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Local Presence: Handle with Care

Sometimes, the most effective sales approach may be the wrong strategy.  One of these techniques is local presence.  For generalized telemarketing, it can lift call connection rates and revenue, but for strategic selling it may result in a negative return on investment. 

Local presence is a common feature supported within power dialers and sales engagement platforms to lift call connection rates.  Instead of presenting a toll-free or out-of-state phone number to a prospect, a local area code is displayed on the caller id.  Businesses and consumers are then more likely to pick up the phone.  An online study of 2,310 Internet users by Software Advice found that prospects are four times more likely to pick up a local call.  But while local presence looks like a best practice, it’s benefits should be carefully weighed against its costs.

phone_close_up

Local presence looks less like a winner when you walk in your customers’ shoes.  The same survey found that 70% of respondents assume that the local number was displayed as a form of subterfuge to trick them into picking up the phone.  Only thirty percent. assign benign explanations to the practice (e.g. local satellite offices, cost reduction, legal requirements), while seven out of ten assume the local number was a trick.

What’s worse, four in nine would immediately hang up the phone upon discovering the deception and another 19% would question your staff about the discrepancy.  Only 25% “wouldn’t think anything of it.”  So, while 44% may not actually hang up, over 60% begin the call with a negative view of your company and its sales reps.

While the study found a 4X lift in connect rates, it found a countervailing negative impact from local presence that greatly reduces its efficacy.  Yes, you are obtaining higher connect rates, but you are starting calls off awkwardly and potentially damaging your brand.

Walk in Their Shoes

If you flip your perspective to that of the prospect, then it is easy to see why they are annoyed.  Caller ID displays names, locations, or numbers to help us screen our calls.  At work, your call interrupts somebody’s workflow.  At home, you are interrupting family time, housework, or relaxation.  In each case, your call is already a disruption.  Add to that the immediate distrust sown by pretending to be a local company, and many of the connection rate gains prove to be illusory.

Personally, I stopped assuming that local calls were from neighbors or local businesses several years ago.  The biggest offenders, of course, are robocalls with recorded messages for likely scams.  That’s not company you want to keep.

Horses for Courses

My point isn’t that local presence should never be used.  There is a British expression, “Horses for Courses” which applies.  Just as there are horses best fit for different courses (tracks), you want to select the tools that best fit your sales and marketing strategy.  If you are selling to a broad set of businesses and your product is not highly differentiated, then team dialing across a broad set of prospects with local presence makes sense.  When volume is the goal and there are millions of prospects, then local presence is probably a legitimate strategy that will result in higher sales.  Nevertheless, I would recommend an A/B test for local presence where you split your sales reps into two groups and then compare the results.

If your product targets a limited set of prospects, then tread carefully with local presence.  Many firms have adopted Account Based Marketing (ABM) and Account Based Sales Development (ABSD) where there is a defined universe of best prospects.  With ABM, sales and marketing shift away from traditional demand generation and weakly targeted outbound calling to a more strategic approach to identifying your best customers.  Some have likened this approach to shifting from drift net fishing to spear fishing.  You have much less bycatch (fewer weak leads), and you are landing your prized fish – best fit customers that are most likely to close, renew, and upgrade. 

ABM is based on strategic focus and an effective message.  You look for companies that are in market for products like yours via intent data and previous behavior.  You also want prospects that fit the firmographic (industry, size, location), technographic (deployed technologies), and biographic (job function and level) dimensions of your ideal customers.  Finally, you want to have full contact information for reaching your best prospects.

What’s more, if you have a small set of strategic targets, you are going to do your best to message to these targets.  You will segment them carefully, create custom campaigns and collateral, and select for specific job functions and levels.  The goal is to personalize the message, timing, and channel to carefully communicate with your golden prospects.  The last thing you want to do is sow distrust.

In an ABM context, local presence is the wrong strategy.  If it takes eight touches to reach an ABM target, but the prior seven are professional and customized, that is far better than reaching a prospect on the second touch with the risk of damaging your brand.  Cadences allow your sales reps to carefully reach out to prospects on a managed schedule across multiple channels.

In Conclusion

Let’s apply the best tools for our sales and marketing strategy.  Local presence may work well for your sales development reps targeting small businesses or lower priced products sold to a broad set of companies, but it is the wrong tool for ABM strategies. Horses for Courses.

Also Published on Medium.

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About the ConnectLeader B2B Sales Blog

The ConnectLeader B2B Sales blog is written to share productivity tips, tools, news, and other information relevant to managers and senior executives interested in B2B sales productivity, demand gen, inside sales, sales operations, and business development issues.

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