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Today's Business Environment Threatens Cold Calling Effectiveness

Jul 29, 2008
But four specific steps can turn disastrous campaigns into successes. Despite frustrations, B2B cold calling is alive and well and continues to fill companies' sales pipelines. Professionals at the highest levels of their careers employ this prospecting activity to augment sales made through warm referrals and introductions. But for many salespeople, telephone canvassing has posed challenges that have driven them to stop cold calling altogether. Here's why: a. Only 5% to 30% of prospects are at their desks and answer their phones. b. Most calling lists do not contain the decision-makers' correct names. c. Voicemail is universal and blocks most calls. d. Roughly 30% of a cold caller's time is spent navigating phone systems and company directories.

How, then, do successful cold callers make sales this way? Here are four critical activities to make cold calling worth the time, aggravation and investment: a. Make absolutely sure you have the very best list you can obtain. Your calling list accounts for 70% of the success of your campaign. Today, successful calling campaigns require a targeted, accurate list. There is an entire cottage industry of Internet researchers who create custom lists - at rates of $60 to $150 per hour - using proprietary databases and other techniques. The rates are well worth the investment if your campaign relies on reaching prospects with specific criteria that cannot be found on generic mailing lists. For instance, a global technology firm wanted to target prospects who owned specific hardware. It paid an outside company to identify these prospects and create a qualified list. As a result, the technology firm implemented a focused and effective calling campaign.

b. Develop a compelling voice message and call multiple times. Most sales training imbues people with the practice of never leaving voice messages because they are a waste of time and money. It is absolutely false that no one will return a cold call. Recipients in greatest need of your product or service will return persuasive voice messages. More importantly, every voice message serves as a "touch." Advertising experts say it takes six to 30 "touches" such as print ads, TV ads, phone calls, or letters for a prospect to take action. If an individual is not ready to respond now, he or she may respond to another "touch" in a month or two. Each voice message is a new touch. Three companies - a major national marketing firm, a 60-year-old national fund management company, and an up-start regional advertising firm targeting Fortune 100 companies - can attest to the benefits of repeat calling. Each reported gaining some of their most valuable prospects after the third or fourth phone message.

c. Create a B2B cold calling department or hire an outsourced calling team. A top-tier sales person could be on the phone for five hours before getting a single qualified lead. This is a waste talent ant time. You don't need a top tier salesperson to make calls. Callers need to know two things and only two things: what problems your products or service solve for prospects, and what makes your firm unique. You can hire an entire team of callers with no experience in your industry to canvass prospects via the phone and hunt down hot leads. Your team of cold callers must be conversational, work without a script and sound alert for every call. Leave the technical and pricing details to the high priced salesperson.

d. Create campaigns that intersperse mailings and calls. Mail prospects before and during your cold calling campaign, especially if your product or service is: 1, Visual, such as advertising or promotional products. 2. Complex, such as a technology or pharmaceuticals. 3. A mature product in a saturated market such as printing or collections.

If the mailing piece is memorable, it will create a warmer reception for the cold caller and enhance opportunities for success.

In today's environment, planning and creative thinking result in cold calling success - and help sales professionals fill pipelines during times when referrals fall short.
About the Author
Visit Valerie Schlitt's site for information on business to business prospecting and telemarketing programs.
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