Sales have changed dramatically over the past decade and some people now tend to belittle the importance of certain practices, such as outbound prospecting. However, our own experience here, at CIENCE, is quite different from what they proclaim.
We made outbound prospecting our key service. Not only do we study the industry’s best practices, but we also monitor and analyze our own work. Our main assets are hundreds of Sales Development Representatives who contact the prospects of our clients and schedule appointments for them on a daily basis. Here’s what we are ready to say to the world:
Although some experts want to make everyone believe that modern sales are all about inbound, in reality, outbound is as powerful as ever.
Recent research by the RAIN Group backs up this point of view. Recently, they published the Whitepaper, 5 Sales Prospecting Myths Debunked — the scope of the research provides compelling evidence to debunking current counter-opinions (such as cold calling is dead!).
In the Whitepaper, they conducted a broad survey of 488 buyers and 489 sellers across 25 industries worldwide.
1. MYTH: Buyers Don’t Want to Hear from Sellers (Buyers do want to hear from sellers, but the right timing is crucial)
In the era of almost limitless access to information, we are made to believe that buyers want to be left alone and do the buying journey all by themselves. Their choice is said to be determined long before they contact you.
However, let’s consider a different perspective on the abundance of information. Ask yourself: “Am I able to keep track of all the novelties the modern world can offer?” Clearly not. Your buyers are just the same. Oftentimes they wouldn’t even know about most new types of products or services, not to mention the impact it can have on their business.
It’s your job as an outbound prospector to do the research and the analysis for your potential buyers. To understand the value of your product for their company and their revenues. It’s your job to find the ways to contact your prospect and to explain them the benefits of the purchase. The capacity for any leader, manager, or line employee to improve their own business is limitless.
If you succeed, your prospect will naturally move into your sales pipeline, turning into a lead. That’s what we call sales development magic!
At CIENCE, Research is one of the key components of outbound prospecting. Our research process is multi-stage. First, an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) is created. This can be as targeted as possible and inclusive of demographic, firmographic, technographic and psychographic data on these target customers. Second, teams of researchers look for the perfect fits to these ICPs– often combining databases, and offering the benefit of human curation. A cadence is developed based around the ICP (Account Based Marketing tactics to target companies and the contacts therein) and a list of contacts is handed to the SDR team. Then, each SDR undertakes additional research on the prospects to personalize all outreach. Read more about the work of our SDRs hereDay in the Life: SDR.
According to RAIN Group, only 2% of buyers do NOT want to communicate with sellers during the buying process, while as many as 82% accept meetings with vendors. This is a massive finding that flies in the face of popular sentiments that decry that outbound is dead.
Rethinking Sales Process
The RAIN Group have their own model of the buying process. It starts with frustration around a prospect’s current situation, their desire to change, and the search for a possible solution. They call this stage “define vision.”
That’s when buyers are most willing to talk to sellers!
The percentage of those willing to hear the sellers is 71% at the stage of seeking new ideas, 62% at the stage of looking for a solution and 54% during the evaluation of possible providers. This means that your chances to be listened and heard by your potential customer are the highest during outbound prospecting.
This can also provide a brand new perspective on the popular statement that “57% of a purchase decision is already complete by the time a seller meets a buyer for the first time.” It can mean that way too many potential customers are looking for a solution to their pain point all by themselves.
They’re literally left alone and unguided. They entrust their quest to the search engines, popular blogs, and expert forums. You might have a perfect position on the SERP, but there’s a trick! At the stage of frustration and search for new ideas, the problem might still not have proper wording (think “keywords”) and therefore an Inbound model proves futile– especially for you as the vendor.
By the time your potential customers find you, you will have already lost your opportunity to reduce the search process for them through providing ready-to-implement solution specially tailored to the needs of their business.
At this stage, you will be one of many in a Google results set for your keyword phrases. The thing is to catch your prospects before they fully realize what their problem is and conducting research. It’s about establishing a powerful prospect-centric bond between a potential buyer and new ideas. And that’s what outbound prospecting is for.
2. MYTH: Cold Calling is Dead (49% of buyers prefer to be contacted by phone)
This stat is meaningful, and the RAIN Group data tells you that 57% C-level and VPs prefer this means of communication. A phone call is buyer’s second most preferred way of getting in touch with sellers, the first one is an email. And it’s also in top 3 of the most effective methods according to the sellers.
Cold calling is alive and buyers believe it actually works.
Here are some more stats to back this statement. In 2016 The Bridge Group Inc. surveyed 355 B2B companies and compared their “phone-centric” and email-centric” sales team. The former made more calls and had more quality conversations per day than their counterparts. The key finding was the positive correlation between the quality of call and pipeline power score.
Here’s one more thing to consider. Do you remember the sales era before the outbound prospectors began warming up the potential buyers? Sellers would call and repeat the same lines that they learned by heart regardless of prospect. They sounded artificial and that’s what buyers hated most because it seemed they were talking with machines. It was also the era of non-personalized long-read emails.
Today the approach is completely different. A seller wants to convey a targeted message to the prospects and demonstrate the understanding of their specific problems as well as introduce a good solution. Companies seek to establish long-term relations that begin with the first touch and last long after a deal was made. Modern sales are highly personalized.
Today B2B model is about being a human because only humans can establish relations.
That’s one of the main reasons why calling is effective.
Though most people prefer visual information, recent studies of voice perception have proven that it’s a powerful source of informationHuman Voice Perception study by Marianne Latinus and Pascal Belin about the identity and emotions of a talker. Hearing another person talking to us starts the unconscious process of “reading” the information and identifying him or her. It can provide grounds for establishing relations, but only if your message is highly personalized.
3. MYTH: It’s Impossible for Sellers to Get Through (There’s always a way to connect with buyers, but it heavily depends on the sellers’ efforts)
Many sellers say that buyers don’t perceive what they hear. “I just can’t get through!” is one of key complains. Here’s what we think about it. Human communication is a two-way process. You can’t control everything. At all times you have as much as 50% of the responsibility for what’s going on between you and another person. Same works for outbound prospecting.
If too many buyers aren’t interested, it’s time to analyze what you’re doing wrong:
- The prospects don’t fit your buyer persona – it’s a research problem.
- Your emails aren’t effective – it’s the problem of messaging.
- Your phone calls don’t convert to appointments – it’s the problem of SDRs.
We take a look at the effectiveness of any email campaign 1-2 weeks after its beginning and then think of the things we can change in the way we connect the client. Same goes for calls. If the conversion of calls to appointments is low, we try to understand the reason.
There are several reasons why buyers aren’t satisfied with the phone calls:
- Lack of research and understanding of buyer pain points
- The voice and conversation sound too artificial
- You fail to provide a simple explanation of what you’re offering
The last item is especially important. Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain something simply, it means you don’t understand it well enough.” It implies that you should know well your product and service and see the key improvements it can bring to a particular company.
According to the RAIN Group report, there are things that influence the buyer’s decision under a seller’s control.
You’d be surprised to hear that it’s your potential buyer’s perception of:
- You and your company.
- Their needs and budget.
It’s up to you to provide them a valuable insight of how prospects might change the things for the best with the help of your company.
4. MYTH: Buyers Don’t Want to Hear About Your Capabilities (Sellers are expected to tell what their company can do for the buyer’s business)
Sellers often hear that nobody wants to know how great their company is. And this is partially true. Once again, let’s look at the outbound prospecting as relations. What would you think of a person who starts the conversation with a long and detailed description of his or her own greatness? “A narcissist” is the first thing that comes to mind.
However, if a person comes up to you at a party and says something like: “Hey, I see that you’re hungry and I heard that you’re from the south. Come here and try this BBQ. I made it myself. It’s my best recipe. In fact, I reckon it’s the best BBQ on the block.” Nobody will think your boasts in vain (provided your BBQ is really good), and you’ll connect with that person in ways never imaginable were the sequence reversed.
What we’re trying to say is that nobody cares about your skills until they can solve some problem for them. It doesn’t matter how great your product and company are. If they can’t serve, they’re of no importance.
Identify your prospect’s problem, suggest a solution, and only then speak of how good you are at delivering the solutions to these problems.
According to the RAIN Group’s research, “description of provider’s capabilities” and “content 100% customized to our specific situation” are the second most popular messages that influence a buyer’s decision to schedule an appointment (67%). The first one is “primary research data relevant to our business” (69%).
5. MYTH: Cold meetings Don’t Convert to Sales Wins (Meetings convert to closed deals if sellers can bring value)
The last, but not least, myth is about closing deals at outbound-generated meetings. Your outbound prospecting team had worked really hard and scheduled a number of appointments, but your Account Exec didn’t close the deal. Once again the problem is not about the format of the meeting.
Any meeting is time-consuming. People won’t waste time unless they have an interest in how you might help.
RAIN Group says it’s about the value sellers can bring– and we couldn’t agree more. An appointment is where outbound prospecting stops and the sales process truly begins. The lead shouldn’t really feel he or she has crossed a line. It should be a natural flow from interest generation to desire to learn more. The focus of your sales team on a potential client’s desires or pain points and the solution to provide either, should never stop.
Once again, it’s your company that is an expert at solving particular problems, not your client! Educate them, show successful cases that are similar to your lead’s situation, arrange a brainstorm and don’t forget to ask as many questions as possible. That’s how you can succeed and we really hope you will!
There are many myths surrounding sales. However, they prove to be untrue once they’re studied with a scientific approach. Outbound prospecting remains the key method of lead generation if it is executed in a proper up-to-date way.