Providing experiences that WOW is not that difficult. It does, however, require keeping the desire to be amazing in every interaction with a prospect or customer top of mind.
In part 1, I talked about Infusionsoft and how frustrating their process is for canceling your account. Had it been easy to walk away, I wouldn’t have broadcast to my followers that Infusionsoft doesn’t live up to its promise, and they are tough to do business with. In AWeber’s case, the process for canceling my account wasn’t difficult and they refunded a portion of my money to boot. But a process that they spin as being better for you – the customer – isn’t.
For 8 years, I’ve been building my email list. I take the CANN-SPAM act seriously and have always followed the rules of email marketing. This is so important to me that I NEVER add anyone I meet who hands me a business card. That’s not permission to add to a list my friends, although far too many people do it. Subscribers can easily opt-out of my list; I don’t waste their time even asking why. I assume their reason is nothing personal. Everyone is on overload these days. I’m no exception. Email inboxes are more crowded than ever and people often just don’t have the time to read one more newsletter. I opt out of plenty of them myself.
While using the Infusionsoft system, I once again scrubbed the list. If a lot of people start opting out, Infusionsoft assumes you are a spammer and will halt you in your tracks. I think that’s a good thing. But imagine my surprise when we wanted to upload our mailing list to the AWeber account only to find out that they insist on sending out a “reconfirmation” email. That means that people who have opted in to my list, now have to go to another step to say yes again.
AWeber will tell you that it is the best way to ensure that emails are not blocked by spam filters. They claim that their process is why they have a high rate of delivery versus other email marketing companies. I don’t believe it. There’s a back story there somewhere.
As I’m working to get my email marketing back on track, this little hiccup didn’t make me happy. I asked a couple of my colleagues what they thought about the double opt-in policy. Depending on who you talk too there are two ways to look at it.
1. You can think of the process are further cleaning and purging your list. Makes sense. I really do want people to find what I send them valuable.
On the other hand…
2. People are super busy. What if they never get around to reconfirming? Depending on how long it takes people to confirm again, my email marketing might not be very effective.
I did some checking on AWeber’s support site to find out if there was a way around this default. After all, quite a few of their competitors don’t require this and have their own ways of verifying if you have a purchased or spam list. It turned out that – yes – you could ask them to waive this default setting if you have a clean list. Awesome, I thought. Now we can move forward.
Uh, not so fast.
I sent AWeber my request, explaining my reason for switching providers and confirming that I had just gone through the process of scrubbing the list about 12 months earlier. Pretty quickly I received a response that essentially said that AWeber rarely makes an exception to their policy (OK, why is it on your website and written in a way that suggests you do make exceptions?). The service rep goes on to say that if I will answer their list of questions, they will research my situation and get back to me. They are trying to verify that I’m legit…I get it.
The next email I receive now says they aren’t sure and that maybe they’ll make an exception, which they will rarely do, but now I need to give them the log in details to the Infusionsoft account so that they could verify the last campaign that I’d sent. Well, for starters, I told them I had not sent a campaign in a few months. I also told them that I’d canceled my Imfusionsoft account, which at the time, I didn’t know was still active.
Now I’m fuming. Time is already being wasted; I’m no closer to getting a newsletter out. And there was no guarantee that they’d say yes anyway. Screw it, I said to myself. I told the service rep that this was a complete waste of my time and wasn’t worth it. I said that I planned to cancel the account, which I did right away.
I receive another email from the same service guy saying that if I would provide the list, they’d do some sort of verification thing to see if the addresses were valid. More of my time to be wasted and again no promise that my request would be approved.
Thank you, MailChimp.
MailChimp and AWeber both receive good reviews and recommendations but AWeber seemed have just a bit more under the hood that would suit my purposes. After my brief experience with them, I went to MailChimp. They have ecommerce hooks and other things that I need. They also happen to be a business local to me, many of my colleagues use them, and they have a fair number of corporate client. Good enough for me. But the biggie…they don’t force the double opt-in process.
MailChimp has designed an algorithm that can test your list to determine validity. Guess what…within a few minutes, my list was verified and I was ready to go.
If you won’t, your competitors will.
There must be hundreds of email marketing systems available. Why would any company want to make it difficult for new and existing customers? It is beyond me.
The experience with AWeber left me feeling a little like being back in grade school. It feels like their “rule” is meant to stop the real spammers, but in the process they penalize legitimate business people who work hard to do the right thing.
Well, thanks for the memories AWeber. MailChimp, I look forward to a beautiful relationship!
Yes, because the sales message sucks. Just like the one you sent to me.
If I am tired of this kind of cheese, you know that other busy Sales Executives and Business Owners are too. You would welcome the opportunity to learn more about my sales process?
First, I’m not Christopher and Christopher has never worked here.
Second, I’m not available to waste my time educating you about my business.
Third, you assume that the people you are emailing struggle to find prospects.
Four, if you really “care” – take time to do your homework and tailor your message.
Five, the email is a pitch, and I don’t care that you are “excited” to share how you help others.
To all sellers, sales leaders and marketers…
Differentiation from the competition is a common sales goal, and it isn’t that hard to do. Guess what…don’t send messages like this one. Guaranteed, you will stand out! Why? Because it is RARE to receive a cold email that adds value or is compelling enough for buyers to want to know more.
PLEASE don’t send emails like this one.
Most business owners and sales people struggle to find prospects. Telemarketing and fancy email marketing campaigns yield disappointing results. I’m excited to share how I’m helping others have a constant stream of prospects with XYZ’s automated prospecting technology; the return on investment is typically less than 3 months. I provide sales expertise and can help in other areas too.
• 30%+ Response rates (personal & relevant content with multiple touches, totally automated & managed)
• Steady Stream of prospects=$ MORE SALES$
• Fewer missed opportunities: our clients are at the “Top of their prospects minds”
•Personal and professional attention from a sales professional with over 20 years of B2B sales success, I care.
I would welcome the opportunity to learn more about your sales process and share with how I can help add drive more revenue.. Do you have any availability for a brief call in the next few weeks?
In my last post, I said that I planned to share some recent examples of the less than WOW experiences I’ve had as buyer of business products. I wish I could say this post would be the only one, but I have many more to showcase going forward.
All I wanted to do was cancel my account…it should have been easy.
At the end of 2012, I transitioned my email marketing to Infusionsoft. I’d been a long time Constant Contact user, but now I needed a more robust system that supported more sophisticated marketing campaigns and was integrated with an online shopping cart. I’d heard a lot about Infusionsoft from a variety of sources – all of it positive. After doing more research myself, I decided to make the move. Over $6,000 dollars later with nothing much to show for it, in January I decided to cancel my account.
The promise is that the system is easy to use. That wasn’t my experience. Even creating basic newsletters burned too much time. Two assistants never could figure it out and were constantly flustered. Without having the support I needed to manage the system – unless I wanted to spend thousands per month for a “certified” consultant – I let the account languish while I explored other options.
Experience matters. Every interaction counts. The system didn’t work for me, and that’s OK. I was fine to cancel my account and move on. Instead, I’m calling out Infusionsoft as one example of a company whose processes/policies make life difficult for their customers.
Here’s my story…
1. I wanted to cancel my account but Infusionsoft doesn’t make it easy for you. I should have been able to cancel online or with a quick email to the service department. Nope. Infusionsoft insists that you call them. Right away I knew why that was their policy. They wanted an opportunity to “sell me” on remaining a customer.
2. Grudgingly, I make the call. The gal who answers the phone notes my request and tells me that someone will be calling me back “to verify” that I want to cancel. WTF? I’m thinking, why am I talking to you then? I’ve already burned up time making this call to handle something that shouldn’t be a hassle for me. I gave you my name and account number but someone else has to call me to verify that I do want to cancel? Argh…
3. Later in the day, I receive a call from a representative who is a “loyalty guy”. I understand you want to cancel, he says. Yes, I do. The system isn’t working for me, I tell him. He says, tell me what the problem is…maybe I can help. I basically lay out the story for the 2nd time (I’d already told the gal that I talked to) and tell him that I am firm on canceling. OK, I see you’ve made up your mind, he says. Well, yeah dude. That’s why I’m canceling; otherwise, I would have called tech support for help. Stop wasting my time.
4. Loyalty guy confirms that my account will be canceled immediately. Imagine my surprise when 3 days later, I’m billed for another month of service. Then I notice that my account is still active.
5. Phone call number three and this one to the accounting department. Naturally, I had to leave a message. I explain the situation and ask for my money to be refunded.
6. Later that day, I receive a phone message from accounting gal saying that – yes, she confirmed my request to cancel but that my billing cycle was in progress when I called them. According to their billing policy, Infusionsoft doesn’t issue refunds, so my account remains active until the end of the billing cycle. Of course, you won’t be billed again, she says. Isn’t that nice. Another $259 wasted for software that I’m not using.
What really ticks me off here is the time I had to waste going through their silly gymnastics to cancel my account. Then I’m billed for another month of service to boot. We are talking 3-days into the new cycle but Infusionsoft doesn’t prorate or return your money if your cancellation timing happens to be off. On top of that, loyalty guy never confirmed that I understood their billing policy or told me that I was already into a new cycle. Yes, I realize that I agreed to the written terms at some point. Still, the right thing to do was to tell me to be sure I understood what would happen. It would have saved me another phone call!
This is not service excellence. It is a classic example of how companies like Infusionsoft are blowing it. Even if a customer decides to cancel your service, the last thing you should want to do is piss them off! I was already annoyed at the wasted money and time that had been spent trying to get the system to work for my business. Infusionsoft’s process only made it worse.
The final point I want to make is this…
Had it been easy for me to cancel my account, I would have gone on my merry way. If someone asked me what I thought of the Infusionsoft system, I would have told them it didn’t work for me, but that I knew plenty of people using it successfully. Now I’m telling everyone I know to steer clear.
P.S. To the Infusionsoft consultants who want to come at me and tell me how easy the platform is to use…please, save your breath. I’m very accomplished with technology. You think it’s easy because A) you are drinking the Kool-Aid and B) you’ve invested hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to become certified. Contrary to the Infusionsoft marketing hype – without extensive training, it is not that easy to use. I don’t have that kind of time to waste, and if I can’t pay someone a reasonable fee to do the administration for me it isn’t worth it.
Though I maintain my steadfast passion for igniting sales transformation, I do not believe that placing emphasis on improving just one silo of the business makes sense if anything is expected to change. The conversation should no longer focus on social selling or social media marketing, as if each is operating in a vacuum. Organizations need to become much more focused on becoming a “social business”.
Engaging consultants or trainers to help improve Sales, Marketing or Service capabilities – in silos – won’t net much more than marginal improvement. With departments myopically focused on their own improvement, not surprisingly, you rarely see the large scale, institutional change needed when the market evolves to a point where it is clear that business practices must change.
Social media did that…it disrupted business completely. Most companies were not – are not – getting a real handle on what that means for the future of their business. And I haven’t even started talking about the impact of multiple generations on a social business strategy.
As social, mobile, cloud and digital technologies are going to force business leaders to rethink everything they thought they knew about how buyers choose to purchase something, it isn’t only Marketing or PR that has to change things, but Sales, Service and every other department too. The connected buyer communicates through any number of modalities…text, phone, email, mobile, social networks – LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, blogging – and cloud computing services like Evernote or Dropbox. Not everyone with dollars to spend will want to interact with your company in the same way. If you keep trying to force them to do that, you’ll lose.
After eight years, I thought companies would be seeing greater success and be a little farther along in their strategic use of social media to support business objectives in Marketing, Sales and Service. One reason it isn’t happening is because social strategies ARE NOT LINKED to the performance of business goals. According to Brian Solis and Charlene Li in their white paper, The Evolution of Social Business, they suggest that business use of social media is often guided by a peer or competitive-driven “social for social’s sake” philosophy. Unfortunately, there is a ton of truth in their observation.
It is rare to find the company that doesn’t relegate the social strategy to the Marketing department even though social now impacts the entire enterprise (inside and out), but certainly Sales and Service in big ways. Even if companies establish measurable outcomes to track, and it’s a big IF, social initiatives fizzle and die due to a lack of strategic vision, funding and oversight that is guided by top down vision from the C-Suite. This has to change.
Buyers have choices…lots of them. You are kidding yourself if you think otherwise. Do you know what happens from that very first interaction with a prospective customer? Do you know what they are thinking? Do you know how you stack up in their minds?
What about your customers? Are they sticking with you? Are they happy? Are you sure? What happens if something goes wrong? What’s the service and support experience like? You may think you know the answers to these questions, but my bet is that your company is not doing as well as you think.
If you expect to have a future in business, your business has to change. Stay tuned for my next several posts, because I will be sharing my own personal experiences as a business buyer. Hopefully, as a business leader, it will give you a bit more to think about.
In 2005, I wrote an article outdated customer service. It is now 2013, and I’m still asking the same questions about service and customer experience as I did back then.
At the time that I wrote my article, I quoted Tom Peters from his book The Pursuit of Wow in which he said, “70% of customers hit the road not because of price or product quality issues, but because they did not like the human side of doing business with the provider of the product or service.”
It doesn’t feel like much has changed. Yes, companies like Zappos and Amazon WOW. But what about all the thousands of other brands out there?
I recently read a blog post penned by Frank Eliason, Director of Global Social Media at Citi. In his post, he says that “One of the reasons the Customer experience is broken at many companies is we have tried to force the Customer into our view instead of taking the Customer view.” Exactly. I couldn’t agree more. How often are companies insisting that their employees walk in the shoes of their customers? How often is the boss going “undercover” to really see what’s going on?
We’ve had rapid advancements in technology – digital, mobile, social networks – in the past 10 years. More people can be reached faster and in more unique ways, but what good does any of that do if you talk about service but never actually deliver. As buyers, have we become so accustomed to mediocre service or worse that we just tolerate it?
Customers want to work with those businesses who demonstrate a sincere desire to help them with anything they need, and they are willing to pay for it. Yes, they want products to work and services that meet their needs. More importantly though, they want people who care that what they sell does their business no harm.
Major departments inside organizations continue to work in silos. Pour a little social media into the mix and the problem is exacerbated. Proudly proclaiming to the world that you provide service and support via Twitter means nothing if you never respond to complaints shared on your page. It happens all the time.
I’m going to be talking a lot more about customer experience in the coming days and weeks. Businesses need to start realizing that there is no “linear” path that a prospect now takes on the way to becoming a customer. Marketing, sales and service folks all need to work together to define and deliver exceptional experience at every touch point in the prospect–to-customer life cycle. Beyond the feel good aspect of delivering WOW experiences, there is financial gain as well.
Is providing great a rich and robust customer experience really that difficult?
I’ll close with these words from IBM founder Thomas Watson who said, “If you want to achieve excellence, you can get there today. As of this second, quit doing less-than-excellent work”.
- You need to follow a repeatable sales process consistently.
- You need excellent consultative selling and communication skills.
- You need to care more about your buyers needs than your own.
When it comes to developing new business, today’s sales process includes the use of technology to network, cultivate referrals, prospect, track opportunities, prepare for sales calls, educate, present solutions and communicate with prospects. And these same steps apply when you mine for new business with existing accounts.
“If you are a B2B marketer, you’re no stranger to content marketing. It’s quickly risen to the top of every marketer’s to-do list. But it’s the way that you are performing content marketing that can be the difference between gaining and losing a customer.” –Nancy Pekala
Nancy’s observation is equally applicable to sellers. The message matters!
Don’t School Me
Here is an example of a marketing message that someone needed to think about a little more carefully. As a subscriber of a popular magazine, I evidently let my subscription lapse. The magazine is one I’ve long enjoyed reading, so I have no problem with being reminded to renew. However, the way the message was phrased speaks directly to my point about messaging. The email I received began with…
“Dear BARBARA GIAMANCO:
Your subscription to XYZ magazine has expired. We have sent several letters reminding you to renew but have not received a response.
We want to continue encouraging your success. To demonstrate our commitment, by renewing your XYZ subscription today, this is our gift to you…”
I take exception to the first line and first paragraph of the message.
First, don’t scream at me by putting my name in all caps. This is basic email etiquette.
Two, don’t chastise me for not responding to your reminder letters. So what? I’m busy; you are not owed a response! What they just told me, in a not so subtle way, is that they only care about the money.
A better approach would have been to simply start with something along the lines of the second paragraph. Why not say, “We value you as a past subscriber and to welcome you back, we want to give you…”
Sales People Are Doing This Too
Marketing isn’t the only culprit here. The smart use of content to engage prospects and create credibility in advance of sales opportunities is central to a social selling strategy.
How and what you communicate is vital to selling, whether it is email, phone, face-to-face, sales presentations, social networks, texting or webinars; it needs to be done well. Nothing is sold without communicating with others. Sales people need A+ verbal skill, and in a wired, socially connected world, they better have good writing skills and understand the nuances of communicating in social networks too. Though I hesitate to make a sweeping generalization, I’m going out on a limb and suggesting that an extremely high percentage of sales people need a lot of work in these areas.
Stop Broadcasting, Target Your Message
Typical sales and marketing messages of the written kind, whether it is email or via social networks, are one way communication and nothing more than broadcast pitches. A lot of phone calls are that way too. At the end of the day, you may think that all that activity is netting you a return, but I can say with certainty that a one-size-fits-all approach does absolutely nothing to create any true sales impact.
For example, I’m a small business owner with less than 10 employees. Your message to me should look much different than the messaging you might use when communicating with a large enterprise. My needs and theirs are very different. And unless your product or service supports a small business, why are you even sending me email or cold calling me in the first place? Someone is being paid for that activity, and it is a complete waste of time, which translates into a complete waste of money. Yet, it happens every day.
What’s the Problem?
In my opinion, management is measuring the wrong things. Activity is being measured…number of phone calls made, events attended, webinar registrations, white paper downloads, connections made or emails sent. But the quality of the activity is what you should be measuring. How can it not be obvious that 50 calls made to the wrong people, people not qualified to buy from you, is a big fat waste of resources?
Simply measuring tactical activity is a throwback from the “good ole days” of selling when coffee was for closers. If more attention isn’t paid to quality versus quantity, you won’t have anything to close, except perhaps your doors!
My post about the Social Shake Up conference is getting a lot of play. That’s good. My goal was and is to shake up traditional thinking about what social media means to business. During the Day 2 kick-off session with Brian Solis, he said it best when he said…”You cannot slap something new onto what is comfortable.” In other words, you cannot do what you have always done – even if you use new tools – and expect a different result.
C-level executives have got to enter the discussion.
Social isn’t a fad! Executives must first accept this one fundamental truth. Your business is being disrupted. How people make buying decisions has changed. In order to adapt to this new reality, companies must create a social business strategy that considers the “new” customer lifecycle from beginning to end. Sales, Marketing and Service folks must break out of their silos, trash traditional thinking and work together to create an experience that wows from beginning to end.
Let go of what you think you know.
As with the technologies that preceded them, social, digital and mobile have continued to further evolve. Some of you are too young to remember that there was actually a time when we didn’t text or communicate via email on our phones. We certainly didn’t surf the web or talk to our friends on Facebook. Nope, we actually just used the mobile phone to make phone calls. Weird, I know.
These days buyers use multiple devices to remain connected – laptops, smart phones, iPad’s, tablets and soon Google Glass. They can access news and information when and how they prefer to consume it. They do not rely on your marketing, PR or advertising to make their buying decisions. They gather information from multiple sources, and they rely on the peer reviews of others when making a decision to purchase or not. Why? Sorry, but they don’t trust your pitch.
Social, digital, heck, the web in general has completely changed expectations of what buyers want from the companies who seek to gain a share of their wallets. And I believe that the number one expectation today’s buyer has is that your company has to EARN the right to do business with them.
How do you earn that right?
By creating and delivering buying experiences that cultivate trust, loyalty and advocacy. Understand what your buyer cares about, speak to what is important to them, treat them with respect, honesty, transparency and fairness throughout the buying process, and they will reward you many times over. Keep talking at them or burn them when something goes wrong and in a nanosecond they will tell everyone they know to avoid you. This applies whether you touch the buyer as an executive, a marketer, sales person or customer service representative.
Though I have evangelized the importance of sellers using social media as part of their sales process, I have always believed that sales, marketing and service must be completely aligned when creating an overall experience that moves a prospect from interest to sale to happy customer. If any of the pieces are broken, you lose.
Do you know what it is like to try and do business with your company?
The irony is that most companies probably have no idea what it is like to be a potential customer. I think of one “big data” company who doesn’t even use the data to qualify buyers. Instead, they put sales resources into having reps call anyone who attended their webinar. How do I know? I know because I run a small business and am not their target client. It did not matter. They had sales reps calling and emailing me anyway. This is a classic example of a customer acquisition process that wasn’t thought through from beginning to end. I wish I could say that this was the exception rather than the norm.
If you are an executive, in marketing, sales or customer service, here is my challenge to you.
Pretend YOU are the potential customer. Go through every step of the buying process just as buyer would. Pick your website apart. Carefully review your social media marketing messages. Make a call to the sales department and experience what it feels like to have features, benefits and a product demo pushed on you. Reach out to customer service with a problem – phone, Twitter and Facebook. How was the problem handled? What was the response time?
Once you have done these things, rate the experience. Would you buy from your company? If your answer isn’t a resounding hell yeah, that was awesome, you need to stop, rethink whatever you think you know and roll up those sleeves… you have work to do!
Our city is often overlooked for reasons that I don’t understand. Some of the world’s largest and most respected corporate brands are headquartered here. Names you will recognize like Coca-Cola, The Home Depot, UPS, AFLAC and Newell Rubbermaid being just a few of them. Oh, and my company is based here too!
We also have a thriving technology community with many promising start-ups poised to do big things. Fortunately for Atlanta, Robin has vision and decided that the ATL was the destination for her conference. Thank you, Robin!
I’m contributing this post to the Sales Thought Leaders blog, but honestly, my thoughts, comments and observations are for business leaders at all levels.
I have to say that the biggest thrill of the conference was finally meeting a cadre of people that I’ve known online for some time. When I think about how social media has completely collapsed the world – in a good way – it is amazing how many people you develop personal and professional relationships with before you ever, if ever, meet them in person. I hung with a gang of rock stars (they know who they are!), and I learned from their perspectives and insights about social media’s impact on business.
Now the things that I would change…
- The promise of the conference agenda was to “shake up” thinking about social media and the impact on business. In fact, the conference promotions even said that content would focus on more than marketing. In large part, it did not. And even though the presentations were good, nothing earth shattering or ground breaking was presented. To be fair, with multiple sessions going on, I couldn’t attend them all. Maybe someone was gobsmacked in another room, but as I talked to colleagues it seemed the general impression was that the focus was marketing oriented.
- The opening keynote was weak and highlighted the good, the bad and the ugly about marketing in this new age of digital. I felt it set the wrong tone. Frankly, I would have led with Brian Solis, who keynoted Day 2. If you are going to shake it up, start with talking about Social Business as your strategy not social media marketing tactics.
- Content light on sales – 1 pre-workshop, which people paid extra to attend (I was on the panel) and 1-panel/case study with IBM’s inside sales team leaders. Out of 38 sessions, only 1 main session on the conference track for sales.
- Marketers largely don’t understand the sales side of the business. They should stop acting like they do. In one session on customer engagement, I asked how the speaker’s company was empowering sales people to use social to educate, influence, engage and develop potential customer relationships in new ways. The answer? We helped them clean up their LinkedIn profiles, and we cue up offers for them to share. Really? Offers? That’s it?
- Yes, Dorothy, like most things in business, work is required. One somewhat arrogant panel marketer turned consultant expert said it was “hard work” and you shouldn’t expect sales to take that on. What? I don’t believe in being rude but I wanted to say, stick to marketing girlfriend; you have no idea what you are talking about. Sales people MUST learn to incorporate social networking strategies into their sales process or the competition will eat their lunch and prospects will pass them by.
- Content light on customer service. Even those sessions that purported to focus on the customer actually did not. The community sessions were good but the overarching focus was “marketing” and “content”. I thought the best customer session was the one entitled Throwing Open the Floodgates: Empowering Employees. The panel shared some great insights into how to turn employees into online advocates and brand ambassadors for their companies. The overriding message was to have a process, give employees training and support and let them go.
- More tactical than strategic. We have to stop talking about creating a “socially enabled enterprise” but then default to social media marketing tactics. The conversation is not happening at the right level in most organizations – the C-Suite. Social and digital media affects the “business”. Does your organization have a Social Business Strategy? Or have you simply put marketing in charge of driving the bus?
Leaders at all levels need to ask themselves, how are sales, marketing, service and even the finance department aligned to a Social Business Strategy that focuses on the customer experience? Marketing might crank out a great offer, but what happens when customer service is overwhelmed and cannot keep up with demand? How will you handle the ensuing backlash when customers feel they are not getting support through traditional channels – as happened to me this week with Comcast – and go online to seek out help but no one bothers to respond?
Next year, I want the conference to “shake it up” by targeting the C-Suite executives. In large majority, attendees were marketers mixed with some sales and service folks. If you consider that far too many executives still think social is a fad, or that social is merely a function of the marketing department, we have a widening gap between how customers buy and what they expect and what companies deliver. Until addressed at the highest level, the problem is only going to get bigger.
Executives need to get engaged. They need to attend next year’s conference, learn and have their outdated assumptions challenged. And we need sessions that walk these executives through the why and how of creating a Social Business Strategy that drives customer experience at every level. Until then, you can talk about shaking things up all you want but all you are really doing is slapping lipstick on a pig.
In this day and age, many unsolicited sales calls go unanswered. Modern sales and marketing professionals are up against savvy buyers who have easy access to detailed product information on the Web and through Social Networks.
Everyone is connected to the latest information. Buyers today are pretty good at blocking your calls and emails, through Caller ID, email spam filters and they can easily send your email to its grave with a simple click on the delete button. But since so many sales people continue to follow this old school approach, it makes me wonder if in their minds they are saying to themselves…”I just know that I can get through all these defense mechanisms and land that one magical deal.”
Can they? Based on what clients are telling me, I believe the answer is no.
This question was the subject of online consultancy Software Advice’s latest Google+ Debate, “Does Cold Calling Still Work?” The panel, moderated by Derek Singleton, brought together inbound marketing and inside sales experts to debate three questions:
- Given how the Web has empowered B2B buyers, is cold calling still relevant in the Internet Age — and are companies still generating a return on investment (ROI) on it?
- With other lead generation activities on the rise, like paid search and content marketing, can cold calling help marketers stand out from the noise?
- Can inbound marketing and analytics help us better decide who to cold call and when?
Here are the takeaways from the discussion, and I’m pleased to say that they jive with what I have been evangelizing for several years now.
Cold Calling is Shifting to Warm Calling
Understandably, every panelist agreed that cold calling (in its original form) is decreasing significantly in effectiveness. Furthermore, there is no excuse for business calls to be random and unsolicited anymore. In the words of Anneke Seley, Founder and CEO of Reality Works Group, “in this day and age, there’s no excuse for a call to be cold anymore.” Anneke – you are right on!
I recently read a Selling Power poll in which 47.76% of sales reps said that they were never prepared for the initial conversation with a prospect and 2.81% said that they were rarely well prepared. That, my friends means that 50% of the sales reps out there either can’t or won’t take the time to do a little homework before engaging with their prospect. And that should be enough motivation for companies to expect their salespeople to approach prospects differently. When you can turn to LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook, and it is SO very easy to find out information about your prospect before you pick up a phone, why aren’t more sales reps doing it? Your prospects, by the way, are using similar channels to learn about you before committing to a call.
The group described the process of doing your homework in advance of calling prospects “warm calling.”
Only Call the People that Come to You
But Mike Volpe, CMO of HubSpot, thinks that marketers can take it one step further and not even waste time reaching out in this manner. Volpe believes that the world is shifting away from any type of outbound marketing – I respectfully disagree Mike – and that your inside sales team should only reply to inbound inquiries because you already know that they have an interest in your product or service.
Meanwhile, Volpe explains that inbound marketing tactics like SEO and PPC that are significantly cheaper than doing things like employing a great sales rep to make outbound calls. And he says it’s also a much less invasive approach to contacting buyers.
Sounds good but are all inbound inquiries created equal? I’m probably not the only one who likes to benefit from all the free informational content out there. I may have downloaded a white paper on your website, which many marketers would term an “inquiry” but that does not mean that I’m a qualified buyer. In defense of Hubspot, they are pretty savvy in terms of knowing when salespeople should engage with someone who proactively entered their world, but I would say that a lot of companies still are not at Hubspot’s level of sophistication.
Find a Happy Medium by Employing Both Tactics
Of course, there’s usually room for middle ground. And that’s where Ken Krogue, President of InsideSales.com, sided on the debate. According to Krogue, InsideSales.com relies very heavily on inbound marketing tactics but the leads they generate by purely inbound means just aren’t high enough value. So he turns to very targeted outbound calling after warming up contacts. To quote Krogue:
“If we [at InsideSales.com] just rely on the Internet to bring us leads, it’s like a fish sitting in a pond waiting for the river to bring whatever it brings them. What we’ve found is that if you look at a typical bell curve, 70 percent of all the leads that come in are small. For example, we’re moving up to enterprise class companies and we have to forget about the Web bringing us those leads and have to reach out to initialize the conversation (usually through calling), then we move to a Web-based type of nurturing.”
In any Case, Marketing is Becoming Permission-Based
One point each panelist could agree on was that lead generation is shifting toward a permission-based model of marketing. This means marketing will need to evolve into being about showing buyers the value to them in doing business together, and ultimately getting them to come to you. If you aren’t demonstrating your value in a tangible way, then buyers will increasingly overlook your company; ignore your marketing efforts and move onto the competition.
It was a great discussion from thought leaders that I admire and follow. I’m curious. What are your thoughts on the evolution of outbound and inbound selling and marketing? Share your thoughts and comment below.
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