GUEST BLOG POST – “Cold Calling Is Not Dead…It Just Went Social”

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Cold Calling is not dead, but any old timers that have scoffed at Social Media need to seriously re-evaluate their thinking.  Cold Calling is still a necessary and vital part of any successful Sales organization, but with the help of social media these calls no longer need to “come in from the cold.”

LinkedIn is the most obvious example of a Social Media tool that helps you learn about your prospects.  I use LinkedIn daily and it serves me very well.  I have always leveraged 3rd parties to warm up calls, and I am still an advocate for using your personal network to obtain as much knowledge about a prospect as possible, but LinkedIn takes this to entirely different level.  Chances are good that if you have been in the business awhile you have something or someone in common with your prospect and this leverage is crucial.  This Social Proof is one of the most important pieces of the Sales puzzle.  The phenomenon that nobody wants to be the first to do anything and as soon as someone they know is using your company or talking to you it makes it easier for them to accept you and your company.  Social Media is the most successful and easiest way to develop Social Proof.  A 2012 Nielsen survey indicated that 92% of people globally trust word of mouth recommendations from friends and family.  What better way to express what you are doing and how you are already doing it than on LinkedIn.  I recently read that every second two new users join LinkedIn. That is an amazing statistic!  However, nothing happens until someone picks up the phone to engage.   Social Media, email, or any technology are just additional tools.  At the end of the day people buy from people (more importantly from people they like).

Two quick tips to improve your Cold Calling success:

  1. More appointments are scheduled with VP level executives between the hours of 8-9 am and  4-5 pm than the rest of the day.  Block out your day.  Those two hours each day should not be used to check emails or to do anything else.  Stay on the phone and use these hours wisely.
  2. When you have identified a contact and know the number is accurate Double Dial.  Call once and if they don’t answer hang up and call right back.  Studies show there is an 18% improvement in contacts with Double Dialing.  I’m sure it’s happened to you.  You ignore a call thinking it’s a telemarketer, but then the number shows up again and your curiosity is piqued so you answer.  I know it happens to me and I trust the studies

.Happy Selling!!!

Matt Lambert

All Aboard the Lead Engine!

The sun painted sparkling shadows through the clear fall air, bathing the afternoon in riotous red, yellow, and faded green.  The carpet of fallen leaves beneath my feet crackled and I climbed the old wooden platform.  A lonely whistle pierced the silence…the platform jumped, rattled, and shook as the train pulled around the bend.  The braking hiss, the smell of ashes, dancing veils of steam…the working man winked at me as he said “all aboard!”

It’s been a while since I last rode the rails, but the images linger with me.  Nothing represents power, potential, and progress like a steam train.  I know it’s 2012 and we’re firmly in the “digital age”, but trains are somehow more gritty, earthy, and real.  Real men getting their hands dirty and getting it done.  Let’s ride the rails that built a nation, it’s time to talk about lead generation.

There are many theories, practices, and processes around lead generation.  No one in any organization is exactly sure who, i.e. which department or group, actually owns this function.  Is it Marketing or Sales?  Is it more cost effective to outsource it?  In recent years I’ve watched the lead generation function become devalued to the point where many companies subscribe to the “volume” theory.  This theory holds that finding the correct or best person (title or role) to sell to in an organization is largely a numbers game.  Therefore, if you have enough people pounding the phones, sending out mass mailers, or attending tradeshows, your organization will eventually find the right people and deliver the right message.  This theory comes from a very reputable source…who also believed that the sun revolved around the earth…

I believe the first step is to make sure that everyone, and I mean everyone, in your organization has the the same definition for what is a “lead.”  You should be able to ask anyone and get the same (or a very similar) answer back.  I touched on this previously in discussing the challenge of Sales and Marketing alignment, but agreeing on the elusive lead definition should include every department / group / function in your organization.  Brian Carroll, in his B2B Lead Blog, gives an excellent outline for creating this Universal Lead Definition and getting everyone on board.   Ok!  Let’s fuel the fire!

  • Cold Calling– In many companies this is usually the responsibility of an Inside Sales team or department.  I’ve helped create and been a member of a number of these teams with varying levels of success.  The vital role of Inside Sales will be discussed at length in future blog posts, but it’s clear that Cold Calling will always be part of the Sales process.  Whoever is calling needs to have a direct, concise message (and value proposition) that they are able to articulate in a few sentences to the right person / title / role– the infamous elevator or thirty second pitch.  The caller needs to engage with the prospect, rather than reading from a prepared script, and site relevant examples of products and/or services delivered to organizations in the same vertical.  The caller should also make sure to cover the various qualifying steps and always have a specific objective in mind, e.g. close for another discussion, rather than trying to “sell” the prospect on this first encounter.  Quantity vs. quality is always a concern.  The caller should do enough research to be familiar with the prospect and their company, but not spend alot of time trying to understand the entire organizational structure initially.  It’s important to remember to actually converse and communicate with the prospect and to practice some active listening.  B2B calling is how things get done!  If the prospect doesn’t want to speak with you it’s because you are speaking to the wrong person / title / role, haven’t prepared adequately, or your messaging is unclear.  Also, always ask for a referral!
  • Tradeshows / Events / Seminars– Let’s be honest…these events are exciting, interesting, and usually alot of fun.  Who doesn’t like to be in a room (or an auditorium) full of people walking and talking about what you’ve been living and breathing on a full time basis?  There are always opportunities to engage with industry experts, checkout the competition, and pitch to some prospects.  Unfortunately, it’s easy to get alot of business cards, but very difficult to qualify the prospects with so much activity going on around you.  You probably have your big guns (your executives) at the event, but it can also be difficult to get them in front of the right people (decision makers).  I have found that in most cases- less is more.  You can be more effective by researching and creating a list of target prospects before the actual event and trying to schedule face time onsite.  This will allow you to muster all your resources and apply them in the most effective manner.  This will yield much better results than delivering the same bland pitch to people who stop by your booth hoping to win an iPad.
  • Webinars (Web Conferencing)- I like to think of webinars as distinct from other Social Media tools because they’ve been around longer and I’ve had alot of success leverging them for lead generation.  Webinars are excellent because they are convenient in terms of time and very inexpensive to prepare / execute.  I’ve generated numerous conversations just by calling prospects to invite them to attend and following up with them to ask- “How was it? Useful? Why? Why not?”  In addition, offering to share webinar slide decks with prospects is a great way to schedule conference calls or discussions.  If you’re new to an organization, ask for the lists of people who registered for a webinar in the last two years and give them a quick call.  Even if a different person answers the phone, it’s very likely that they’ll be interested as well.

    I realize that I’ve barely scratched the surface when it comes to lead generation.  El tiempo vuela however and this train’s leaving the station.  I hope you get your whole team on board, fuel the fire, turn up the boiler, sound that whistle, and head out towards the horizon.  We’re almost halfway through Q1 of 2012!  Time to ride the rails!

Happy hunting and buen viaje,

Paul Williams

COO

Across the Great Divide – Bridging the Gap Between Sales and Marketing

In many organizations there’s confusion around the Marketing Department’s actual role.  “I see alot of activity, but I don’t see them producing any results…” lamented one C-Level Executive to me recently.  “They host great events which our clients really enjoy attending, but I can’t grasp how they deliver real, concrete value to the bottom line…” he concluded.

This is unfortunately a commonly held opinion in many medium to large organizations and it’s especially troubling when the large annual Marketing budgets are taken into account.  “We need them to generate leads which result in new business!” exclaimed a Senior Sales Director at a recent networking event.  “Sales can make sure the clients are happy!”

Things are even more confusing in smaller organizations in which everyone “wears multiple hats” or is expected to make contributions in many different areas of the company and budget numbers are tight by necessity.  “Do we even need to allocate a significant amount to Marketing?  Shouldn’t Sales handle this as a routine part of doing business?” said one CEO / Founder.

Across the Great Divide the tone is similar, but the perspective completely different.  I have spoken with many savvy Marketing Professionals who are completely perplexed.  A colleague confided to me that Marketing “runs multiple lead generation campaigns which produce measurable results.  Yet when we pass the fruits of our labors on to Sales…well nothing happens.  The Sales people complain that the leads aren’t good and I don’t believe they make a real, consistent effort to follow up on them!”

Ah! Yes!  So it goes…The results are countless meetings, “new and improved” Marketing plans, a lot of time and money wasted, and continuous rounds of “office politics”.  Everyone likes to make a great show of group solidarity at the quarterly / annual meetings, but anyone with any level of professional experience knows that’s just not the case.  Inevitable?  Unavoidable? “Us vs. Them?”  Let’s break it down as my daddy used to say:

Communication Rocks the Nation! (or at least can shake-up your organization in positive ways)

Sales and Marketing are supposed to work closely together. Yet often they are as far apart as possible, both physically and culturally, in a company.  “The Sales people are disruptive, always on the phone, and joking around.  I can’t get anything done when they’re around” says Marketing.  “Why are the Marketing people in meetings all the time?  They spend all their time creating charts and graphs?  What do they do?” says Sales.

I believe that this Great Divide must be bridged and therefore Sales and Marketing should be working closely together…in every sense of the word.  Marketing should be able to listen to Sale’s calls and recognize directly which messaging actually works.  There should also be an informal atmosphere of collaboration.  I know you’re tired of hearing this word, but it works.  In addition Sales must also commit to a greater level  of accountability in which they will not only make every effort to use what Marketing produces, but also give honest visibility into their pipelines.

At the end of the day everyone suffers if the Great Divide isn’t bridged successfully.  I think that people can get lost in the idea of “playing the hero” and trying to make themselves and their department look good.  In the end…everyone loses.  So climb out of those trenches and take a walk down the hall.  Ask your colleagues what they’re working on and share your work with them as well.  Here it is again:

  1. Communication
  2. Collaboration
  3. Accountability

Get it together…get together people!  Happy hunting and Happy Halloween!

Paul Williams

COO

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What is all that worth? What am I doing right and where am I failing and how can I change that? These are questions, we are hearing over and over again. Thanks to our broad experience and an amazing team we can answer most of the above.

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