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In the last few months as people have been working remotely, it has been a near impossible task for sales directors and managers, heads of new business and anyone responsible for sales to get hold of the right person on the phone.
Many companies have automated answering systems, those who haven’t are rapidly trying to install some form of unified communication and digitally transform their business to support teams working from home.
We ran a collaborative study of over 3,000 outbound new business calls across five companies and the numbers were astonishing!
Outbound sales calls before lockdown
Prior to lockdown the data showed that of 3,261 outbound calls – 2,621 were answered by a human.
That’s 80% of outbound sales calls being answered.
Outbound sales calls during lockdown
In the month of July this number dramatically changed. From 3,810 outbound calls 91% were not answered by a human, and of those 91% over half were not answered at all!!!
What does this mean for sales teams in the current environment?
The death of sales calls?
My personal opinion is no.
Outbound calls have been and will continue to be a first point of communication for many businesses. Therefore I believe sales calls will continue and the answer rate will bounce back a little, but it does mean that sales teams need to become more innovative.
The phone is just one of many channels to engage a prospect, so let’s get creative.
Alternative ideas to outbound sales calls:
- Email campaigns
- LinkedIn Conversation ads
- LinkedIn InMails
- Connecting on LinkedIn
- Host a webinar
- Create your own personal online brand
- Promote engaging content via social media channels
- Gated content – reports and valuable content
- Current customer referrals
- Referral networks and partners
- Direct mail (although this may be a little tricky with many people still working from home)
- Become a speaker at other events
- Lead generation RFP platforms
- Create engaging video to talk to your audience
- Advertise to the right people offering a hook or incentive to call you
If you have other ideas to assist or support your outbound sales calls please feel free to share them.
The importance of human engagement in digital remote working environments
So what does this all mean? Well, there are less humans speaking to other humans. If sales people are not able to get through to another human via a phone call, what other instances are there?
Inbound sales enquiries
If humans are not answering the phones but tech is, businesses need to make sure the automation is very relevant.
I have myself phoned companies to get more information on a product or service and there is nothing more infuriating than not being able to speak to someone.
I am all for online chat and even online video chat where you can speak to a sales person (although I don’t really want to video chat with a customer sales rep after a long day of video meetings!). I even totally appreciate the need for automation and AI when fielding high volumes of inbound calls, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic. However, there is also a need to speak to a human and get the right answers – not just receive robotic answers.
If businesses don’t have an up to date process for handling these inbound calls then there is a clear possibility of losing out on sales opportunities which will never return.
Pre-lockdown we saw that the data showed 59% of calls not answered by a human, were not answered at all. This was higher than 55% during Covid. However these numbers are based on a vast difference in numbers of calls with Pre-lockdown having 381 calls not answered at all compared to 1,911.
This is surprising, as you would think with the shift to remote working, unified communications and digitalised telephony that the number of unanswered calls would be lower now!
This has identified a clear need for;
a) Education within businesses as to how to adapt to a new way of working
b) Unified communications businesses working to deliver more accessible installation processes for all businesses large and small
c) A much clearer understanding that the world is changing and unless businesses are willing to adapt, they will struggle to survive
d) More innovation from sales teams, both inbound and outbound to engage in a personal way with customers.
Proactivity & Impulsiveness
With the near extinction of human to human phone calls, because many calls have been replaced by pre organised video conferences, the element of impulsive calls, proactive discussions which have not been premeditated or organised is eliminated.
A recent article I came across with some interesting stats on video calls suggested 80% of employees use video conferencing for one to one meetings. People are not even picking the phone up to call a colleague now!
I find it quite refreshing speaking to someone on the phone, you can concentrate on their words and listen more effectively than being distracted by the screen.
Studies are being done on Zoom fatigue highlighting why we feel more tired coming off a video call than a phone call, or meeting even.
The problem is pre planning every time you want or need to speak with someone means it will lose a level of “now”. Everything becomes over planned and less impulsive – dare I say robotic.
The fluidity of picking up the phone and hoping to get hold of the right person at the right time to explore opportunities to work together seems like a distant memory!
We are all human, and what do humans thrive on? Socialising, talking, learning from others, meeting and greeting (well most of us, not all). Without impulse, without proactivity will our lives become more robotic and too planned? I guess we will see, but I for one will be pushing for the old fashioned phone call (even if it is a voip phone, mobile or online digital phone).
Keep those calls going, sales teams! Keep those conversations opening doors.
As long as you are reaching out to the right people with a value to add, then call away and the more unanswered calls you get, the closer you are to that 9% of humans who will take your call right now.