Jun 8, 2018 1:02:12 PM
It amazes me how misguided so many marketers are about outbound selling.
You can almost hear them snort with derision at the mere mention of those two words.
“Pick up the phone and call a prospect without them asking me to??” they cry. “Preposterous!”
The inbound marketing movement is so intoxicating that marketers are more focused on producing content than accelerating sales. It’s the truth.
But…don’t you have to write posts and shoot videos to generate leads? Yes, of course, but content marketing is a long-term play that requires patience, focus, and ongoing optimization. Content has a compounding effect. Results increase as your stockpile gets bigger and bigger.
Keep feeding the publishing machine, but…
The reality is you may not have the time to wait for results.
I’ve been in your shoes. CEOs and sales managers don’t want to hear about “ramp up time.” They want to hear the bell ring, and even if your campaign is structured around a carefully planned strategy that’s sure to deliver strong results, their expectations will be difficult to keep in check.
Someone has to pick up the phone and make dials, and send emails to prospects who haven’t heard of you. If that person is you, I’m begging you to take a deep breath and repeat after me:
“It’s okay to be a sales person.”
You are not manipulative or diabolical. You have a job to do, and much as we’d all like to publish the magic words or video that makes qualified leads beat down our doors every week – folks, it just don’t happen that way.
Inbound leads are essential for success today, but if you really want to kill it, you need a combination of inbound marketing and outbound selling.
I worked in sales for 11 years before starting my own business. Here are a few skills I picked up that made me a better inbound marketer.
Have you ever met one-on-one with a business owner and pitched him or her for a solution?
I don’t care if the plan cost $200 or $200,000 – the decision rarely comes easy, and as you go through the closing process, something becomes very clear:
This decision is about more than helping them generate new business. This person is betting their future on you.
When someone places a chunk of their livelihood in your hands, it grabs your attention. It makes you want to be a better listener than anyone out there.
Long before inbound marketing became the buzzword it is today, there was a growing trend toward audience-focused selling, as opposed to product-focus.
Instead of taking the product to market and convincing people to buy it, my job was to find prospects that needed help, get a good understanding of their challenges, and craft a plan that met their goals.
This was my first experience with using inbound principles to close a sale. It starts with being a good listener, and ends with being a good helper.
I would use any tactic to get in the door.
I tried to get in front of the business owner of a Windows & Doors franchise in Greensboro, NC for six months when he said to me, “Do you know what a headache it is trying to get work done with guys like you lurking around every corner?”
The next week I sent him a “Get Well” sympathy card with a packet of Advil inside. The pills were crushed when they got to him – which is sad. It sounded like he could’ve used them - but the point got through fine. He set an appointment with me the next week.
If you think it’s hard getting prospects to open your emails, imagine walking into their businesses uninvited and trying to get a few minutes of their time.
My customers were chased by sales reps day and night. What set me apart?
I did research, studying their ads, checking the signs in their windows, looking at the floorplan of their stores, talking to their support staff. I pulled this intelligence together and found a way to offer helpful advice to the decision maker.
It wasn’t easy, but when it worked, it was the start of a great relationship.
Sales reps are famous for their “one sheets.”
These worthless pieces of paper include hyped up copy about a product, audience metrics that mean nothing to anyone, and, of course, a package price.
Every new sales initiative brought an avalanche of these sheets, and some salespeople would’ve leave the office without them. They would wallpaper the town, dropping them off at every front desk with a business card. Oh, Lordy.
Somehow they imagined this meant they were doing their jobs.
I won’t say that I never used sell sheets, but I can say for certain I rarely used them.
Every good client relationship I had was built on trust, and that trust would disappear quickly if I walked into their offices with one of these wretched sheets in my binder.
Instead, I scheduled time to ask them good questions about the state of their businesses, and customized a plan I believed would help them. Every solution was tailored to fit their individual needs.
If a prospect wasn’t ready, I nurtured them by staying in touch. I didn’t call or email them with “just checking in” messages. I marked my calendar with follow up reminders that said “VBR” (valid business reason). When that reminder came up, I found information online that was relevant to their industry or business and I sent it to them.
This approach paid off for me. My revenue grow 30-40 percent every year, and soon I got reassigned to the key accounts team, working with the bigger spenders in the market. After that, I got promoted to a management position. Inbound marketing and HubSpot were only a blip on the radar at this time.
Even though I don’t work with retail businesses anymore and make few house calls, I still spend a lot of time on outbound sales. My team and I use these same methods of researching, listening, and offering help before even thinking about pitching someone our services. Why would I waste time trying to pitch a business that’s not a good fit for us?
Outbound selling makes you a better marketer – guaranteed.
You might know everything about how to research an audience, write for them, and target them on various platforms, but it’s another thing entirely to look a prospect in the eye and ask them to invest in your solution.
It brings a whole new level of insight to your work, because you are no longer dealing with buyers. You are dealing with people.