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Monday, June 19, 2017

Are Scripted Calls a Bad Idea?

When you gain access to a key stakeholder, it’s important that you're as effective as possible and maximize every stage of that conversation. Ask yourself, how many times have you hung up the phone after a conversation and thought to yourself “I forgot to ask about…” or “I wish I would have mentioned…”

Whether you’re speaking live or on a voicemail it’s important to project the most precise, accurate, and confident message you can to make this engagement matter.

The way to make sure that you’re doing that on every call is to script it. I’m not talking about the scripts that cause salespeople to get hung-up on, I’m talking about the very best version of YOU. By making sure you have all your key statements in front of you all the time, you’ll ensure all of your communication is accomplishing what you want. 

The thing about my role, The Vanella Group, Inc. does outbound/sales development—but I’m also a CEO that a lot of companies want to sell “stuff” to….so I get tons of sales calls. I get at least 5 a day, most of them are pretty bad. Just last week, someone called and I gave them a minute to explain what they were doing but it took almost 10 minutes of dialog before it was even clear, it still isn’t 100% clear. That’s because the rep jumped around, wasn’t prepared for my questions, introduced the company in a very “cloudy” way that wasn’t concise. In the end, it was a waste of time on both ends and they are no closer to having me as a prospect. Had that rep known exactly what they would say, how to clearly state their value, who they are and what they do—the outcome could have been totally different.

A script shouldn’t be something you would never say, it should be EXACTLY what you would say on a perfect call. 

When you write your script—write what YOU would say on that perfect call. This is your script..not a one-size-fits-all canned pitch but a carefully constructed discussion model that will make your engagements effective. Keep it in front of you so if the conversation goes off topic, if the prospect asks a question, whatever may happen you are always ON and will be able to steer it right back on course instead of hanging up and wishing it went different.

The more preparation you invest into optimizing your engagements, the more success you'll have! 

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Whose Responsibility Is It To Fix B2B Engagement?

There are two ways to look at engagement:
  1. From an organizational standpoint of culture, systems, processes, compliance, and transformation. Sales and Marketing partner to achieve success. Here is where thought leadership, shift in mindset, and a metamorphosis of going from "how we have always done it" to "this is how we fixed this issue."
  2. Individually understanding what is needed and taking action, teaching yourself how to navigate a complex domain of platforms, opinions, and practices to arrive at what works. Here is where one can take steps without the above (#1 option) all being in place and make a difference, immediately.
While there is merit in both, and I really enjoy helping organizations align with what they need to do, the time between making a decision to change at a leadership level and actually implementing that change is much longer than a lot of reps have to demonstrate a difference in their own activity. For that reason, this is more geared to the latter option of what YOU can do right now to make a difference in YOUR results.
There is a ton of sales training for B2B reps available today. It's everything from tried-and-true proven and effective old-school methodologies to newer models that include "Social Selling" and incorporating precise automated low-touch communication into the conversation with prospects to nurture it along or even drive inbound traffic.
Regardless of what systems or sales processes organizations have, on the front lines of a sales team it's engagement that is still one of the most challenging areas to master. I hear a lot of sales execs say if they can get in front of prospects they are great, but they just can't easily get in front of them. It has been a concern of reps for the 2 1/2 decades I have been in B2B sales, and there's no miracle solution on the horizon that is a fix-all for everyone. I knew of one company that had to schedule 600 meetings to close 30 <$150K deals, these were not huge deals...the challenge was immense.
Some of the fix has been offered through solutions integrated with CRM platforms. There's a crowded market of applications to increase engagement, provide insight, and fast-track connecting with prospects. Social Selling is often interpreted differently depending on the team, and there's still a lot of fuzzy areas about what it really requires to be effective (some execs aren't buying into anything with "social" in the title.) While having a solid data solution is important, buying more software isn't necessarily the fix for engagement. What is really needed is depth of understanding about what is happening on the prospect's side of the fence now, today, in 2017...what is really happening.
I've observed a lot of sales reps follow a model they have used for years, 2 calls 2 emails...or personal rules like "I don't leave voicemails, it's a waste..." Or thinking like "if they were interested they would call me back.." This is so common, every B2B team has some representation of this going on. Thinking like that leaves revenue on the table and can result in a starved pipeline. Prospects enter and leave a pipeline and don't even know it happened. It's important to recognize that a lack of reciprocity on the part of the prospect isn't an indicator of a lack of interest. It's just an indicator that more or something different is needed.
It's important to know that a lack of reciprocity on the part of the prospect isn't an indicator of a lack of interest. 
So who's job is it to fix it? The vexed relationship that sometimes exists between sales and marketing is sometimes rooted in perceptions that the leads they get don't turn into anything. Some organizations throw their hands up and just give into it and seek out services that sell appointments. Now the rep just has to show up, can they just do that?
Engagement is the reason a lot of companies just buy "appointments," but appointments only fill a calendar, not a pipeline. 
First you have to understand the problem to plug in a fix. The problem is a misalignment of steps to connect with a prospect. The first steps are easy, find out who the prospect is. From there, that's when very deliberate and calculated actions are needed to make sure you aren't wasting moments that can make a difference.
The problem of engagement isn't something that can be distilled into a single fix, but it is combining very deliberate actions that eliminate cracks in the system (which is a much longer answer than I can address here.) But from a sales rep perspective--there are at least 4 tools that are underutilized that can improve engagement.
  1. Understanding their prospects' role and persona. Sometimes people overlay their own thinking onto their prospects, and that actually creates a blind spot for a fix. Honestly, most people don't manage their messages really well. And thinking you left a voicemail that made a difference in reality is your prospect doesn't even remember it. Usually it takes 7+ attempts to connect with stakeholders in deals, sometimes more. It is more important to factor that into outreach than assume they are ignoring you.
  2. Data available in the public domain and within your platforms. You likely have a lot of insight available through your internal systems, data points like they have been hitting your site, or announcements/press releases that give insight into their current state. Someone asked me recently what social selling tools do reps use most, and they started rattling off all these data platforms--I stopped them and said I find many reps aren't even using LinkedIn, let alone another platform. This is by no means an ad for LinkedIn, but it is a fact that it is a HUGE repository of prospect-generated data that reveals a lot about your prospects, to ignore that before reaching out puts you at a disadvantage. The other side of this pancake is that it's important to log each attempt and detail each discussion so you aren't covering topics you already did while missing opportunities to do something meaningful. Capturing what you learn and putting it in their record is key. A rep might do this the first time, and forget what they learned on later calls or even waste cycles looking up the same information over and over again needlessly--capture what you learn about prospects so when you look in their record, you know what you need to know.
  3. Email and voicemail. Just a normal note and voicemail goes a long way. I often coach teams to think of how they would talk to someone they know? You are interacting with these people every day in your normal life, you just don't know it. You are sitting next to CIO's at the movies, standing next to VP's at the bank, etc. Would you say to them some of the stuff that goes out in an email? People respond to people, not to sales pitches, "break up" emails (I get at least 5 a week,) or "pick a time on my calendar so I can sell you something" emails.
  4. Critical thinking. This is by far the most important. Each prospect is different, each industry and company has their own culture. What works with one doesn't necessarily work with it's important to be mentally engaged. It's easy to get in a rut and just do the same thing over and over--but if you really want to connect with people you have to be engaged yourself. Push through the fake obstacles and figure out what you need to do. For example, if you aren't reaching someone have you hit "0" and asked if they are even around this week? Did you look them up and see where there may be overlap with your existing customers or people you know you can mention? Have you reached out to their peers and spoke to them or asked if they are around? Real life is real life...and what is interpreted as someone being a jerk and blowing you off can often be someone is sick, out of town, working against a tight deadline, putting out some internal fire, etc. In more cases than not, losing interest in your solution is not the reason you aren't reaching them.
All of the above also is a reason I am a huge advocate to putting your best reps in front of prospects on the front lines vs. putting junior people that hope to grow up into sales reps down the road. The junior folks have good intentions, but that isn't going to bring the insight and fluency to read between the lines during discussions and progress conversations as a peer while neutralizing sales resistance. Times have changed enough that putting inexperienced people in front of prospects as their first experience with your company is going to cost you deals.
I'll look forward to your comments about what you have done to realign with what it takes to connect!
Additional Articles About B2B Sales and Relationship Management:

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Why "Social Selling" Should Be Incorporated Into Your Outbound Programs

Recently I overheard people at a conference talking about how connecting with people on LinkedIn is so great because "they expose all of their connections to you!!" The implication was this extra benefit of instant access to their network to "sell your stuff" or some other personal gain. The first thing they verbalized wasn't to build a better relationship, or to better understand their new connection, but the first thing they thought of was "what's in it for me" and a backdoor of access. The comment drew up all kinds of reminders about the low opinion people have of salespeople at times.
I don't expose my network to connections anyway, and it felt very "icky" hearing how they would be combing through anything they would have access to in order to see what they can gain from it. This eagerness to exploit new connections in that way really missed the point for me, everyone that understands how to engage effectively knows this. A real-world example of the above is being in a client's office, and when they step out for a moment diving into their rolodex to see whose numbers you can find-- they let you in their office, right?
Social Selling isn't exploiting your relationships in a way prospects wouldn't appreciate 
The above situation isn't the intention of "Social Selling," it isn't exploiting your relationships in a way prospects wouldn't appreciate. The purpose of adding a layer of social research is making relationships better, more peer-level, and stronger. It is perfectly fine to research your prospects, opportunities may present themselves through that, but immediately diving into their network with entitlement isn't the point nor is trying to connect with everyone in their network.
I have had people try to connect with many people I know using a feigned connection to me as a way to get accepted, and maybe they got a LinkedIn connection out of it, but that's all they got. If their goal was to have lots of connections, they were a success! :/ But if they aren't doing something for those people, it has a shallow impact. Social Selling done right progresses and adds depth to your professional relationships. And it is something that great reps have been doing since sales became a profession, it's just paying attention. 50 years ago it was paying attention to little personal details, sending cards and "gift baskets" (thank you Michael Scott,) and caring about your prospects enough to invest time into them. Social Selling is just a modern descriptor of something that isn't new....
Real Social Selling can be defined with these activities:
  • Understanding your prospect while in a remote setting. Many first (second and third) meetings are now remote, entire sales cycles are remote. I have worked with people for years and in some cases rarely meet in person, yet maintain a strong connection because we pay attention to what is happening with them.
  • Preparation that makes meetings highly effective. There is no reason to join a meeting and not know who you are speaking to with the huge amount of data in the public domain--some of it created by your prospect. Even late-adopters of LinkedIn were forced by necessity to promote themselves and have a presence. Wasting time in meetings discussing things you could have found with 10 minutes of preparation isn't a good use of the access you have with prospects.
  • Meaningful engagement with your prospects. Some simple actions can help you keep a pulse on what is happening with your prospect. You should connect with them on LinkedIn, not to stalk their network but to stay engaged. Share meaningful information that builds credibility and depth to the connection you have. You can learn more about the types of content that makes a difference to them through their activity online, that helps you narrow the focus to topics they are interested in.
  • Filling in the "white space" between conversations. People are now much more available digitally via social platforms. They may publish articles, share content, or various other activities you can engage with and extend the lifecycle of your live engagements. Also, you can demonstrate a level of sincerity by genuinely caring about what they are working on. Many B2B deals have long and complicated sales cycles, the relationship you build will make a difference in the long-term.
  • Stay in the "know" of their company. Setting yourself up for success means putting what is in the public domain to work for you. Have alerts set up for press releases, news, updates, etc. about your prospects. It enables you have meaningful engagement vs. the "just checking in" exchange. You can reach out to acknowledge awards, announcements, etc. It shows you care about your prospects and makes a difference how prospects perceive you.
  • Connect the dots. Staying engaged with your prospects enabled you to also see activities that can prompt you to reconnect sooner. For example, let's say you see they recently connected with a rep from a competing company--that is a flag to see what is going on in there and if it makes sense to reengage sooner vs. later.
Social Selling doesn't require being a power-user of social media nor does it take tons of time, but it does pay off when you invest in yourself to make sure you are as informed as possible and continually monitor your prospects and pipeline.
Below is a session from Dreamforce describing Social Selling in action. The tools you may use can change from time to time, the intentions are always the same--add value, create sticky relationships, and make up for distance with value and communication. 
I'll look forward to your comments!!
Additional Articles About B2B Sales and Relationship Management:

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Does Your B2B Sales Outreach Stink?

I get dozens of emails, phone calls, texts, tweets, PM's, InMail, and every form of communication possible from sales reps each week trying to sell my company "stuff."  The vast majority of it is annoying, redundant, unoriginal, assumptive, gimmicky, and nothing we would be interested in.  This content generally doesn't even explain what they are selling in a way that makes sense, i.e. no value message about what they do, who they work with, and examples of results. 
Recently I received an email with the subject line "You're dead to us." It was just another subject line decoy and the entire email had a mean tone to it questioning why I haven't responded to their emails... it was apparently my "last chance to respond" at this stage.  Another was "Did I make you mad?" The opening line in the email reminds me I haven't responded to their previous emails and now they are going to call me.  Who writes this horrible content?? 
What gimmick-based content writers miss is that it isn't getting "opens" that count, it's engagement, value, substance, and ultimately ROI that count....they miss the point that emails like that aren't drawing prospects in to engage, they are repelling prospects from it. The open numbers are skewed if people look to see what the heck this thing is and then look and think "ugh....(delete.)" 
I presented at a LinkedIn Live event not long ago and I used one of the many poorly constructed InMails I receive via LinkedIn. One person in the audience considered it a success because I read it...I explained that using it as a bad example of what to not do in front of hundreds of people isn't success.
There is a silver lining to this: I get enormous exposure to what people are doing as well as the mindset of the people (and companies) that are doing it.  
I'll tell you exactly why this bad content exists....
It's the same mindset applied to content as is applied to using phone-based lead gen by people that don't have a high opinion of it. It's the same lack of consideration as telling the person that calls to introduce themselves and the next question is "are you the decision maker?" It is being unaware of the negative impact bad content (and ball calls) actually inflict on progressing relationships with prospects.
It's the same mindset applied to content as is applied to using phone-based lead gen by people that don't have a high opinion of it. 
What About Your Current Customers?
Another type of outreach to consider is developing existing customers, which is where a significant level of revenue growth often resides. I have a provider I use (the only reason is it's a hassle to change) that has some sort of trigger that comes up if I am not active on the platform in 45 days. I get an email with the subject "Do you still want to work with us?" In the email, there are 3 options, "a) Yes please run a report, b) Yes but not now, or c) No deactivate my account." It is so lazy it is unbelievable, and a very lame way to manage their customer base with no thought put into it. In my case, they could say "You have worked with us for 10 years, we really appreciate that! We haven't heard from you in a while, just let us know if you have any feedback on what we can do better. Otherwise, we appreciate you and looking forward to seeing you soon."  I would very likely spend more money with them if that was the tone of the communication I got, instead of "should we dump you now?" 
A newer feature added to asking for a meeting is for reps to share a link to their calendar to book something. Shouldn't it be the other way around? You want to meet to present your solution/product and then you want me to do the work to make it happen? It is an unbelievably lazy way to engage and doesn't show they put a lot of value on their prospect. 
What To Consider With Your Outreach
A simple formula to follow with content is outlined below. Especially in enterprise B2B, it's important to leverage those few seconds of the moment you have with your prospects mind to achieve impact by:
  1. Building trust and credibility 
  2. Establishing value in their industry community
  3. Sharing something insightful about their business
  4. Uncovering a situation/challenge they should explore within their environment
While it isn't always practical to cover all those points in every piece, prospects should leave with the experience that your contentwas worth their time to "consume." To really establish yourself as a value source for prospects takes more work, it means you have to spend time to better understand their businesses, their issues, the broken work-arounds they might be doing that you can fix. When you do that, and leave a take-away that made a difference, that is effective outreach.
If you are creating content internally, ask yourself when you tee up any new B2B sales outreach:
  • Are my prospects going to walk away with something they can use now? Is it provable? (stats, etc. post the reference to help them validate)
  • Am I addressing unique challenges and articulating it in a way they will grasp? (Not using internal acronyms many don't know)
  • Have I surfaced situations they might be unaware of or challenged with? Cite examples and sources.
  • Am I exposing an information channel they need to plug into?
  • Are my readers finding this a good use of their time, why? (see above)
  • Have I created a reason to talk with us?
By putting thought into sales outreach the engagement is much more likely, and the numbers you see are real and not inflated by clicks to see what something means. Some content is shorter, some is longer and gives you more real estate to work with messaging...but the important thing is to draw your prospects IN vs. annoy them to a point of avoiding your content. 
I'll look forward to your comments

Monday, August 08, 2016

Are You Avoiding Having Leads Crash and Burn on the Front Lines?

Are you able to see what happens to the leads your organization generates when they get to the live-engagement stage? Many marketing organizations have literally zero visibility of what happens on the front lines in sales; yet this is where the greatest attrition in your pipeline can occur when it isn't managed with some deliberate design.

It's relatively easy to monitor a prospect's journey with their digital interactions; you'll see their score change/rise, you see them more frequently (or not) or responding to the things you would expect them to. You can gauge the topics they are interested in based on their behavior, and then feed them more of the things they are interested in. You can measure and assign a value to most actions prospects do with your content, and you can create messages designed for a very precise response. That is the part you do with more of a hands-off approach.

The breakdown is when it goes to the live engagement phase of the journey. You team(s) may be distributed, segmented by geography, industry, company size, etc. 

The challenge is that the moment it goes to a rep, 5 things happen:
  • Independent decisions made by reps, some may be inexperienced, on how to handle the prospect
  • Individual interpretation of the opportunity/non-opportunity
  • Individual practices to engage. This is where management scratches their heads asking "why does Tracy connect with so many prospects and Brenda is at a 50% lower conversion rate?" or "Why do we never have issues with Tom closing business but Mike is constantly complaining about the leads?"
  • Understanding the prospect is only as good as the knowledge base the rep has personally developed
  • Follow-up is based on the workload of the rep and understanding of prospect behavior

Your best reps understand how to manage these intuitively, you will see that in their results. But all reps don't have these areas mastered or even understand what is going on from a "buyer psychology" standpoint and what their mindset should be at an early engagement stage. 
What this looks like in real-life:
  • Many different approaches with what to say, how to engage, overall attitude about the prospect, understanding and interpretation of the prospect's responses and behavior. Example: One rep may research a prospect, look at their company, get some background on them, and prepare some very specific crisp soundbites to open a dialog. OR, the rep calls and says "I saw you were on the site, I wanted to see if you are looking for something specific" and within 5 minutes ask if they have a budget.
  • Depending on the skills and confidence of the rep, the viability of the opportunity can appear more positive or negative. Example: A prospect says  they will bake something into their budget for your solution the following quarter, they want to have a brainstorm session, and see how to work together the following quarter. One rep may work hard to make something happen ASAP to get in there and add value and lock it up. OR, a rep would say "nothing is going on in here for months, I am not spending time on this." 
  • Engagement can be everything from sending a few emails, to a consistent effective approach that engages a very high percentage of prospects. Example: I didn't reach the prospect, they aren't interested. When asked "what did you do?" the answer is they called once, and sent 2 emails 3 weeks ago. The emails were pasted sections of older emails, and when the prospect opens it, it looks like a ransom note of fonts and colors. OR, a rep can understand people are super busy and it really does take a persistent effort that may entail 5-8 attempts to reach them.
  • Some opportunities need a well-informed resource that can quickly understand their environment and map the problems to the solution within their own environment.  Inability to do that, can leave a vendor out in the cold. Example: One rep may know specific challenges certain industries face, and can speak to those very fluently. OR, a rep can use the one-size-fits-all deck to present, and miss out on key areas to build confidence with the prospect. 
  • Workload of active deals, or late stage deals, has a direct impact on developing newer relationships with prospects. Example: If a rep has numerous active deals at late stages or deals closing that are demanding, new prospects are neglected just because of bandwidth.  

This is just a slice of what is happening out there.  Conversations aren't documented, engagement varies depending on who does it, depending on the reps personal approach or assessment, they may or may not get priority. These major decisions are left to a stage of the journey that can be a total black box, that no one has visibility into.
So what can YOU do?
  1. Find out what is actually happening. Get a sample of results from each team member using an apples to apples comparisons. The records, the discussions, the end dispositions--then compare.
  2. Have a true skills assessment of engagement and make sure everyone is equipped to have a high level of skills to engage. This includes understanding prospect behavior, what it takes to reach prospects, how to interpret responses, how prospects are mentally responding when they do certain things, etc. 
  3. Address the behavioral aspects of sales formally vs. product knowledge and more mechanical content. The real success comes from being able to real-time navigate what is happening during conversations and reading between the lines of what prospects say. Those are the skills that progress leads, not knowing how to explain a widget. 
  4. Equip your team with resources that help them understand the background of leads they get, i.e., what were they responding to, who was targeted, the content the prospects saw, the source list, etc. That helps them to have a vantage point of what they get.

There's much more to do in order to completely fine-tune this; but once reps understand the small things they do along the way make a difference is the first step.  Behavioral perception make zan enormous impact on results. I don't mean how to act right in a social setting, but understanding what is happening on the sales landscape, what kinds of thought responses to prospects have to certain actions, etc. 

This goes far beyond "social selling" in the sense it isn't just understanding how to mine data in the public domain, but really becoming a professional at the undercurrents of engagement and rising about the noise of the high number of approaches prospects get daily. When you equip your teams to really understand how to read between the lines of engagement, then you will maximize return on all of your programs across the board and see increased ROI with all of your efforts.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Why Telesales 3.0™ Is NOW, Are You READY?

Over the last 16 years, we have always stayed a step ahead of trends affecting enterprise sales teams. We do that by taking the whole sales engagement into account of what we do, not just "calling them" and engaging. When companies understand the need to have the same level of peer level fluency at all stages, then they see results.

Another reason is because the foundational behavior of people hasn't changed. Social Selling is applying the same principles great sales teams have always used, understanding their's just doing it virtually now instead of in their office.

Being able to factor in buyer behavior, sales management modeling, technology shifts, current roadmaps for organizations and the resulting changes to how decisions are made to acquire enterprise platforms is what is needed for real sales development effectiveness.

You can't look at sales processes in silos of "marketing does this" and "SDR's do that" and the "direct reps do this.." What can result from not having someone that understands the big picture is a lot of disjointed activity that causes attrition as prospects move to each stage. Each stage sees less and less prospects, and some of ones that were lost those were closable deals. 

What's happened?  It isn't just one thing, it is many things that create breaks in the prospect relationship along the way. 

Just a few of those are:
  • Now engaging when the prospect want to engage and is making choices--this is often where you see BANT and out dated qualification methods in play.
  • Reps making decisions about how to handle prospects without understanding the big picture--today's buyers require precision with engagement, not just a "follow up" but a CORRECT follow up for the situation.
  • Neglect--one of the biggest problems I still see is sales teams don't do what it takes holding onto old-school tactics of 2 emails 2 calls and assuming prospects aren't interested. Sirius Decisions, Forrester, DGR, and many other respected industry sources, including the 1M+ engagements we have done ourselves, prove that to be wrong.
We have worked with organizational psychologists and many professionals to arrive at the design of our solution, this is why it gets results. Are you stepping up your team to align with real-world requirements? 

Doing so much work to help companies succeed with sales development is why cold calling works for their programs. I have said many times that people DO take calls, they just don't take bad calls.

Are YOU stepping up to the 3.0 world?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Cold Calls or "Business Calls"....What Type Should Your Company Make?

For years there's been books, blogs, and articles circulated around the topic of "Cold Calling is Dead." Every week articles are flying around on Cold Calling's lack of ROI. I can't help but voice my complete disagreement with this when I see it, not only is it not dead but the effectiveness of it has increased over the years as it is the fastest way to find an opportunity.
One customer study showed 80% of large deals (>400K) closed from a tactical cold calling programs. An accident? No 
Why the opposing claims? Because what is being lumped into the definition of a "cold call" is actually more accurately defined as a "bad call."  And with the poor hiring profiles and technical fluency of many (both outsourced and FTE's) that operate in the "telemarketing" space, there is a high concentration of "bad calls" going on.  Those have always been a waste of time.
What is a "bad call?"  I'll give you a perfect example....not too long ago, I got a call from Suzy or Sally or someone I have no recollection of her name. She called my cell, and said she was with an F500 tech firm and I had downloaded a whitepaper on something-maybe I did, maybe I didn't. It didn't sound like something I did but "go on..." She then asks me my title, I asked if she had it already...she did, she said CEO. I asked her why she asked if she had it? She said CEO's don't normally answer their phone. I said this is my cell, so there is a good possibility I would answer. I asked if she had internet access and she did, so I asked if she does a quick search on people that have C-level or VP titles before she calls, she said no. Then she asked if I can send her to someone that does our networking and security management. I said "wouldn't you want to talk to me directly since it's my company?" Her response was a broad sweeping statement she read to me about security planning and network management this or that...and if I want a meeting. I said what you just said could represent about 100 different things. I asked if she wanted a tip for her next call--I said "we have spent the last 6 minutes talking about how I couldn't possibly be a CEO because I answered my phone, then when we established I'm the CEO you want to talk to someone else, the thing you want to talk about is such a broad sweeping statement that it could mean 100 different things and now I have to go. So you had a CEO on the phone you could have spoken to, and it has turned into nothing for your customer (they were an outsourced firm, I asked.) Next time, I would search who you are calling first, have something crisp to say that would be interesting based on their role, and when you have the person that's writing the check on the phone--don't make the first thing you ask for how to get to someone else." THAT is an example of a bad call.  I get them all the time, and rarely is one something I would pursue a further dialog with.
Companies that outsource/hire often look for the economy option because the stakeholder personally doesn't like getting calls, so they don't want to invest a lot in their call campaign, which actually  ensures they have bad calls made on their behalf.
Often, front-lines are staffed with people without any critical thinking skills, they are unable to real-time navigate and map what prospects say to engage and uncover opportunities. They are not adding value but can actually do damage to your pipeline.  This applies for FTE or outsourced resources, putting very junior people with very under-developed communication skills is going to cost you deals you could have had with a better front-line engagement model.
A customer of ours once said "I could never make cold calls..." I asked if they call people they don't know...they said they do all the time. I said that's what we do, we make business calls.  A business call is normal, people in business expect and welcomes them when they add value. There is tacit permission given to make a business call as an executive because part of their role is "doing business." If they weren't open to solve their challenges, they would not be doing their job. 
All the gobbledygook out there around cold calling, ROI, metrics, and activity measurement are often mapped to the results of efforts like the bad calls above--but did those ever work?  What is likely the cause of the appearance of a drop of ROI in bad calls is really the ability to have more accurate and granular measurement. Also, today's prospects are much more empowered to cut people off faster, and the sheer volume of poorly skilled front-line business development outreach going on in B2B has created a scenario where prospects are harder to reach. Often workflow is broken and applying methods from 1996 to today's unavailable buyers, so it gives the appearance the entire "medium" of calling isn't working.  
Measuring the results of actual business callsmade by people that know what they are talking about still show it is the #1 highest resulting activity companies can do.
Bottom line, if your first touch is someone that isn't a peer-match in conversation, understanding specific problems prospects face, and can think on their will impact results poorly. 
What is the fix?
  • Better hiring--make sure you aren't putting inexperienced people in the position to be the first experience prospects have. You want people that can uncover opportunities in a very short window of time, speak fluently with senior level stakeholders, and understand the environment they are calling into. I can recommend some staffing consultants that help with hiring, ping me if you need to connect with any.
  • Understand the purpose of cold calls. Cold calling uncovers opportunities, it tee's up engagements for the direct teams, it cuts through the noise of emails and SEO and all the things that drive prospects to the conversation. If you are uncovering millions of dollars of pipeline in your outbound effort and are not seeing it close, the problem could likely be downstream and sales operations needs to uncover the issue. Is it a sales execution issue? Product issue? Nurturing issue? Whatever it is, follow the breadcrumbs to see where the breakdowns occur and deals are lost. 
  • Have a process. Many times outbound calls are based on a list that wasn't vetted, reviewed, scrubbed. Calling into prospects that wouldn't be viable under the best of circumstances isn't going to get the results that a structured effort delivers. Have a model of data vetting that narrows your focus to viable prospects before you even pick up the phone.
  • Training. Many internal ISR's are trained on products, problems as marketing departments see them, features, etc. They are not trained on the psychology of buyers and how to engage with people with the same effectiveness as a face-to-face meeting. Understanding the undercurrents going on during a call goes a very long way to better connect and progress deals in the pipeline.
What are a few of the characteristics of a "business call?"
  • Peer level. The person doing the calling needs to engage as a peer, not talk up to, or talk down to, the prospect.  They should have command of the discussion and be able to articulate at the same level (or better) than the prospects. They should not have any confidence issues speaking with senior executives.
  • Agile. The person calling needs to be able to real-time map what the prospect says to a meaningful discussion that uncovers opportunities. They are not locked into a script, or an objective, i.e., if there isn't a meeting we don't want it. Having it all about a meeting, disables the discussion to turn into something meaningful. If the purpose of cold calls is narrow and activity based, the workflow and business development processes will be broken. 
  • Rich. A business call builds excitement for prospects, not create sales resistance. A business call is about "business value." It's about how problems are solved, provides a vision for the solution, allows a prospect to build a mental framework for how this can work...and in turn, they want to know more.  
  • Informed. Many cold calls are made by people that have very under-developed critical thinking and problem solving skills. Ask interviewees if they have a system for educating themselves? What are the last 3 business books they read? How to they educate themselves in a new space? What are some examples? How do they discover account information? How do they use what is in the public domain to leverage entry to an account? Many times, a high sales performer in B2C is completely unable to reinvent themselves into a B2B sale. Make sure the hire can sell in your space, your sales landscape, to your buyers. It doesn't have to be a 1 to 1 match of products, but a sales environment selling printers in volume to a commodity buyer in procurement is very different than selling a supply chain platform to an IT organization. Make sure their success maps in theory to yours. 
These are just a few of the elements to consider.  Investing the time to build the model that works for your company isn't easy, but it pays off and delivers a measurable impact to revenue.