Outbound prospecting for new business has always been a bit of a numbers game. Years ago, when I first started as a Sales Development Rep, the formula was simple. If you made 100 phone calls, you could expect 10 appointments, and at least 1 of those prospects would turn into a client. The numbers would vary from industry to industry and market to market, but that was the standard everyone was shooting for.
Outbound prospecting is still a numbers game today. Unfortunately, the numbers are just a lot bigger. It requires more phone calls and more emails than ever before to get fewer responses, fewer appointments, and fewer clients. Why is it so hard? What’s changed?
The Shift in Buyer Behavior
Experts seem to agree that there’s been a significant shift in buyer behaviors. Our prospects are in control, and they know it. No matter if you’re in a B2B or B2C market, we’re living in an age of the empowered buyer. We know the results (or lack thereof) of the empowered buyer. Below are some of the causes (or symptoms).
- Technology has made it easier than ever to avoid salespeople. Caller ID, easy-to-delete voicemail, and email filters ensure that most of a salesperson’s communication attempts never even reach their intended targets.
- It used to be that prospects would take calls and meetings with salespeople as a means of staying up-to-date and informed on what was happening in their market. But today everyone has easy access to information. Why schedule an hour-long meeting with a salesperson to learn something new or get a question answered when all the answers I need are just one Google search away?
- Everyone seems to have a shorter attention span, and they want everything customized for their unique situation. They’ll no longer adjust their schedules to fit neatly into your sales process. The “next-best-step” in their buyer journey may be completely different than any other prospect you have, and they expect you to flex to their desires.
- Your prospects run everything they read and hear through the “What’s in it for me” and “Why should I care” filter. Consequently, they perceive much of the old school marketing and prospecting tactics to be annoying. They don’t have time for sales pitches or marketing fluff.
Anyone who’s been prospecting for new business for more than a few years will tell you that generating new clients via outbound tactics is more challenging than ever before. They know it in their gut, but there’s also a lot of research to back it up as well. Check out these stats from research done by HubSpot.
- Only 19% of B2B prospects want to connect with a salesperson early in their buyer journey. (HubSpot)
- Only 3% of B2B decision-makers trust salespeople (HubSpot)
- Only 24% of sales emails are opened. (HubSpot)
Ouch! No wonder it’s so hard to get people on the phone or to reply to an email. It’s evident that traditional approaches to sales and marketing are at best no longer aligned with the way prospects buy and at worst, they’re completely broken.
Adapting to the Buyer Behavior Shift
So, what’s the answer? It’s time to adapt. Don’t keep banging your head against the wall. Try something different. The good news is there’s a lot of research gives us some clues about the direction we should go.
- 78% of buyers consume three or more pieces of relevant content before talking to a sales rep. (Demand Gen Report)
- 60% want to connect with sales during the consideration stage after they've researched the options and come up with a shortlist. (HubSpot)
- Half of revenue is influenced by social selling in 14 common industries, including computer software, healthcare, and marketing and advertising. (HubSpot)
The research tells us that our prospects are searching for content online that will help them answer their questions and solve their problems. They’re using the content they find online to inform their decisions. But they don’t trust any online source of information. The sources they trust most are endorsed by or shared by people in their networks. Consequently, social media has become one of the most valuable communication channels.
So, it’s time to step back and ask yourself some questions.
- What kind of information are my prospects searching for?
- Are my prospects exposed to my thought leadership and subject matter expertise when they go online looking for answers?
- Is the information they find from my company relevant and helpful?
- Am I viewed as a trusted and valued resource in my prospects’ social media networks?
If you can’t confidently answer “yes” to all these questions, then it’s time to re-evaluate your marketing and sales strategy.