The first engagement companies have with prospects is a critical one, and arguably the very least senior level stage in the prospect dialog. This is often the early stage of the dialog where the least experienced, least skilled, poorly constructed emails, and many junior people are often placed.  I can personally attest to this being a CxO that gets a steady fire-hose stream of bad engagement from companies that want us to "buy their stuff." 

While that approach is considered "cost effective," in reality it is one of the most expensive decisions companies make from being "thrifty" up front with resources. Taking that route enables:

  • Ruining potential deals and alienating buyers
  • Adding onboarding expense because the profile of the people generally placed there are a very high turnover type of resource.

History proves it's the way things have been done for eons, the big guns are saved for the big deals when they are ready to buy. But is this the order of how people still buy?

"Today the order and quality of engagement requires a deliberate and skilled approach on the front lines."

Why? First seconds matter...they matter A LOT. Buyers have no tolerance for bad calls, answering BANT questions to get a data sheet, or sit through a painful presentation looking at a logo slide of who bought this company's stuff and why they are so great. 15 years ago buyers had to suffer through it to get info, but not any more. Today, anyone can go online and get answers....why talk to a rep? They will if it is a better experience than doing it on their own, and the rep adds value bringing sincere thought leadership to the discussion.

In Malcolm Gladwell's book "Blink," he refers to "Thin Slicing" and explains in layman terms where without realizing it we all take those "slices" of who we are interacting with, and draw conclusions. We do this constantly, without realizing it.  It's an excellent way to look at interaction with buyers and to examine the "thin slice" prospects take away from early engagement. They are automatically analyzing who they spoke with, what they got out of the discussion, what it felt like...all of it in a few seconds.

It's proven that people make a decision almost immediately based on all the information presented to them.  With first engagements, the decision could be whether they want to talk again or not. It could be a decision that costs deals because the wrong set of information was presented (the person, the outcome, the value-added,) and can be prevented by leveraging those moments up front to progress the engagement in the right direction.  

Many people still like to blame the method and promote the idea of "cold calling is dead" or "don't leave voicemails," "Don't bother calling them without an intro from someone..." The list of those soundbites are endless. But think of an executive, do you call companies you don't know to talk about business issues?  Of course you do, and those are the calls people take, not robot scripted calls that are there as a "cost saving measure" to identify the big deals to put the good reps on.Direct engagement it is still the most effective way to connect when you do it right.

When it comes to prospecting via outbound calling, the principle behind "thin slicing" applies to an even higher degree because the prospect has less data to work with. You only have your voice to make the impression. The content of the "slice" is limited. You can't utilize body language or gestures--you are accomplishing all of those things with your voice and choice of words.  Your voice is creating a mental picture, and you are compensating for in-person gestures with your dialog. Even without that in-person presence, you can still be just as effective when you have the right person in those roles.

Outbound calling today requires a very sophisticated skill set.  Since prospects are able to research you before they ever talk to you, reps need to be able to connect and converse on a "peer-to-peer" level and neutralize sales resistance to have an open dialog.

What that means:

  • Situational fluency at CxO, and VP levels
  • Industry expertise to help your prospect visualize the solution you offer in their specific environment
  • Ability to steer a discussion real-time based on the topics of interest
  • Instant processing of what is happening on the call and converting that to dialog
  • Emotional intelligence to know when to speak, when to listen, and what to ask
  • Complete understanding of corporate structure and an empathetic grasp of today's business and executive challenges

Companies invest millions of dollars into building their direct sales teams. But so many times those same companies will put the weakest links on the front lines to introduce the company. That same quality of presence the direct team needs, also needs to be on the initial call to a greater degree to have access to executives. You can be more effective with less people with the right profile.

SiriusDecisions reports that 40-70% of prospects that have interest do eventually buy. And many "Did You Buy" studies companies conduct on leads that fell out of the pipeline show that they did in fact make a purchase, from another provider. Many times it was just mismanagement of the early relationship (fell through the cracks,) and poor engagement that lost the deal just because another vendor did it better.  

Being in the right place at the right time with the right rep is how you win deals--and you can't do that reading a script or measuring how many dials are made as the main activity.

"Effectiveness will increase when putting low level people and low impact efforts on the front lines decreases."