The Current State Of B2C Sales Calls Is Flat Out Terrible
In the last 5 years, several parts of marketing and enterprise sales have become highly intelligent. But is it the same when it comes to consumer sales?
Whenever I go visit a website, I’m tracked and personally targeted by them on social media and across the web. The ads sometimes use a message that is based on my previous interaction with the brand, and often that level of personalization leads me to interact with them. When I’m shopping online, recommendation systems learn from my interactions and get better each time, showing me more relevant and personalized options. Billions of dollars continue to be poured into what we’re now calling, 1-1 personalization.
But when I think about consumer sales that’s not really the case, especially for high-ticket products and services that still happen over calls, selling everything from insurance to real estate to solar panels. These calls are largely executed using the same approach of yesteryears: Brute force.
The only thing we as an industry seem to have identified is how soon a new lead needs to be contacted and exactly how many times they should be followed up with. Even those simple things like lead follow-up timing and frequency are largely done manually and with guesswork.
So despite all the losses they are leading to why hasn’t consumer sales become as smart yet?
Let me offer some perspective here.
THE CUSTOMERS ARE SUFFERING
Let me just share my story here.
I moved to the US (California) one and a half years back and to settle in I obviously had to get in touch with people for services. For instance, when finding a house to rent or getting insurance, the first thing I did was Google it and become a lead on top comparison sites. Back then, I had anticipated that my information would be sold to multiple brokerages.
But little did I know that within minutes of me putting up a request, I’d start receiving endless calls from such brokerages. While I don’t mind the offers pouring in because I was actively seeking a good deal, I did mind being bothered at work.
Just so you know, I’m a tech entrepreneur. So you can understand my plight and why I really turn away from taking sales calls on my phone during my work day. By the time I got back to even checking it, I realized that I had missed multiple calls. After work hours, when I called those numbers back, they were dead ends and no one picked up. What a waste!
But what’s worse is that I ended up missing the next calls too and as a result, I couldn’t finish getting insurance or finding a place to rent for almost two weeks.
By the time I convinced myself to set aside work and talk to them, I kind of felt that it was just pointless. Their brute force system lacked the research and I ended up repeating what I was looking a countless number of times. That’s another week down the drain, spending them at hotels and staying with friends.
As per BIA/Kelsey, the number of mobile calls to businesses will climb up to a whopping 170 million in 2020, leading to a trillion dollar phone commerce industry in the US. But it all relies on the conversations businesses have with customers during these calls.
Now you might call me harsh, but even with so much data available online, I rarely see any salesperson approach me with a personalized message. Every time I get a call where they are trying to sell me something, I have plenty of questions running through my mind.
- Why don’t they know a little more about me?
- Why don’t they know not to call me at work between 9am and 6pm? Did they even think to ask? Why am I not getting calls after 6 pm when I am relatively free?
- Why is it that every rep uses the same pitch with me, and with everyone else?
- Why is it that I end up speaking to someone who has absolutely nothing in common with me? For instance, if the salesperson and I have heavy accents, how are we to even understand what the other is saying? Why can’t I be matched to a caller with an Indian accent?
The answer is: most leads are just bought.
The data sets that are provided to a company usually just include the lead’s name, number, and email address. No wonder calls often turn out to be general and irrelevant all the time. No one is really thinking about the end consumer in the picture here and what they expect when they sign up as a lead.
And that brings me to the next set of people who are suffering. The sales reps.
THE SALES REPS ARE SUFFERING
There are various tactics that businesses make use of to fill up the top of their funnel with leads (buying lists, SEO, TV ads, social media, search ads, and more). But when it comes to following up with them, many sales reps follow a brute force approach.
Apparently, the more calls they make in a day, the better it is.
But imagine making 50-200 calls a day, knowing very little about the prospect. I’m sure the sales reps are not having the best conversations with people.
- They are frustrated with people not picking up calls
- They are fed up with scheduling appointments that people do not show up to
- They are tired of leaving voicemails that no one responds to
- They are disenchanted by people complaining about getting telemarketing calls
- They are exhausted by manually managing several sales tools like CRMs, SMS systems, email systems, etc. that don’t speak with each other
- They are upset they aren’t able to meet their sales targets because they spent way too long focused on trying to get leads on the phone and interested
As quoted on Forbes, a typical sales rep actually spends only 36% of their time on selling. That bears repeating. So just 1/3 of your time focused on actually making money. The rest is noise.
Imagine sales reps could only focus on having conversations with interested people. And furthermore…imagine if they knew who they were talking to, the best message to use with a certain type of prospect, what they were looking for, and what is needed to convert them. The conversations would turn out being so much more meaningful and profitable.
Meaningful conversations = More closed deals
Again, all that data is still not being put to work. Sales teams are not as efficient as they could be and not as many customers are being acquired each quarter.
THE BUSINESSES ARE SUFFERING
It is not efficient to have your sales team spending most of their time qualifying leads instead of selling.
A lead generated online is shared with multiple companies. Some of these are Fortune 500 companies with endless resources to follow up on these leads. Now when you, as a business with limited resources, are not able to differentiate between hot and interested leads, you will never be able to reach the right customers at the right time.
- The leads are not qualified as per your needs
- Your best salespeople are just cold-calling leads and the conversations aren’t customized at all
- Scaling your sales team up or down is now a challenge – you don’t really know how many resources you need at a point
- It’s hard to measure the effectiveness of all the channels or the conversions
- Highly valuable leads (sometimes worth thousands of dollars each) are slipping through the cracks and never being contacted
Simply put, it’s not really a pretty picture.
In fact, I actually went on to conduct a few interviews around this. From all the conversations I had, I could easily conclude that more than 50% of the expensive leads acquired by a business are never contacted. Conversica found something similar in a study they conducted during Dreamforce.
As a startup enthusiast and an entrepreneur myself, that’s clearly way too much of a loss that I see everyone going through.
IS DATA REALLY THE ANSWER TO ALL THE STRUGGLES?
For instance, if you get a lead with enough relevant information, you can make use of it to personalize the entire customer journey. Right from what channel you use to communicate with the lead, to what time and message you should be using. Wouldn’t you prefer it if someone took so much into consideration before reaching out to you?
Let me ask you one thing. Do you appreciate it when Amazon recommends related and suggested products based on your previous browsing? It makes the shopping experience so much easier, right?
The same holds true for consumer sales.
When you take a consumer first approach, you obviously end up having better conversations. And better conversations always lead to greater conversions.
Now if the sales rep had gotten in touch with me after 6 pm, knowing my daily schedule, I wouldn’t have missed the call. If they had reached out to me via email to schedule a call, I would have made sure I was available to speak. Wouldn’t it have made all the process so much easier?
Big data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning have been around for some time now. They have already enabled several highly efficient solutions.
Combining my personal experiences as a lead along with the insights I gained from several stakeholders, I kept thinking to myself – can emerging technologies really change the way consumer sales are done?
“How you sell matters. What your process is, matters. But how your customers feel when they engage with you matters more.”
Ps. If you too are trying to have better conversations with your customers, I’d love to show you what we have been working on!
Take a look at our modern sales solution for lead qualification, SquadVoice.
You can reach me by emailing apurv[at]squadvoice.co. I’m always up for a brainstorming session!