What You Need to Know if Tele-Prospecting is to be Effective for You

If you use the telephone to prospect then here’s a big tip:

Get e-mail addresses every time you speak to someone.

Not some of the time.  All of the time.

Start right now with your next call.

Doesn’t seem like much of a tip but it’s packed with implications.

The Decline of the Telephone as a Primary Means of Contact

Here’s the why: as a primary means of contact telephone prospecting is fast diminishing.

It should not come as a surprise. The percentage of prospects who answer their telephone is declining.  Ten-twelve years ago, a 40% B2B contact rate was the norm.  Five years ago the rate dropped to about thirty percent.  Now you’re lucky to get  20- 25%.

Technology and an upsurge in telephone cold calling (thanks to tight economy) are the culprits for this decline.  Prospects are more readily using call display and voice mail to screen the influx of calls.  They are more selective because they are more skeptical.  Who can blame them?

The Rise of E-Mail

If the primary contact rate for prospecting is diminishing by phone, it is increasing by e-mail.  E-mail is fast becoming the initial means for establishing contact and developing a lead or sale.  Of course, prospects can just as easily screen your e-mail as they can your voice message.  However, there are some major advantages to e-mailing for you, the tele-prospector.

First your e-mail follows your prospect everywhere he or she goes.  Thanks to Blackberries, iPhones and other  smart phones, your message accompanies your prospect to meetings, on the commute to and from work,  at the mall or grocery store, at home during supper (if they so choose), in front of the TV or at their kid’s soccer game.  If your message is well crafted, they will SEE it beyond the office setting and this creates awareness.

Secondly, e-mail provides a visual message; something more tangible either on the screen or printed out.  A voice message is audio based.  These are two different mediums and the messages are processed differently by the recipient. For many, a visual message is more easily remembered.

Thirdly, an e-mail message is easier to access, see and ‘re-see’ later on.  The prospect simply scrolls and clicks.  With a voice mail, they need to enter codes, wait and listen.  If the sales rep leaves a number the prospect needs to jot it down.  It’s not always convenient.  No hassle is VERY important in today’s business world.

Fourth, it offers a degree of accountability.  Assuming you have a signature file at the end of your e-mail, your prospect can check out you or your web site.   Again, all it takes is a quick click.

Lastly, it’s easier to reply to a voice mail versus going through the tedious process of calling you back only to discover you’re on the phone and the prospect has to leave a message.  Tag, you’re it.

Forget the Phone?

So with everything that’s been said, the next question is, ‘why bother calling at all?’ Why not just rely on e-mail?  Forget the phone.

Because B2B prospecting is still about SELLING.

That means needs still have to be assessed and evaluated and  pain or gain points must be determined.  Objections must be tackled up front.  Questions need to be asked.  Presentations need to be delivered. A sales cycle must be initiated. Put another way, human interaction is still absolutely necessary. Two way communications is vital.

All that’s really changed is the initial prospecting volley.  Instead of a broadside of telephone calls and voice mails, soften the beach head with a well-crafted e-mail. It creates awareness.  It can develop interest.  It can even create anticipation.

Synergistic

There’s more.  Adding a phone call synergizes the e-mail.  I know that word has been overused but it is particularly applicable here.  An initial e-mail followed by a voice follow up (either live or via a voice mail) REALLY does synergizes both mediums. (In a test situation, a client is currently getting a 50% higher response rate from prospects using  a combination of e-mail and voice follow up).  You get the power of a visual message combined with the power of an audio message.  Carefully planned and implemented, you’ll see an immediate lift in response.

3 Implications

First, the way we prospect for new business is changing.  E-mail is becoming the primary means of contact and if done well increases response. Relying entirely on the phone for cold calling can be an exercise in futility.  Adapt.

Second, you need to get better and smarter at composing e-mails that catch the reader’s eye.  Don’t think that a mass e-mail is your ticket to prospecting success.  E-mails need to be 1:1.  Visit some of the articles in the section of the blog for tips and ideas.

Third, start collecting e-mail address at every turn. Ask gatekeepers, ask other departments, check out web sites, join Linked in, network more often, and get business cards … everything and anything to start building your e-mail list.

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