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I’ve approached this particular problem from both ends. I’ve placed plenty of cold calls over the years and amped up my effort by having an inside sales team of ten people dialing all day, logging thousands of calls.
Then 4 years ago I got into the inbound marketing game full bore by implementing this website with lots of blog posts, videos and white papers. It worked well in that we get several thousand visitors a month and have had thousands of names captured through downloads (OK less than the WSJ but probably similar to the NY Times now they have their pay wall up).
So which is better: outbound prospecting or inbound marketing?
The more I play with these techniques the more I’m coming to the conclusion that you need some of each. Even better (or worse considering the work involved) it seems that the two “directions” play off each other and support each other.
When you cold call someone in this day and age they are likely to at least pull up your website (happened to me yesterday) and quite likely your social profiles (Linkedin page etc.)
When someone comes to your site and registers for a piece of content you will need to follow-up with them to turn them into an actual lead (aka pick up the phone or if not at least email them).
Want to talk about sales and marketing alignment in a Sales 2.0 world? Here it is. You need both content to attract people and you need people skills (plus chops) to make outbound calls to actual humans (even if they came inbound first.)
Traditionally sales people don’t write content and marketers never call prospects. But as a company you need to get both done. So it’s a team game where marketing and sales play together. But note today’s reality: if you’re as a sales person, you better find a way to get content done. You need to take responsibility that your prospects and clients get quality content. You can delegate this to your marketing buds but you cannot abdicate from getting this done.
Marketing blokes you better make sure your sales people are prospecting and following up on those inbound leads or you better go hire an outsourced telesales firm pronto.
Whether you’re going inbound or outbound there are more Sales 2.0 tools than ever to support you. It’s a good idea to use these tools to get smarter because today’s Customer 2.0 expects it. If you’re not smart, don’t expect much tolerance.
On the inbound side there are marketing automation tools that an track which pages your prospect has visited, what they’ve read and what they’ve downloaded (check out tools like Marketo, Eloqua, SilverPop and ActiveConversion). The information from these tools is awesome stuff for a follow-up phone call or email. So much better than calling and saying “just touching base” or “just checking in”. How about tailoring your call to the fact that you know they’ve been reading about Social Selling training (or whatever you sell) – without being creepy of course?
And when you’re going outbound use the tools that make your pre-call planning fast and smart like Linkedin, InsideView, iSell, GIST, IntroMojo, Rapportive, Xobni etc. These tools help you get the scoop on your prospect before you call them and if used correctly even help you get an intro straight into the prospect’s office.
Once you’re prepped for an outbound call make sure you have your own personal social profiles in decent order (OK you may need to do this incrementally I understand but just DO it!). Assume today’s Customer 2.0 is going to check you out. What do they find: a subject matter expert in their industry or a “product pusher”? You know who they would prefer to deal with. You own Brand You. Make the brand shine. It’s your asset. Yours.
Quality lead generation is now a two-way street. Take the wheel on both outbound and inbound lead generation. It’s your quota. Drive on!