Five reasons why the phone is still critical for sales development


“Why should our sales reps use the phone when our prospects prefer email?”

“I don’t think prospects use the phone anymore, I’d rather reach them via digital channels.”

“Nobody answers my calls, and voicemails are a waste of time. But I sent 60 emails today!”

These are a handful of the excuses I hear almost daily for why sales development reps aren’t picking up the phone.

Of course, you can complain about anything when you’re not getting the results you want.  The leads suck, we don’t have good enough tools, the messaging is out of date, etc.

Popular excuses all, but it seems the most frequent and vehement vitriol is reserved these days for the telephone.

I’m not buying it.  Time and again, I’ve seen success stories, real-life examples and statistics that consistently show using the phone – consistently, daily, frequently – will accelerate a sales rep’s progress, pipeline and commission check.  Here are five reasons (among many more) that come to mind first:

1. Your prospects are still answering the phone (!)
The biggest myth perpetuated by telephone-haters is that your prospects aren’t answering the phone.  Simply not true!  You may ignore the majority of your calls, that your behavior doesn’t necessarily translate to your target prospects.  And we all, let’s face it, spend time on the phone.  We answer our phones from time to time.  And we’re not looking for 100 percent response rates here, ever (nor are we reasonably looking for this via email or social or SnapFace or whatever).

There’s a reason why “inbound only” companies like Hubspot have enormous outbound sales teams that use the telephone daily.  And they are far from alone among hockey-stick sales growth organizations.

2. Impressions matter (even if they don’t immediately engage)
When you call, your prospects notice (even if they don’t pick up).  When you leave a voicemail, your prospects notice (even if they don’t respond).  Same goes for other channels too of course.  Just because someone didn’t click on your email doesn’t mean they didn’t see it, or that it didn’t make a positive incremental impression.  Just because you didn’t get an “open” doesn’t mean they didn’t see your “from” address in their inbox, which studies show increases their likelihood of responding the next time.

Put another way, every call you make (up to a certain point, more on that later) makes it more likely that your next impression (via phone, email, in person, etc.) will lead to a conversation.

3. One phone call never works (never has, never will)
When I hear sales reps tell me the phone doesn’t work, it’s usually after they’ve made one phone call, maybe left a voicemail, and never heard back.  When’s the last time you sent a cold email to someone and immediately heard back?!   Doesn’t happen very often.  It takes multiple attempts, even when responding to inbound inquiries, to reach your prospect.  Our best practice for lead follow-up includes 13 touches across four channels over 11 business days.  That includes four phone calls and voicemails.  Through extensive A/B testing, this is the sequence that works.  Not a single email, or a single call.  A full sequence.  Nobody said it would be fast or easy.

4. More channels = response velocity
Additional research demonstrates that the more channels you use, the faster you move towards awareness, understanding, interest and engagement.  Use the same channel 10 times, it’s easy for your prospects to zone out and ignore it.  Use 2-3 channels across that sequence, and the fact that prospects see you in multiple contexts helps your brain remember you better.  Seeing your company on caller ID, seeing your voicemail show up in their inbox, hearing your voice (even if they don’t listen to the entire message let alone respond to it) all contributes to that velocity and successful outcome.

5. Voicemails lead to a 20 percent higher email open rate
When you sequence a voicemail right before a follow-up email, that follow-up email gets a 20 percent open rate.  The research shows that prospects believe they are saving time by engaging with your email vs email AND voicemail.  So especially when your email references the voicemail you just left, the engagement you want goes up.

I’m sure these reasons aren’t enough for some of the ongoing detractors.  Let me have it in the comments!