The day my team at a previous company started using local presence dialing was the day our numbers turned around for good. Before that, the caller ID displayed an 800 number to prospects. The connection rate was terrible. Prospects would assume that an 800 number meant a telemarketer was calling, and ignore us.
Once we switched to local area codes – in our case, Los Angeles (818) and San Diego (619), the change was immediate. Prospects started answering the phone, and the sales team started having more conversations.
Local presence is a system that enables inside sales reps to automatically dial prospects using local area codes. This tactic is useful because people are more likely to pick up the phone if caller ID displays a familiar area code – as much as 400% more often. If you have a business need that involves better phone connection rates, dialing from a local presence phone number is a must-use tactic.
When we talk about local presence dialing looking forward to 2019, however, there are many myths that persist about its value or effectiveness.
What is the status of local presence for 2019?
The status of this tactic is that local presence numbers still work, and will continue to work into 2019.
One of the reasons myths persist about local presence losing effectiveness is because “ultra local presence” numbers are giving the tactic a bad name. Ultra local presence is the practice of matching the first six digits of a phone number, meaning the caller ID includes both the area code and the next 3 numbers of a 10 digits US number – the technical term is the NPA-NXX. There is a fine balance between being close and being too close. This tactic has become popular with scammers and other telemarketers that use a robodialer. We do not encourage this practice with our customers. Prospects immediately know if the number looks too similar to their own, it is not a legitimate call.
Sometimes local presence is also confused with spoofing, the illegal, deceptive practice of faking a caller ID number entirely. In the US, this is a violation of federal law. Spoofing means masking your real number with a fake one for caller ID. Sometimes scammers will take this as far as copying their target’s number entirely or within one digit to increase pick-up odds. This is an obnoxious tactic regardless of geography, and it is the wrong choice for anyone in 2019. It is totally different from local presence, which involves dialing from and receiving calls to a real phone number.
Just to make sure that the data supports our claims, I asked our resident data scientist to run the numbers to confirm. Out of a randomly selected sample size of 50,000 calls, calls made using our local presence feature consistently see an increased pickup rate. This is still true for calls made in 2018, and will continue to be true for calls made in 2019. This is why, unless a company is calling in to government agencies, we always advise that businesses use local presence numbers. They work.
Dispelling 7 myths about local presence
The writing on sales blogs about local presence is full of myths and misconceptions, with very little grounding in the data. In many cases, these myths are criticisms of cold calling as a practice, rather than local presence as a tactic. Here are 7 that we hear the most often:
Myth 1: I never answer unknown numbers
This may be true as a consumer, but as a businessperson, I almost always answer the phone.
The number one myth about local presence dialing is in our own pockets. As more and more people keep their cell phone numbers but move out of the region, unknown local phone numbers are becoming more suspicious to consumers.
“If I see a number I don’t recognize, I ignore it” is a myth because the logic still does not apply to business lines. It’s common to confuse how we behave with our personal cell phones and how we answer our desk phones at work. If you are cold calling, we would not advise that you cold call a customer’s cell phone regardless.
Myth 2: People will immediately hang up on you
Not according to our customers.
Our customers experience up to a 4x pickup rate from local presence, and with the right skills, this increase has a massive impact on the bottom line at scale. Any objections about people hanging up despite increased connections are arguments against cold calling as a practice, rather than local presence.
If you have strong cold calling skills, and are actually offering your prospects value, more connections offer loads of value. Cold calling is a tough, challenging business. You need every advantage you can get.
For customers that are calling in to different countries, using local presence is a no-brainer. It is impossible to work without local presence. Someone in France seeing a UK area code, or in the US seeing a German area code is guaranteed to ignore the call, perhaps even more so than an 800 number. Local presence is a minimum requirement for international calling.
Myth 3: The relationship is starting with dishonesty
I’ve personally moved from San Jose (408) to Socal (310). Am I dishonest when I still call people from my mobile 408 number?
Despite being a misinformed argument, it is a common one: using a local area code from a different geography is a lie, and lies are wrong.
I agree that lies are wrong, but this is outdated thinking about area codes. Area codes are becoming more fluid because of other forces: people keep their cell phone numbers when they move, and VOIP, the technology that allows local presence dialing, is becoming the norm.
Telephone numbers are a relic of old technology that has evolved into the new world of communication. Protests about area codes only being meant for those in the local geography starts to sound a lot like people saying roads are only meant for horses. People who drove cars in 1900 were only taking advantage of smoother roads originally designed for horses. Sales teams that use local presence are only taking advantage of a gap in technology to provide better value to their customers.
Myth 4: Your prospects won’t trust you
Prospects don’t trust people that don’t provide value to them. If distrust is the problem, there are other issues that need to be addressed.
Prospects not trusting local area codes is not a real concern, because they are not constantly checking if your area code corresponds to your company headquarters. Distributed call centers, such as an inside sales team located in a different state from the HQ, are common.
“But what if they ask me where I am calling from?” Our sales team is sometimes asked this, and we always are straightforward with our customers. We tell them we use a local area code, because we know they would not trust a call from another state. We are trying to save them time, rather than bombarding them with voicemails, emails, and more phone calls so they learn who we are. It is all about the customer, not just about us.
If your challenge is a lack of trust, your challenge is not what area code you are calling from, but the selling skills of the sales team, or their ability to communicate value quickly. We talk about putting your prospects at ease immediately in this recent post.
Myth 5: local presence risks brand damage
If you abuse local presence, like anything else, yes, it will damage your brand.
This is why we advise that teams not use ultra-local presence, and prepare the team properly.
Survey data on this subject is misleading. Explaining this is a bit complicated, so bear with me:
When someone answers a survey question that asks if local presence area codes change their perception of a company, the question assumes they have all of that knowledge at one time.
In reality, when you answer a phone call, you try to determine if that phone call is going to be of value to you, not where the phone call is coming from. Prospects who answer a cold call do not think “is this person actually in my area code?” Surveys present information as if prospects are thinking this way, which does not reflect reality.
Myth 6: Using local presence obscures larger issues
If you use local presence and ignore the rest of your team issues, this myth is absolutely true.
Like buying nice golf clubs but never working on your skills, assuming local presence will solve all sales issues is misguided. This is no reason to not buy the tools you need, it just means you shouldn’t assume that purchase will fix everything.
That is why it is crucial to invest in a platform that jump-starts your sales coaching process, and not just buying a tool to only grant local presence capability.
Myth 7: Local presence is only about cold calling
Local presence can work wonders for national & international businesses that rely on phone communication.
Take one of our customers, KeepTruckin, for example. A missed pickup could cost the business hundreds of thousands of dollars. A key application of local presence is to ensure that the locations of deliveries pick up the phone when they call. Even though this article discusses sales in detail, local presence can have a variety of applications for businesses that are are making phone calls across state or country lines.
Local presence makes a real impact on the performance of sales teams. Despite myths that persist, the data and results show that the technology truly works. It continuously produces value for our team, our customer’s teams, and can produce value for your team if you are calling across cities, states, or even countries.