Warm calling for the win

Jul 16, 2023 | Business Development, Sales

BD in 2023, is it all AI and robots then?

So here we are in the second half of the year. What kind of BD world are we living in these days? 

Well, 2023 is definitely an interesting vintage. The home vs office debate rages on, data scraping is rampant, we are all deluged by outbound email sequences, LinkedIn pitch slaps are getting out of control and everything is apparently powered by AI and ML. 

With all that going on, it can feel more than a little daunting. 

Tom Boston on point, as per

Where does it leave us BD people?

I believe that the basics tenets of good practice in BD are largely unchanged. Channels and tactics evolve, but a good focus on client need, brand positioning and opportunity qualification remain core.

Moreover, I believe some tactics have fallen out of favour, have gone full circle and are now under-utilised. And right now, it is the phone.

In 2023, I believe the phone is becoming a more useful tool again in B2B business development outreach.


In a world of automation, why so analogue?

Why do I believe the phone has steadily become more useful in recent months? Put simply, not many people are doing it and of those, not all of them are doing it well.

Set that against the backdrop of what IS happening in the market right now. The norm is for visible people in companies receiving a daily battering from outreach in nearly every sector. The oft quoted figure is an average of 121 emails per day in a business mailbox. The stat is a few years old now and I think it’s fair to assume for 2023 the number is higher.

Not only is the volume up but the quality is down. So much of it now is automated, mass spray and pray, and frankly sucks. I’ve started getting LinkedIn emails promising ChatGPT powered outbound sequencing messaging – GAH.

So, we’ve got a lot of outbound hiding behind the automated written word. Email is in trouble right now. Dark social and async communication tools mean email is no longer the only game in town. I spend less time on email and more and more time on Slack, Teams chat or communicating via Whatsapp DM’s.

LinkedIn as an outbound can have its place but needs to be used oh so very carefully. The degree of relevance needs to be super high. Otherwise it’s just yet another connection request that either comes across as overly pushy OR it is a pitch slap. No-one likes a pitch slap. And don’t get me started on Inmail – just don’t.

LinkedIn comes into its own as part of an inbound approach. The real value takes time to cultivate. Build a personal brand, take part in industry conversations, share ideas, be helpful and then people connect to you because they see you are a potential resource for either now or in the future. That’s how to make BD gains from LinkedIn.

Warm calling for the win

Is it time to look again at the good old phone?

To be clear, we’re not talking about bad cold calling. The withheld or random international number, the delay on connection, the babble in the background and then the scripted pitch about some generic business widget or something even more obtuse like a business survey (usually a thinly veiled pitch for IT outsourcing of some sort). It’s generic, it’s not relevant, my data has clearly been scraped and the call always ends with me (politely, I promise) asking to be removed from the list. Upon asking for this the next move is always to get cut off. Click, brrrrr. Probably to be called again a few days later. Sigh.

But it doesn’t need to be like this. What do you mean Stu? I’ve never called this person. It’s cold. 

Well, not necessarily my friends.

No call needs to be absolutely cold. There can always be a reason for the call, giving it that little bit of legitimacy to rise above the masses and giving the conversation some foundation to grow.

Let’s first of all assume that there is a degree of targeting in your prospecting. Key prospect accounts have been identified against relevant criteria. How can we warm up the outreach?

The manoeuvre here is to bridge the gap between you and the prospect. Show relevance, show a connection, show logic as to why it is specifically them you are looking to have a chat with. The good news is there are various ways to make this happen and turn cold into warm.

1, The referral

Speak to current clients, ask who they have in their peer group who has similar challenges to them and would potentially benefit from working with you. In the approach, name check early who you work with, establish there is a connection and off we go.

Yes, there are sectors for whom this is tricky but more often than not, it is possible.

And yes, the absolute gold standard is the referral where the customer themselves makes the first introduction. That’s not always possible or appropriate. It also relies on the client to take action on your behalf. 

2, The trigger

Another route in is a trigger event in the prospect’s company. It can be relatively easy to keep tabs on a set group of prospect businesses. Simple tasks like a daily check of the specialist industry news or a regular Google alert. When getting in touch, the call is warmed up nicely by referencing the news in the specialist media, interested to learn more about it, how it’s going to affect their strategy and if they have considered the likely challenges that lie ahead.

3, The look alike

Warm things up by showing you have done it for someone else. Understand why an existing client highly values what you do, what pain you have solved, what gain you have helped create. Pull up a list of look alike companies who will potentially have a similar issue. The list could be cut different ways, location, size, sector etc.

When getting in touch, you are specifically approaching them because you’ve been through a series of steps with a name checked company and taken them through the journey. The implied logic is this could well be relevant because the challenge is likely coming their way and you now have direct and current experience of fixing it.

4, The legal push

If there is an upcoming date where the rules change then you can help make that as painless as possible.

When getting in touch, you are specifically approaching them because you recognise the regulations are likely high on the agenda this year. You’ve already helped name checked company with the issue and understand how to avoid the pitfalls and make compliance relatively straightforward.

If they have not yet sorted themselves for that legislation and the connecting company is known to them then this can be a real winner.

5, The person who went before

It is very easy on LinkedIn to search for people who used to work with a given company. This means if it takes seconds to build a list of people who have worked at your best client. 

They will likely know your brand, have a positive view about it and take the call. What’s even better is there is very possibly enough residual emotional connection with your brand that they will take it up themselves to navigate you through their current business.

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Turn up the temperature

There’s five different ways of taking action to turn cold into warm. None of them are conceptually difficult, all they take is some basic research using basic tools. If your back is really up against the wall you need to pull out all the stops then there is more that can be done. But that means you are in a BD emergency – break glass. Warm calling should be less daunting than cold calling. With the warm call, there is the hook, the connection, and so it gives some natural structure to the introduction. This gives us the opportunity to make more effective calls and generate more pipeline for our efforts. Don’t be one of the 121+ messages in the inbox. Stand out with some warm calling.