Having worked in the business of B2B cold calling for more than 20 years – with the majority of those at the head of a successful outsourced B2B lead generation firm, I have learned the value in returning to the basics and fundamentals that lead to successful cold calling.
Due to my experience both as a caller and as a manager of successful inside sales teams, I have a good grasp on the best practices for cold calling that lead to uncovering qualified leads. The following is my insider’s guide to B2B cold calling and lead generation.
The Prospect List – Names and Titles
The goal of an experienced B2B caller is to get in front of the decision makers or key evaluators and have a conversation that can uncover an opportunity.
The key is to know the effective ways to penetrate a company or organization to ensure that the caller is having this conversation with the correct targeted prospect.
How do you determine the right person to call?
Best practices for a B2B caller is to do enough research to understand if the cold call should be to a C-level executive, a VP or Director, or perhaps someone in a particular department (i.e., Head of Human Resources). This can be very dependent on the organization and industry.
The key is to focus on those who can reveal real business pains and understand the value of the solutions you have to offer.
How Do You Reach The Right Person?
For complex sales, I always advocate a top-down approach.
The title and position of the decision makers will vary depending on the organization and industry into which you are calling. Adequate research should yield the information needed to target the correct person.
In many cases, the key decision makers are going to be at the C-level, so that is where you start. It will most likely take many attempts, but keep making the calls and leave a concise voicemail when needed.
Research into inside sales tells us repeatedly that to be successful, multiple calls are essential. While “the absolute bare minimum number of attempts to contact at least 50% of your leads is six,” the average rep only conducts “between 1.7 and 2.1 attempts before they give up.” insidesales.com
If you don’t find success at the top level, then it’s appropriate to work your way down until you reach the highest level person that is willing to pick up the phone and have a conversation with you.
It may be that you can enter the company through that level, and it is better to have the discussion there than not at all.
Always aim for the highest level possible. If you try you might find success – but if you don’t even attempt it, then you have no chance of making a connection.
How Do You Ensure Your Prospect List Has Good Names and Titles?
To answer this question, look back at history. Where has the previous success been? Who needs to be targeted within the organization, and what is the level that needs to be reached?
Depending on the history and knowledge of the organization, it’s possible that the list will need some thought.
Remember, the goal is to penetrate the company or organization, and a successful way to do that is to call more than one person within that organization.
As a general rule, a sales rep should attempt a minimum of three different contacts within the same target company. If your list contains only one name within an organization, it is worth the time to do some research and expand that list.
There are a few practical ways to do this:
- Use available online research such as LinkedIn, the company website, or even a general Google search.
- Ask for referrals within the organization. At the beginning of my career, before the availability of online resources, the best way to get the names of contacts within an organization was to call and ask. I’d argue that this is still the most effective approach.
If whomever you are targeting is unavailable, ask the admin in the department for the name of someone you can speak to. They will give you a name if only to direct you away, but that can sometimes work in your favor.
Keep calling until you reach the person who is willing to have the conversation; you might be surprised at the results.
My years in the business have taught me that when sales numbers begin to fall, it is most likely because the callers have drifted away from the proven process. Research and preparation, combined with a knowledge of the basic best practices and a commitment to consistency, are the keys to success.
When in doubt, return to the fundamentals and keep making the calls.
More insider information can be found in The Insider’s Guide to B2B Cold Calling – Part 2.