Cold calling used to be one of the best — and only — prospecting strategies salespeople could use.
But in the past 40 years, a variety of more effective alternatives have emerged.
A good prospecting strategy is:
Why doesn’t cold calling fit this criteria?
With over 200 million people on the global Do Not Call list, T-Mobile releasing data-only mobile packages, and corporations not taking calls unless you have a named contact, it’s clear that our desire to speak with people on the phone is dwindling — especially if those calls are unsolicited.
On top of that, prospects can now research company information, reviews, feedback, and all manner of information online. Cold calling is becoming an unnecessary nuisance — prospects no longer need salespeople.
In fact, it’s fair to say that anyone interrupting your day with an uninvited three-minute script is going to have to do some seriously fast and impressive talking to keep you on the line. Let’s face it; the odds aren’t on the salesperson’s side: Chances are the caller has already had to get creative about how they got through to your desk phone in the first place, and the call itself has probably begun with you being mildly irritated at best.
So while prospects are annoyed that their days are still being interrupted by cold calls, sellers aren’t having a good time either. They most likely have managers who demand more than 20-30 calls a day and expect just as many meetings booked per week.
But expectations and reality could not be farther apart. In sales organizations that rely on cold calling, lead flow is slowing down, the sales team is getting frustrated, and managers are getting increasingly angry.
The Harvard Business Review reported cold calling is ineffective 90% of the time, and more recent research shows that less than 2% of cold calls actually result in a meeting. Assuming a 0.3% appointment-booking rate and a 20% win rate, it would take 6,264 cold calls to make just four sales.
What can the modern business do to protect its future and get new leads without cold calling? The good news is that it doesn’t involve a circus act or shameless begging of any sort. The bad news is that it requires a completely different way of thinking and some serious energy and hard work. Here are 15 alternatives to cold calling salespeople can use to generate leads.
Once you start turning your new social and website visitors who are in active research phase into contacts, and prospect using social media, blogs, and your own email campaigns, your prospects will be be more receptive and ready to talk — unlike when they’ve been unexpectedly interrupted by an unwelcome phone call before their next meeting!
By looking at your website and social pages as powerful lead generation tools, you can get your sales team fully connected with your marketing team. The result? A powerful new approach that will help you nurture your leads and close deals.
Are you interested in generating more new leads from your B2B social media? Download our free beginner’s guide here.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in December 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness and freshness.
“Be useful. Be different. Be consistent.”
These are the markers DigitasLBi Chief Strategy Officer, Fern Miller, puts down as her starting points for differentiating her agency brand. And this advice comes following her first-hand experience of being the client on her own agency’s brand.
In a talk for The Art of New Business on the topic of differentiating your agency through a planning approach, here were some of her other key takeout’s:
It’s Terrifyingly Rewarding to Take Care of Your own Brand
But it is worth it.
Your own brands’ behaviour is important, and not simply because competition for agency services is higher than ever, but because the relationship between building your agency brand and the growth of your agency is more than a casual one.
Clients are looking for people to build their brands with them. And the first place they rightly look is the brands of those they are willing to entrust with theirs.
Start With Culture
This is an industry with a high churn rate. And that churn is expensive. But culture is the biggest defence against it.
Culture is a powerful thing, particularly when you don’t have a physical product to sell, and what you are selling is your people. Culture grows. Culture can’t be defeated. And it can be a driver of new business success – because not only is it a unifier for the agency, but clients feel an attachment to it as their agency brand too.
Develop Your Positioning
All great brands have great strategy at their heart, and tell great stories around that strategy. Why would your own agency brand be any different?
Fern advocated for the need to always agitate around your core proposition to ensure it is right, working and competitive, and an anecdote she shared from being the marketeer of the DigitasLBi brand showed just that:
The merger of two separate agencies, LBi and Digitas, required a new logo for the newly created DigitasLBi entity – that was a unicorn, as a confident symbol to represent ‘a quest for digital mastery’. But over time it became unidentifiable at a global level and they needed to unify what it meant to people at a local level.
The outcome was each office getting its own custom unicorn. From the expected (a unicorn on a bike for Amsterdam) to the unexpected (a Robocop unicorn for Detroit), they added meaning to a positioning. This wasn’t just a redesign; this was a global story merging with local, cultural relevance to give the DigitasLBi network something to stand for and rally round.
It is powerful narratives like these that separate great from good brands, and in this case, agencies.
Make Your own Content
DigitasLBi embarked on a host of no-ordinary ways to show what they were about through their content.
A massive agency rave with hundreds of people pledging devotion to creativity and tech. They had Buzzfeed, Guardian Labs, Facebook Atlas, Mondeo Bank, Gay Star News, Mashable, Unilad and Contagious speak at an event program held in their basement. They were the first agency to sponsor the first Digital Pride. And they showed they were thinking about what their clients wanted with a change to the client-agency dinner party model by inviting the families of their clients to a family-day showing them all sorts of tech, and how to make stuff.
In terms of how this approach rewarded them, they won 2 Lions, a Grand Prix at the BIMAS, Digiday’s European agency of the year, Campaign APAC’s digital network of the year and shortlisted for Campaign’s UK Digital Innovation agency of the year.
No Time Like the Present
While we feel a lot of love for your own brand, doing work on it can be terrifying, and it is easy to get lost in dependent behaviour of being distracted elsewhere.
But none of these are good habits. And all impede new business. Planning on your own brand for it to be differentiated is a modern tool to grow your agency.
”Be useful. Be different. Be consistent.”
The Art of New Business breakfast talk series exploring modern ways to grow an agency are running throughout 2017. So if winning new business and the growth is even a blip on your agency radar then secure yourself a ticket to the next event and discover some of these fascinating insights for yourself.
Dan Cunningham is an Account Director at sports marketing agency, Dark Horses. In a set-up unique from the rest of the sport marketing world, Dark Horses is co-owned by the advertising agency, Lucky Generals, and is a new breed of sports marketing agency that believes the moment you see yourself as the favourite, you’ve lost the race.
Have you ever walked out of a sales meeting wishing it were always that easy? I’m talking about the kind of call where you’re high-fiving after. The client hung on every word, finished your sentences, and didn’t flinch at the price.
When I end these types of meetings, I’m typically already thinking about how I’ll spend the commission check. But fast-forward three months, and often the same prospects are ignoring my calls and letting my emails go answered.
Sound familiar? Unfortunately, I’m now stuck in the follow-up game. Because I left that great call without scheduling our next conversation, I have to struggle to re-engage a prospect who’s gone quiet.
The biggest mistake when writing follow up emails is the fact that we have to write them.
When concluding a sales call, we should use the last five to 10 minutes to book our next call. In doing so, we eliminate the need to follow up post-meeting or post-demo. So when I’m on a call, I now always try to establish:
Depending on where you are in the sales process, you should use different “incremental” closes to determine how interested the buyer is. For example, on the connect call you might ask, “Can I have your cell number so we can get in touch more easily?”
On a discovery call, try, “What’s your desire to make a change?” or “Are you collaborating with anyone on this project? Should we loop them in?”
There are several ways to figure out how much power your prospect has without using the potentially offensive question, “Are you the decision maker?”
Money is a tricky topic as well. To learn whether the buyer can afford your solution, use questions such as, “Has [company] bought [this exact product, a similar product] before? How was it funded? What was the approximate price?” and “Our solution typically falls between [X and Y range]. If you believe [product] can help you [achieve A results, solve B problem, meet your objective by C time], would that be feasible?”
Once you’ve identified your prospect is a good fit, work with them to create a sales plan. This strategy will guide the two of you to the finish line. Map out the key stakeholders, the potential obtacles (and how you’ll avoid or mitigate them), and the actions that need to take place at every stage.
That will also help you define the next step. Let’s say you’ve agreed it will be crucial to get support from your contact’s team member. You might end the call by asking, “Should we schedule a meeting between you, me, and Noelle to discuss [product’s] potential to [solve X pain point]?”
But how do we recover when we’ve already failed to ask these questions and get our prospect’s commitment?
If we’re already in the follow-up game, we need a new strategy to recover and revive the conversation. In a situation like this, I try sending this “confused” email.
Sometimes, a more intense approach is necessary. In these scenarios, I’ll try to play upon my prospect’s desire to help.
From what I’ve found, people are more likely to respond if I’m asking on behalf of another person, versus asking for myself.
I’ve written more than 5,000 follow up emails, and the two above have continuously worked for me. If they piqued your interest, check out this webinar to learn more about my overall follow up sales strategy.
I’ve always been obsessed with content – how its message has the ability to inspire,
educate, motivate, and drive people to take action, whatever that action may be. Early on in my career – dating back to 2010 when Google Analytics still let you view keywords that led to organic website visits – I sold enterprise-level search engine marketing services for a small startup in my hometown of Charlottesville, VA. I loved it. Not only did I learn the ins and outs of how search engines operate, but most importantly, I noticed a trend that seemed to plague the majority of folks I talked to: people had issues creating valuable content on a consistent basis. This poses an obvious issue to those who aspire to be found online through non-paid search, as you need content to be successful.
Once I learned this, I was hooked. It became my life’s mission to help people effectively tell their brand’s story in a way that attracted and engaged their ideal audience. This led to me managing content strategy for a range of companies over the course of five years, from small businesses to Fortune 100 companies. I had failures, I had successes, but most importantly, I learned a lot and developed an understanding of how to start and grow an efficient and effective content process.
To keep it short: tactics come and go, but having a foundation is what will get you through the ups and downs of being a successful content marketer.
Currently, I’m the Content Professor for the HubSpot Academy. This is a perfect position for me as I’m able to spend the majority of my time digging deeper into research and performing tests to solve this fundamental issue that plagues many business – creating valuable content on a consistent basis. It should go without saying that I’m very passionate about what I do.
And while there’s a lot that still needs to be done on this front, I’ve reached a milestone in this journey and one that is a significant step in the right direction.
I’ve identified a content creation process that helps small to large businesses across many different industries make sense of short-term content tasks (i.e. blogging, videos, etc.) that have the ability to grow into long-term content goals (i.e. business-aligned content that completes a successful buyer’s journey experience for your buyer persona(s)).
How do I know this? Well, I’ve been working with businesses that span many different industries – I even put my lifestyle brand, Wild We Wander, through the process. If you produce or manage content, then this process can bring value to your business.
In an effort to educate and inspire the world to create more effective content, I’m heading out on the road with my wife, Ariele, in our Airstream and DIY truck camper to travel 7,000+ miles over the next 100 days to perform a series of transformation workshops at various HubSpot User Groups across America. I’ll also be meeting up with content marketers along the travel path to continue developing a solution for creating an effective content strategy (#neversettle #alwaysbelearning), which is the subject of my INBOUND Training Day on September 25, 2017.
If you’re curious and want a tour of our full-time adventure fleet, then check out the video below.
I’ll be documenting the journey on twitter using #unboundinbounder. Why this hashtag? Content and I share the same passion – being unbound and without limit. If you have any content advice, questions, inspiration, etc., then please join the conversation using the hashtag – we’re all in this together.