As we approach another year of the 21st Century, the sales industry dives deeper into an unprecedented era: the Age of the Customer. For the first time, consumers have total control. Through crowd-sourced review sites, social media and other online resources, buyers tend to seek out information on a product or service rather than discovering them through general advertising. Because of this, many sales teams now focus primarily on inbound lead generation, which is better suited for the modern consumer’s preference of finding information over having it shown to them.
Despite this, outbound lead generation is crucial in developing a successful sales strategy. According to a report published by Act-On, respondents claimed that both approaches generated the same amount of leads. Furthermore, both received nearly identical levels of importance as marketing strategies, with inbound being ranked 7.4 out of 10 and outbound at 7.3. Perhaps most significantly, 84 percent of respondents agreed that a combination of inbound and outbound sales tactics actually drives their business forward, while only 18 percent agreed that inbound tactics alone accomplished the same.
It’s clear that outbound lead generation is just as important for sales teams as inbounding, even the consumer-driven atmosphere of the industry today. The problem managers and sales teams face today isn’t the value of outbounding, but the effectiveness of their outbound strategies. While outbounding still works, it doesn’t work the same way it used to. Here are a few tips to help modernize your tactics to accommodate the self-driven consumer in the Age of the Customer.
“Warm up” your cold calls with prospecting and inbounding
Cold calling is perhaps the most definitive form of outbound lead generation. Traditionally, cold calling means a sales agent has no solid information when finding and contacting leads – just dial and ask. With today’s sales technology, information has never been more accessible – which is good, because agents can utilize this information to reach leads on a more personal level. Even when you’re outbounding, gather some information on your lead before reaching out to avoid those dry, formulated cold call attempts.Verify the contact’s name, title and company to add some personal effect to your calls or emails – you might be surprised at the amount of people who misread or mistype those simple details. Does your lead actually have buying power, or should you be trying to earn a higher contact for the account? Good inbound resources can give you a much better starting point with web-generated leads. Take note if a lead has subscribed to a newsletter, commented on any blog posts or interacted with the company’s social media. Agents can always be the one to initiate the initial sales contact with a web lead, and those inbound resources can better prepare you for the outbound sales attempt.
Empower outbound leads to gather their own information
This is especially important when cold emailing leads. Sale agents are accustomed to feeding information on their product to their leads – features, statistics, awards etc. But consumers today want to find information and form their own positions. Consumers want to maintain some level of control, especially as the buying process begins and trust is being built. Fit your form emails with resources for the lead to do their own research on your product. If you throw out statistics, provide a white paper. If you mention your clients or their success stories, include a case study. Send content that allows your lead to easily find and access your inbound content online. Direct your outbound leads to your inbound content and let them research your product, its features and its successes on their own time to preserve their sense of control in the sales process.
Refine your sales strategy and commit to the follow-up
Based on some of the latest blogs and trends, it seems clear that outbound leads are not as effective as they used to be. In truth, this is largely because many sales teams and managers have simply failed to fully adapt their strategy and technology to effectively outbound in the Age of the Customer. Sometimes they abandon outbound lead generation altogether, hoping inbound strategies alone will generate enough leads. But that simply doesn’t happen, and as mentioned earlier, outbound sales strategies are just as important. Outbounding is still a crucial element of your sales process, but it takes effort and focused strategies. That is especially true when it comes to following-up with outbound leads. On average, it takes eight cold call attempts to reach a prospect – more than double the amount of attempts it took in 2007. Sales agents, however, seem to give up on leads sooner as converting them gets harder. Most sales agents stop trying to contact a lead after just two failed attempts. According to the Marketing Donut, agents only follow up with 20 percent of leads to begin with. Reaching that initial sales point with an outbound lead takes more effort than in the past, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible, or even unlikely. But it is unlikely, and nearly impossible, if you only make a few attempts. Continue to follow-up with your lead until you’ve received a definitive “no.” Leave voicemails, send emails and even direct mail to build those touch points and develop a presence with your leads.