The relevance of cold calls to modern sales professionals has long been the subject of hot debate.
With digitalisation, marketing automation, big data and social media all playing an increasingly prominent role, it’s no surprise that the good old-fashioned phone call and its purpose in a salesperson’s toolkit has been redefined.
Has social selling really rendered traditional sales methods obsolete? The sales reps of many profitable businesses - from ride-sharing apps to big hitters in the Fortune 500 - would disagree. It’s not that cold calling is dead, but rather that lead generation, marketing automation and CRM have permanently changed the way we look at it.
The bad rep attached to cold calls stems from the pre-digitalisation era. The salesperson had little idea whether their target would be receptive, while the target probably did not know the company and was completely unprepared for the call.
This formed a rather unproductive basis for cooperation, which was reflected in the low rate of success.
CRM – that is, the strategic, (usually) technology-driven management of business relationships – has played a large role.
This has come hand-in-hand with the advent of Sales 2.0, which is the use of technology to drive better sales results by accurately measuring the value created by marketing and sales teams.
Gone are the days when true, traditional cold calls were one of the main ways used by sales reps to generate B2B leads. Though it can still be effective for that purpose, Sales 2.0 has, for the most part, changed how we go about it – and sales teams are all the more successful as a result.
As a result of new CRM and marketing automation tools, companies are able to gather ever more expansive swathes of relevant data and store it at their fingertips in online databases; at the same time, thanks to social media, they have more knowledge about prospects and their buying behaviour than ever before.
This data can then be analysed for the purpose of mapping the customer journey – that is, analysing how the customer progresses from original engagement through to making a purchase - and managing leads.
All this information can then be fed into outbound calls to bolster your chances of success.
In practical terms, then, how can we adapt our cold calling practices for the digital age? The first thing to note is that despite the above, many of the techniques that apply to conventional cold calls are also relevant here.
Following a suitable sales script, preparing for possible objections and thinking about how your product could solve a prospect’s problems are all solid success factors – and a wealth of further tips is available online for anyone seeking to improve their skills.
But how do you go about integrating the power of effective lead management and social media into your cold calling strategy?
These tips are a good place to start:
Optimise marketing and sales cooperation: Based on the information provided by an intelligent, integrated CRM system, marketing departments can spend the right amount of time nurturing leads and making them sales-ready. Then - and only then - can they be passed to the sales team, allowing salespeople to devote more time to prospects with a higher chance of success.
Keep an eye on web behaviour: Using marketing automation software, you can get to know who is visiting your site and when. While these people won’t actively be expecting your call, you’ll know they have a decent chance of being receptive.
Interact on social media with users who fit your buyer profile: This could be, for example, by engaging in the comments section of social platforms (with a focus on how your expertise can meet customers’ needs) or answering questions in LinkedIn groups.
Where possible, avoid having to navigate gatekeepers: Do this by creating a series of tailored emails to draw out possible referrals, which will be more effective than a standard message. Be sure to provide useful information to prep prospects for the call.
Establish a joint database and reporting dashboard: This will help you develop a systematic approach with predictable results. Consistent adherence to process will also help new sales reps integrate seamlessly into the team, helping you function more cohesively overall.
Use technology-enabled opportunities for measuring metrics: Tools for tracking success are invaluable – but only if you use them effectively. Consider, for example, tracking qualified calls per week or month rather than per day, since this is likely to be better for morale.
There’s no doubt that social selling is exceptionally effective: after all, it allows for tailored phone communication with target groups based on the information gained from social media and CRM software’s ever more sophisticated customer journey mapping.
Sales professionals know more about their customers’ interests and about which information to offer them depending on their status in the buying process: Are they an MQL (marketing qualified lead) or an SQL (sales qualified lead)?
Social selling is also helpful for “warming up” prospects who may be hard to reach over the phone. In the majority of sales cycles, however, speaking to a decision maker or influencer on the phone is still a necessary (and perhaps even decisively important) step.
That is to say: while the advent of CRM and marketing automation has undoubtedly revolutionised the world of sales and marketing over the past twenty years, it has not replaced the art of human interaction; rather, the secret lies in combining the two effectively.
As such, sales professionals should ensure that their skills in both areas are up to scratch, while those responsible for managing them should ensure that new and old tools are applied and used properly. Get ahead of the game by checking out some in-depth social selling resources and integrating them into your sales cycle today.
This post is part of our Navigating the Sales Cycle series. Download the e-book and discover the 7 steps to sales success.