10 Strategies to Generate Sales Leads Without Cold Calling
Let’s not lie: no one loves cold calling. No one. Not salespeople. Not consumers. Not the decision-makers in the C-Suite.
It’s effective, so we do it—but rarely will you hear anyone say it’s their favorite part of their job. Warm calls? Maybe. Deal closings? Certainly. But cold calls are frequently avoided ... if only for a change of pace. (And if you need some comic relief, check out our cold calling memes.)
Luckily, there are many other ways a sales rep can generate leads without ever having to pick up the phone—well, not for a cold call at least.
In order to get a handle on exactly what types of lead generation strategies are available to you outside of cold calling, we’re first going to take a look at what it is as well as its effectiveness. From there we will discuss lead generation, both definitions and strategies for your sales team. By the time you reach the end of this post, our goal is for you to have several solid approaches, suitable for B2B marketers trying to land potential customers that fit their ideal customer profile.
And all without the unwelcome, sometimes cringeworthy “wish I was doing anything else right now“ awkwardness of a cold call.
What is Cold Calling?
Cold calling is the practice of making a phone call to someone that you’ve never spoken to before in an attempt to sell a product or a service.
The nature of a cold call is that the recipient has had no prior contact with the company, though that doesn’t necessarily mean you haven’t had prior contact with them. In fact, until you get a response—e.g. the person picks up the phone, calls you back, or contacts you in some other way—your efforts at contact still fit the definition of cold calling.
How Effective is Cold Calling?
It’s true that cold calling has its uses. According to various studies, cold calling is still quite effective, and is by no means a dead art.
For instance, one study referenced in the article above shows that more than 70% of potential customers are open to contact from a salesperson when they’re not settled on a particular approach—in other words, they need ideas and a sales pitch will help.
Other studies show that 27% of sellers dub cold calling an “extremely effective” marketing strategy, and only 5% say the same thing about email. Likely a phone call is better at addressing pain points, and it’s more likely to reach decision-makers, especially with the right script.
What is Lead Generation?
Lead generation is the process of finding and cultivating prospects with the aim of turning them into new customers. Sales reps find leads through various sources (we’ll identify and describe them below), then nurture these new leads along over time.
Lead generation can take many forms, from blogging and social media to thought leadership and robust search engine optimization. And, yes, cold calling. Any marketing activity that turns sales prospects into outright sales qualifies as lead generation.
How to Generate Sales Leads Without Cold Calling
Cold calling is only one way of generating qualified leads. There are many other ways to get in touch with and nurture leads for future purchases. While no one could cover all of them in a single article, here are 10 of our favorites.
1. Build an Inbound Marketing Strategy
If you could convince your leads to come to you, rather than going after them, why wouldn’t you? Inbound marketing does just that, putting out content to draw them in and engage in the sales process. (For us at Close, this has been our number one channel from day 1.)
One of the main components of inbound marketing is a well-designed website that encourages visitors to stay on the page and learn. That means good UX design, as well as frequent options to take action: complete a form, contact the company, buy a product, etc.
While technically there are many other forms of inbound marketing—including social media posts, quizzes, free downloads, ebooks, pillar pages, press releases, infographics, and newsletters, among others—these are more specifically classed as content marketing, which we will look at in a moment.
Note also that inbound marketing can be designed for any stage of the funnel, from a totally new lead to someone who is almost ready to make the purchase.
2. Set Up Automated Email Marketing
Email marketing is another excellent tool in your toolkit. One of the easiest ways to build your email list is to offer high-value resources, such as templates or whitepapers, that a lead can access by sharing their name and email address. You can also dig up email addresses as part of your prospecting work, or purchase email lists (though we have reservations about that. Related: Learn more about keeping your email list clean).
Companies take many approaches to email, but the most effective email strategy is automated drip marketing. Email drip campaigns are timed, successive emails that slowly build a value proposition around a product, service, or company as a whole. Recipients in the same email list will all receive the same series of emails, no matter when they join your drip campaign. Drip campaigns are easy to automate and allow you to ‘set it and forget it’ until a lead responds back with interest.
With automated drip campaigns, you can create as many campaigns as you’d like, each targeting different lead types or stages in the funnel. For example, you could have one drip campaign for cold emailing prospects you identified yourself, another for warm emailing prospects who showed some interest in your brand already, and a third for your current customers and “hot leads”--more on that later!
3. Incorporate Content Marketing
Content marketing helps to build your brand voice and authority and bring leads in too. This only gets more effective as you lay the groundwork for an ever-more-powerful and layered marketing machine.
Content marketing can take a huge variety of forms. A few classic examples are blog posts and videos that give users an educational experience. For example, a blog post that explains why a certain product will relieve a user’s problem, or a video showing how to build something from scratch.
Why is this a good strategy? Because the blog or video usually includes the business’s unique product, service, or value proposition somewhere in the content. Once the viewer is convinced that the content was valuable, they’re more willing to look at the company too.
This is a great way to build brand authority and establish consumer trust. It’s also a powerful way of reaching decision makers, whose gatekeepers can send them a piece of content without having to put them on the phone right that moment.
4. Focus On Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Want your amazing content to get out into the world? You need to think of it not as a creator would, but as a producer would.
Producers are all about making sure something is audience-ready, and in the black void that is the internet, nothing is audience-ready without excellent search engine optimization, or SEO for short. This basically means that in addition to making your content accessible to human eyes, you also make it accessible to the search algorithms that determine who sees it.
You can do this by …
- Making sure your site navigation is up to speed
- Updating landing pages so that calls to action and goals are easy to complete
- Post blogs that answer questions your potential customers are asking
- Using thorough metadata so that internet bots know exactly what your content is about
One of the easiest ways to create SEO-optimized content is to first think about what your ideal customer would type into a Google search bar when researching your product. For example, a company that sells access to an online Magic Tricks & Showmanship course likely has an audience full of potential customers searching terms like “how to do magic” or “magic tricks for kids.” Use these keyword phrases and publish articles on the topic. It’s a great way to not just bring new leads to your site, but also showcase your industry expertise.
5. Implement Referral Incentives
No one said lead nurturing would be a linear process, and you should expect to lose a certain percentage of your leads at every stage of the journey. Even your most qualified inbound leads, who have almost completed the sales process, will sometimes bail for reasons of their own.
That doesn’t mean you have to just let it happen, though. You can win a lot of them back with the right marketing campaigns, and incentivize your existing customers and clients as well.
Referral and incentive programs do just that. An incentive is simply a reward you promise to give someone if they take a certain action. That’s why deals like “20% off if you refer a friend!” are so popular: they work. You can also use incentives to encourage a certain amount of spending each month, to get testimonials on your site or to garner reviews on other sites.
For lost leads (those who stop responding to your outreach efforts), you can send an email with a special promotional offer if they reengage or make a purchase.
The first thing marketers often think of are giving discounts—but we advise you to avoid discounting your product whenever possible, and instead find other ways to make your offer more compelling.
6. Be an Industry Leader
Becoming a thought leader in your industry is one of the best ways to prop up your company name and encourage your content marketing efforts along. Conferences, trade shows, and retreats all work very well for this. Offer to speak or host events for other organizations, and they’ll often accept because they have so much expert time to fill.
There are three main benefits of being involved in industry events:
- You get to meet people in person and steer them toward your content, products, and services, using your own personal charm
- You can record the talks, pitches, or panels at these events and use them in your future content marketing materials.
- You can close deals there.
Of course, you don’t need to physically attend anything in order to become a thought leader. You can also host webinars, write content for industry publications, appear on other people's podcasts, and network, network, network. Whether you get involved in virtual or in-person events, always be prolific and omnipresent. Make sure everyone knows your name, your company name, what you do, and how well you do it.
7. Give it Away (Temporarily)
One of the best ways to reach your target audience and get more potential clients is to be generous. That’s right, you’re going to give stuff away.
- Offer free resources - Things like tips, templates, white papers, scorecards, assessments, and the like can (and should) be provided year-round, without time restriction. They're evergreen content pieces that will bring in a steady stream of leads.
- Offer free trials - Give your prospects a chance to experience your product for themselves and see how it can solve their current problems. Regarding free trial durations, we’ve found that shorter is better.
The goal here is three-fold: To grow your lead list, to build your (or your brand’s) credibility, and to get people to try your product for themselves.
8. Be Good at Social Media
Everyone is on Facebook. And LinkedIn. And Instagram, and Twitter, and probably TikTok, too.
Lots of companies and sales reps follow the crowd so as not to be left out—and they end up becoming one of millions of people all posting about themselves, their company, their product, yadda yadda yadda. It gets noisy.
So how do you do social media right?
Lots of people will tell you that you need to post daily and use trending hashtags. But in my opinion, your biggest impact on social media will come from engaging authentically.
Get involved in conversations. Interact with your audience on the topics they’re interested in. Talking about your company is a great way to let people know it’s there, but don’t focus 100% on your product. Instead, provide actionable tips or ideas when someone posts asking for advice. That’s how you become known throughout the industry as a trustworthy source.
And seriously, don’t discount the inbound marketing power of using a variety of social media channels. You never know when a single tweet might generate ongoing monthly revenue.
9. Nurture Existing Customers
Your existing customers have already been sold, but don’t ever assume that they’re not leads anymore. In fact, according to Smart Insights’ Customer Retention Guide, your chances of success when selling to an existing customer are 60-70% … much better than the 5-20% success rate seen when selling to a new customer.
Targeting existing customers for future sales after their initial purchase is called upselling. Providing great customer service is an easy way to maintain relationships and create loyal customers who’ll be receptive to future warm calls and upsell opportunities.
A great (and easy) way to do this is to create an email list specifically for existing customers in your email marketing platform, and set them up on a drip campaign that focuses on relationships, loyalty, and retention. Send personalized messages that request feedback or solicit new ideas, and engage in the conversation when customers do respond. When appropriate, send announcements about new product releases and add-on features.
10. Follow Up on Cold Leads
Cold leads? You mean, as in, cold calling?
Kind of. Cold leads are those who haven’t yet responded to your outreach efforts. They have remained cold despite your calling and emailing. However, we’ve seen the best success in continuing to reach out until you get a direct “no” from the prospect, since you never know when they’ll hit a pain point that makes them ready to listen to what you’ve got to say.
Lost prospects are a different kettle of fish. They’re potential customers who responded to new outreach for a while, then dropped off. While it’s impossible to tell why you lost their interest without asking them (which is what incentivized surveys are for, by the way), you can entice a certain percentage of those folks to return and become new clients.
Always make sure your lead generation efforts make time for lost prospect follow-up and re-engagement, or you might be missing a powerful segment of your potential audience.
Keep Track of Sales Activities With Close
Of course, once you’ve drummed up all those qualified prospects, you need a way to keep track of them and nurture them along. That’s where a powerful CRM tool comes in.
Why do you need a CRM system? Because the success of any business owner relies on their ability to track contact information, automate their lead gen processes, and maintain a good relationship with prospects once they become customers.
Plus, you need to know what works if you want to boost your close rates. Any of the above lead generation efforts—even things like publishing blog posts and sending out newsletters—are sales activities, and all of these efforts should be tracked with a sales CRM like Close. Don’t believe us? Many businesses have used Close with great success, so maybe a case study or two will convince you.
At the end of the day, the most robust strategy for cultivating potential customers is for naught if you don’t have a way to organize them. That’s where Close comes in, helping sales reps keep track of their peripheral sales activities without losing focus of the main tasks. Think prospecting, hosting discovery calls and nurturing … and that’s just a few examples.
Ready to learn more about how Close can help you? We invite you to try us free for 14 days and see how well the platform can serve you too!