Anyone who’s been on the receiving end of a sales cold call, which is virtually everyone with a phone number, can attest to how annoying these unsolicited sales attempts often are. Even if you stay on the line long enough to hear what the caller is selling, your first question probably isn’t, “Can you please tell me more?”
It’s more like, “How did you get my number?” Or maybe, “Can you please remove me from your calling list?”
Yet cold calling has been a widely used sales tactic for decades, and is often considered a rite of passage for veteran salespeople. But it’s high time for that to change. There are simply more efficient and effective ways to sell products in the digital age.
Time not well spent.
Cold calls generate follow-up conversations only 10 percent of the time, according to a Harvard Business Review study. The other 90 percent of the time, they’re most likely alienating potential leads, even the ones who may actually benefit from the product or service being sold.
Moreover, not even 2 percent of sales calls lead to an in-person meeting, according to HubSpot research. That means you have to spend a lot of time on the phone before you get the chance to make an in-person pitch.
All of that time spent researching prospects, refining sales scripts and training your sales team to pitch your product on the phone, drives up your cost of customer acquisition immensely. Not surprisingly, HubSpot also reports that cold calls cost roughly 60 percent more per lead than acquisition methods like email marketing and social selling.
Cold calling is an aggressive approach, and today’s consumers don’t want to be pressured into making a purchase, they want to buy into your product and your company on their own terms. The internet has changed how consumers make buying decisions, and buyers now want to be in charge of the purchasing process.
Instead of interrupting customers with annoying sales calls, rely on the following three guidelines to build a better sales strategy:
1. Start With Inbound Marketing.
The guiding principle behind any successful inbound marketing program is to provide value first and sell second. If customers understand the value that your company is offering, they’ll be far more likely to do business with you.
HubSpot helped pioneer this approach, and now companies like Sapper Consulting are taking it to the next level where they combine precise targeting and unique, creative email content with the insights—generated by big data to help companies get B2B leads and secure high-quality meetings with decision makers.
A successful inbound marketing campaign is based on a specifically defined audience or a set of customer personas. Companies like HubSpot and Sapper help people target content directly to your personas and establish a voice that resonates with them. According to a study by marketing company Captora, 61 percent of consumers are more likely to make a purchase from companies that use custom content to reach them. Clearly, knowing your audience is key.
2. Don’t be afraid of public speaking.
The popularity of TED Talks and similar forums is evidence of the fact that people want to hear what experts have to say, either in person or over video. But even if you don’t consider yourself an expert yet, public speaking can help you achieve that status.
By speaking at industry-relevant meetings and events, you can start developing brand recognition and a unique perspective on topics related to your business. Plus, you can repurpose speeches as content to use in your future inbound marketing efforts.
A well-delivered speech can be one of the most effective ways to generate sales because you’ll often have prospects in the room when you’re speaking. Grab their attention during your speech, and you’ll likely be handing out business cards afterward.
3. Keep an eye on ROI.
Content marketing is only effective if you actually use your content. In 2013, SiriusDecisions reported that somewhere between 60 and 70 percent of B2B content goes completely unused. That’s a problem. It shows that many companies are essentially throwing away time and money and calling it content marketing.
Instead of wasting precious resources on your content marketing efforts, clearly define the business objective you hope to achieve with each piece of content you create—beyond page views and click-through rates.
Work to understand the ROI you’re getting out of each piece of content. Quantify your customers’ pain points and create a sales strategy around the solution to those pain points.
Thought leadership and content campaigns will also help you engage with consumers and get a better sense of how your content is contributing to sales. Then, repurpose high-performing content and update content that becomes dated to continue attracting new leads.
Likewise, you should keep content that demonstrates your company’s capabilities and other valuable knowledge gated so that you’re not giving away intellectual property—such as industry analysis, buying guides and RFP templates—for free.
Cold calling is a time-honored practice, and it’s likely not going away anytime soon.
But with these tactics, you’ll have much more success acquiring new customers and gain a big advantage over competitors still glued to their phones.