Cold Calling is Shifting to Warm Calling

In this day and age, many unsolicited business calls go unanswered. Modern sales and marketing professionals are up against savvy buyers that are more empowered than ever by easy access to detailed product information on the Web.

Everyone is connected to the latest information. And if buyers don’t want to hear from marketers, they have a variety of technologies (e.g. Caller ID, email spam filters, etc.) to block out marketing attempts to get in touch. But surely some people are able to get through all these defense mechanisms and land that one magical deal. Or are they?

That was the subject of my company’s latest Google+ Debate, “Does Cold Calling Still Work?” The panel brought together inbound marketing and inside sales experts to debate three questions:

  • Given how the Web has empowered B2B buyers, is cold calling still relevant in the Internet Age — and are companies still generating a return on investment (ROI) on it?

  • With other lead generation activities on the rise, like paid search and content marketing, can cold calling help marketers stand out from the noise?

  • Can inbound marketing and analytics help us better decide who to cold call and when?

Here are the takeaways from the debate.

Cold Calling is Shifting to Warm Calling

Understandably, every panelist agreed that cold calling (in it’s original form) is decreasing significantly in effectiveness. Furthermore, there is no excuse for business calls to be random and unsolicited anymore. In the words of Anneke Seley, Founder and CEO of Reality Works Group, “in this day and age, there’s no excuse for a call to be cold anymore.”

That is, with so many options for connecting with people on the Web (e.g. LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook) it’s very easy to find out information about your prospect before you pick up a phone. And they, in turn, can learn a little about you before you commit to a call. The group called this “warm calling.”

Only Call the People that Come to You

But Mike Volpe, CMO of HubSpot, thinks that marketers can take it one step further and not even waste time reaching out in this manner. Volpe believes that the world is shifting away from any type of outbound marketing and that your inside sales team should only reply to inbound inquiries because you already they’re interested in your product or service.

Meanwhile, Volpe explains that inbound marketing tactics like SEO and PPC that are significantly cheaper that doing things like employing a great sales rep to make outbound calls. And he says it’s also a much less invasive approach to contacting buyers.

Find a Happy Medium by Employing Both Tactics

Of course, there’s usually room for middle ground. And that’s where Ken Krogue, President of InsideSales.com, sided on the debate. According to Krogue, InsideSales.com relies very heavily on inbound marketing tactics but the leads they generate by purely inbound means just aren’t high enough value. So he turns to very targeted outbound calling after warming up contacts. To quote Krogue:

“If we [at InsideSales.com] just rely on the Internet to bring us leads, it’s like a fish sitting in a pond waiting for the river to bring whatever it brings them. What we’ve found is that if you look at a typical bell curve, 70 percent of all the leads that come in are small. For example, we’re moving up to enterprise class companies and we have to forget about the Web bringing us those leads and have to reach out to initialize the conversation (usually through calling), then we move to a Web-based type of nurturing.”

In any Case, Marketing is Becoming Permission-Based

One point each panelist could agree on was that lead generation is shifting toward a permission-based model of marketing. This means marketing will need to evolve into being about showing buyers how valuable you are, and ultimately getting them to come to you. If you aren’t demonstrating your value in a tangible way, then buyers will increasingly look over your company and not engage with your marketing efforts.

What are your thoughts on the evolution of outbound and inbound marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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