The old and new way of selling: From cold calls to inbound leads

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Inbound or outbound -- and lead quality -- are often determined by decisions and activities long before you see your first inquiry or make your initial sales call.
do not call stuff
The days of outbound cold calls for business-to-business marketing, thankfully, are mostly done for good.

One of the Internet’s most spectacular changes in business-to-business marketing has been the redefinition of traditional sales roles and responsibilities. These observations, which I’ve noticed from personal experience and research (in a soon-to-be published SMPS Marketer article), relate to the virtual death of outbound or push-call sales marketing.

Jim Lamelza, DataBid.com‘s founder and CEO, confirmed his own experiences in a recent conversation. Previously, he would build market interest with a squad of perhaps four telephone sales representatives, working cold leads. His lead service business operates in several markets including Ontario (Canada), Chicago, and the most recent expansion, Indiana.

However these outbound calling strategies don’t work any more. There often are no receptionists or human gatekeepers for a skilled sales representative to work past — now you will almost always encounter a voice mail tree, and have the opportunity to leave a message. And if you get through, you will quite often indeed get through directly to the decision-maker, who will almost inevitably be as cold-as-ice to your inquiry.

Jim and I agreed that virtually every unexpected inbound call we receive from someone we don’t know is someone trying to sell something. And so there is a natural “no” reaction when you pick up the phone, like, “Oh no, not some scammy telemarketing thing.”

How do we work around the problem? Inbound leads, often generated through the Internet, provide the answer. Lamelza¬†says instead of four sales representatives per market, he can manage quite well with four representatives for the entire organization, handling and converting the inbound leads into solid orders. There’s still selling skill involved, but the hunting and gathering days of cold calling have gone, probably for good.

The question, then, is how do you attract high-quality inbound leads? Ideas include:

Speeches and presentations: These can be really effective, because you can make in-person connections and demonstrate your expertise.

Content marketing: Websites, white papers, blogging, and other initiatives: It takes effort to consistently produce great content, but if you do, you’ll rank higher on the search engines (thus reaching individuals seeking information on your topic area) and enhance credibility.

Email marketing:¬†Perhaps the one place where some old-style broadcasting (even spamming) may be somewhat effective — at least if you are serving the U.S. market. Much of the world is moving in the direction of Canada, where email commercial communications are highly constrained. If you have a qualified Canadian list for email communication, you have a golden list of people truly wanting your emails and looking forward to hearing from you.

Keyword and social media advertising: In cash cost, perhaps the most expensive option, but one where you can control the budget and lead flow. Also, with multivariate testing you can develop effective strategies directing to appropriate landing pages and with measurable conversion rates, allowing for higher-level profitability.

Strategic/association alliances: Credibility and connections and even endorsements from relevant business joint venture partners and client-focused associations can generate solid leads and inquiries.

Media/marketing/communications packages: These are the sorts of services we offer; combining website content, eletters, print (yes it still is effective as part of the bigger picture), publicity and consulting.

What works for you? If you have questions or would like more information, you can reach Mark Buckshon at buckshon@constructionmarketingideas.com.

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