In today's digital world, the roles that the human voice and the phone call play in marketing and sales success have never been bigger. Calls have re-emerged as the most effective channel for generating high-quality leads and closing business.

Some 30 billion inbound sales calls were made to businesses in the US alone last year, and that number is expected to reach 70 billion by 2016, according to BIA/Kelsey. The surge in mobile device adoption and the continued growth in mobile advertising are partly responsible, driving an influx of sales calls into businesses. A 2013 study by Google found that 70% of mobile searchers call a business directly from search results. It makes sense: Tapping a click-to-call link on your smartphone is much easier and more natural than trying to fill out a Web form on your device's tiny screen.

That same Google study also found that 61% say it's important that businesses give them a phone number to call, and 33% would be less likely to use and refer brands that don't. Consumers see phone numbers as a sign that a business is trustworthy.

The data continues to mount. According BIA/Kelsey, 61% of businesses consider inbound phone calls to be excellent leads, more than any other type. It's why marketers are spending $68 billion annually on ads to generate those sought-after inbound sales calls: Phone calls mean revenue.

A Two-Fold Problem

The re-emergence of voice is forcing marketing and sales teams to acknowledge that they have a critical blind spot that is costing them business.

The problem is two-fold.

First, CMOs don't know what marketing programs are making their phones ring, and they can't attribute sales opportunities and revenue from those calls to the right sources. Without that data, marketing teams struggle to optimize campaigns, content, and marketing ROI to generate more of the phone leads that sales managers value most.

Second, marketing and sales teams can't control how inbound calls are routed and managed. They spend resources and budget trying to generate high-value calls, but then they are forced to cross their fingers and hope that calls get routed to the right person right away and that they are handled correctly.

That is why voice has reached a tipping point for today's businesses. Calls are undoubtedly critical to marketing and sales success, but neither Marketing nor Sales has the right tools to measure, optimize, and control them.

Control of Voice Belongs in the Hands of Marketing and Sales

Here's where voice-based marketing automation comes in. Salesforce changed CRM forever by giving sales managers control over their own data. Then companies like Marketo and Eloqua gave marketers control over email and online campaigns through marketing automation. Today, marketing and sales teams are gaining the same direct control over voice conversations and the data associated with them through the use of voice-based marketing automation tools.  

Voice-based marketing automation enables you to measure marketing effectiveness and optimize ROI by not only tracking inbound calls (and the revenue they generate) back to the specific online, mobile, or offline source that originated them, but also by routing calls automatically based on customizable criteria to the right sales agent, no matter where they are or what phone device they use. Sales managers can then use voice-based marketing automation to monitor and manage their agents’ activity from anywhere, much like a virtual call center, even if agents are on the road or working from home.

Voice-based marketing automation is not your parents' voice. It is not led by telcos. It is not a hosted PBX. It is delivered via the cloud and works with all the devices and business applications you already have. And combining voice-based marketing automation with CRM and marketing automation solutions enables you to directly measure and optimize every type of lead through the entire sales cycle.

* * *

As mobile adoption continues to surge and the importance of voice and customer conversations continue to grow, controlling voice will become a no-brainer for marketing and sales teams. The tools already exist to help. I see 2014 as being the year of voice in business, and what an exciting thing that will be for marketing and sales teams.

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The Human Voice Is Sales' and Marketing's Biggest Blind Spot

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image of Irv Shapiro

Irv Shapiro is CEO and CTO at DialogTech, a voice-based marketing automation company. He is responsible for overall business strategy and corporate leadership.