One reason many give me for not wanting to prospect, is the fact that fewer people are answering their phones, and as a result it is not as effective as other forms of prospecting. Part of that is dictated by what state or mode the buyer is in, Actively Looking buyers may be more prone to a call, while, Status Quo buyers, are less likely to answer or engage. But I believe the conclusion many draw from this, i.e. “telephone prospecting is ineffective”, is flat out wrong.
First having a single form of approaching potential prospects, especially “not interested” buyers like Status Quo, is just stupid. Anyone that tells you that their chosen means of reaching prospects is just stupid. There are as many effective means as there are people; not only that, but individuals’ response/reaction to approaches will vary based on specific circumstances. So having one method, be that strictly phone work, strictly referral, or strictly social, is just asking for failure. The best prospectors, who are usually the best sellers, know that their prospecting toolkit has to have as many tools as possible rather than limited to one. For example, I worked with one executive who when traveling would be more likely to respond to texts, leaving e-mail and voice mail for the hotels in the evening, while back at the office he would be much more likely to answer the phone, and hit e-mail regularly.
Now it is true that less people are answering their calls as they come in, I have not seen anyone, even the most social of sellers, present any data that suggests that people check their voice mails less. Meaning a good voice mail can still have an impact, and lead to a return call. I regularly get 40% – 50% of messages I leave, returned in about 72 hours. So don’t blame the technology, blame the user.
But let’s dial things back a little, and let’s for a moment accept a complete falsehood many sellers have bought into: “voice mails do not get returned”, there is still merit to leaving a voice mail, and making the call. Why – touch-points.
Based on different inputs, it can take anywhere from 8 – 12 touch-points to get a response from a prospect. (BTW – no guarantee that the response will be positive, we still have to work to get the appointment even when they respond). In that case, the voice mail, even when not returned, still serves a purpose. Combined with other means of communication, each touch-point compounds the ones that came before it and improve your chances of speaking to the prospects.
The same executive referenced above also shared that he specifically ignores the first three attempts by sellers, because he knows most will fall away after the first three touch-points, and the ones who really want to speak to him will continue to demonstrate that and their creativeness as they deliver the 4th, 6th or 9th touch-point.
Work out your pursuit plan, and keep a couple of things in mind. Mix things up, you have access to office phone, mobile phone, text, snail mail, LinkedIn, and more, the only shortage to variety is your imagination. Do it frequently and consistently, meaning don’t wait a week after your initial touch-point, a couple days is good. Go for eight yes 8, touch-points in the course of two business weeks. If you find that harsh, start by adding one more touch-point to your current weekly routine; in a few weeks add one more, and so on till you hit your minimum 8. (See example).
Yes phone work has changed, and so should you, make the call, just know why.