Are you paying attention to outbound sales?
In B2B sales and still relying heavily on inbound leads and sales from your marketing efforts?
You’re leaving money on the table.
There a solid growth opportunity that you’ve been ducking by focusing only on inbound leads.
In a study by Chip Bell and John Patterson entitled, “Customer Loyalty Guaranteed: Create, Lead and Sustain Remarkable Customer Service,” just a quarter of B2B decision makers are in the market to switch to or onboard with a new vendor. Of those who are open to changing routes, 70 percent were “satisfied or completely satisfied” with their previous vendor.
What does this tell us? B2B buyers rarely were actively seek out new vendors when they made the decision to switch.
They weren’t looking at all! Nor did they have plans to switch!
Hold that thought.
In another study, 60 percent of C-suite in IT have considered switching to a new vendor after a cold call.
Wait, what? A cold call?
Yes, you’ve read that right.
[Cold calling isn’t dead.]
Looks like outbound sales techniques are still of use today. Not only are they still relevant, but the returns are quite good.
Sales managers, sales leaders and even marketing heads who follow the numbers closely and keep their eyes peeled are already in the know.
And the growing number of inside sales professionals is testament to this. Do you think these people are relying on inbound leads, waiting for interested parties to call, all day?
See, a well-oiled inside sales operation will have the best cold callers onboard and in check.
So–wait. Let’s just clarify something. Inbound marketing is amazing and it nets results. However, it should never be the sole technique for any B2B sales operation. B2B is of course a very diverse vertical, but with its characteristics—high ticket, long contract—aggressively reaching out is the way to go to not only shorten the sales cycle but to create demand and need.
I am an evangelist of inbound marketing but it is not the only weapon in my stable. Definitely not. As sales professionals, being tenacious and proactive is in our dna (depends if you believe in sales DNA, maybe you got these over time).
Inbound marketing is effective. Outbound sales is effective in B2B but have been smeared to the core by every Hollywood movie with a telephone sales rep.
Key to success for sales organizations:
Understanding buying behavior
Companies that rely purely on inbound leads from marketing are going to have a tough time.
If inbound marketing connects you to 30 percent of visitors who are interested to get your product, then who is the 70 percent?
Are these all people who are not interested in your product? If you created awesome content and these people still bounced, does it mean that the product just doesn’t fit and they don’t have a need?
Hmm. You know where I’m going with this.
Saying yes to this question is a big problem if you’re a sales leader! See, if the answer is yes, it means that the way you view salespeople are as order takers and not professional persuaders and advocates of the company’s products.
Answering yes to these questions mean you believe that B2B buyers are only those who are actively seeking to switch.
We’ve talked about this a couple of times on the blog. The trust is that B2B buyers who end up landing their eyeballs on your content are those who have already done substantial research. These are buyers who are further along the sales process. In fact, isn’t it said and proven that B2B prospects are already 57 percent deep into the decision making process when they first contact a sales rep.
Think about that.
These buyers send out their best decision makers to make inbound calls to reps. The decision makers have immense knowledge of your product, its fit with their situation and generally have a good idea of what you’re about. They only called in to see if factors like budget and pricing are good fits. They’re calling multiple vendors, most likely. Inbound leads coming in is a signal of real time competition!
Because this situation is uber-competitive, you will find yourself with less deals if you’re competing on pricing alone and are unable to get airtime to pitch, convince and convert.
Sales reps need outbound sales
Salespeople worth keeping are those who don’t just wait for the phone to ring. Neither are they waiting for super-qualified leads to come into their inbox and just basically close deals with a single phone call. Competent salespeople pick up the phone and make calls. They are proactive. They are hunters, not order takers.
They make things happen.
But, like I said, there’s a small issue. Outbound sales has picked up such a bad rap. Cold calling has been killed and resurrected many times. Boiler room-type call centers and outsourced contact center agents are what come to mind.
Well, let me tell you something.
Outbound sales is effective.
Now, put down your pitchforks! I don’t mean that a sales department will thrive on outbound sales alone. Sales orgs that know how to strike the right mix of inbound and outbound tactics are the ones poised to perform better.
Now, cold calling. This one’s in the heart of your outbound sales strategy.
If you’ve made even just one cold call before, you know that it requires salespeople to be creative and rejection-proof.
Each situation is different so cold calling is a mix of savvy and volume.
Here are some cold calling techniques I’ve learned throughout my career in sales.
Win the cold call: Techniques
Know your ideal customer profile
What is cold calling to you? Is it searching the internet for numbers and calling them to see if they’d be interested? There’s some filtering in the searches anyway, right?
Well, if you want to run an effective cold calling campaign, you need to begin by identifying who it is you want to call. You need to know by heart the type of client whom you can elicit interest from. You don’t want to blindly “prospect” and waste precious hours calling people who aren’t even remotely interested.
Knowing who you’re targeting and why is the core of building a persona. Sounds simple enough, right? Unfortunately, for many sales organizations, the creation of personas is often neglected. It has an impact on every step of the sales process.
First: You need to understand that building personas takes time, so don’t rush.
The goal is to have three to five profiles to base your initial work on.
For each one, make sure to include a hypothesis which is what you think would interest them, what kind of sales process will work for them and what kind of results are expected from this particular prospect segment.
How to build ideal customer profiles: Two-way approach
1. Start with your current clients. Answer these questions to build a solid profile.
- What are their shared characteristics?
- What experiences, issues and problems do they share?
- Why did they sign on to your service or product?
2. No customers yet? Ask yourself these questions.
- Whose life will become less difficult by using your service or product?
- Whose problems are you solving?
- Who cares about products and services like yours?
- Who would pay money to use your product or service?
- What are these people using today?
- What kind of products or services are they using now?
Of course, there are many other ways to create profiles. It can be very basic just like an info sheet where their company name, job title, company size, location, etc are jotted down.
But remember, the more you can define each profile, the better.
Aim to push the number of profiles up! The more you understand the particularities of your prospects the better.
When it comes to making cold calls, many of us fear rejection. But the truth is that there should be nothing pushy about an effective cold call. Uncover your prospect’s needs and aim to fill them in a friendly, non-antagonistic way. How? A little imagination would work. Imagine that they’re your new neighbors asking for advice. Be relaxed and easy going.
Consultative cold calling secret sauce: Sales scripts
Wait, what? I know you’re thinking that sales scripts have no place in cold calling, much more in modern inside sales. However, if you’re thinking that having a script will make you sound salesy or monotonous, then you’re doing it wrong.
A sales script is a tool that will help you lead the call and guide your prospect through it. Think of it as an outline where you jot down mini-goals for your cold calls.
Sales scripts ensure that you cover all bases during your first call. As you go further into the call with your prospect, focus on a few main issues that they’re facing (and that your product solves). When talking about their issues, be sure to talk to them like a friend and not as a “possible sale”. This is reassuring to them and will build trust.
How do you build a sales script?
- Create a solid intro that is relevant to the prospect and will catch their attention
- Ask probing questions that don’t push boundaries so much.
- Soft-share the key differentiators of the solution you’re proposing
- Align their pain points with your value and solution
Embrace sales intelligence
What good is a strategy when you don’t support it?
Your outbound effects must have a solid layer of sales intelligence to support it.
Imagine: If reps had data like existing programs and scripts their prospects are using, they could frame their calls better. If they knew who was in charge of the department and process they’re reaching out to, they would have a much easier time researching the person and the segment they belong to.
Sales intelligence is the full info of your prospects paired with a solid context. The body of contextual info may include basic information, consumer reports in their area, purchase history, current contracts, business objectives and even web engagement behavior.
Embrace sales enablement
Salespeople especially those in outbound sales can be bogged down with so much paperwork. Sales leaders and managers need to make sure that these people get on the phone armed and ready each time.
- Streamline non-call work by having all tools and data ready for the salespeople.
- Have appropriate departments provide support to outbound sales.
- Embrace automation. Use tools that make life easier for salespeople.
- Built a sales enablement “team” if you still haven’t. Yes, even if it’s just one person.
That sales enablement person or team will be in charge of making it easier for salespeople to get on calls and close sales. This involves properly communicating and transforming marketing collateral into sales content, coordinating with sales training what skills need to be onboarded or polished, and all processes, tools and skills that need to be brought onto the sales team to push their success.
Build a strategy then execute
Now that you have the components for a smooth and efficient outbound sales strategy, what’s left is execution. Keep your reps equipped and happy with their job. Don’t make it a cutthroat environment. Focus on bringing value.
Basically, move away from everything that’s given outbound sales a bad rap. Execute and reap the benefits as you give them.
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