B2B buyers often need a nudge to move them from the marketing process into the sales pipeline. This is where outbound calling fits in. James Harvey, Managing Director at Bluestone B2B, looks at how to make it work.
The B2B world has seen dramatic changes over the last decade, not least due to the evolution of social media and technology. There was once a time when outbound calling could be summarised in a fairly straightforward formula:
‘x’ number of calls
= ‘y’ number of decision maker contacts
= ‘z’ number of meetings
While this formula may still work for certain products, value propositions on the whole are becoming increasingly complex and sophisticated; largely driven by market competition and customer need.
In many cases, it is becoming clear that outbound calling on its own as a means of lead generation is simply not enough.
With this in mind, there are, in my view, 5 essential elements for a successful B2B outbound calling campaign in 2016.
It might seem like an obvious starting point, but having a clear understanding of what it is you have to offer and how to articulate it is a fundamental prerequisite for any successful outbound calling campaign. What is the target audience, what is the need and why are you relevant to that audience now?
Having a niche offering makes things easier, but if you don’t have a niche, you need to find another way of differentiating your business against your competitors.
Consider campaign specifics:
Pulling all of this information into a brief for your callers is an essential discipline, whether you are doing the calling in-house or outsourcing it.
There is little point in calling, emailing or connecting with a company if you don’t have supporting marketing material that aligns with your brand and offering. Buyers in B2B rarely purchase 'off the bat' so your website, email communications, social activity, case studies and white papers all need to reflect and add value to your message.
Most people respond better to images than to words, so having something visually engaging to reinforce the dialogue that the caller initiates can achieve great results.
High quality marketing data is crucial to any outbound campaign, whether that be phone-based or otherwise. Having a good CRM with which to manage the data, track pipeline movement and develop opportunities is equally important.
A flexible and web based CRM, such as Salesforce, can allow real-time visibility of data movement, track conversations and email correspondence, and help strengthen relationships between the callers and the recipients of the leads in your sales team.
People don’t want to be sold to anymore; they want to be engaged with. We have all had so many cold calls over the years that we have become numb to them. Generally, people know what they want, when they want it, and in many cases, where they are going to get it.
In B2B, we have evolved into a new breed of purchaser. We are time-poor, have less autonomy to make decisions, are more technology-hungry and more social media savvy than ever before.
Yet some of the best meetings and deals are still confirmed over the phone. How is this achieved? Through engagement.
A marketing automation and lead scoring programme such as SharpSpring is great for continually drip-feeding relevant content to prospects and identifying those that are warm. Alternatively, you can generate warm referrals through ‘Sales 2.0’ processes. Either way prior engagement is key.
“73% of executives prefer to work with sales professionals from companies they feel they know or are referred to them by someone they know.”
Of course, even with all of the above in place, if you haven’t got the right people on board, then you are unlikely to achieve the desired results.
Outbound calling is tough and it takes a certain type of person and skill-set to make it work for any period of time. Tenacity, intuition and passion are all character traits needed - and these are in addition to having a solid grounding in sales and a thick skin to handle the inevitable rejections!
Confidence to pitch at board level; ability to listen as well as talk; being able to articulate a potentially complex value proposition, both verbally and in writing: all of these are skills that must be learned and continually developed to make your calling campaign a success.