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Study Finds 1 Out of 2 B2B Sales Reps Fear Making Cold Calls

According to research findings released by ValueSelling Associates, Inc., a leading sales training company, fear is one of the biggest obstacles to business-to-business (B2B) outbound sales prospecting. More than half of sales professionals (53 percent) give up too easily when cold calling and 48 percent are afraid to pick up the phone and make cold calls. Other significant challenges to outbound prospecting include salespeople’s lack of organization and consistency with outreach efforts (60 percent), trouble finding and accessing the right decision maker (42 percent), and weak social media skills for prospecting (38 percent).

The sponsored research report, “B2B Prospecting Challenges from the Front Lines,” exposes the biggest challenges to outbound prospecting and the skills necessary for connecting with new prospects. The study is relevant to both direct sales and inside sales teams.

“Successful prospecting requires persistence, overcoming the fear of cold calling, targeting efforts to the person with power and leveraging a multi-channel approach,” Julie Thomas CEO and president of ValueSelling Associates, said. “This survey details specific changes sales professionals can make to secure more meetings and increase the quantity and quality of their sales pipeline.”

ValueSelling Associates, Inc. and Selling Power, the media company that produces Selling Power Magazine, surveyed online 160 U.S. sales professionals in a wide variety of sales roles and industries to investigate the challenges of B2B outbound sales prospecting.

Key study findings include:

  • Inability to reach the prospective buyer is the number one challenge that salespeople face when trying to set up an initial meeting. The top challenges that salespeople face in securing an initial meeting with a prospect (for either a phone or in-person meeting) are:
    • Getting the prospect to respond was the biggest challenge (59 percent)
    • Access to the real decision maker (46 percent)
    • Finding the correct contact person in the company (32 percent)
    • Getting a referral or introduction (25 percent)
  • The three most important skills for connecting with new prospects are:
    • Conducting research to identify target prospects who are decision makers (63 percent)
    • Getting an introduction via referral (61 percent)
    • Face-to-face networking (48 percent)
  • More than five touch points are required to secure an initial meeting. Fifty-four percent of initial meetings required more than five touch points, such as phone calls, email, social media outreach, to book the meeting – demonstrating that tenacity and determination are necessary skills in sales.
    • 44 percent of initial meetings require 6-10 touch points
    • 10 percent require 11 or more touch points
  • Most organizations do not provide enough training on outbound prospecting. Of the 76 percent of companies that provide outside training, close to half (46 percent) provide training only once a year. And, 28 percent of these organizations provide this training only one time total, as part of initial onboarding.

“Repeated, incremental training on prospecting and setting up initial meetings is imperative to building a solid sales pipeline and helping sales professionals overcome their fear of making cold calls,” said Thomas. “We find that successful sales teams establish a multi-channel, cadence-based approach to their prospecting efforts.”

Want to pull off the five-minute sales call?

Kim Clark says you need to do these five things:

Minute 1: Grab attention

Create “verbal packaging” that portrays your product or service as relevant to prospective clients. Communicating the relevance of what you sell comes from knowing what clients value about your offerings and deftly articulating those benefits for prospects as you describe why, where, when and how to use your product or service. If you’ve had time to prepare, then do your homework to get a good sense of that individual’s business and construct a personalized pitch. Your product/service must solve a problem or create a competitive advantage.

Minute 2: Talk details

If your prospect either admits that what you sell is needed, or at least continues to listen with interest, then ask a few questions to find out where you stand. Is there a specific and immediate problem or goal? What is the time-table? Float solutions that your product/service will provide. This stage allows the prospect to visualize the process and outcomes of doing business with you.

Minute 3: Propose solutions

Explain further the solutions that your product/service will provide and persuade the prospect to define the goal or problem if that has not been done so already.

Minute 4: Establish timeline

Lay out a road map for implementing your solution and completing the sale. Define the operational processes that will be followed to put your product/service in motion. Now the client will know that s/he must agree, or decline to proceed.

Minute 5: Close sale

Tell the prospect what has to happen to enable the sale. Confirm that you have a sale (“Are you ready to move forward with this and when would you like to start? You would like the project to be completed by what date?”). Offer to send a contract or confirmation email to lay out the steps, the timeline and project milestones. Confirm the project budget and negotiate/agree on the project fee (or hourly rate), the amount of money that must be paid to you before you begin working and when future payments will become due. Confirm payment options. Say thank you and shake hands with your new client.

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