The business community has many strong beliefs about Outbound prospecting. However, the comprehensive surveys, including RAIN Group’s 5 Sales Prospecting Myths Debunked prove that they are not true. We talked with our CMO Eric Quanstrom about these beliefs to find out what they are, why they emerged and how to deal with them. And as a San Francisco native who has heard Steve Perry belt out the Journey classic Don’t Stop Believin’ a million times, he was inspired to deliver a rollicking discussion on myths that we should all STOP believing, for cryin’ out loud.
What is the main reason why the prospecting myths appeared in the first place?
Outbound communications — and going direct to prospects– are strongly associated with cold calling. This practice has a bad reputation, some earned. Some of the tactics employed in the past were as simple as calling down a phone list and trying to make as many dials per day as possible. I think this approach rubs people the wrong way.
There are many dimensions to discuss here. However, the main reason why Outbound communication (cold calls and emails) have a bad reputation are unsavory tactics. Mainly via past practitioners. All that said, I think there’s a strong impetus for debunking myths. Largely the claim that cold calling is dead and so is cold emailing. Mainly, because if it were the truth, we wouldn’t see so many successful businesses using the Outbound prospecting playbook to grow fast.
Do you think there’s an informational imbalance between covering inbound and Outbound prospecting?
Yes. As a marketer and a CMO for over a decade now, I can say one thing with absolute authority. There’s a particular group of marketing specialists who have a natural affinity to inbound tactics. It’s because they seem more pure and honest, less “dirty” than outbound. I agree with them to a certain extent.
It’s great to create content (like we’re doing now!). You’ve got many people’s eyes on it. You improve your rank in search engines. And eventually, new people show up at your front door (website) every single day. They raise their hand and say: “I want to learn more about your product and service.” It’s awesome. I’m an inbound believer myself.
However, there’s (at least) one significant problem. With inbound, it’s nearly impossible to call your shot. Similarly, it’s almost unattainable to say:
“This particular company is a perfect fit for my business. I want its decision-makers to walk through my door and raise their hand to learn more. And I wish them to be all of a sudden struck by the brilliance of my content and everything that I’m doing. Finally, I need them say that it would be great to do business with my firm.”
In inbound, this lack of control is a fundamental flaw
You take what you get. A lot of these tactics (like SEO, content marketing, SMM) are the province of catch-as-catch-can. Furthermore, one of the tension points between marketing and sales teams is quality of leads. You know that when a poorly qualified inbound prospect is passed to a selling group, the latter is being taught to ignore these types of leads.
Every sales employee I’ve met in my life wants to know that he or she is talking to the right person, who can either make a buying decision or advance the sale. Otherwise, they’re just wasting their time. Ignoring leads results in the tension between marketing and sales.
I’ve been in organizations with an overwhelming volume of marketing qualified leads (MQLs). However, if you pass all those prospects to your sales team, you’ll get unsatisfactory results. It’s a hard lesson to learn. Marketing feels great– generating the lead volume that’s asked (demanded?) of their role. YET… The worst feeling in the world is high MQL metrics and underperforming sales figures.
You need some buffer that somehow scores those leads before they show up on a sales person’s calendar. It happens because they have this
“Don’t waste my time!” ethos
By the way, this situation is a perfect tee-up for Outbound prospecting. With outbound, there should never be a time when any of the tactics or strategies you’re employing are in service of going after wrong fit clients. If they are, then you’re doing it wrong. In-market buyers are another matter, but landing appointments with bad fit clients should never, ever, ever be part of an Outbound dialogue.
A common mistake is sloppy research, i.e., insufficient targeting or poor filtering of companies. A firm can also fail at the “homework,” namely the context they should be talking about with their leads.
Theoretically, every Outbound activity or initiative you run with a given company should always be in service to a specific target audience. And those firms should still be the right fit for your product or service.
In a “cold” scenario, the real struggle is turning someone who may not have been thinking of your product or service into a warm lead. The goal is for a prospect to realize there’s a problem that they didn’t even know they had. Moreover, a need that they didn’t think they had to meet. And that’s the real sale. It’s real business development. And that’s a hallmark of Outbound.
One of the prospecting myths states that buyers don’t want to hear from sellers.
True. Rain Group did a great job with their 5 Prospecting Myths Debunked. They got into the heart of how buyers genuinely feel. People in business are always busy. There’s no one who doesn’t have a long to-do list for every day and few spare hours. They’re all distracted and bombarded by calls and emails all day long.
At the same time, please show me an executive who couldn’t benefit from something that would help them do their job better, faster, cheaper, more productively? Or give their staff extra motivation, more organization, or otherwise be additive to their business? To the extent solutions exist, ambitious executives have an open calendar to figure out how to improve. And they always make time.
That’s essentially what the survey suggests. We don’t exist in the world of stasis that never changes. In fact, that’s dangerous for a business. A company that doesn’t invest in its future– be it tools, insights or services, consulting, or new fresh ideas– is dying. It’s one step from either being eroded by competitors or rotting from inside.
So, that is the challenge. Your sellers need to understand that their buyers want to hear from them, but they want to gain value. So everyone has time in a day for value. No one has time when they can’t see the benefit to them in accepting a meeting or otherwise talking to a vendor / supplier and their sales team.
The myth says that cold calling is dead. Is it so?
No, it’s not. If it were so, we wouldn’t be talking about it now. Think about it. We’re still humans. And humans beings want to buy from other human beings. No one likes to be sold to, but everyone loves to buy. And in this process, the power lies with the buyer. Furthermore, when treated as such, most buyers understand this construct. So, in an efficient cold call, it should all be about the one who might (eventually) make a purchase.
Let’s take a look at the dispelling of the dead cold calling myth by RAIN Group. They’ve run a comprehensive survey. And according to it, most buyers want to hear from sellers when they’re looking for new ideas and possibilities to drive strong results or grow their business. Hmmm. Interesting, no?
Decision-makers are business people, who are smart and driven. They got to their positions mainly by being like that and never standing still, never resting on the status quo. They’re constantly thinking about how to improve. So, smart sellers take all of that into account.
They use tactics like the phone, which is still a preferred way of how sellers connect with buyers. Cold calling is anything but dead.
People say that it’s hard for a seller to get through to a buyer.
But not impossible. Of course, it’s hard. Most businesspeople that would be good prospects learn to pattern recognize and get really good at ignoring outreach. This is REALITY. Filtering must occur or no one would get anything done.
Yet, according to the RAIN Group survey, 82% of buyers accept meetings with sellers who reach out to them. And why wouldn’t they? Where do new ideas come from? Where does exposure to new tools, ways of thinking, and services that could help come from?
They can come from vendor/suppliers. Buyers should never ignore the valuable role they play in their clients’ lives by bringing education, new ways of doing things, better products and technologies, better insights into the organization by virtue of doing a deal with that company. They should also know that by talking to specific roles all day, every day, they have a unique perspective that is potentially valuable to buyers.
There’s a belief that cold meetings don’t convert to sales wins. Do you agree?
In fact, they do convert. But I think it’s the call to action more than anything else in the RAIN Group survey. They found that 58% of sales meetings aren’t valuable to buyers. And I think that most of those respondents were part of the sessions that were one-sided. They didn’t get these core questions:
- “Why me?”
- “Why now?”
- “Why should I care?”
Answered. These core questions are at the heart of everything that prospectors should be doing.
How do these myths impact the business in general and the revenue of B2B companies?
I think there are many people that are very protective of their time and their schedule. So they aren’t likely to give that time to just any vendor / supplier. The corresponding impact are fewer conversations, thus less change and less improvement. I should also point out this is largely because it’s hard to change.
Does fear of Outbound techniques impact the revenue of the company?
Every survey I’ve read on this topic for the last ten years claims that the number one pain point for every sales organization is finding more new opportunities (according to Richardson, American Association of Inside Sales Professionals, CSO Insights, Forbes, HubSpot). And it’s the direct result of not having enough or good enough Outbound prospecting.
How can we change this situation?
I believe it should be done through both education and awareness. How should you think about going to market? There’s a lot of businesses that have had outsized success with sales specialization—going directly after the customers who are a perfect fit for their product or service. This should be on the radar of go-to-market activities.
These success stories need to be more shared and exposed. As a result, more people will be more comfortable with Outbound prospecting as a part of their strategy.