Many sales organizations have struggled to build predictable sales pipelines in the modern buying paradigm.
Some have stuck with the "dialing for dollars" cold calling programs that do a better job of annoying potential prospects than helping them. Others rely solely on inbound lead generation to build their pipelines. Inbound marketing is an effective lead generation tool, but most inbound leads require nurturing before they are ready to buy.
In his seminal book Predictable Revenue: Turn Your Business Into A Sales Machine With The $100 Million Best Practices Of Salesforce.com, Aaron Ross describes how he created a predictable pipeline-generating machine at Salesforce using tactics that have come to be known as Cold Calling 2.0.
Experienced salespeople aren't good prospectors
Ross starts by describing the classic mistake that Sales VPs and CEOs make. They hire experienced salespeople under the assumption that their Rolodexes and cold-calling will be enough to generate sufficient pipeline to hit revenue goals. They are almost always disappointed (and the Sales VP is often fired) because most salespeople aren't good prospectors. And even if they are, once they've filled their pipeline with deals to work on, they stop prospecting. When left to sink or swim in this environment, most salespeople sink.
What lead generation options work?
It's clear that old-school cold-calling no longer is effective in the modern buying process. But what methods work? Ross identifies 3 lead generation techniques that are effective in today's technology-enabled buying process.
- Seeds are lead generation tactics that have high conversion rates, but take time to ramp up. Most inbound marketing and social media tactics fall into this category, as do referrals from satisfied customers and content marketing.
- Nets are typical marketing programs like advertising, pay-per-click and email marketing. These tactics may be successful, but are hard to measure and it's almost impossible to attribute an individual sales to these tactics.
- Spears are targeted outbound prospecting efforts that Ross developed as he built a Cold Calling 2.0 Prospecting Process at Salesforce. When done properly, Spear lead generation tactics create predictable sales pipelines that ramp up quickly.
Cold Calling 2.0
Ross defines Cold Calling 2.0 as "prospecting into cold accounts to generate new business without using any 'cold calls.'" By experimenting, Ross found that short emails asking for a referral to the proper person at the company produced far more success than the long-winded sales emails that many still use today.
The Cold Calling 2.0 process is a systematic process based on using email to find the right buyer and using a buyer-based approach to qualify leads and set appointments for salespeople. By using data-driven feedback, Cold Calling 2.0 produces a repeatable set of processes that produce results. A key element of Cold Calling 2.0 is a focus on results, not activity.
Cold Calling 2.0 Best Practices
One of the key decisions Salesforce made when implementing their prospecting program was to separate the prospecting and selling functions. Ross's prospecting team was solely responsible for generating qualified leads. When building out the function, Ross identified 5 best practices.
- Treat your prospecting team as respected experts. In many companies, the closers are the heroes. Ross recognizes the value of prospectors who can generate qualified leads as equal to that of closers. Companies who successfully implement Cold Calling 2.0 programs take this approach.
- Optimize prospecting resources by qualifying leads before contacting them. The key is to develop a tightly defined ideal customer profile and only prospect account who match it.
- The purpose of prospecting calls is to conduct research. In a Cold Calling 2.0 program, the purpose of the intial call is to find if there is a potential match between the buyer and the seller. Nothing more, nothing less.
- Your emails should fit on the screen of a smartphone. Be short and to the point. Respect the time of your prospect and get right to the point. No one is going to read a 3-page manifesto extolling the virtues of your solution.
- Leverage your sales technology to optimize your prospecting program. Your CRM and related sales technology apps should be integrated to optimize your message and the effectiveness of your program.
The Cold Calling 2.0 Process
The fundamentals of the Cold Calling 2.0 Process are fairly simple.
But like most things, the devil is in the details. In the book, Ross gives detailed instuctions on how to implement and manage a Cold Calling 2.0 process. I highly recommend you read the book if you're responsible for growing sales in your organization.
Companies that implement the Predictable Revenue Prospecting process almost universally exceed growth benchmarks.
While it's important to have a multi-channel lead generation strategy, a Cold Calling 2.0 Prospecting program is the only proactive lead generation tactic that is effective in the modern buying process.
Inbound marketing is a great way to generate leads and promote your brands, but if you have a CEO or investors who are looking for quick results, read Aaron Ross's Predictable Revenue and check out Ambition's Guide to Predictable Revenue.