October 14th, 2015
The Telephone Is the Most Powerful Sales Prospecting Tool
By Jeb Blount, author of Fanatical Prospecting
KEN: This blog post is from my friend Jeb Blount, his new book is a must read for your sales book club: Fanatical Prospecting. Add it to your sales library today!
Question: “How do you get a salesperson to stop working?”
Answer: “Put a phone in front of him.”
That’s a little joke that elicits nervous laughs at my keynotes and seminars.
For thousands of salespeople, picking up the phone and calling a prospect is the most stressful part of their life. Many of these reluctant salespeople stare at the phone, secretly hoping that it will disappear. They procrastinate, get ducks in a row, and work to ensure that everything is perfect before they dial. Any excuse—and I mean any excuse—to do something else takes priority.
They work over their leaders, too. Whining that no one answers the phone anymore. Arguing that it is a waste of time. Complaining that people don’t like to be contacted by phone.
Last month a top-five insurance company hired me to work with his team. The executive who bought me in said that the single biggest challenge facing their new agents was prospecting. His words: “We are having such a hard time getting them to just pick up the phone and talk to people.”
When I arrived on the morning of the training, he pulled me aside and said, “I hope I haven’t put you in a bad spot. We didn’t spend time discussing the new reality in our industry, but no one answers the phone anymore. I realize you are going to do live phone blocks, but I wouldn’t expect too much out of them.”
We did three live phone blocks that day using targeted lists the agents brought with them. Over the course of the day, we had a whopping 51 percent contact rate—actual live prospects answering their phones. This was not a statistical anomaly. It was generated by 19 agents who made 1,311 outbound dials.
At the end of the day I sat down with my contact and showed him the numbers. He was both thrilled—as in “when can we get you to come back and do this again” thrilled—and bemused.
“I don’t understand how you got those results. Everybody tells me that people don’t answer the phone anymore.”
“Who is telling you that?” I asked.
“The agents,” he responded.
“The same people that you say won’t make calls?” I asked.
He slowly nodded his head as the weight of this realization sank in. Nobody answers a phone that doesn’t ring. Nobody Answers a Phone That Doesn’t Ring
Disproving the Myth
The myth that the phone no longer works—because people don’t answer—is disproven daily by thousands of sales teams across the country that survive and thrive on the phone.
The statistics don’t lie. We see between a 15 percent and 80 percent contact rate on the phones depending on the industry, product, and role level of the contact. For example, in the business services segment, contact rates are consistently between 25 and 40 percent.
This, by the way, is far higher than response rates with e-mail and light years higher than social media. All of the real-world evidence flies directly in the face of the myth that gets repeated over and over again that the telephone has a low success rate.
It gets better. We have stats on phone prospecting going back to the early 1990s, and we are seeing clear trends that contact rates via phone have actually risen by around 5 percentage points. We don’t know the exact reason why more prospects are answering their phones, but we suspect three drivers:
- Phones are anchored to people, not desks. It is common for prospects to answer their mobile phone when you call them—either because their mobile line is their only line or because their office line rolls over to their mobile line.
- No one is calling. Because so much sales communication has shifted to e-mail, social inboxes, and text, phones are not ringing nearly as much as in the past. Because of this, salespeople who are calling are standing out in the crowd and getting through.
- Prospects are getting burned out on impersonal, irrelevant (and often automated) prospecting e-mails. E-mail and social inboxes are being flooded with crap. Prospects are hungry for something different—a live, authentic human being.
Listen to me! The phone is your most powerful sales tool. Period, end of story.
Let me say this one more time slowly. There is no other tool in sales that will deliver better results, fill your pipe faster, and help you cover more ground in less time than the phone.
Here is the brutal truth: Salespeople who ignore the phone fail. They deliver mediocre results and cheat themselves out of hard cash.
So stop looking at it like it’s your enemy or an alien being covered in slimy tentacles. And no, it is not going to dial itself.
Jeb Blount is the bestselling author of Fanatical Prospecting and a Sales Acceleration expert who helps sales organizations reach peak performance fast by optimizing talent, leveraging training to cultivate a high-performance sales culture, developing leadership and coaching skills, and applying more effective organizational design. Contact: 1-888-360-2249 or visit: http://www.JebBlount.com