To Phone or Not to Phone, There Is No Question

The “pounce controversy” lives on! I noticed one thing about the commentary on the article; I’m not sure we’re thinking about the role of the phone in the right way. Let’s be clear: the single most effective conversion method to date is the phone. Period.

Look, everyone knows I am as much into lead nurturing and sales 2.0 as anyone else. I believe there is a completely fresh narrative underway for how we engage customers – but you can’t forget one thing: everything you’re doing (marketing automation, nurturing, email, value-added research) is aiming to accomplish one thing: get the right people to TALK to you. I agree that the lead nurturing movement makes us smarter and more efficient, but in all the posts out there on the Web today, there is little if any mention of the phone’s continued role in the conversion process. If you can get the right contact on the phone, you do it, because all your goals (buyer-vendor relationships, conversion, etc.) are still met by phone today.

So I ask the question:  When you consider conversion, are you thinking of how your programs increased “phone connects?”

When it comes to the pounce controversy, there is a nice use case. A prospect responds to a relevant offer and hits your Web site. That is the perfect opportunity to connect. Of course you can use chat, email, etc. to pounce, but for the sake of this article I just want to walk through the pluses and minuses of calling that person right away. Keep in mind why I think getting to the prospect right away is critical: the person is currently on your Web site, thus, technically already engaged with you and your likelihood to connect is high (yes, you can actually call with your company name appearing on caller ID). That’s good. Ask your lead follow-up team how many darn calls it takes to get a buyer engaged, if ever.

Now, here are your possible outcomes:

1. They are ready to talk and work with sales: win.
2. They have a great conversation with you where you actually frame your value prop and send them some value-added information. A lasting first impression is made. They aren’t ready to work with you so you put them in the nurture campaign: win.
3. They tell you to go to hell. They would have told you that anyway: lose.

The downside is not that painful considering the upside.

Please remember:

1. The phone still works.
2. For it to work, we need to get our phone resources connected with the right people (NOTE: if you sent an email to someone, I hope you sent it to a targeted list).
3. New technologies should increase our connect rates, NOT keep us from talking to people.
4. The phone is your best weapon in the lead-conversion rate war.

Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter

  • As as guy who has sold phone systems for a living for 16 years, I have to say that this post is absolutely brilliant! 🙂

  • Great post Craig. Regarding your three possible outcomes, I would differ with you only in the suggestion that all three are actually wins.

    The third one “They tell you to go to hell. They would have told you that anyway: lose.” is a win because getting that buyer out of the funnel makes the funnel cleaner and avoids further resource consumption. The truth will set us free!

  • Great post, Craig. As I’ve long preached, there is nothing like the tone and interactive nature of the phone for building relationships.

    I say the phone should be used for two purposes:
    1. Building relationships — including voicemails.
    2. Refining and updating data


  • I’ve been watching the POUNCE debate for a week now, and as one of the guys Mike has on the phones all day breaking down doors, I can tell you that the phone IS THE FRONT LINE. Yes, phones are harder and harder to get picked up, but when you do, you have that person captive for a short period of time — but they can’t hide behind an email, they have to listen and respond.

    ps. Phone Veteran Tip of the Day – having someone hang up on you means nothing. Do yourself a favor and before you mark them unqualified, wait a week or three and dial them again. 80% of the time they don’t even remember you called them before.

  • Right on the money, Craig. Especially if you are not selling through your website (the prospect isn’t going to add something to the shopping cart and purchase right there), unless someone talks to him/her, no sale will happen.

    Often times we get a lead and when our sales rep calls, he discovers other players, influencers, decision makers, etc. that are involved in the project. This gives the rep more insight into how to conduct the process. Hoping that marketing will keep generating leads and that those will close by themselves without a phone call is ludicrous.

    With the amount of SPAM people get in their email inboxes, email marketing is not as effective as it once was. The sheer number of messages hitting those prospects is incredible so the phone becomes a differentiator. Unfortunately very few people are effective at selling over the phone, but this is another debate entirely.

  • We have been pressing the “pounce” idea in support of marketing/sales process evolution. Initial attempts at Pouncing have produced 1 consistent outcome: our contacts actually remember having interacted with our content. This is important because the phone call + our Web collateral has more impact than mere files in a directory or just another video experience. Additionally, the phone sales person has slightly more justification to stay in the ring on the call vs. calling against a forgotton incident.