Salesperson’s Best Friend

Last updated on June 28, 2016

Dog Holding PhoneActually speaking to sales leads is as important today as it was 30 years ago, or even 300 years ago for that matter. Humans have an innate, timeless desire to interact with each other on a personal basis, whether it’s to talk sports at a bar or buy an appliance at a retail store. Over the last several years there’s been much discussion about whether technology is bringing society together or pushing people apart. There’s truth to both sides, especially in sales. Technology has created new channels for companies to sell their products in, and innovative ways to market those products, but it’s also created a phenomena in which salespeople feel more comfortable relying on texts, emails, and social media instead of having an actual conversation with a prospect.

The Funnel Frenzy
“Top of the funnel” marketing approaches have become increasingly popular in the digital age. Companies strive to create the ultimate “lead magnet” – a white paper, newsletter, social media campaign, etc. – that will allow them to build a large email distribution list with which they’ll begin the “nurturing process” of turning list members into “sales-ready” prospects. Many of these approaches have been successful across a variety of different industries, but in S2L’s view they could work even better if a phone-based initial contact and follow-up approach was integrated. Such a tactic could also lead to a potentially much shorter sales cycle, and a more personal one at that.

There’ nothing wrong with a company getting creative in its approach to attracting customers, and today’s technology affords plenty of opportunities to become a trendsetter via a new, effective campaign. But when businesses become too enamored with the marketing automation process for collecting email addresses and executing “nurturing” campaigns, there’s a chance that they could neglect to actually “call” the lead – which is a practice that has proven effective since the advent of the telephone. Of course, not all businesses need to speak with a lead in order to be successful. I can buy shoes from Zappos without a phone call. I can buy a garden hose from Amazon without speaking with anyone. But tens of thousands of products and services, especially those that require consideration because of a high price tag or complexity, would benefit from a conversation in order to determine whether both parties are a good fit, move the sale forward, and grow the relationship for future business beyond the first sale.

Fundamental Things Apply
Here’s a no-doubter: sales is a conversation. A conversation between two or more people on the phone, at dinner, in a conference room. However, sometimes this fact takes a backseat to technology, with sales and marketing teams perhaps becoming too enamored with the tech side. Sure, the best marketing campaigns/technological innovations can help a product sell itself, but more often than not, person-to-person sales can make all the difference. You want to avoid falling into the trap of thinking, “When the prospect is ready to talk, they’ll call me. I mean, why else would they fill out the form on our landing page instead of calling the phone number included?” Likewise, if you work in a retail store you don’t want to avoid approaching a customer because “She’ll come to me when she needs help or is ready to buy.” Confidence is a salesperson’s greatest asset, but it can also be their greatest weakness, especially where technology is concerned. Rare is the product that simply sells itself. If the opposite were true, there would be no need for salespeople in the first place.

When evaluating just how important it is to contact leads by the phone and initiate a good ol’ fashioned conversation, the numbers don’t lie:

– 12% of all leads receive no follow-up of any kind
– 33% of all leads receive an email, but no phone call
– 40% of all leads waited more than a week to receive a phone call or email
– 80% of all leads received too few calls

These percentages are based on total expenditures of $118B last year by companies worldwide seeking to generate internet leads, plus another $18B on CRMs to manage those leads. Clearly the investment wasn’t worth it, because many people neglected a key step in the sales process: picking up the phone.

Your Phone is Your Best Friend
In a sense, one of technology’s biggest “traps” is that it can cause us to put the cart before the horse.  What I mean by this is that instead of employing fancy nurturing campaigns via marketing automation to try and move leads through the funnel to become “sales ready”, why not call your prospects first and qualify them in your system, or simply close them immediately?  And for those that aren’t ready to buy, use technology to automate relevant nurturing campaigns, increase loyalty, and capitalize on future sales opportunities.  I understand there are some businesses, particularly of the midsize and enterprise variety, that are lucky enough to have too many leads and thus use lead-scoring to call only those leads that are most sales-ready. However, there are far more companies in the opposite camp, always seeking more leads. These are the companies that should embrace the philosophy outlined above.

Technology has proven very useful in the sales and marketing world, but that doesn’t mean it should automatically be viewed as the death knell for the telephone. Quite the opposite. The technology exists because long ago, some brave sales souls picked up the phone, closed deals, built relationships, and made the money that bought the technology.

Sales is a conversation. And the phone enables conversations better than any new technology currently available.

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