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Reasons Cold Calling Is No Good for Account-Based Sellers

Can one call generate leads better than ten?

You already know my point of view on cold calling.  No salesperson should ever have to cold call to generate sales leads. It’s an ineffective prospecting strategy and a nuisance to buyers, most of whom ignore cold calls.

For account-based sellers, it’s not only a waste of time. It’s a waste of perfectly good relationships.

Current clients at a prospect company are the best source of new business within their organizations. They already know the value that your solution and salespeople bring to the table, and their word means a lot to their peers in other departments.

So, why are account-based sellers wasting time with cold calling and marketing-generated leads when referral introductions could get them the one-call meeting?

Stop Fooling Yourself—Your Prospecting Is Cold

Sales reps often tell me they’re not cold calling. They’ve done their research. They know trigger events and the names of decision-makers in their prospect organizations. They say they’re making “warm” calls.

Wrong! There’s simply no such thing as a warm call. Sales attempts are either:

  • Cold: The prospect doesn’t know the sales rep and doesn’t expect to hear from her.
  • Hot: The sales rep has received a referral introduction from someone the prospect knows and trusts, so the prospect looks forward to the rep’s call.

There is no in-between.

Cold calling is no longer just about the phone. However salespeople reach out—via phone, email, social media, direct mail, or even a knock on the door—it’s a cold call without a referral introduction.

Account-Based Selling and Lead Generation

I’m constantly receiving emails about cold calling strategies for account-based sellers and new technology for account-based sellers.

Here’s the problem: Account-based selling is about building strong and lasting relationships during every stage of the sales process—from prospecting, to closing, to implementing, to staying in touch. But there’s nothing personal about cold calling. And there’s no salesperson-client relationship when technology does the heavy lifting.

Yet, salespeople keep reverting to these impersonal, intrusive lead generation methods.

It’s not really their fault. Sales managers don’t hold their teams accountable for the depth of the relationships they build or the number of referrals they receive. Their KPIs are transactional, so their teams’ sales activities are also transactional.

There’s another lead generation trap for account-based sellers: Account-based marketing teams work with account-based sales teams to generate targeted leads based on their named accounts. They provide content for sellers, identify key players, and create nurture campaigns. Good, right? You bet. But that’s where marketing’s role in the sales process ends.

It’s the job of sellers to generate their own qualified leads by building relationships and asking for referrals. When it comes to sales leads, think quality, not quantity. Good salespeople know that the key to prospecting isn’t filling a pipeline with as many people as possible. The goal is to keep it brimming with hot leads—the kind you get with referral selling.

How a Referral Program Powers Account-Based Selling

It takes at least seven to 10 touches for cold callers to connect with decision-makers. When they do finally get the right people on the phone, their chances of closing deals are still slim. But when sales reps receive referral introductions to their prospects, it only takes them one call to get into the C-suite.

The toughest part of sales is getting to the right people—prospects who want what you’re selling and have the power to make deals happen. Referred salespeople have the inside track. They know exactly the people to meet, and their prospects welcome their calls.

How much time and energy do your sales reps typically spend getting in front of the right people? How many hours do they waste cold calling lists of people who may or may not have decision-making authority, following up on unqualified leads, or even calling door-to-door? It doesn’t have to be like that.

When account-based sellers prospect with a referral program, all their sales leads are qualified. They gain access to decision makers. They are credible and trusted, so prospects share information with them about the key players, the budget, and what it will take for them to win the deal. They have meaningful business conversations and get information their competitors don’t. Their buyers tell them the truth.

As a result:

  • The sales process shortens.
  • The cost of sales plummets.
  • They convert well more than 50 percent of prospects into clients. (Most salespeople say it’s more than 70 percent.)

Ask yourself: How do you want your sales reps spending their valuable selling time? Cold calling and cold emailing prospects seven to 10 times? Or getting the one-call referral meeting?

account-based sales

Connect with No More Cold Calling

Follow Joanne on Google+ or Twitter @ReferralSales, or connect on LinkedIn and Facebook.

2 Responses to Reasons Cold Calling Is No Good for Account-Based Sellers

  1. Joanne, you mention the symbiotic relationship between account based marketing and sellers, however in our organization we have a hybrid role where sales development reps are responsible for identifying leads for the account executives who go on the road. Do you have any articles or books on how sales development reps (who are inside only) can still develop a referral program? The reason I ask is typically once a lead is handed to the account executive the sales development rep’s role in the relationship comes to an end. Therefore I struggle to see how a referral program could work for our organization.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Jeannine. I agree with you that a referral program probably wouldn’t work for SDRs if their role is to send leads over to account executives. A referral program is designed for account executives who form relationships with prospects and clients. They could be going up-market or have named accounts. Either way, the #1 way to get a meeting is with a referral introduction.

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