By Rob Eaton, director of sales, International, at Avention
Cold calls are likely to send a shiver down the spine of even the most experienced sales professional. It’s a completely justified response. Good sales approaches rely on deep research into prospective customers and the crafting of solutions that bring real value to each specific customer. Yet, this is all too often ignored by salespeople when they make cold calls – turning the science of selling back into a game of chance.
It is an outdated concept. Customer-centred, data-savvy and growth-focused organisations use sophisticated technology to reach the right audiences at the right times with the right messages. So why are sales professionals still expected to go back to the ice age when it comes to making calls?
I’m working with customers right now ─ both large and small ─ who are turning up the heat on cold calls and using the same data-driven principles that organisations routinely apply across other channels. It is an approach that is already paying dividends for a range of businesses, from IT & software companies to recruitment firms, professional services and leading global banks.
Here are the five steps that help these companies beat this big freeze:
1. Break the ice by understanding your sweet spot companies.
Using the most accurate and timely information available, your sales teams can identify the companies most likely to be in the market for your goods and services. You can slice and dice by vertical, size, geography ─ and a whole host of other factors to target more effectively and reach the companies that have the propensity to buy. Companies will constantly move in and out of the sweet spot and it’s difficult to keep up: imagine how useful it would be to have lists that are updated in real-time. It frees up a huge amount of time and ensures your teams are always focusing their sales calls on their hottest prospects.
2. Turn a single customer into the tip of a cross and up-selling iceberg.
You may already have a great relationship with a current customer; by using data in a smart way, you can identify other companies within the same group and use this data to optimise this existing relationship. With these associations mapped, calls into linked businesses are no longer cold, but based on warm existing relationships. Your sales teams can build engagements based on personal introductions and testimonials from current contacts, reference success stories and demonstrate deep insider knowledge of the challenges their business is facing to sell the solutions that are relevant to them. It helps sales teams engage with more relevant and meaningful sales calls ─ and brings a rosy glow by offering a whole host of cross and up-sell opportunities.
3. Defrost time by identifying triggers.
Research suggests that a third of sales calls are doomed before they are even made because sales teams get the timing wrong. Today you have to anticipate need ─ because your prospect will typically choose a preferred vendor before budgets are agreed. Using triggers will ensure your sales teams hit the companies most likely to buy at the precise moments they are most likely to need you. Triggers can help you gain insight on topics like profit announcements, new hires, expansion plans and new product launches. With a data solution like the OneSource Platform that provides 40 different trigger types, you’ll know the companies to engage with and when to engage with them ─ ensuring that you are front-of-mind well before buying decisions are made.
4. Thaw your calls with personal profiles.
So you’ve identified the best companies to call and the perfect times to call them. Next we need to prime them with the right approaches. Or to put it another way ─ tell them what to say. The best data solutions will mine information on the key decision-makers within organisations. Success or failure in a sales call is typically decided in the opening seconds of conversation ─ first impressions are critical. So the ability to engage meaningfully from the get-go ─ and demonstrate that you have done your research before picking up the phone ─ will help to eliminate the cold shoulder.
5. Unfreeze time for sales teams.
The more time sales teams spend calling, and therefore selling, the better your revenue is likely to be. Research suggests, however, that sales teams are frozen in time ─ spending only about of a third of their day on calls. Much of this non-sales activity is the direct result of the issues identified above. A leading data solution will liberate your sales professionals: resource intensive activity such as research on customers is automated and instantly accessible from a single and easy-to-use source ─ such as a CRM. Sweet spot company smartlists, company relationship maps, trigger information and individual profiles are all downloadable at the touch of the button ─ whether that’s in the office or on the road.
As I said at the start of this blog, I’m seeing real results with these approaches, right now. And the beauty of it is that our customers are realising powerful short, medium and long-term wins by simply applying existing principles and technologies. If you’d like to call me about cold calling, I can guarantee a warm welcome.