With Sales 2.0, Cold Calling Warms Up

Although cold calling was once a popular and successful form of lead generation, its effectiveness today is often debated. With a recent shift in focus to outbound marketing and the advent of screening technology, cold calling is being passed over by many businesses for more "modern" lead-generation tactics. And, perhaps understandably, an estimated 80 percent of many cold calls are spent attempting to speak to the right person, rather than selling the product.

But claiming that "cold calling is dead" is jumping to a premature conclusion. In a recent B2B lead-generation study, telemarketing was ranked the third most effective lead-generation strategy, following inside sales and executive events. Trailing telemarketing were the company Web site, email newsletters, and Webinars.

These statistics reveal an interesting truth: While cold calling's effectiveness may be questionable, telemarketing is undoubtedly still an important lead-generation strategy. That's because more companies are taking advantage of a form of telemarketing better suited for the 21st century: intelligent calling. Also known as "warm calling," intelligent calling takes advantage of Sales 2.0 strategies to target and research leads before they are contacted.

What Is Sales 2.0?

Put simply, Sales 2.0 is defined as sales and marketing practices in the digital age. The rise of the Internet has caused significant changes in consumer behavior, specifically in how consumers evaluate products and purchase services. Marketing departments have had to revamp their online marketing tactics, channeling money into social media, SEO, and pay-per-click advertising. Meanwhile, sales departments are working to build relationships with key influencers through online communities. Company and contact data collection, for instance, is now gained through content marketing and email campaigns. This shift to Sales 2.0 has also resulted in the advent of Cold Calling 2.0.

Cold Calling 2.0

Cold Calling 2.0 is the practice of using cold calling in tandem with other, more modern lead-generation techniques. Whether this is Internet research about the company decision makers or social media interactions for a better understanding of the company's products/services, prior research gives your business a point of entry. Indeed, 42 percent of sales reps last year felt they did not have enough information about the prospect prior to making a sales call—a statistic Cold Calling 2.0 is attempting to turn on its head.

Although in the past all businesses were considered fair targets for cold calling, today, an overly broad cold calling approach is a waste of precious time and resources for your sales team. There should be a shift in focus from quantity of businesses on cold calling lists to quality of companies included. Businesses included should fit into a narrowly defined target audience based upon business size, location, and budget. By understanding their target audience, your sales department will be better able to anticipate the needs, questions, and concerns of the individual on the other end of the line.

Moreover, this means that companies selected for warm calling have an established, topical interest in the products or services your company offers. Although they may not be aware of your specific business yet, they are in need of a solution that it offers.

Cold Calling 2.0 also offers a pointed strategy for businesses that may already have prior knowledge of your firm but require further nurturing. By tracking prospects' behavior on your Web page and level of engagement with certain posts, a cold call can become intelligent. Did someone click on your company's LinkedIn page or retweet your Twitter post? Warm call them immediately afterward and use their online activity as an introduction. Whether this interest is demonstrated through a Web page visit, Webinar attendance, or email campaign, a follow-up intelligent call will make your company seem more personal and, in turn, more trustworthy.

Simply researching a company prior to the intelligent call, however, is not enough to convert a lead into a customer. After investigating the potential consumer, best practice strategies include having a compelling opening line, a script that comes across as unrehearsed, and a deal to entice potential customers, such as a free Webinar or service consultation.

By warming up the traditional cold call, your company will be able to generate and convert more qualified leads. While cold calling may be dead, telemarketing is still very much alive.

Frank Paterno is vice president of marketing at Intelliverse. He oversees marketing for the Intelliverse family of companies, which includes TeleArk.

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