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The Age of Multi-Channel Prospecting: Despite the Hype, Nothing is “Dead”

Every day on LinkedIn there is a post with a long comment string discussing how some prospecting methodology is “dead” –  cold-calling, social-selling, etc. These provocative arguments dominate our LinkedIn feed. It’s understandable because cracking the code of prospecting in today’s world is the holy grail. The real message here is that prospecting is hard and many techniques in isolation are frustratingly inefficient and ineffective.

With regards to these social media arguments, the truth is nothing is “dead”. The only thing that is “dead” is single channel prospecting (e.g. only cold-calling or only social). All the channels (emails, phone, and social) are very much alive, and are being used together to great success. Prospecting today is about multi-touch, multi-channel outreach campaigns.

This movement has been happening for the last three years. TOPO introduced the “triple-touch” in 2015. The triple touch is a method of prospect outreach that involves sending an email, leaving a voicemail, and sending a LinkedIn InMail, typically within minutes of each other.  The “triple-touch” was based on data in our research of high growth companies –  50% of high-growth sales development organizations were using the “triple touch”.

A year later, in the 2016 Sales Development benchmark, we saw that number climb to 80%.


5 Key Factors for Multi-Channel Prospecting

Multi-touch prospecting campaigns are not new, and they have been driving real results for the fastest growing companies in the world. There are 5 key factors in the multi-channel prospecting campaign:

1. Prospecting is a campaign. Prospecting is a multi-touch, multi-channel, multi-offer campaign delivered to a prospect and account over the course of time. Organizations should measure prospecting efforts by the success of the overall campaign, not merely by individual channels. For example, if someone is only looking at phone connect and call back rates, they will say, “Cold calling is dead”. Instead, campaigns should be measured in a bundle. The question that should be asked is whether the combination of phone, email, and social yield higher connect or SQL rates than just email?

2. Email is the core channel for outreach. In today’s digital world, everything centers around the prospecting email. Email is the most efficient and effective method for connecting to prospects at scale. Equally important, it is the channel that prospects are most likely to respond to. As such, outreach campaigns are typically planned around email sends. For example, an organization will decide to send emails on day 1, day 3, day 7, and day 14. Everything else (phone, social, etc) surrounds and supports the email campaign.

3. The phone isn’t dead, but it is used differently. Two-way live engagement (the phone or face-to-face) is the most ideal form of actual engagement. However, the phone is often not the most effective channel for connecting (e.g. some see zero return on voicemails) – email is better. Then is the phone dead? Not even close. As you can see in the chart above, phone is part of the campaign mix.  Organizations will leave voicemail followed by an email within minutes of each other – as a result, email conversions increase (organizations have reported 10-11%+).

Another tactic is to mix dialing automation into the touch pattern. Organizations will still organize a campaign with 3-4 email touches over the course of 3-4 weeks. As part of that campaign, they will carve out time to “war-dial”. In a “war-dialing” session, reps will allot 1-2 hours/day to make cold dials without leaving voicemails, and aiming for connects. The email cadence can help effectiveness of these connects, as the prospects are aware of the rep and their organization before the call.

4. A social touch (LinkedIn) increases overall conversion. Reply rates to social touches are unimpressive. Like voicemail, social touches can increase email reply rates. In the case of social (specifically LinkedIn), we have access to a platform that the vast majority of business people in the world use and we should use it (at least once). One company reported a 30% lift in connect rates by including a LinkedIn touch in their campaign. When asked how many responses they got on LinkedIn, the answer was zero. Objective number #1 in prospecting is to get a response, and we should be indifferent to channel of response.

As for Twitter, the rule is simple. If the prospect is extremely active on Twitter, then add Twitter to the campaign.

5. Campaigns should be delivered over time.  No rep should say, “I emailed them and didn’t hear anything back”. Multi-channel campaigns are not one triple touch and done. There are multiple touches (12-16) over the course of 3-4 weeks for the initial campaign. Then reps should nurture prospects with 1-2 monthly touches, before re-instituting a new campaign every 3-6 months.

Upcoming Channels

As the data can attest, phone, email, and social, are the predominant channels for prospecting for the world’s fastest-growing companies. And now organizations are adding new touches and content types to the prospecting mix:

  • Direct mail – Direct mail is back. The most effective use case so far has been to kick the prospecting campaign off with a direct mail send. For example, one organization would send a book with a handwritten note, and their SDRs would follow the book send with an outreach campaign. Direct mail provides brand recognition and good will before delivering the phone, email, and social touches thus increasing conversion rates.
  • Personalized video – In the next 1-2 years, a personalized video send will be a common touch in the multi-touch cadence. Video is a personal, humanized touch, but more importantly, why not? If response rates are optimized using the triple touch, why not try video to drive lift?

More channels and touch types will be added to the list as marketers and SDRs collaborate to create campaigns together. You can read more about this in our recent post on marketing-SDR orchestration.

The takeaway is that not much is dead. If anything, old school channels like phone and direct mail are back. The key is to bundle them together and measure against the combination of activities. That is very much alive.

  • Frank Elley

    Speaking from personal experience: The companies that make a lasting impression on me are the ones that do at least a double-touch: vmail, followed by email within seconds. I may also get the “naked” LinkedIn invite (just an invite — no message; you’d think they would know better). But the point is: I just remember the company. The only Sales Development Rep whose name I remember also likes my posts on LinkedIn. Now that gets my attention. I’m clearly on several company’s target lists, but only one has employed the right tactics to get, and keep, my attention. It would be interesting to also add retargeting to this survey, whether through third-party digital channels or personalization on your own website.

    • Craig Rosenberg

      Thanks for your perspective Frank. Early returns on marketing-SDR coordinated outreach which includes account-based ads/retargeting have been really strong. We will continue to collect that data over the next 6-7 months but so far, so good.

  • Tyler Lessard

    Great article Craig, and happy to see personal video as an up and coming channel! We’re seeing sales reps consistently getting 3x-5x higher response rates on personal videos sent via email or social compared to traditional email and phone tactics. Simple but effective way to stand out!

    • Craig Rosenberg

      Awesome. We have our eyes on video for sales engagement.

  • Richard Harris

    This is solid insight. Where/how do you see texting coming into play? From what I’ve seen if folks are selling to solo-preneurs, real estate agents, insurance agents, etc, then texting can be done in a humane way. Curious if you’ve seen this yet?

    • Craig Rosenberg

      Yes, texting is happening and is dependent on the target. Some of the outsourced vendors have been reporting success with texting (typically one text asking them to open their email.). But – you don’t text the CIO of Pepsi.

      And of course, the pro-sumer type buyers you mention in your comment are perfect for including text in the touch types.

  • Barry Hall

    Many thanks Craig, great post and information. – Barry.

  • Jorge Araluce

    Supporting the points of the post ; we are have developed a process to create social interactions across Linkedin and Twitter , we call them microinteractions and the idea is as Frank commented that the sales rep be less of a stranger – with every interaction Likea/follow/ connection Linkedin & Twitter send a notification. The catch is to do it in a scalable way ( social is a time hole) and for that we have created a Free Chrome extension ( look for Icebreaker ) or send me a note ..

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