For some salespeople, few activities generate as much anxiety as the prospect of making unsolicited phone calls to strangers in an attempt to sell a product or service. The daunting practice commonly known as cold calling can be a source of stress and anxiety for many.
Cold calling is certainly not a new concept. The practice of selling goods or services directly to consumers dates back to ancient times when salespeople would visit potential buyers at their homes, a practice we commonly refer to as door-knocking.
However, it wasn’t until the latter end of the industrial revolution beginning in the mid-1800s that salespeople called canvassers began selling products and services in a more highly organized and systemized manner.
As technology advanced, particularly as telephones became more affordable and more prevalent, salespeople recognized the potential to reach a larger audience more efficiently by making phone calls rather than canvassing neighborhoods on foot. Thus, the modern-day ‘cold call’ was born.
Cold calling has always been a necessary evil for most salespeople. On the one hand, it is another method of generating leads and casting a wider net. On the other hand, it is not always the most efficient or effective strategy. However, for the ‘cold call’ averse, there are other techniques that generate leads, sometimes more efficiently and economically.
Alternative strategies to cold calling
Content marketing involves the creation of helpful and informative materials such as toolkits, blog posts, videos, templates, podcasts and other useful content to engage your target audience. By providing highly relevant content that resonates with your audience, salespeople are more likely to attract leads and build their credibility in the marketplace.
This strategy also allows buyers to engage on their terms and increases the quality of the lead. According to consulting firm Forrester, 60 percent of customers prefer not to interact with a sales rep, and 68 percent stated that they prefer to research independently online.
Social media prospecting
Harnessing the reach of social media platforms can be a highly effective strategy in identifying and engaging with potential customers. It involves consistent posting, commenting, liking, and sharing. Using specialized tools such as scheduling software or automation tools can help to make the process more streamlined and bring a greater level of efficiency.
Deployed properly, social media marketing can help strengthen your brand, build customer loyalty, and position yourself as a trusted go-to resource within your market.
Referral networking stands out as a tried-and-true method for generating warm leads. By leaning on one’s own personal and professional network for introductions to potential clients, trust can be more easily established. These powerful endorsements help to establish credibility and can oftentimes lead to higher conversion rates.
According to the non-profit small business resource center Score.org, referrals have the highest conversion rates at 32 percent. An added benefit is that it allows for ongoing engagement with individuals you already have a connection with, rather than approaching strangers.
Email marketing remains a highly effective and popular method for engaging with and attracting new leads. It can scale easily and is cost-effective. Email marketing is also reported to produce one of the best ROI of all marketing channels.
Recently, the marketing research firm DMA reported that email marketing carries an ROI of $42 earned for every $1 spent. The ability to create customized messaging for a pre-defined target audience also makes this marketing channel very effective and one worth exploring.
Workshops and webinars
Educational events, either in person or virtual, are reliable in building a loyal following and ultimately gaining new leads. This strategy is generally well received by most since it offers attendees great value in a relatively short period. Making sure to keep the content focused and engaging, they can also help to position you as the expert in the area you are speaking on.
Consider hosting a first-time homebuyer seminar or a workshop on steps that sellers can take in advance to prepare their homes for sale or improvements they can make to increase the value of their homes. Following up on these leads is a great way to locate new clients.
Best practices for effective sales prospecting
Regardless of the strategy used, certain best practices can increase the efficacy of sales prospecting tactics.
- Targeted research and meticulous lead segmentation ensure that outreach efforts remain focused and relevant.
- Personalizing and customizing messages convey genuine concern for the recipient’s needs.
- The use of technology and automation tools streamlines processes and enhances efficiency.
- Follow-up and persistence are indispensable for maintaining potential customers’ attention.
- Continual evaluation and improvement to further refine your strategies based on results and feedback.
While cold calling has traditionally been used as the leading sales prospecting approach, alternative strategies often yield better outcomes in today’s business landscape. By exploring avenues such as content marketing, social media prospecting, referral networking, email marketing and educational events, businesses can engage potential customers in more effective and efficient ways.
It’s important to remember that finding the best strategy for your business may require some experimentation and adaptation. Try these alternatives and see your sales prospecting efforts flourish.