Experienced business development executives know the importance of researching their prospects to ensure they are using their time wisely and having meaningful, peer-to-peer conversations. Identifying the appropriate decision makers, being proactive with follow-up calls, and leaving targeted messages when appropriate, are all a part of an effective inside sales campaign that gets results.
With any good sales prospecting campaign, there are industry practices that will ensure success. Through the years, JMS Elite has been focused on prospecting complex sales for our clients. As a result, we have developed a proven methodology to properly work a prospecting list that yields effective results. We use experienced business development executives who have the unique ability to engage executive decision makers, helping them better understand our clients’ offerings in the context of their own business needs.
It is through our years of experience and success with B2B lead generation for a variety of clients, that we’ve developed these best practices. Is there a methodology? Absolutely. Below, we will share with you some of the elements of what we call our “secret sauce” to effective sales prospecting campaigns.
Identifying the Correct Person to Target
Depending on the complexities of an organization, finding the right decision maker at a company can be challenging. You could have a list of ten names and titles, but if five of them are not appropriate, it won’t have much of an impact and will decrease sales. The key is to have enough research to understand if the cold call should be made to a C-level executive, a VP, Director or even someone in a very specific department. The focus should be on the people who can have a peer-to-peer conversation with you. Otherwise, it is a waste of everyone’s time. The key to a successful sales campaign is balance.
“This type of research is invaluable and I certainly don’t advocate picking up the phone until you have become familiar with your client’s business solution and the prospects that you are calling. However, there can be too much research because time spent researching is time not making calls,” explains John Magyari, Principal and Co-Founder of JMS Elite.
Remember, the goal is to get in front of the decision makers or key evaluators at the prospective organizations. This can only be accomplished by calling. Getting lost in vast amounts of research will not uncover an opportunity, only a conversation can. With a targeted list in hand, it is time to stop researching and pick up the phone.
Now you have the opportunity to have a strategic conversation where you can identify a need and offer a potential solution. Are their current needs being met by other vendors? If yes, how are they meeting those needs? Is there a way to do it better? If they answer no, you have the opportunity to discuss the business product or solution you can help them with.
Listening and understanding your prospects’ business needs or pain, is at the cornerstone of any good B2B sales campaign. You could be missing qualified leads because you don’t know enough about them. Rather than making assumptions about what leads want or need, take the time to establish a real connection and to let them explain what it is they are looking for. Complex B2B sales campaigns require making a quality connection with key decision makers. That quality connection must establish trust and be solid enough to carry the business relationship through a long and complex sales cycle.
This is why cold calling is an extremely effective method for B2B lead generation. While others may be abandoning cold calling, putting strategic callers on the phone to reach out and qualify leads will set you apart. There is an opportunity to start a relationship at the outset- once this happens your company is inherently different from the competition.
Ensuring Your List Consists of Good Names and Titles
When looking at the list you will focus on for your sales campaign, it’s important to review any previous history with a company. Where have there been successes? Who are the best people to target and what executive or management level should we aim for? Your goal should be to penetrate the company or organization by calling more than one person within that organization.
As a general rule, you should have a minimum of three different contacts within the same target company. If you only have one name for an organization, you need to expand your list. And there are several ways to go about creating a more robust list. You can begin with online resources such as LinkedIn, the company’s own website, or conduct a general Google search. You may be able to find information that could be useful and it’s worth doing a little research. Don’t underestimate the value of calling and asking for names. I’d argue that this is still the most effective approach.
Another extremely effective way to get appropriate names is by asking for referrals within the organization. If you are targeting the CIO and he or she is unavailable, ask the admin in the department for the name of someone you can speak to. They will most likely give you a name, directing you away from the CIO. This can work in your favor. Discover the person who is willing to have the conversation and call them. They very well could lead you to the decision maker.
How to Reach the Right Decision Maker
In a top-down approach, you will start at the top of the organizational chart and contact the VP or another executive to ask for a referral for the right person. It’s important to learn who are the decision makers who make the deals within the organization. Reviewing past conversations with the company, if appropriate, can provide valuable information for opening the door to
Tip: Where have you made previous inroads? Who’s been receptive to talking and sharing information? The right amount of research will yield the answers to these questions, allowing you to develop a targeted approach.
You may find that the key decision makers are going to be only at the C-level. If you can contact them directly and they take your calls – great. You could be on your way to having a meaningful interaction with the right decision maker. It’s important to always try to break in at the higher level, but what if you are not successful in this approach? Focus on the person down the line who is picking up the phone. Are they engaging you in discussion and giving you valuable information? If yes, then continue with the conversation. It may be that you can enter the company through that level, leading you up the ladder to the final decision maker.
When to Leave a Voicemail Message
There is a whole school of thought that it’s a waste of time to leave messages. Many believe that the call will not be returned and you’ve lost your opportunity. “In my last 13+ years with JMS Elite and in my sales career before that, I have a lot of evidence to the contrary. Half of our leads come from people who do return the call. If you leave an effective message, people will respond,” says Magyari. It can be a low percentage, however, if you’ve bothered to make the call, it only makes sense to leave a message. You may get a call back from your prospect or someone else in the organization. Just remember, you will never get a call back if you don’t leave a message. Take the time and leave a compelling, succinct message that requires inquiry.
Leaving an effective message gives you the opportunity for a building effect in your sales campaign. For example, if you leave 2-3 messages, with multiple people in the same organization, that increases your chances of penetrating the organization. When your goal is to get in front of the decision makers, taking more than one route to get there increases your chance of success.
Rules for Leaving an Effective Voicemail Message
The shorter and more succinct the message the better. Trying to pitch your product or service in a voicemail is a common mistake. Lead with information relevant to the prospect. Capture their interest with what they are interested in. Don’t try to sell or give too much information away over voicemail.
Keep in mind your message should be simple, easy to understand, and compelling. Ineffective messages are lengthy, boring, and attempt to be all-inclusive. Giving solutions over a voicemail, without having a discussion as to the pain points of your prospect, will fall flat. If you attempt to explain everything in a voicemail message, no one will listen to it and you’re giving them every reason not to call back. Your message should give the listener just enough information to entice them to return the call or pass it along. Remember, make it compelling and brief, not a laundry list of information that will be deleted and forgotten.
According to Hubspot, 97% of sales calls go to voicemail. If this statistic is even half accurate, understand that you are going to be leaving many voicemails to many people. Therefore, it’s important to do it right if you are going to make headway into an organization.
A quick formula for leaving an effective voicemail message:
1. Keep the length between 20-30 seconds. People will not listen to an overly long message.
2. Lead with information relevant to the prospect. Try opening with a thought-provoking question.
3. Keep the conversation going by saying you’ll follow up with an email.
4. Slow down as you speak. Don’t rush through your message.
5. End with your phone number. Say it once, slowly, and make sure to repeat it again.
Timing is Everything for a Successful B2B Campaign
Timing is a very important factor for b2b sales campaigns. Especially when challenged with a cold calling lead generation campaign that includes a large number of companies, in a short period of time and using an untargeted list.
Imagine a calling list of 1000 companies and your goal is to get in front of each and every one of those. Your time is better spent breaking up the list into segments and following up with second calls. For example, after calling the first 200 prospects, rather than continuing on through your list, go back to the top of the list and call the first 200 a second time. Then start on 201-400 with a first phone call and then go to the top of the list again and revisit 100-400.
This technique allows you to make contact with prospects more often and blend in fresh calls in a timely manner. This practice will get you better results than calling the 1000 prospects only one time. Multiple attempts to multiple contacts over a tighter time frame are more valuable than going straight down the list and calling everyone once.
This practice can be modified and applied if your sales campaign is focusing on working on a smaller, more targeted list by remembering that timely calls make a difference. If you call someone on a Monday or Tuesday – they should hear back from you before the weekend. The third contact should then be by mid-week, the following week. This process leads to more return calls.
Tip: Keep in mind to plan call times wisely, according to Salesforce.com. “Typically, the people you wish to target – those with the power to influence and make decisions – are some of the busiest people within an organization.” This means you need to think carefully about the best time to call when you actually have a chance of connecting with these busy professionals. It most likely will not be from 9 to 5. They have too much to do during the day to answer phone calls from unknown numbers. They’re also guarded closely by assistants and less senior team members. If you want to reach these people, the best times to call are early in the morning or late at night.
Hearing from you consistently, and in a timely manner, will keep you top of mind and work in your favor. Too much time between phone calls risks being forgotten.
Whether you have been in the business for decades or are new to the field, revisiting the basic foundations of successful sales campaigns is time well spent.