According to the first definition that appears on Google when you enter "cold calling" as a search term, cold calling is "a technique whereby a salesperson contacts individuals who have not previously expressed an interest in the products or services that are being offered, as opposed to warm calling. Cold calling typically refers to phone calls but can also entail drop-in visits, such as with door-to-door salespeople."
For anyone that has done any cold calling, reading this definition probably makes you cringe. I have yet to meet someone that enjoys making a blind call to someone that has not previously expressed interest in his/her products or services.
It gets even worse when moving down the page to the next definition from wikipedia, "Cold calling is used to attempt to convince potential customers to purchase either the salesperson's product or service." So now, in addition to calling someone that has expressed no interest in your products and services, the salesperson must also convince them to buy those products and services.
No wonder only 1-3% of cold calls result in an appointment! You simply can't leave it up to chance that a blind cold call from the sales team will find the right potential buyer at precisely the right time. It's like finding a needle in a haystack.
Today's Buyer Operates Under a New Set of Rules
The old seller-centric tactics, such as cold calling, need to be replaced with a more strategic approach that is focused on being helpful, relevant, and timely. Here are five ways to be more productive with your cold calling time:
1. Use Inbound Marketing to Attract Leads
Today, 70% of the B2B buyer's journey is completed before a lead ever makes contact with a salesperson. Yes, that's the majority of the sales process! With access to so many answers and ideas online, your potential buyers and leads are flying solo, spending this portion of the sales process finding all the information they need, whenever they need it, and with any device of their choosing.
Lead generation strategy starts with the moment your potential buyers start searching for answers online. Therefore, the best way to generate leads is to be found when they are looking. When cold calling is replaced with a strategy to attract leads to your website, qualified leads start coming to you instead of vice versa.
A solid inbound marketing plan attracts the right leads when they are ready and on their own terms. No more needle in a haystack!
2. Collaborate With Marketing
Some of the best content to attract potential buyers to your site comes from your sales team. As the company's front line to customers and potential buyers, the sales team hears questions, problems, suggestions and other valuable input right from the source of your best customers and prospects.
Instead of sales blocking off time for cold calls, block off time to transfer that knowledge to marketing. Then produce highly relevant content that you can be confident your best potential customers are searching for and convert them to leads. These resources can be yet another tool in your sales arsenal to share with potential customers to demonstrate your knowledge of their business, their pain points and how to overcome them.
3. Share Helpful Information With Potential Buyers
In addition to sharing information with marketing, sales should extend the "helpful" inbound spirit with potential buyers as well.
When you are looking to buy something from a supplier to improve your manufacturing capabilities, let's say it's a new welding machine, do you expect your salesman to keep information like suggested pricing, which metals it's capable of welding, which industrial applications it's most appropriate for or other important specs close to his vest? Or do you expect full disclosure and transparency from that salesperson? Full disclosure. Absolutely.
You wouldn't expect anything less because you can find all that information that used to be "secret" on your own online — anytime you want it. If your salesman won't share that information with you, you'd probably be offended and think he's rude or sneaky. You'd quickly seek out a different supplier because there's no way you'd ever trust that salesperson and you certainly wouldn't buy anything from him.
Transparency rules in today's sales world. Share helpful content and become the go-to resource your potential buyers and customers learn to rely on.
4. Be a Social Seller
In the Demand Gen 2018 B2B Buyer Survey Report, industry analyst Rebecca Lieb shared, "Any salesperson worth their salt will be proactive: answering questions on social media, sharing thought leadership, and just generally being a helpful, sympathetic and proactive listener and sharer. This creates a channel of communication as well as accessibility. These skills aren't nice to have, they're must-haves.”
Social media platforms are becoming more influential in the B2B buyer journey, not only through sharing of content, but as customer service tools through messaging, targeted ad campaigns, and as a way to better understand the voice of the customer. To learn how to connect and engage with more potential buyers on social media, check out HubSpot's guide to social selling.
5. Do Your Research
Lastly, drop the static pitch. Today the buyer may have more control than ever with access to information, but today's seller also has more information than ever before. With inbound marketing, for example, a prepared salesperson can leverage contextual information such as what content leads have engaged with, what website pages have been visited, their roles, and which buyer journey stage each lead is in before ever picking up the phone or sending an email to engage in a conversation.
With the right research, the "pitch" now becomes a relevant, tailored, contextual message specific to the buyer's unique situation and engagement history. And that's a win-win situation.
Making the Switch from Seller-Centric to Buyer-Centric
A hot lead is definitely better than a cold call. Making the switch is all about changing your mindset from seller-centric to buyer-centric. A disciplined approach with tactics like the ones above can make for a happier buyer and seller in today's sales world, not to mention a much better return than 1-3%!
There are plenty more tips for connecting with prospects on a whole new level, and we share them in our Ultimate Guide to Inbound Sales. This exhaustive resource can help you take the next steps to improve sales results and delight customers. Just click the link below to get your copy today.
As Weidert Group's lead salesperson and business development strategist, Nicole heads up the agency's new business strategy and provides sales consulting services to clients. Prior to her role at the agency, Nicole was an advertising manager at Gannett, one of the nation's largest media companies. With 10+ years of experience in advertising sales, she understands the complex relationship between marketing and sales within organizations.