It’s Time to Ditch the Phone Book Approach to Sales and Marketing

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Peter Ross

VP, Corporate Marketing

Most well-intentioned B2B technology marketers put the best interests of their customers ahead of everything else.  These customer-centric marketers spend an extraordinary amount of time, effort and resources to better understand the needs and preferences of technology buyers in order to help their sales teams target the best prospects. If that’s the case, then why do so many sales reps still insist on taking an outdated “phone book strategy” to customer engagement – which equates to contacting anyone with an IT title at any time?

IT pros hate cold calls

The obvious explanation is that many sales and marketing teams are continually being measured by the quantity of contacts they deliver back to the business instead of prioritizing account follow-up based on those customers most likely in buying mode. This conventional wisdom relies on the premise that sales is simply a numbers game, and if sales teams are able to make a certain number of calls per day, eventually someone will say, “yes, I’m ready to buy” .

But the real world numbers suggest something very different. According to industry statistics, cold calling is a virtual sales dead-end – only 2% of cold calls results in an actual meeting. With today’s ability to identify customers in buying mode based on their individual and account buying signals, it’s time to reconsider the “phone book” approach of making hundreds of random phone calls a day and instead, narrow down your contact follow-up by prioritizing direct outreach to only those prospects with active projects.

3 steps to more targeted account follow-up

Despite an inadequate return on their cold calling efforts, it’s shocking how many sales and marketing teams continue to use the quantity versus quality approach to reaching out to prospective customers. Before you rent another list of random names or scan countless badges at the next mega industry conference, take a moment to ensure you have properly prioritized and stack-ranked your contacts based on accounts in active buying mode. You will avoid frustrating and alienating IT pros on the receiving end of your sales and marketing by ensuring you are doing the following three things:

#1 – Plug into real-time information

If you subscribe to the popular approach of calling IT pros based on org charts and business databases , it’s highly likely you are missing many current and emerging technology projects based on this type of outdated information. Despite the perceived value of “knowing who to call”, an org chart results in a cold call 9 times out of 10. Furthermore, org charts and contacts within accounts are constantly changing — and unless you are able to observe the real-time research behaviors of potential buying teams, your efforts will be unproductive.

Also, it is pointless to know who the teams are without knowing what they are doing. When buying teams are in research mode for a technology project they are consuming a wide variety of content and it is this research behavior and activity that reveals their purchase intent to sales and marketing teams. Vendors that are able to recognize the purchase intent of each account will have a competitive advantage over those that are simply calling a list of contacts indiscriminately.

#2 – Prioritize sales opportunities

Dialing for dollars is difficult with even the most qualified leads. But many sales and marketing teams make it even more challenging by arbitrarily reaching out to accounts with no prioritization process in place. It all starts with gaining deeper account intelligence based on buying team research behaviors and making sure sales teams have this information at their fingertips before contacting their assigned accounts. With the right set of tools and project intelligence built directly into your CRM system, it’s possible to provide sales teams with the ability to prioritize and follow-up with the right accounts at the right time based on their readiness to buy, who to contact at each account, and what their specific needs and pain points are relative to their technology project.

#3 – Be prepared

IT pros are very deliberate when it comes to researching the specific options available to address their technology and business challenges. An IT pro conducts a major amount of online research prior to engaging a vendor sales rep, so it is imperative that you rethink your current sales engagement approach.  Because of your highly effective content marketing efforts, the potential buyers knocking at your door have acquired a great deal of knowledge about you and your solutions, so it all starts with fully preparing your sales reps so they know all they can about each member of the buying team at each of these active accounts before they make their first call.

Project intelligence has put cold-calling on notice

Contacting IT professionals who have demonstrated a significant amount of interest in your solutions should not result in a “pin the tail on the donkey” follow-up strategy. Follow-up should be based on intelligence that fully verifies the customer’s project, insights into all the key players on the buying team, and thoroughly identifies the customers pain points and how your solutions are matched to address their issues. Cold calling randomly to IT pros without this information is not only a waste of time, but an exercise in futility that can be avoided by tapping into the project intelligence you have uncovered.

I’m interested to learn about other ways of eliminating the phone book approach to sales and marketing, so feel free to reach out on Twitter or LinkedIn with your feedback.

cold calling, Intelligence Driven Marketing, intelligence driven sales, lead follow-up, lead prioritization, marketing intelligence, real-time intelligence, sales and marketing alignment, sales and marketing strategies, sales intelligence

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