In the past years of my career, I have experienced both extremes of outbound and inbound sales strategies. Some companies opted for outbound only, while others had the luxury to focus on “hot” inbound (see below) only.
By way of background, let us first delve into what these two approaches present:
What are Outbound Calls?
Outbound calls are commonly referred to as “cold calling”. A cold call is usually done by phone (sometimes also email > a cold email) and means that you call up a lead that has had no known interaction with the company you represent. If you’re lucky, you represent a strong brand most people in the sector know. I have experienced both (known and unknown brands/company) and have made very good experiences in either case. It is definitely a cheap and efficient way to extend your network and build a diversified pipeline. The downside is: You need to be brave to call strangers and not allow rejection to discourage you. Read here the HBR article “Getting Over Your Fear of Cold Calling Customers”
What are Inbound Calls?
There are two levels of inbound calls:
A warm inbound call is technically still an outgoing call, but the prospect has already had some sort of contact with your company. Maybe they filled out a contact form, commented on a blog post/LinkedIn update or you met them at an event. Basically, it is a follow-up call on an initial high-level interaction between the prospect and your company. It helps immensely if your marketing team does a good job in pulling potential customers on to your website or generally increase the reach of your brand.
A hot inbound call occurs when a prospect takes the initiative to call you. Depending on your industry, this might be rare. Putting it into the perspective of B2B financial service and banking sales, I would argue that even with a strong brand, you and your sales team should definitely not rely on hot inbound calls only.
Is cold calling dead?
It depends on your industry and client type. John Doe retail clients, for instance, do frequently get cold called by call centers and are therefore unlikely to appreciate being approached by you either. In B2B sales, on the other hand, doing a healthy amount of cold calls is necessary and can make you stand out in the sea of newsletters and emails.
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In summary, if you’re just starting to build a pipeline of prospects you should be doing comparatively more outbound calls than established sales representatives around you. At the same time warming up clients by having a solid personal social media presence (for example on LinkedIn) and going to relevant events is very helpful indeed. Largely because the quality of conversation and effectiveness of a warm follow-up call is much higher. Lastly, with cold calling you can efficiently reach a high quantity of arguably less detailed conversations, helping you, however, spread the word about what you have to offer.
Cold Calling is Not Dead.
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