We've all seen it, the numerous posts on various social media channels hailing the end of telephone based cold calling.
"In this new digital era content is king. Put the right information online and your phone will be ringing off the hook".
Having spent the last 10 years in direct sales and having more recently made the transition to digital marketing here's my view.
Good telesales people are a precious commodity
Cold calling is a real skill and those who are good should be treasured by companies as much as they treasure their top closer's.
All too often you find companies promoting their best cold callers into field sales reps or management positions. It's a complete waste.
These telesales guru's have a tough job and quite often its the foot in the door to your biggest opportunities.
My view? Keep them where they are and reward them well for it.
The digital world will never fully replace a sales person.
Sales is one of the most important skills in business. Despite all the advances in technology it remains one of the most highly regarded roles in the world's biggest company's and rightly so.
Lets look at some of the basics of selling that have stood the test of time, it stands to reason that no matter how advanced the marketing engine becomes, these elements are very difficult to replace.
Building rapport with a buyer is about getting them to know, like and trust you. Being genuine, friendly and taking a real interest are all good for building rapport.
"People buy from people"
No matter how much I hear about building relationships online through social media, you still need real human interaction for rapport to exist.
What's the difference between an "open question" and a "closed question"? We use closed questions to clarify fact and open questions to get the buyer talking.
It's during this open questioning and dialogue that we can fully understand the buyers situation. We build a picture of their challenges and motivations. It allows us to probe and sometimes uncover needs they didn't realise they had. It also helps with objection handling.
Good questioning relies on interpreting the response of the buyer, actively listening and then asking further probing questions to delve deeper into their situation.
This level of understanding is something that is very difficult to replicate online.
Communication is not always verbal, it's often subtle body language cue's we pick up on which are learnt through experience.
You simply cannot replace this deep level of communication, even with the most advanced forms of AI currently available.
So without rapport, real human interaction and questioning to achieve a deep understanding of the buyer we're falling well short of the mark particularly in a complex sales process.
Digital marketing does have a role to play in the sales process.
The digital world is exploding. Marketing automation is one of the hottest topics and has been for the last 5+ years. Search engines have changed the way in which buyers conduct their initial research phases of the procurement process.
As a sales person it's difficult to ignore the impact this will have on our role.
For me digital marketing plays the most important role in the early stages of the buying process. In my experience, lead generation and prospecting are the biggest time killer's for new business sales people. In addition the expense of paying for lists or subscribing to company information databases is high.
I'm not saying we should do away with it completely, however being effective does not involve making 200 calls a day of which very few last more than 20 seconds. If 20% of calls were warmer i.e. we know the prospect had some level of interest in our solution, that would result in a significant increase in effectiveness.
As touched upon in my article;
Refer to the sales funnel and think about the awareness stage. In the early stages of the buying process buyers are researching online. Looking for potential solutions to their problems.
Take these two stats from Google:
71% of B2B researchers start their research with a generic search
B2B researchers do 12 searches on average prior to engaging on a brands specific site.
This is where marketing and sales teams need to start joining forces.
Marketing teams often feel undervalued. When budgets get cut it's their budget that gets hit the hardest.
I've worked in businesses where one marketing person is supporting a division of 40 sales people. Why is this?
Marketers are struggling to connect the dots between their activity and the numbers that sales people are posting.
33% of B2B marketers cited the inability to measure ROI of content marketing as one of the biggest challenge. Source: [CMI]
So whats the answer?
A cohesive sales and marketing plan. The synergistic effects of a joint approach to winning new customers between two divisions on the front line far outweigh the silo'd approach.
Marketing that's focused on creating awareness and capturing potential customers details through basic lead capture techniques.
Combined with a simple system of communication in which marketing qualified leads are passed to sales people to use their skills to convert leads into customers. Platforms like Hubspot are leading the way in helping companies achieve this.
And the result? A marketing team that's able to prove the ROI of it's activity and a sales team that is not wasting (as much) time trawling lists of leads for potential customers. Sounds like a simple way to improve both efficiency and effectiveness to me.
The challenge we need to overcome, (which is exaggerated when you read the provocative articles posted on Social Media channels) is the "cold calling is dead" or the "cold calling is the only way" attitude only designed to generate clicks.
1. Companies need to think in terms of a sales & marketing strategy (not one of each).
2. A joint sales and marketing effort will result in better quality leads for sales and a quanitfiable ROI for the marketing team.
3. The most effective sales people will learn to use digital marketing to improve their effectiveness.
4. Take advantage of platforms like Hubspot, these platforms will automate and simplify the collaboration between sales and marketing.
5. Sales People, stop using "cold calling is dead" as an excuse not to pick up the phone.
If you want to explore ways in which your company can improve sales and marketing effectiveness, call us for a free consultation