Regardless of what level in a sales group you fall into, cold calling is a cloud hovering over your head.  If you’re the VP of Sales, you’re getting these calls several times a week. If you are the Account Manager then you have a set number of calls to make or a list of companies you should be “hunting”. In either of these scenarios, the call is never appreciated. Getting interrupted or interrupting someone else is always the result. The science (if you call it that) is if you make 100 calls a certain percentage will become opportunities. Are companies still playing this game? There are better ways of engaging customers. [tweetmeme source= “insideview” only_single=false]

There is an interesting and very relevant diagram in the book UnMarketing that talks about the Hierarchy of Buying. Read the book, do some other research and it should be confirmed that cold calling is the bottom of the barrel when it comes to finding new customers. The book is positioned towards social media marketing but the lessons still apply to sales leaders trying to stay on the cutting edge. In the age of Customer 2.0 you should have people coming to you in some form or another. Maybe its all word of mouth, lead generation or other avenues. If people are not talking about your company you have bigger fish to fry. Outbound calling to a person that has never heard of you or your product is just about as likely to buy your widget as they are the Brooklyn Bridge. You have to build trust.

Current customers are key

Getting business from current customers is usually the easiest since they already use your product. Unless you have done a poor job with the account or have not been able to keep up with their needs, you are generally in a good place with them. Current customers are a great place for referrals and can and should be leveraged to bring in new business.  At the top of the pyramid is where B2B sales teams should be focusing their efforts but it seems like they are aiming much lower on the scale.

This is why companies spend so much time making sure they have great reviews and working with customers to write these reviews.

Why are you still cold calling?

90% of consumers trust peers based on a Nielsen poll, and less than 10% trust an unknown source. Cold calling is perceived a lot like phone spam. If customers want information they will search you out or at least leave digital breadcrumbs of questions or conversations that you can find and then engage.  As I said in the Sales Predictions for 2011, sales teams that are not already focusing on social media will, social selling training and tools will be a focus.

Selling is based on trust and you can spend the time (a lot of it) building it with people that have never heard from you or you can move further up to leads and prospects that you have some trust with.  This is why sales people have been hearing so much about the value in nurturing campaigns and social media marketing, but little of it seems to apply to anything a sales person can influence. That’s why Sales 2.0 is growing in popularity, sales people can have more relevant intelligence on prospects and become great resources to their customers by using social media and sales leaders see this as a priority.

Some of the best businesses in the world were built from cold calling and that was because they found a way to exploit a technology (phones) using a team of people to saturate a market of people that loved to talk to other people. That hasn’t changed a whole lot in the past few years other than the fact that the phone is no longer the best technology to use because decision makers have less time. Sales 2.0 savvy teams will be the next wave of revenue generators for companies, starting in the technology space and moving like a wave through different industries. Social selling will hit  resistance and may not apply at all to some companies (I can’t imagine which ones but I’m sure they exist).

Have you started using social media tools in your sales teams?

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