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Selling in Real Time: Is it a Lost Art?

Caveman Art

The role of sales outreach for lead generation has evolved significantly since I first entered the high-tech industry as a selling and marketing professional. Now, as a seasoned consultant with a strategic perspective focused on driving quality sales pipeline, I see that there is no denying the effect of disruptive change. Read on to learn how the pandemic has accelerated the trend of using remote selling teams to develop leads and sales opportunities and why salespeople need to embrace the art of live selling.

Selling Technologies Over Time

Any medium for sales outreach will always be dictated by current accepted practice while being influenced by newer technologies as they become adopted. As sales reps once realized they should be using the phone and sending emails, they’re now also steadily adopting and adding in newer capabilities available on social channels via LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

That said, most of my peers in sales would agree that finding ways to combine all the above approaches into one multi-channel sales outreach has the best potential to yield results. While social activities and appropriate content have their place in today’s B2B sales engagement, they need to include an engaged real-time conversation between an outreach representative and a prospect.

Consequentially, I include things like connection via email conversations and LinkedIn dialogue data in my reporting back to clients. Along the same lines, when troubleshooting core issues related to program and seller performance, I look at the following activities that are key performance indicators (KPIs) for engaged conversations that progress the sale: dial volume and connected conversations (which I call “connects”), and then the conversion rate of “connects” to qualified leads.

Conversations vs. Messaging

My mantra has always been “if you are not talking to enough people on a daily basis, nothing else matters”. This means I emphasize daily “conversations” over anything else when talking about KPIs. In a world faced by all types of daily disruption, the need to have relevant real-time sales conversations matters even more.

These are the key factors that drive connection rates beyond call and email volume organized into a cadence or sequence:

  • Target market identification
  • Personas
  • Ideal customer profiles (ICPs)
  • Lead list quality
  • Relevant messaging

Assuming you already have identified and have a way to target contacts that can uniquely benefit from your solution, and you execute the appropriate messaging, the next step in making your outreach operational is to improve the quality of your contact list.

Gone are the days of digital outreach only (at scale anyway) and trying to reach contacts without a direct number or cell phone. There are exceptions, but if you are trying to sell a complex product into a large enterprise company, it’s almost a non-starter.

Once you attain a minimum threshold of reasonable productivity (such as 25-30 connected conversations per week) by using a quality list and relevant messaging rolled up into a consistent and persistent outreach cadence, what is your next step? Your team could spend their time calling warm/hot leads from marketing, but that is often difficult to sustain, time consuming, and expensive.

Team Up with Agent Assist Dialing

From a cold outreach perspective, one method that continues to gain traction in today’s uniquely disruptive environment is to engage agent-assisted dialing – using a team of human callers that do the dialing for you and connect the seller when the contact answers.

Changing the Game – What’s the Opportunity?

I tested agent-assisted dialing a few years back and my opinion towards it then was “it’s another tool in the toolbox that may not fit all sellers’ tastes”. My thoughts have changed since then.

Based on today’s widely accepted fact that it now requires many more touches to a “buying center” within an organization or product evaluation team to convert leads into real opportunities, I would now argue that agent-assisted dialing is a definite must have. The 2020 pandemic and disruptions to both vendors and customers has made it a definite game changer!

My coaching sessions with my sellers are no longer around “how do you go from only speaking to 1-2 people a day to 10+?”

In the last few months, the dialog has instead shifted to “how do you sustain that connection rate (via list quality) and convert more leads (via sales enablement) from your live conversations?”

"Connecting" the Dots in a Digital Marketplace

I ran a complimentary pilot with Connectleader for one of my high-tech clients back in July of this year and the two sellers had 87 real-time conversations in 2 days, which generated $350K+ in validated sales pipeline within two weeks! I have never seen a tool perform that way in a pilot. ever.

The client is now using the Connect Leader platform on a daily basis, with the sellers mostly focused on progressing leads to opportunities as the tool allows them to connect with up to 20 contacts in around 2 hours a day, freeing up more selling time.

With this change in KPIs, the focus has shifted to determining which leads to nurture and/or advance in the sales cycle based on client qualification criteria.

Connect Rate Success Chart

To ensure your sellers are optimizing for the best connect rate and quality conversations that drive the best sales opportunities possible, I recommend the following:

  • Have a quality list of the:
    • Right personas
    • Accurate email addresses
    • Direct phone or cell numbers
  • Messaging:
    • Is content focused around contact needs and value proposition?
    • Nail your opening
    • What’s the ask? Meeting? Review digital content?
  • Understand the burn rate of your list to avoid “valleys” in productivity:
    • How many times to hit the list?
    • How long will it take to complete the list?
    • Know ramp time for the new lists/campaigns

Progressing the Sale

Sales outreach to generate pipeline is facing disruption from multiple fronts. First, larger evaluation teams are increasingly hard to reach due to their numbers, mobility, and distributed work locations. Second, content creation continues to accelerate and more ways to connect via selling applications are providing more ways to engage prospects. While these trends will continue, they are also contributing to environments where a conversation is needed to move a prospect forward beyond the level of marketing and B2B sales engagement via digital content and apps alone.

To optimize for these disruptions, human dialing agents take care of the busywork required to dial, navigate phone systems, and even talk with gatekeepers to get you to your target decision makers.

Once your agent has reached your contact, they instantly hand off that live conversation to your salesperson in a seamless process that is invisible to your prospect. It is equal to having many human personal assistants making your calls and then handing off the live connection to your seller so you can focus on having conversations, instead of wasting your salesperson’s time dialing.

Getting enough leads qualified will never be easy and contacting both warm and cold leads with any new technology to meet business objectives will offer mixed results. While savvy use of quality lists, differentiated messaging, and modifying your approach to various audiences via multiple channels (including social) will get you part of the way, “progressing the sale” to a quality opportunity will require engaging a prospect in a real-time conversation. As sales outreach becomes increasingly harder to attain at scale in these trying times, consider how your team’s success rate might increase by talking to 2x or even 3x more prospects in a sales day by using an agent assisted dialer to super-charge your outreach efficiency.

Bio: As a sales & marketing consultant at Penguin Consulting Services (PCS), Marlon assists start-ups and high-tech companies to quickly identify and connect with prospects that need and want their solutions. As a big-picture committed leader with strong emotional intelligence, he is able to develop others, build trust and forge internal and external partnerships and consensus to deliver high-performing teams in the midst of evolving and ambiguous circumstances.

Penguin Consulting Services helps B2B companies quickly identify and connect with prospects that need and want their solutions. This capability is delivered through smart campaign targeting and execution, inside sales implementation & enablement, and effective CRM design & configuration – giving you clear, accurate, and early visibility into how leads are progressing through your pipeline. Services are offered in flexible pricing packages, with immediate and tangible results.

At PCS, we have the knowledge, experience, and a strong track record in developing game-changing strategies and managing multiple projects impacting a variety of sales, marketing, and business development teams for start-up/early stage firms to large enterprises. Our mission is to help you find better sales opportunities, faster.

 

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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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