more.
B2B Telemarketing, Telesales, Sales Development or however you label a program needs buy-in across the board for success. The workflow needs to be designed to support the process. And this isn't an outsourcing vs. insourcing discussion; it's something to address whether you do this in-house or outsourced. It's the process of a prospect traveling through the funnel, and seeing where you have breakdowns or avoiding them altogether ensure success across the board!