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Behavioral Data: A Stake Through the Heart of Cold Calling

TechTarget_logoCold calling has always been a game of numbers. But when it comes to making inroads, more actually isn’t better, especially when it comes to B2B enterprise sales. And the results show it — according to LeapJob, 98% of cold calls do not result in an appointment. Why? Because it forces inside sales reps (ISRs) to abandon targets they haven’t reached just to meet volume-based KPIs.

But what if those targets were actively searching for a product like yours? Chances are you’ll miss out on the deal. And competitors who are more persistent will land it.

So what’s the answer?

Turn cold calls into warm calls. Use real-time behavioral data to make your ISRs smarter about who they’re calling, give them time to pursue the right accounts and buying team members, and change your KPIs to properly incentivize them.

No Excuse for Cold Calls

Volume cold calling made a lot of sense back when companies didn’t have data about their targets. ISRs had no choice but to dial for dollars. They combed through lists until someone answered the phone and engaged in a conversation, and then threw out a bunch of feeler questions to see what, if anything, stuck. But that’s no longer the case.

Enterprises now have access to a wide range of great data, so there’s simply no need for cold calls. At the simplest level, ISRs can check LinkedIn and Twitter to learn more about individuals and the companies they work for. At the more advanced level, you can leverage observed data about prospects’ online research behavior. This will tell you when they are entering the buying cycle, and the volume, velocity and content of their research. You’ll see what they’re reading and when, and which solutions and vendors they’re concentrating on. With this data, ISRs who reach their intended targets can skip all those probing questions, and shape warm-call conversations in ways that are meaningful to prospects in order to create and move opportunities forward.

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Prioritize Accounts and Buyers

Because behavioral data indicates which accounts are giving off the most active purchase intent signals, ISRs can prioritize where to spend their efforts. The right behavioral data also paints a picture of buying groups within each account. This is essential in B2B sales, where multiple people are involved in an account’s buying decision.

You’ll know how many and who in the buying group is conducting research relevant to your company’s solution, and which people are most active. With these insights, ISRs can better understand the relationship between buying team members. This informs how to prioritize and approach each member, and how to nurture them through the buying cycle. Armed with the right call scripts, leading questions and email templates, your ISRs can personalize outreach according to each prospect’s activity and buying group role.

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Changing KPIs

If enterprises have the behavioral data needed to improve sales, why aren’t they realizing the enormous returns we’d expect? Because most are not incentivizing their sales teams to use it. The info may be available at their fingertips, but their KPIs are still based on high call volumes. As a result, ISRs don’t have time to review the data and do the preparation needed to make truly warm calls, and effectively nurture buying team members.

Instead of being volume-driven, consider focusing KPIs on quality and results. Measure ISRs on their ability to acquire additional buying group contacts, how many conversations they have with each of those prospects, how many meetings they set up, and how many occur. Consider bonus structures based on meetings that turn into pipeline — but make sure you set them up in ways that don’t require ISRs to spend a lot of cycles following up with their field reps.

Don’t Go Cold Turkey on Cold Calling

So should you eliminate KPIs based on total calls, emails and connects in favor of the new ones? Eventually, yes. But you need to walk before you run.

But don’t roll out the lower-volume KPI approach to your entire team right off the bat. That could be a recipe for disaster. Instead, do a pilot with a subset of reps you think are most likely to use behavioral data to personalize their interactions.

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In all likelihood, three things will happen:

  1. Some ISRs will still work towards their old quota. Speed and volume are what they were taught and what they’re most comfortable doing. To them, it still smacks of achievement.
  2. The reps who make fewer calls and take that extra time to personalize their outreach will achieve better account penetration and higher appointment and show rates. And you will have proven the model.
  3. Salespeople, who are competitive by nature, will hear about their colleagues’ success and want to replicate it. Now it’s time to train all your ISRs on how to properly use behavioral-based data, and then roll out the lower-volume and quality-based KPIs more broadly.

Cold calling has no place in a world with ample data. Neither does speed dialing. With the right behavioral-based insights and KPIs at hand, all your reps can be making warm calls to in-market prospects—and accelerating sales.