Looking Back: How Cold Calling Has Changed
When VSA first started in the outbound lead generation business, we only made telephone calls. We didn’t send emails or even have dedicated return phone lines. Still, we were successful; just 15 years ago we could reach decision makers much more quickly and easily than today. A lot has changed, however, and we have adapted our programs and expanded our toolset to remain successful.
While making outbound telephone calls is still the cornerstone of all of our campaigns, we now include personalized emails and voicemails. We also make sure we have staff on hand to answer return phone calls immediately, because we have learned that that may be the only opportunity we get to speak with the decision maker.
Those tools form the baseline for all programs, but many of our clients also track website traffic and provide us with specialized hyperlinks that will send prospects to a specific microsite. In these cases, we are able to reach out to prospects immediately after they visit the website to follow up with them and set an appointment.
Approximately 75% of our appointments are a result of an outbound call, 20% from a return call, and about 5% from a return email, though these numbers differ drastically by program and client. No matter how the appointment-setting proportions break down, we use some combination of all of these tools for virtually all appointments we set.
Even our CRM has become more sophisticated over time, as we have developed more specific ways to track progress in reaching a decision maker. This allows us to focus our calling time on the prospects most likely to set an appointment, thereby allocating our clients’ budgets more efficiently.
When we first started our business, there were so few barriers to entry that virtually any firm could set up shop and make calls. Now, the infrastructure and knowledge to create effective campaigns really separates the highly productive firms from those who are average or worse. And with that increased infrastructure comes a more prolonged preparation phase.
We used to start calls only a day or two after a client signed a contract. Now, we have a detailed two-week onboarding process that ensures we have developed a script, email, and voicemail with a unified message and are able to truly become an extension of our client’s sales team. Some clients initially balk at the length and detail of our program development, but experience has shown us that each step is necessary for success.
Today, you can’t rely on telephone calls alone for a successful cold calling campaign. Although expanding our firm’s toolset now requires a more extensive planning and preparation phase before starting new clients, it is essential to the success of our programs and will keep us competitive in today’s ever-changing business-to-business marketing world.