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While we have heard a lot that telephone prospecting was going to disappear in recent years, I have never agreed with these forecasts. Some analysts have even talked about the extinction of the role of representative, nothing less!
Nonetheless, it is true that traditional cold call prospecting has suffered a downfall. In the golden age of cold calls, a representative could make 40 attempts in 2 hours, hope to talk with 10 decision-makers and get 2 or, perhaps, 3 meetings. However, we are far from those numbers nowadays.
Currently, a representative working at the top of the funnel can spend the entire day trying to reach someone who has filled out a form on the company’s website. It may take a hundred attempts to talk to 7 people (not even decision-makers!) and get one or two meetings maximum… all in one week!
1. The inbound approach to prospecting
Among the contacts generated by inbound marketing, customers that are qualified as “ready to buy” represent a very small amount of the total volume. Marketo states that the portion of leads that are “ready to buy” when they “convert” on a website is around 4%; meanwhile, other sources claim that it would be more around 80%.
Thus, the majority of leads are not interested in buying at the initial contact, some will only be ready in a few months, and a large amount will never even consider buying.
Finally, even though the time chosen by the representatives to conduct his or her follow up is not necessarily the right time, they still have to make multiple attempts to reach the person, which they are no more excited about than the traditional cold calls.
2. Traditional cold call and inbound call: common challenges
While cold prospecting was quickly buried, in reality, the shortcomings of the first approach are often found in the most recent:
- The prospect knows nothing about his interlocutor;
- The task is rebarbative and not very appreciated by the representatives;
- The task is entrusted to young representatives of generation Y (Millennials) with little experience;
- Prospects are always disturbed by calls;
- The scripts are ineffective and all look the same.
Therefore, the inbound prospecting method is not the miracle solution to reach today’s busy decision-makers, especially if companies do not invest in their sales force skills development program and in an efficient sales process.
Elements to be implemented to increase the success of prospecting
First and foremost, a change of mindset concerning prospecting must occur within the management team.
To achieve or exceed sales targets, no B2B company can do without prospecting (unless the quotas are too low!). Thus, you need to eliminate all excuses – yours and your team’s – that revolve around this neglected and hated activity.
Prospecting is not limited to telephone calls, but that method still provides the opportunity to obtain meetings.
2. Sales process
Your sales process must be formalized and include the prospecting step.
If some of the prospecting actions can be carried out virtually – through emails or social networks for instance – the “devirtualization” of the relationship must take place as soon as possible.
Nowadays, many technologies allow representatives to record all their activities and follow the different steps of their sales process using a single tool (Membrain is a reference in this field).
3. Positioning sentence and prospecting script
The first few seconds of any prospecting call (cold call or inbound) are crucial. That’s why you need to position yourself very quickly with a simplified sentence that differentiates you.
The 3 key elements of this sentence are:
- Social recognition: the category or categories of people with whom you work (for example: business leaders, CFOs, etc.);
- Emotion: integrate an emotion often experienced by your clients when they are confronted with a problem (for example: frustrated, discouraged, stressed, overwhelmed…);
- Problems: mention the typical problems that customers have before doing business with you.
4. Sales DNA and skills
Making all processes, tools and resources available to your representatives so that they can prospect does not guarantee that they will do so, or at least that they will do it efficiently.
Among the main factors of failure in prospecting is sales DNA. Weaknesses such as not being rejection-proof and the need for approval prevent representatives from prospecting. The reluctance to prospect is also a major obstacle.
While during their hiring process, representatives will generally say they are ready to prospect, the reality is quite often different once they are officially hired. Therefore, using a specific pre-hiring test for sales such as Objective Management Group’s can give you a hint of the reality. Same goes for your current team, for which you should do a full evaluation, to validate that your efforts to structure your process and have it executed will pay off.
Without establishing an effective accountability system, you will not be able to measure your sales force’s prospecting efforts. From the time you make the activity mandatory, conduct weekly pipeline reviews (which should be in place in all cases) with each representative.
To support sales, consistency and regularity are essential. Accountability is what will allow you to achieve consistent results from your team.
Although companies have been trying for several years to reinvent their prospecting approach or replace it with other ways to generate sales opportunities, this activity remains at the heart of sales.
When we help companies with a sales transformation program, a fundamental part of it consists of capturing the attention of potential customers over the phone and engaging them in the discussion.
Of course, you have to be ready to make these changes and be fundamentally convinced that sales still have a future! Are you?