Having worked in an outbound sales / appointment making role for several years, 10 to be exact, it has been very interesting to watch the change in response to direct or ‘cold’ calling.
Up to 12 months ago, I had a relatively good success-rate in getting the people I wanted on the phone. However, over a longer period, the B2B customer’s receptiveness to an unsolicited call has really dwindled.
I have built quite a bit of experience working in outbound calling roles. The software we provide at SVL is familiar to me, as I’ve spent the last decade using Voice Recording software, Speech Analytics and Workforce optimisation tools at Eon (B2B market) and British Gas (Domestic B2C market) as well as YellowCom (also B2B).
Being the voice someone didn’t know is part of the job. Reassuring the recipient I was legitimate and here on business (ultimately to help them) becomes second nature.
But the consumers I target, either as buyers for their business or individuals, have changed in their behaviour.
Thinking about yourself, how often do you ignore the phone when it rings, especially when you don’t recognise the number? Do you listen carefully to every voicemail, I know I do not have time.
That aside, why do we not take introductory calls the way we did in the past?
I can think of a few reasons;
- Scripts – how often have you listened to some text they have on-screen or on paper? It’s difficult to take seriously, even if it is important legal disclaimers.
- Hearing the same old story – “our product/service/company is the best. Can we tell you about it?”
- The increasingly frantic pace of work…we can’t just stop what we are doing because someone we don’t know is demanding our time.
- Little white lies – On an outbound call, how often have you approached a gatekeeper and said “yes, I know xxxx and have spoken with them before…” I think our efforts to make contact have caught up with us.
This has led to Gatekeepers being unwilling to put calls through and over 90% of the time I’m advised to send an email.
Equally the way we buy has changed. We are the “Google-generation” who get ideas from social media and follow them up on our Smartphone. We don’t want information pushed onto us, we as customers want to research and then ask for more details.
- I’m in charge
- I don’t need human interaction to start with ……I’ll research what I need.
I realise I sound like I’m doing myself out of a job and I’m not. There is still a crucial role for a first-line contact, but does the method of approach have to change?
I now utilise LinkedIn and the Sales Navigator tool, to make my introductions. This can start with a connections request, followed up by some messaging chat which then leads to a conversation.
This digital layer now creates the opportunity to have a verbal conversation, but only at the convenience of the customer.
I firmly believe, people buy from people…especially when you need confidence that your purchase will deliver what you want, and expertise is needed.
Obviously, it depends on the situation and the business, but I need reassurance when complex technical issues are involved and need to converse with a human, but it’s further down the sale process and this is driven by the buyer not the seller.
So, is picking up that phone fizzing away?
No, but the call must be agreed in terms of when and what will be discussed, be it a quick chat, a demo or to arrange some face-to-face time.
As someone who has a depth of experience, I know I have great chance of converting a conversation into an appointment or sale by building a rapport with the person on the end of the phone, but it takes time and effort to get there.
Unless you get VERY VERY lucky…
Michelle Martin – Sales & Marketing – SVL Business Solutions
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