Hands up who likes receiving a cold call? (or making one for that matter!)

I was doing some prospecting yesterday, looking for companies that might need a bit of help with inbound leads. I saw a lot of evidence of one of the knee-jerk solutions people go for, hiring someone to spend the day flogging the phones and trying to call as many people as possible. They have targets like making 80 to 100 calls in a day, something that was pretty soul destroying 20 years ago (when people actually answered the phone) and I suspect is even worse these days. I can count on less than one finger the number of times I have been delighted to receive a cold-call - essentially no one really wants to be on either end of a cold call!

How much attention do you give to cold sales emails?

You know the ones, Dear {insert name} we have great products that help with etc... yawn go away. Generic subject lines with generic content. They have a place when it comes to marketing and one to many communications but for a one to one interaction this is really not very effective at all. Most are never read.

Buying a list?

There are lots of "lead lists" out there, email addresses for marketing directors in X industry or telephone numbers for CEO's in Y industry. 10 years ago these might have been accurately described as "leads" but now they are just a list of names. Being on a list that someone has harvested from somewhere does not qualify you as a lead, it simply means that you have a job title that might - and that's a very weak might - mean you could have a particular problem or challenge.

Building a list with your marketing?

Possibly better than the above, depending on how it was put together. But traditionally, these lists are built over a few weeks and only passed on to sales when the campaign is over - this means that if the first name on the list had a problem your company can help with when they engaged with your marketing, they have had quite a long time to find a solution before your sales team even get their names.

Monkeys & Shakespeare

All the approaches above come down to a numbers game, it's theorised that an infinite number of monkeys hitting random keys on an infinite number of typewriters will eventually churn out the complete works of Shakespeare. But do you really want to entrust the future of your business to this sort of hit and miss approach. You can't track it or predict it or make any decisions for the future based on it.

Negative Consequences

If I have a problem that your business can help with, I'll probably end up talking to you, but if your business has spent the last 6 months subjecting me to irrelevant emails and calls from telemarketers, I almost certainly won't. Maybe not everyone is as cantankerous as me, but if a company irritates me by trying to sell something I don't need, I'm never going to buy from them

It really is broken

Sales really is broken, take everything above and throw in bad websites, pushy old school sales tactics, stop gap solutions, agile competition and the Uber effect and you have a situation where almost every company is on the back foot, struggling for the predictable growth that means they can invest in the future and scale their organisation. Telling someone you work in sales is tantamount to announcing that you have a highly contagious and deeply embarrassing illness because they are terrified you might try to sell them something.

Thankfully there is a solution, one that is not yet fully understood by the great majority, but one that can start to make an immediate impact on your sales funnel.

Inbound What?

Have you heard of Inbound - it's a term that is misunderstood by a lot of marketers, and an approach that a very small percentage of salespeople use. I have spoken to the marketing director of a FTSE 100 company that had completely dismissed the idea out oif hand as a "buzzword" and a "fad" that would pass and I have spoken to heads of sales that would have a seizure if their team weren't constantly calling new/cold leads/random strangers and vomiting product information at every turn.

The term is in some ways quite misleading, it conjours an image of sitting at your desk waiting for that magic call or email from someone who is ready to buy; of a sales and marketing team that sit and wait for the leads to come to them. I'm going to try an explain my understanding of Inbound, so I hope it helps...

Out of control.....

I think the first principle to get your head round is the fact that the buyer is always in control, they aren't always right (otherwise they wouldn't be talking to you) but they are always in control. They can walk away, talk to something else, buy from a competitor. Pushy, aggressive sales may have worked when you were the only game in town, but the world has changed, and even if you are now, you won't be for long.

When did you last buy something?

Inbound could also be called Buyer focused Marketing and Sales. It's easy to immediately start thinking along buyer-centric lines by thinking about the last time you bought something and the journey you went on before you bought it. The last thing I bought was a sandwich for my lunch.

  • Awareness - My stomach rumbled and I began to feel hungry. I was aware that I had a problem. This is not to be confused with brand awareness or product awareness. I'm aware of hundreds of brands and thousands of products but none of it means a damn to me if I'm not aware that I have a problem or need. Buyer awareness trumps all other awareness..
  • Consideration - I knew I was hungry, and the next thing to think about was what to do about it. I thought about doing nothing (the natural first step when you are aware of a problem), then I remembered that I get grumpy and can't think properly if I don't eat. My thoughts turned to whether I could do something about it without spending any money (the DIY stage of my journey) I looked in the fridge and realised there was nothing that I wanted in there.
  • Decision - I was aware of my problem, had considered doing nothing and raiding the fridge and realised I had to something about it that involved spending money. I left the office, walked to the local high street and started looking at my options. I was now in the decision stage - worth noting that I was ready to buy lunch but hadn't decided what to buy! I went to the local bakery (queue was too long), nearly went to Greggs (not in the mood) and eventually settled on a sandwich shop, where I bought a sandwich.

I defy you to email me (chris@babelquest.co.uk) with an example of something you bought where you didn't go through this process - even if you moved through it in three minutes!

So, in a very tiny nutshell, Inbound is the concept of mapping every piece of your marketing and sales process to this buyer journey whilst being 100% aware that the buyer is in control. It's about understanding the thought processes of the people who buy from you and making sure everything has context that they can relate to. It's about being able to quickly work out where they are in their journey so that your sales and marketing can provide the right messages and materials to help them move to the next stage (and eventually become a customer). It doesn't stop there, and there is a lot more to learn, but that's for another day.

Hope that helps...