Stephen Zarick, President, VO Sales Group

Startup Stock Photos

Who said cold calling is dead? Those that do not like cold calling … of course.

Who said SEO and Search, eMailing, Social Media, Trade Shows, and White Paper downloads are the new sales approach? Those that sell those services … of course.

Sales Prospecting is alive and well. Intentional Focused Outbound Sales Prospecting does work if it is done effectively with people that understand the task at hand.

Too many companies have an outbound enterprise effort run by a marketing team that has never picked up the phone and called on behalf of their own company or their company’s solution. They treat sales prospecting like a scripted, canned, questioning call. Too many companies treat outsourced prospecting as a Marketing activity. And then they pick the wrong partner to carry out the duties. The result: Failure and an expensive experiment.

When a solution sells for $50K or over, say, $200K, the prospecting effort should become a legitimate Sales effort. When you are selling to the C Suite, you cannot waste their time, you must get to the point, you must provoke them with a financial play, you must have a reason to help them, and they must hear a compelling reason to even talk to you. Scripted calls do not work in this arena. Hence, most marketing programs with a scripted caller fail and are a waste of money.

TRENDS: There is a repeating pattern that we see with Marketing-oriented programs.

The trend is to put something out on the internet and HOPE that you get responses.

The Email Blast

First, companies feel the temptation to embrace the low cost Email Blast solution. They spend a lot of time grabbing emails out of their CRM and push back and forth.

SEO and Paid Search

The next trend, and the typical next step, is to spend time and money on Paid Search and an SEO routine to boost your rankings, get passive leads, and HOPE that they are qualified enough to present to the sales team.

The Outbound Calling Effort by the Marketing Team

The marketing team is typically tasked with making outbound follow-up calls from white paper downloads, the email blast, the search inquiries, and of course all of the yet-to-be qualified trade show leads. Of course, most of this once again leads to an expensive experiment to supplement a real sales activity, IF your solutions sells for more than $50K and your goal is to give your sales team real revenue-producing qualified opportunities.

The Inside Calling Team

For a reason that baffles me, the inside sales team is typically run by Marketing. I wish someone would explain to me the wisdom behind these decisions. Why not hire a salesperson with a quota to run the inside sales teams.  And why not hire someone that knows sales to make these calls, not someone out of college that reads scripts and has never gone on a sales call. These attempts typically fail as far as producing real sales opportunities for the sales team. This, too, is expensive.

Marketing:  It’s Role

It seems that most companies go through these steps before they finally realize what Marketing’s role is.  They further define and go back to hiring yet another outside sales rep. This again leads to having to manage a new person. They need to shadow someone. They never prospect with tenacity to add to deal flow and, in most cases, hang around for a good year on the payroll. Even worse, because you have long sales cycles, they become frustrated, or their spouse does, because they never see their first commission check and therefore the income that was promised to them when you hired them. The result: Turnover and a waste of time and money … and NO SALES to speak of.

Prospecting IS Sales when your solution is $50K or better.

Why does prospecting today fall under marketing anyway?

With trade shows, SEO, emailing, CRM integration, web site leads … there is a natural tendency to put outbound canvassing efforts under marketing. After all, they have to follow-up on trade show leads and any inbound inquiries. But most times, in a true cold calling effort, the same people are not as equipped as the sales team to get past all the hurdles of the cold call.

 Outbound Sales Prospecting DOES work.

Startup Stock Photo

An effective Sales Campaign comes with the following:

  • Run by Sales People

  • Delivered by Sales People

  • A program that has a Sales Management attitude

  • A program with proper incentive, goals, measurements, and real results

  • A program that is in sync with the Outside Sales Team

  • All effective programs that we do include the customers’ Sales people in the conversation

  • The best programs are where there are no territorial boundaries between Sales and Marketing

  • You must allow for some maturation and evolution of message and task to be effective.

Skill Set

Prospecting Skills are separate from Sales Skills when your solution is $50K or better.

Sales Prospecting and Cold Calling: It is NOT dead.

When Sales Prospecting is done effectively we solve most of the above issues:

  • Sales Prospecting adds to deal flow for the eagles on your sales team

  • It avoids having to have a new person shadow

  • It avoids having that new salesperson that never makes their commission

  • Sales Prospecting can feed that new salesperson’s account base

  • Sales lends to a proper canvassing of a space … Marketing activities do not do this

  • Sales is more focused, more intentional, and measurable.

  • Good Sales Prospecting allows you to properly go deep and broad. Remember your high value solution requires a committee of people to make your purchase, not just one person.

Role-Based Prospecting

This brings up one of the most important aspects of Cold Calling in the Enterprise. There are Titles and there are Roles. When you have an offering that is a High Value Solution, there likely is not just one Title in an enterprise corporation that you can call on, or even email.

Typically Role-Based Prospecting requires a peer to peer discussion with someone to find out who has this role, who is on the committee, who are the User Buyers, the Technical Buyers and the Economic Buyer, who is the committee leader, and is there indeed a task force put in place to evaluate vendors.  And of course prospect selling – we want to know who our competition is, whether direct or indirect.  Marketing programs do not go this deep … deep and broad.

Marketing Programs never go Deep and Broad

Sales Training

We can not emphasize enough that Sales Training and Sales Prospecting training is and should be ongoing activities. Many sales efforts have hurdles, new competitors, new trends, and are always maturing. The Marketing message just isn’t good enough. There is always a new objection, and you must move to act and to respond. If Marketing is NOT on the phone, and Salespeople are NOT prospecting, how will they ever know or understand these new trends.

VO Group’s Sales Prospecting teams hear more of these trends for our customers than even our customers do. We will make more phone calls and talk to more new people in a week than most of our customers do in a month. Marketing people mostly have NEVER picked up the phone to understand the sales challenges of representing a high value solution. The task is not easy, but can be managed effectively for real sales revenue results.


Cold Calling is NOT Dead.

Sales Prospecting is a different skill set than Sales.

Role-Based Prospecting is needed in the Enterprise.

Sales Prospecting is a Sales Activity and should be run by Sales.

-Stephen Zarick, President, VO Group, LLC