This is real life observation. Whatever the company, whatever the field, B2B salespeople generally dislike “hard slog” prospecting.
Nobody wants to spend the day on the phone cold calling. It’s a hard job, one that can be psychologically exhausting if repeated and without tangible results.
At the other end of the line, prospects too dislike salespeople calling them, and often interrupting the course of their day.
So what can be done? How can we change this situation and make the exercise both pleasant and constructive as much for the salespeople placing the calls as for the prospects receiving them?
Cold calling is not generally productive…
Generally, cold calls are not specially prepared for. The salesperson has a more or less long list of people to attempt to contact. They call the numbers one after the other, hoping that someone will answer the phone. Most of the time their sales speech is a rather brief one, aimed only at passing the barriers raised by a secretary and at rebutting the most generic objections. Once they are finally able to speak to the contact they sought to reach, most often they run through their text point by point, mainly talking up the quality of the service or the product they wish to sell, while attempting to set a later face to face meeting. All this in a very short length of time.
On the other end, the prospect who receives a cold call often has an initial reaction like “and another salesperson selling something…” During the first seconds of the conversation, they are often pretty closed to any exchange. The prospect feels disturbed by the call. They have the feeling they are wasting their time and are being slowed down in their work by an intruder. If the salesperson sets out their pitch as “Me, Me, Me”, then the conversation will start off badly. The only way to raise the prospect’s interest in just a few seconds is to talk about them, their company, their business, their context. So show them you know them, even before meeting them!
Hence the need to “heat up” cold calls and not just call anyone at any time, but rather make enquiries about the specific context of the company that every contact works for, so that you can talk to them about the only thing of interest to them: themselves, their own situation, their challenges, their issues. To do this, you need the right information.
How to collect the right information on the context surrounding one’s prospects?
Sales people who truly take the time to find out information on their prospects know that this is an especially time-consuming business. You need to start by identifying companies in your market scope, visit their websites, then seek out suitable contacts using social media, attempting to obtain an email address or direct phone number, pick up background data over the internet, like an interview with a manager, a media article, a quote, a press release, financial data, etc.
According to a CSO Insight survey, a salesperson spends 20% of their time just seeking out information on their prospects! Now when the same survey goes on to state that less than 40% of a salesperson’s time is actually dedicated to sales, it becomes easy to understand just how much this costs in terms of lost productivity
What does a salesperson do during this research time? They are looking for information that could put them on track to finding the “right prospect”, the one leading to a context which encourages the purchase of their product or service. How can time be saved during this essential exercise? By leaning on technology.
Here comes “Sales Intelligence”, or how to automate “hot” prospect detection
The solution comes from so-called “Sales Intelligence”. This involves software solutions that are generally offered as SaaS (Software As A Service) packages, which offer a web interface for direct access to automated tools for collecting and analysing information on companies. Sales Intelligence offers a tool to help salespeople with their decision making. They let them collect in-depth data on “true” prospects, so that they can prioritise their actions based on the opportunities detected and prepare sales arguments built on their target’s real-life context.
In the United States, where B2B enterprises are far more digitised than in France, even among SMEs, these kinds of solutions have existed for a number of years now. Applications like Insideview, Discover.org, Rainking or Lattice Engines all offer salespeople the ability to start specific and categorised data collection efforts covering their market segments.
In France, a solution like Sparklane for Sales lets salespeople precisely target their market based on multiple criteria and detect business signals from each of their prospects thanks to technology that collects, processes and analyses data provided from Big Data.
Having solutions of this kind, generally connectible to the available marketplace CRM systems, means that salespeople can gain access to all of the information needed to understand the context of each of their targets, with just a few clicks, so that they can be scored on the basis of their potential. This way, they can move from target to target, through their prospect list, assessing opportunities and becoming aware of the context that is specific to each contact, before placing any calls. And this makes all the difference!
Advising rather than selling
Having the right information for every call makes prospecting by phone more comfortable for a B2B salesperson. It is also more interesting for the prospects. This is because the salesperson has real-life, up-to-date information to talk about the context and situation the subject is actually facing. This way they can present their offer from a far more relevant angle, raising an interest to find out more in just a few seconds.
Putting prospecting into context also ensures that the salesperson can take on a more advisory position in relation to their contact. This kind of relationship is far better appreciated by prospects.
Hence the famous Forrester study published in 2015 with the provocative title “Death of a B2B Salesman”, which states that between now and 2020 a million B2B sales positions will be lost in the United States and those that will survive (plus the 10% new hires forecast for the period) will be “consultant” salespeople. This means those able to truly add value in their exchanges with their prospects by offering them an analysis of their specific situation and custom solutions.
Calls that are better prepared and more productive
Having the right Sales Intelligence tools means that B2B sales people can easily adopt this kind of “advisory” position, and quickly build a trusting relationship with their prospects so that they can get their meetings scheduled.
Furthermore, they save a considerable amount of time in searching for information and opportunity signals in their market. This way they can concentrate their calls directly on those prospects that show real business potential, customise their exchanges and significantly improve their call-to-appointment conversion ratio.
So if your salespeople do not like prospecting over the phone either, you now know what to do to reconcile them with their phone.