That is how a classically trained salesperson approaches cold calling. Find a decision maker. Call with an elevator pitch that would resonate with a decision maker. Perhaps the elevator pitch highlights increased profit margin, or accelerated growth, or decreased COGS.
Now this classically trained salesperson receives her first inbound lead. The lead is from a company that is a perfect fit for the salesperson's product, but the contact is not a decision maker. The contact is a middle manager, or a frontline worker, or even an intern. Unfortunately, the classically trained salesperson does not alter her approach. She calls the contact and leads with her generic elevator pitch -- the one designed for the decision maker.
This approach is the kiss of death for an inbound lead. Here is what it sounds like:
[Salesperson]: "Hi John. This is Susie from XYZ company. Do you have a moment?"
[John the Intern]: "I guess."
[Salesperson]: "Great. John, we have state-of-the-art technology that helps companies like yours decrease COGS by an average of 20% and increase profit margins accordingly. I would love an opportunity to show you how we have done this. Would you be free tomorrow for a chat?"
[John the Intern]: "Huh?"
The classically trained salesperson hangs up the phone, yelling to her teammates, "These leads suck."
No, they don't. The salesperson is simply approaching the lead incorrectly.
The company is a perfect fit for the business but the initial contact is not a decision maker. The initial contact is an intern.
Why do you think the intern is doing this research? A decision maker probably told the intern to do the research because the related problem is important to the business right now! So, this means your product can solve an issue that is top of mind for a decision maker. Let's engage in the right way.
There are two strategies the salesperson can take. One strategy is to ignore the initial contact from the inbound lead and instead call the decision maker directly.
"Hi John. This is Mark from HubSpot. We have been receiving a number of inquiries from your team about generating leads through social media. I actually reviewed your Facebook page and had some ideas on how it can be a better lead generator for you. I will send those to you now over email. Call me if you would like to discuss."
In this example, we leveraged the buyer context from the initial contact and assumed the decision maker had a similar context. It is a reasonable bet.
The alternative strategy, which I prefer, is to call the contact from the lead first and then call the decision maker as a follow-up. I call this strategy "call low, then call high." When the salesperson calls the contact from the lead, the salesperson needs to engage the contact with a relevant value proposition, which is not necessarily the most appropriate value proposition for the decision maker.
"Hi John. This is Mark from HubSpot. I noticed you downloaded our ebook on Facebook marketing lead generation. What specific questions did you have?"
This approach frames the conversation around the topics the inbound lead contact cares about. Give the prospect as many free tips and consulting as possible. With each back and forth, the salesperson is developing trust with the prospect. The salesperson is earning the right to ask questions about the needs of the organization and where those needs are originating. For example:
Why did you decide to research the topic of generating leads through Facebook?
Was there someone at the company who instructed you to do so?
Who do you report to? What have they been asking of you lately?
What's on your CEO's mind these days? What did she talk about at the last company meeting?
Can you tell me more about your CMO's area of focus?
If the salesperson is skilled at this approach, she can be quite successful at transforming the inbound lead contact into a "coach." Do not confuse a "coach" with a "champion." In most cases, the inbound lead contact does not have enough authority to be considered a "champion." In other words, the inbound prospect can't influence the organization enough to compel the purchase. However, as a "coach," the prospect can be useful to provide internal context about the opportunity so that the salesperson is enabled to help the organization more effectively.
Once the interaction with the inbound prospect is completed, the salesperson can now call high to the decision maker.
"Hi John. This is Mark from HubSpot. I have been working with members of your team on the company's Facebook lead generation strategy. I am aware that the company has recently decided to expand the sales team by 20% in Q4 and is working aggressively to identify new sources of qualified leads to provide to the newest members of the sales team. One of our customers in your industry has had great success with generating leads through social media and actually far exceeded the 20% lift you are targeting. Would you have a few minutes to walk through the details of their successful strategy?"
Decision makers are busy. They are hard to reach. However, this voicemail maximizes the likelihood that the salesperson can earn some of the decision maker's time.
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Originally published May 22, 2015 8:30:00 AM, updated February 01 2017