The Inbound temptation versus the outbound reality 

I’ve written about the curious progress of sales people from hunters to farmers before. So now its time to talk about what to do about it! There is a massive temptation to leave your future success to what I am about to call ‘inbound’ selling. Cruelly, that’s often accompanied by a reluctance to perform even the most basic outbound functions. Today we’ll talk about both. The sales ‘pipeline’ as it is referred to, is essentially the process from lead identification, qualification of said lead, through to an initial meeting / brief take, presentation financing and ultimately the sale (and essential after sale activities.) Clearly the more you have ‘in your pipeline’ the more you’ll sell. And the correct approach to managing your pipeline can be the difference between success and failure.

The Myth of Inbound Selling 

Lets get one thing straight. Inbound efforts towards building your sales pipeline are an essential part of the process. I only ever object to strategies of this type when they are employed on their own. I firmly believe this is simply due to the sales persons tendency to pursue the path of least resistance, rather than a decision based on the most efficient business approach. Inbound on its own may work for your business, but I’ve yet to come across what that business might be.

Inbound tactics include, but aren’t limit to:

1) Creating a targeted list of potential clients. Preferably in some sort of database that can be manipulated, and preferably one that has had at least some sort of attempt to qualify the potential of the clients. Care should be taken to CONSTANTLY ‘clean’ this list. Discarding exhausted prospects and re filling the pipeline with likely prospects.

2) This list can be collated in numerous ways. In radio advertising we collate based on what we hear and see ‘out there’ in the market place (eyes and ears approach) and what we come across in competitive media. There is however a vast untapped ‘third’ route to potential business, not covered by the other two. It’s probably similar for your business.

3) Seeding. Pre sale selling. Providing the potential client with value, not requiring of any commitment or undertaking. A useful article on their industry or some other insight. Generally these things are content based. Given its unparalleled ability in this area, social media is an essential part of the sales persons toolkit. Build your list and provide it with valuable content. Warm those leads up. LinkedIn is regarded as the market leader but don’t under estimate Twitter and even Facebook for this purpose.

4) Personal Branding. Take account of the impression you are creating with every contact you have. Every email you send, every tweet, every status update. Every meeting and networking event you attend. You will be creating and adding to your personal brand. Keep in mind that at some point in the future this brand will stand you in good stead, or trip you up when you least expect it.

5) Asking for referrals. Often overlooked, you’ll put a lot of work into gaining business and doing a great job for your clients. The obvious thing to do is to ask them to recommend you to their friends and peers. If you have a good relationship and have done a good job for people, they’ll usually be more than happy to accommodate.

Why do we find the outbound stuff so difficult?

This is basically cold calling. It’s a very negative term, though so ingrained in our collective conscience there’s no point in trying to change it. It implies a thankless task, a soulless battering away at unwilling clients. No one likes to do it, and no one likes having it done to them.

All of the above ‘inbound’ tactics and you may be able to think of your own variations, are pretty easy to do. You can spend time in the nice warm office, free from the inevitable negativity that cold calling creates. But there is another way. Learn to love the art of cold calling. It is essential to deliver top billing performance.

Learn to approach it differently. If you keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result you’d be accused of insanity! And the same thing goes for cold calling. Making it a weekly ritual that you dread and just need to get over with and you’ll be doing no one any favours.

If you believe in the product you sell, if you recognise that you have something of value to offer, then the beginning of the process is full of promise. You are identifying someone who may be your next big success story, your next big client. Go in with a bit of light-hearted touch and have some fun!

Consider that you are doing someone a good turn in bringing your product or service to their attention. For sure some people will not recognise the opportunity that you will be presenting, but don’t take it personally! Its simply part of the process.

Measure your effectiveness and congratulate yourself on your skill level. Consistently measure yourself and see your skills improve. Be proud of your professional ability. Get into the processes and out of the results. Just because someone may not give you the time of day doesn’t necessarily bear any reflection on you at all. So don’t let yourself ‘mentally’ go there!

I’ll tell you one thing, I always considered my competing sales people peers reluctance to perform these essential activities to be a real benefit to me. It leaves the market wide open, giving you the pick of the best potential out there.

It really is that important, you have to ‘trick’ yourself, or in some other way convince yourself that it’s not as bad as it seems.

The answer lies somewhere in between 

Of course, the most effective sales people will be those that are able to perform either tactic with equal aplomb. Not limited to being sat in the office hoping the no doubt good quality work they are putting into making lists, magically transforms into money. They also ensure that they don’t wander the streets aimlessly looking for the perfect client. Rather, they’ll inform their movements and activities with the latest intelligence. They’ll plot their calls to perfection and make sure there isn’t a wasted moment ‘out on the streets’.

Their personal brand building pays off as their reputation sets up the client for the meetings they have before they occur. The seeding work results in more inbound enquiries than their competitors and those same competitors are at a loss to understand why.

Most sales people are looking for an edge. Looking for something to make the job easier and to increase the ROI on their efforts. I fail to understand why outbound cold calling is so universally abhorred!

I get that it’s a hard, thankless task. But take into account the points above and the fact that the results of these activities have nothing to do with your value as a human being and you’ll go twice as far to your targets in half the time.

Master the art of the inbound, and overcome your reluctance to perform the outbound and you’ll be an unstoppable force in no time.

Let me know what you enjoy about prospecting and what you can’t stand? Lets me know what works for you, and what doesn’t? Fill in the form below and leave it here, or comment on the Facebook page.

  1. James Siddell
    James Siddell says:

    Hi Tony, my company Work4builder’s is having some difficulty with cold calling at the moment. We have a fantastic product and concept online, however it seems that the men and women of the construction and trades industries have no interest in what we are offering them, which could bring them significant benefits and advantages. It appears the industry is quite old fashioned and sticks to its traditions of relying on word of mouth and reputation, which shows in our poor cold call conversion rates. Is there any way of making calls far more personable and friendly do you think ?

    • Tony Dowling
      Tony Dowling says:

      That’s a really interesting question actually, and while I’m not an expert specifically in cold calling or Tele canvassing I’ve trained lots of sales people to use the telephone to make appointments
      Essentially, try to find out the bits that work, and keep refining. Don’t use stuff that doesn’t work. Stick to the tried and tested, the stuff that tends to get positive reactions.
      Also, be happy upbeat etc. that’s a given, but also honest and transparent, don’t be tempted to mislead to get appointments, or fudge difficult questions.
      Above all focus on finding how you provide value and important solutions for your client. This is what the conversation must be about, not the weather or the rugby or anything else. We are all busy these days and getting to the point, and quickly identifying how you might be able to help me is important.
      Hope that helps?
      Maybe we should look at combining all our knowledge and do a best practice blog on Tele sales!
      Thanks for the great question 🙂