Disliked by sellers and buyers, cold-calling is fading away

Disliked by sellers and buyers, cold-calling is fading away

LinkedIn Sales Solutions is a Business Reporter client

As the pandemic recedes, effective sales prospecting has accelerated away from cold calling, into the 21st century

People’s expectations of marketing and sales have changed. They are increasingly sceptical about advertising claims. They are wary of contact from people they don’t know, who may be scammers. And they are tired. The millennial age group especially are tired of spam emails, tired of “targeted advertising” that follows them around the web, tired of unsolicited phone calls.

Because of this, sales prospecting has been forced to evolve, and it’s moving far beyond the traditional method of cold calling. Large-scale, impersonal “spray and pray” sales tactics no longer work. To be successful today, sales professionals need to convince buyers that they truly understand their needs.

The problems of cold calling

Many salespeople cut their teeth on cold calling. And in some ways, it’s a good discipline, teaching resilience and determination. But it is extremely hard work and can be very demotivating for people who find rejection difficult. In fact, well over half of sellers (63 per cent) say that cold calling is the worst part of their job.

More importantly though, cold calling is inefficient. On average you have to dial more than 18 times to reach a technology prospect using cold calling. And when you do, it’s impossible to know whether you are talking to a qualified prospect. This means that it’s a numbers game. If you are lucky perhaps one or two calls out of a hundred will result in a meeting or a sale.

And what of the 98 per cent of people who didn’t respond favourably to your cold call? How many of them have been irritated by it, prejudicing them against your company? Cold calling may work some of the time, but it’s a risky strategy.

The importance of information

But cold calling isn’t the only strategy open to sales professionals. Instead of using a rigid script, or even relying on quick wits, salespeople can take a short cut to success by taking some time to understand their customers better.

To do this, you need information. You need a comprehensive and reliable information that you can trust, such as LinkedIn. And, just as important, you need that information at the right time.

The more information you have about a prospect, the better you will be able to qualify them, identifying their unmet needs and their unresolved problems. Information helps you understand them as humans so you can be more empathetic to them. Information can even help you to identify new types of customers.

Using information works as a sales strategy. A third of sales professionals who meet target will normally conduct research on their prospects before contacting them. But, according to LinkedIn’s State of Sales Survey 2021, of those who exceed target by over 50 per cent, over twice as many (69 per cent) take steps to understand their prospects before getting in touch.

Sales professionals who work without sufficient information on their prospects should therefore reconsider this outdated approach. Instead they should undertake thorough research into sales prospects before calling them. This will return dividends. That’s because information helps you talk to the right customers and present the right solutions at the right time.

Information in a virtual world

At the height of the pandemic it was rarely possible to meet face to face. Unfortunately, when you meet virtually using video conferencing tools, communication is harder. People are more likely to be distracted, and they find it difficult to read facial expressions and body language.

However, the limitations of virtual communication can be overcome if you have sufficient information about the person you are talking to. Information helps you engage with people on a human level. It helps you respond to them more sympathetically, even predict what they are likely to say so that you can have your answers ready.

Information helps you build empathy. And empathy builds the strong relationship that is needed to close a sale.

Sellers can use a wide range of information to help them understand their prospects. Key information includes the buyer’s social media posts, their previous employers, and the way their company talks about itself and its ambitions. Sometimes it’s even possible to find information about competing products they currently use.

Finding the necessary information about sales prospects can seem daunting. But it doesn’t have to be hard. Tools such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator, which connects sales people with over 800 million business professionals, can be a powerful way of gathering a huge quantity of useful data about prospects.

And with this data, cold calls soon become warm calls, and eventually, hot leads as buyer and seller understand each other more fully. “LinkedIn has been a massive part of us virtualising intimacy,” says Paul Liesching at TruPhone.

Information isn’t the only tool to use, however. Building a map of how people are connected is also very powerful. Using this map you can ask mutual connections to make a personal introduction. Even a simple name-check can be helpful: leading with a common connection can increase the likelihood of an appointment by 70 per cent.

Another important technique is “multithreading”. This involves sales people connecting to more than one person at an account. The optimal number of people to connect top is four, and doing this vastly increases the chances of success.

Information generates success

Understanding your prospects will lead you to greater success. This is borne out by research showing that, for 43 per cent of buyers, “Not understanding my company and its needs” is the top sales-killer. In contrast, the same research shows that the top factor prompting a buyer to select a company to deal with is whether the person selling is “informed about the buyer’s company and business needs”.

The accuracy of the information is an important factor here. Unfortunately, a huge proportion of customer data is incorrect or out of date. CRM company Salesforce has found that 91 per cent of CRM data is incomplete and 70 per cent becomes obsolete every year. The cost of bad data is huge – between 10 and 25 per cent of revenue. That is not surprising. If a seller is using inaccurate data as part of their pitch, this will leave a bad impression, destroy any chance of a sale, and risk the loss of the prospect forever.

The bottom line is that finding and using information about sales prospects results in increased sales. But it must be accurate information. That’s why locating reliable sources of information is critical. And one of the most effective sources for information about sales prospects is LinkedIn. As the world’s biggest professional network (with more than 800 million users), LinkedIn is the go-to source of truth for sales outreach information. Use it and your sales team will never need to cold call again.

Find out more about LinkedIn Sales Solutions here

Originally published on Business Reporter