Cold calling is dead… So what now for lead generation?
I wanted to start this post by comparing the art of cold calling to Frankenstein’s monster. You know, the bit where the lever is theatrically pulled, the room crackles with electricity, and the body on the bed slowly rises to a cry of “it’s alive!”
The trouble is the analogy doesn’t work because it’s suggestive of something new being brought to life. Whereas the reality of cold calling is that it’s not new. Rather it’s been around since biblical times.
So maybe the raising of Lazarus is the better comparison. Let’s give it a go.
Seeking a pulse
First of all however we need to determine if cold calling is indeed dead before trying a miraculous revival. A quick review of the statistics suggest at best a faint pulse, and more likely a decaying corpse:
Cold calling is ineffective 90.9% of the time
Less than 2% of cold calls actually result in a meeting
In 2007 it took an average of 3.68 cold call attempts to reach a prospect. Today it takes 8 attempts
But here an important distinction should be made. What these stats refer to is the ‘old school’ approach to cold calling that existed when the world was black and white (pre-digital). When a sales person picked up the phone not knowing:
Whether their target would be receptive
If they had any idea of the company he or she was calling from
What stage of the buyer journey had been reached
Whether the target was prepared for the call
In other words the coldest of cold calls, which led to an unproductive basis for starting a conversation: hence the low rates of success. Not that it got any easier as cold calling stumbled gasping into the digital era. Now it was forced to exist alongside tools such as marketing automation, big data, social media, and other clever ways for inspiring ‘first contact’.
No wonder then that reports on its death have been on the increase. But have they been greatly exaggerated?
The application of heat
The answer is no they haven’t. Cold calling is dead. There, I said it. But what’s replacing it at dinner parties these days – or at least what’s taken its place in the arsenal of B2B demand generation firms?
The answer to that is simple: warm calling.
But what pray tell is warm calling? Well, as the title suggests, it’s about warmth. It’s about heating up a prospect before any contact by understanding what they’re interested in and focused on; it’s about being a source of relevant information and answers as they progress through the research section of their buyer journey; and it’s about putting technology to work in making this happen:
Where new CRM and marketing automation tools help gather ever more expansive insights into customer requirements and expectations
Where greater insights into a prospect’s rate of progress and intent are available at the touch of a button
Where social media is also added into the mix to provide ever more detailed information on buyer behaviour, preferences, and ‘next best action’
It helps of course that sales teams now have access to a level of actionable intelligence few would have dreamed of even 15 years ago. Data that helps map the customer journey, from initial interest, through opening engagement, to final purchase and beyond. Data that also helps uncover intent, and (therefore) further opportunities to energise the lead generation process.
Data that if used correctly helps bring warmth to the coldest of opening exchanges…
Reinvigorating your demand generation
So how are these digital technologies being used to enhance the human element in any sales engagement? Well to answer that is to first note that many of the techniques brought to life by technology also apply to the act of calling audiences direct:
Understanding the specific challenges a customer is trying to overcome
Tailoring your solution to meet their needs
Having the answers/evidence on hand to overcome any objection
The more relevant question therefore is how to integrate the power of effective demand generation and social media into your warm calling strategy?
Here are 5 top tips to get you started:
Tip #1: Focus on marketing and sales cooperation: with the information provided by an integrated CRM system, marketing teams have a better handle on identifying the right time to pass a lead onto sales (versus nurturing them) – meaning salespeople can devote more time to prospects with a higher chance of success.
Tip #2: Keep a close eye on web traffic: with marketing automation software on hand, you get to know who is visiting your site, when they do so, and what they’re interested in. Tailor your response in line with their behaviour and you have a far better chance of that they’ll be receptive to a call.
Tip #3: Engage on social media with prospects who fit your buyer profile: this could be for example through thought leadership articles, comments on social platforms (with a focus on how your expertise translates into effective solutions), or answering questions in LinkedIn groups.
Tip #4: Create a joint database and reporting dashboard: do that and you’re well on your way to developing a systematic approach with predictable results. The consistent following of process will also help with the integration of new sales reps, thereby supporting a more unified approach to customer interactions.
Tip #5: Measure what matters and what’s relevant: tools for tracking success metrics are invaluable for proving the validity of different approaches – but only if they relate to the realities of your business environment. Consider, for example, tracking qualified calls per week or month rather than per day, since this is likely to be better for morale.
Summing it all up…
While there’s little doubt that cold calling is dead, marketing tech has been transformative in terms of introducing the idea of warm calling to B2B audiences. Social selling, intent data, ABM, etc. – all allow for more tailored phone conversations based on a prospect’s exact interests and information requirements.
That said, nothing replaces the art of human interaction in a sales process, and the task for companies today is to integrate it with the best technologies available to boost end results.
So not Frankenstein. Not Lazarus. More Terminator.
Lead Generation: No lead left behind
A qualified ‘sales-ready’ lead is a wonderful thing to behold. A testament to all of marketing’s hard work, a justification for budget spent. Better still, once it’s passed on to sales, you can sit back and relax, confident the opportunity will soon be impacting on those all-important ROI figures…
But then nothing happens. The pipeline barely increases, and upon closer inspection, you find a significant proportion of the leads have gone nowhere – or worse, they’re now dead.
What does that now say about all the effort and budget you’ve now just ‘wasted’? Download now