Online lead generation means never having to cold call again.
Hands up who loves cold calling? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Sigh. While it's meant to be a great means of lead generation, quite frankly being on the receiving end of a cold call is just dreadful and uncomfortable and unwelcome and like most people, my aim is to slip past it as fast as I possibly can.
I perfected this move when I worked in the centre of London and had to battle Carnaby Street daily. I dodged the cobblestones and the numerous bored touts thrusting flyers at me, like a Jimmy Choo-wearing soccer player, earphones buried deep, eyes on the ground.
Now, I apply this approach virtually, treating every unknown phone number that appears on my iPhone with deep suspicion and a ready excuse at hand.
I’m hardly any better when I’m the one having to make the call. To quote Eminem:
Palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There's vomit on his sweater already, mom's spaghetti
He's nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready
To drop bombs, but he keeps on forgettin'
What he wrote down, the whole crowd goes so loud
He opens his mouth, but the words won't come out
He's chokin', how, everybody's jokin' now
The clocks run out, times up, over, blaow!
I put this down to being an introvert (and also a coward with slightly bogan taste in music) but it surprised me to learn that even sales people hate cold calling. I spoke about this with 4 different salespeople recently and while all of them said they were able to shrug off an icy ‘computer says no’ response, the sting that lingered longer was just how inefficient the whole thing was.
And, it's getting harder each day to get in touch with buyers at the right point in the sales cycle. Too many phone calls to reach the right person (some estimates say 80% of sales require at least five follow-ups), too many months spent nurturing a relationship that may never actually ripen.
There just has to be a better way - online lead generation.
When one of those same salespeople told me how he was able to turn his first 3 ‘cold’ calls this week into 3 sales proposals, it’s clear that he'd found a way of warming up those leads before even picking up the phone. He was calling leads that had come through from his first inbound marketing campaign - prospects that had found him, not the other way around. And why did he think that online lead generation was making such a difference?
1. You know exactly who to call
Gone are the days of random sales prospecting. Online lead lead generation through an inbound marketing campaign mean each prospect comes ready identified and on the way to being sales-qualified because you capture contact details in exchange for a piece of helpful content - in this case, an ebook.
Depending on the questions you ask on your form, you can find out their name, business, industry, job role - basically anything you'd like to know which feels commensurate with the value of the content you're giving away.
2. You can know all about them. Like, everything.
Key to effective b2b lead generation is knowing exactly what your ideal customer looks like, and pouncing when they pass by. So step 2 is quite frankly, stalking. It's fascinating how much information a simple email address can give you (although I don't quite know whether to thank Google for this, or remove myself to a small cabin in the woods, Unabomber-style).
Combine this with a thorough review of their company website and social media accounts and you've got a good few insights into what their business structure looks like, and whether they are a good fit for you.
Protip: Don't delay. Regardless of whether you've set up any lead nurturing emails, call the good leads straight away, the sooner the better. Salespeople that reach out within five minutes are 100 times more likely to qualify the prospect.
In fact one of the proposals our client sent out this week was to a lead that had actually opted out of any email contact. (He's clearly a very persuasive guy!)
3. You can effectively research their industry for a more relevant conversation.
Combine step 2 above with a thorough review of their industry and its trends. Because you’ve already researched their business and know what they were interested in through their conversion path, you can prepare some good case study examples to have on hand that are relevant to their industry, or solve a pain point they might be experiencing.
4. You know they’ll know who you are.
With online lead generation they've just visited your website. They have your content in hands, and a thank you email from you in their inbox. You're not an unknown quantity at this point, you're on the way to being besties, and the only thing standing in your way (besides a potentially formidable receptionist) is you and the quality of your opening gambit.
5. But don't worry - you'll know just what to say
This is the one not to overthink; you're not trying to get a sale, you're not even trying to get a meeting. Quite simply, you're making a quick courtesy call because you noticed they'd downloaded the content, and you wanted to know if they had any questions or thoughts about it. It's that simple. Because you're coming into the call with a very clear, low intensity goal your prospect should immediately feel more relaxed, and open to answering the question.
I know from personal experience that faced with the common-or-garden sales call I can't concentrate on what they are saying as an introduction, because I'm trying so hard to work out what they want to sell me. And when people get confused, they don't become customers. Be clear, and you're far more likely to start a genuine conversation.
6. If nothing else, you'll get valuable insights about what to write about next time
By asking what they thought of your content, you open the door to a discussion about what was relevant and what problems still need to be solved. This is awesome intel not only for this sales call, but also for identifying the sort of topics and questions that may attract similar customers for future blogs and content offers. Think of it as a mini research focus group, just without the one way mirror and bad Chinese food.
7. And, most importantly, you’ve already proven you can give value.
Your prospect has visited your site, and spent time reading through your blog. They've downloaded your content that has been carefully positioned to demonstrate an understanding of their needs, and well researched to be genuinely helpful and educational for their current situation. You've called them for a quick, no-obligation chat to see if you can help with anything else.
And all this valuable information has been given away for free.
So if you're on the money with the insights on which you've based your content, and been as responsive as this, it can't help but leave your prospect imagining what else you're capable of helping their business with.
Just a warning; you might never get off the phone.