When the coronavirus pandemic first hit, telecommunications companies prepared for an uptick in internet use. While they were right to ready themselves, there’s been an even larger surge toward a more time-honored device: the classic telephone.
Indeed, the number of daily phone calls U.S. carrier Verizon handles has risen to 800 million — the same as on a typical Mother’s Day, when phone lines are at their busiest. That’s a 33 percent increase over last year, compared to the 25 percent growth in internet traffic.
While some have declared this a “comeback” for the “humble” phone call, the simple truth is that the phone never really went away. While we may use messaging apps and video calls to navigate much of our personal lives, savvy leaders know the power of the phone call in a business environment. Now, as people spend even more time talking rather than tapping on their phones, the power of voice will become even more important — particularly as a means of increasing sales.
Raise Your Voice, Win the Sale
For a robust 21st century sales strategy, you need to go omnichannel. Maintaining your social media presence and content marketing strategy online can lead to great inbound results, yet for making the pitch and closing the deal directly, you simply can’t beat a one-to-one conversation.
Getting a prospect on the line and talking to them directly matters. It’s the ability to deliver the pitch with the right content, cadence, and care for your future clients’ needs that makes a voice call so effective. It’s not just salespeople who prefer a call — 92 percent of all customer interactions happen over the phone. Simply put, that direct human connection creates the right environment to establish trust.
That’s not to say sales is easy. Your salespeople need to have the conviction to promote your product in a clear, persuasive way, knowing when to utilize your other marketing resources when needed to win over leads. Emphasizing phone calls as part of a holistic sales and marketing strategy gives your employees the tools they need to develop their voice — literally.
The emphasis on direct, clear communication goes above the bottom line. As a whole, companies lose over US$37 billion each year due to poor communication. Helping your employees gain a better understanding of effective telephone conversation improves not only sales, but internal communications as well — in a way that videoconferencing simply can’t match.
The Problem With Zoom
Predictions about the seamless, unstoppable climb of videoconferencing have been a mixed bag in practice. In the early weeks of March 2020, videoconferencing apps experienced a 90 percent surge in demand on the app store. These numbers have declined over time, as the entire workforce takes part in the global remote experiment.
The results? Serious security and privacy concerns aside, many people have simply become tired of video calls. Remote employees and friends looking to reconnect have all noted a type of fatigue that comes with meeting remotely, one that’s been the topic of scientific scrutiny.
The results of these studies find that the visual stimulation provided by video calling apps is at odds with our brain’s desire to actually be present with another person we can see. Simply put — eye contact through a webcam just doesn’t feel real and ends up being a distraction from the content of the conversation.
That’s not to say that video calling doesn’t have its place. There are times when live streaming helps to show off a product, or when you’ll just want to see everyone’s face on a conference call. Yet the fatigue noted by researchers can be extremely limiting for your sales strategy. The last thing you want a salesperson to feel is exhausted or disconnected from their prospect due to the alienating nature of a video call.
Old-school phone calls allow both salespeople and prospects to focus on the content of the message — not the pixelated face on their screen. It opens up an avenue for conversation without the likelihood of technical issues endemic to video applications.
Sales Calls in a Socially Distanced Age
Since the start of the global lockdowns in March, nearly every worker has seen a major shift in the way they conduct business. Salespeople are receiving an overwhelming portion of these changes, due to the very nature of their jobs.
Business lunches, in-house meetings, cross-country travel to make a sales pitch — so much of what your sales team does has historically relied on face-to-face conversation. Obviously, phone sales calls are nothing new. What has changed is their importance to your bottom line — and their surprising effectiveness in the face of all this change.
Preliminary research on the effects of COVID-19 have found that nearly half of all workers with jobs prior to the pandemic are now working remotely. That’s an incredible shift given that the previous number for remote workers was roughly 15 percent. With those kinds of numbers, companies face an obvious yet unprecedented reality: remote work may simply be the new norm.
As mentioned earlier, these changes have brought with them an emphasis on new technologies. Video calls, chatbots, and a focus on social media can all bring your company into the digital age more effectively, particularly when it comes to inbound marketing. At some point, however, your biggest customers are going to want to get to know you and your employees personally, in a way a tweet or a chatbot simply can’t satisfy.
This is where the phone call can truly shine. Instead of having your best customers email you with concerns, company leaders can now offer a dedicated phone number that’s exclusive to the clients they value most. This sort of offer is based on the Pareto Principle, which states that 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your customers.
VoIP technology and other tools that help your employees stay connected can significantly boost your sales results. Just having the ability to stay in touch with customers from wherever your employees are helps lead to better, more frequent engagement — and thus, higher sales.
It’s not just outbound calls that are becoming a more notable presence in the work from home space. While remote work brings numerous benefits, the distance felt between your employees can reduce creativity and idea generation. We rely on that real-time communication between employees to spur the kind of new ways of thinking essential to improving current business practices.
In the sales department, this means restrategizing, rethinking, and redeploying once new methods are in place and ready to be tested. Your best salespeople should consistently strive to help out those who may struggle a bit more or need further coaching. Since the sales themselves happen on the phone, so too should the level of instruction.
Finally, don’t be afraid to invest more funds into the technology your employees use. Consider the savings you’ll be able to free up by having a less-mobile, more phone-focused sales team. It will take some time to adapt to this new approach, just like with most business processes in our new remote era. However, the investment in infrastructure can pay dividends as your company grows.
Omnichannel With a Phone-First Approach
If you’d like to test how a phone-first sales strategy can improve your marketing, start by taking a look at your current CTAs on inbound marketing materials. Where do they lead? If you’re seeing great results by getting in touch via email or chatbot, great. If you think there’s room to improve, however, it may be time to run an A/B test.
Have some of your prospective buyers fill out an email form while the rest are prompted to call or schedule a call to get more information. Put your expectations aside and focus on looking at the data. At the end of the test, collect the results and compare them against the historical model.
You and your sales team are results oriented. You may find that leads in one region prefer to go at their own pace, while in others an early phone call leads to a stronger chance of success. Remember — just because a prospect is browsing your company profile on social media doesn’t mean they’ll never want to get in touch. A bit of prompting to make the call might be all they’re looking for.
If you don’t have a phone-first sales strategy in place already, it’s likely time to start building one. Remember that there’s a limit to how much change employees, clients, and prospects can handle without feeling ill-at-ease. Your team has likely seen changes beyond anything they expected in their lifetimes happening in the span of a few short months.
We’re working from home, staying socially distanced, and wondering what the future might hold. With so much change happening all at once — good and bad — relying on time-tested, effective, communication methods like the telephone call gives a sense of control and familiarity needed in today’s hyperconnected yet socially isolated business environment.