The Center for Sales Strategy turns 30 years old later this week , and for about 29 of those 30 years we’ve been proselytizing against cold calls. So it should be no surprise that I read with delight author Jeffrey Gitomer’s recent rant about cold calls. (Oh, and maybe Gitomer’s enthusiastic endorsement of my book Close Like the Pros gives me another reason to appreciate his good judgment!)
For decades, we’ve been entreating and exhorting sellers to stop canvassing broadly for the rare soul who might be ready to buy (that’s what cold calling is, right?)… and instead to select the best prospects and take measures to ensure that first call would be warm and welcome. Back in the day, canvassing broadly meant knocking on doors or dialing-for-dollars with a well-rehearsed pitch of some sort; today it also includes spamming them with email (how far we’ve come!). Cold calling is less fruitful and more scorned with each passing year—and it’s a close contest as to who scorns it more, the salespeople required to do it or the hapless suspects asked to endure it.
Gitomer nails it when he says, “I am sick of the argument that cold calling still has a valuable place in selling.” He goes on to cite the fanciful statistics that sales trainers love to use (you know, rounded off and rounded up, but fundamentally correct) to make his case. Then he dropped one “stat” that stopped me in my tracks… because I knew it was right, but had never heard it stated so starkly: “Ask any salesperson if they’d rather have 100 cold calls or ONE referral.” The answer will be the same regardless of who you ask.
It’s not that salespeople are lazy. It’s that they know there’s more revenue potential in one good referral than in 100 random cold calls. And they know their talents are better spent talking to one interested prospect than stalking 100 suspects. If you’re a manager who’s still hounding your people to get out and make cold calls, I humbly suggest you get with the program.
But the program has changed. Referrals are now as likely to happen via LinkedIn as they are through a friend or client. Warm calls happen not only when the salesperson takes the trouble to cultivate an ideal prospect before calling, but also when the prospect has found the company or the seller in a Google search. Prospects are still being qualified by smart salespeople, but more and more, sales organizations are making it easier for prospects to qualify themselves and raise their hand when they’re ready.
Having prospects qualify themselves and raise their hand is no pipe dream. It’s a strategic process known as Inbound Marketing. In nearly every B2B category, and a substantial number of B2C sectors as well, the best prospects will go looking for you when they need what you offer. Well, they probably won’t go looking for you by name, but they’ll be searching online for what’s out there and who’s best to buy it from. Who is most likely to get a call (or an online inquiry) from that prospect?
1. A company that ranks highly in organic search results (first page, maybe two pages).
2. Of those who popped up in the search, the company that seems like the best people to deal with.
And how do prospects determine who is probably the best to deal with? By spending time poking around that website (or, increasingly, that blog site)… reading what that company has to say about the product or service or professional expertise or manner of helping that the prospect is seeking. When a company is seen as knowing what it’s talking about, that’s called thought leadership.
Thought leadership is a mantle prospects place on you—that is, it’s something you earn, not something you claim. (In fact, every time you claim it, you make it a little tougher to earn it!) You earn it by publishing content of interest to that target prospect. And when you publish regularly, two perfect things happen:
1. You rank highly in organic search.
2. You load your site with the kind of content that makes you look like mighty fine people to deal with.
Please note how these two results are perfectly aligned with the two points I used earlier to describe which vendor the prospect is likely to call first. That’s the magic of inbound marketing.
The rest is science. Science enabled by software and reliant on proven practices.
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