12 Sales Prospecting Methods to Use as Alternatives to Cold Calling
You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone here at LeadFuze who thinks it a great idea to pull out a phonebook and start at the letter “A”.
That’s silly, but sadly, it’s what most people think of when they hear the term “Cold Calling”.
Not only is that not one of the sales prospecting methods I recommend, but it’s really not much of a method at all.
A (slightly) better routine is to purchase a pre-made list of leads based on minimal criteria and then reps start from the top and pester the names on the list until it dries up.
Another poor outreach strategy at its worst.
There is always an element of the sales process that requires you to build rapport. And if your product is expensive or complicated—it will eventually take a conversation to close.
That said, there shouldn’t be too many times when you are going into a call without the prospect at least knowing something about you. And there should be zero occurrences of you going into a call without all the data you need to succeed.
Canned script with predetermined, robotic statements to get around objections make the contact feel like they’re trying to pay their house payment (e.g. via automated telebot). We urge you not to do that, but develop a pipeline of solid lead gen sources (like the ones below).
Some of the methods are quick and don’t take much time, others take a while (at first). All will deliver results. We’ll try to rate each one based on effort and potential result.
Let’s get started.
Note: All of these sales prospecting methods will keep you from calling people who are completely unaware of you, but we will not be sharing the commonly shared “inbound” methods of avoiding outreach. All of our options are things you can do starting today and see fruit from your labor without having to rank for keywords on Google. We love blogging and inbound, but these methods are built to help your team meet quota next month.
Yes, we know B2Bs live and breathe on LinkedIn (it’s on this list). But one of the most undervalued social channels is Twitter.B2Bs who use Twitter effectively have dramatically increased sales. Click To Tweet
Not only can you reach out to the right people directly, you can research contacts to find influencers and decision makers before you reach out. It can also be (partially) automated to save time and give you notifications when something worth your time happens.
Tip #1: Use a tool, like SocialOomph (free and paid), to pick keywords and a ridiculous amount of other prompts.
Tip #2: Use the advanced search feature. To find this feature you’ll have to search for something first and then choose advanced search after the results come up. But if you really want to dig in, we recommend that you use the desktop site and just go directly to the advanced search page—here’s the link.
Take a look at the screenshot below and drool over the inputs to search.
Tip #3: It should go without saying that when you do interact with leads via any social channel—start by adding extreme value to them while learning more about them. Consider this a time to qualify them without them knowing it.
Effort: Searching takes a little time, but building relationships takes a while. Let leads simmer longer here before getting aggressive.
Potential Result: The number of hot leads may not be a steady stream, but if you use automation it’ll be like putting a pole in the lake and waiting for a bite.
Further Research: A great post from Salesforce on using Twitter for B2B sales.
Facebook? For B2B? Yep!
It’s actually worth some time to look to FB for genuine B2B leads. The best place for reps is going to be groups that would interest and directly relate to their leads.
These groups don’t have to be stuffy and can be entertaining—that’s what makes them great.
Best Tip: Show them something different. Your customers go to LinkedIn and are bombarded with stock photos of computers, people in dress clothes, and those stupid fake stick figure people.
They go to FB to waste a few minutes and see something that interests them. Give them that in a way that establishes you as a relative expert. You don’t have to share industry memes, or be a jester. But tips, tricks and other interesting industry points are very welcome on FB.
Effort: You shouldn’t spend too much time here, but consistent posting and question answering will give the best result.
Potential Result: Again, it won’t make your month, but it will bring in some leads that may not have come in otherwise.
Further Research: Here are six case studies/tips of B2Bs using FB.
You knew it’d be on here.
If your reps aren’t using LinkedIn, they’re either new or about to get fired. You probably know that LI groups are where your leads are likely to be. You also know that using the many strategies and even the LI tools can help gain valuable insights and new leads very well.
Our tip has nothing to do with what to do, but rather what to avoid.
Warning Tip: Avoid scraping LinkedIn as it is against their terms of service and they are coming down on people that do this. Here’s some recent news about LI suing over it.
Effort: The results aren’t worth the punishment in this case. There are plenty of legal things to do, so avoid this strategy.
Potential Result: Termination, legal action, hefty fine.
Further Research: So you don’t feel shorted, here are 27 LI tips from Forbes.
Quora (and Sites Like It)
Forum sites don’t seem to have the staying power of social media sites, but they do get really popular.
Folks like GaryVee, Tim Ferris, and other top market thinkers use them, which should tell you a bit about their value. Using these sites help you in multiple ways that pay dividends over time.
Using them is usually quick and easy, too.
Tip #1: Search for topics that you can add value to, but will be seen by influencers in your target industry. Think, answering questions about lowering shrink when you sell inventory software.
Tip #2: Don’t expect the asker to be your client. These questions get seen by tons of people; consider this one to be more of an inbound method. This means that your answer should be the best one, so make sure you know what you’re talking about.
Effort: Your answers should come from experience, so the effort is just quickly searching for questions and answering appropriately.
Potential Result: A drip of people who find you here, may follow you via social making it a slow, but potent drizzle down your pipeline.
Further Research: Here’s a Quora question (with some great answers) about finding other sites like Quora.
Cold calling may not be needed at all—if you can get cold leads to respond to your emails.
How do you get more people to respond to your emails? Glad you asked.
It starts by having a firm grip on who you’re emailing. Researching contacts from a brand, finding out their pains, and all of the other aspects of having an ideal prospect in mind.
Tip #1: Use a tool. Lead gen without a tool is nonsense nowadays. Ours allows you to research leads based on several factors including industry, revenue, and size. We even automate that whole cold emailing thing while helping you craft the perfect message (to maximize responses).
Effort: Without a tool. Nonsense. With a tool (especially ours) it’s minimal compared to the result.
Potential Result: Well-researched cold email is possibly the only item on our list that can help you make your month in an of itself.
Further Research: If you’re interested, our lead generation software automates it all.
Referrals can make or break a sales team. Between prospecting and getting closed clients to refer colleagues, you can be a good rep.
Even with this common knowledge, few have an automated process or schedule for getting them. We’re not saying you should send a canned email or anything, but a little knowledge goes a long way here.
Tip #1: Do it within 30 days, but not too soon.Customers are typically the happiest with a product a few weeks after using it. Click To Tweet
They are no longer “learning” and starting to see the benefits—making it the perfect time to reach out, see how they’re doing, and ask for a contact.
Tip #2: Calling works best, but email can be a bit more automated. They’ll answer because you’ve already sold them, right?
Effort: It takes some time to get in the groove, but once you get going; referrals can be a healthy source of constant leads.
Potential Result: Depending on how many sales it takes to make your month. Referrals could fast become your favorite lead gen method.
Further Research: Case study about one B2B marketer getting over 1000 referrals in a year.
This strategy isn’t going to work for many sales reps and managers. For that we apologize.
But if you’re a founder that is looking to heavily boost your exposure while helping like-minded entrepreneurs—it could really help.
A joint venture is less formal and less time bound than a partnership. Instead of going into business together, you and another similar company run together for a while in the form of promotion for an agreed-upon amount of time.
It can be very loosely put together, or even involve contracts. Either way, they’re a good idea if done well.
Tip #1: You HAVE to add insane value to the partner you are pursuing (if you don’t know them well). Building a literal relationship before asking them for something this significant. Like, find out what conference they’re attending, the mastermind they’re in, make yourself known through bringing genuine help.
Tip #2: Have a couple of solid ideas when you finally ask for the JV. You’ll have some back and forth, so you don’t want it to be rigid. That said, you don’t want to show up to the meeting you set with, “I don’t know, what do you have in mind?”
Effort: Much effort. Months of looking and trying to make friends.
Potential Result: Incredible. Done well, it would be like McDonald’s only selling hamburgers and then partnering with a business that makes french fries.
Further Research: A great post on the advantages and disadvantages of joint ventures.
Definitely the most fancy sounding method on our list, but don’t let it scare you.
Sales reps may not be able to do a joint venture, but you can rock a peer lunch.
If you try to move B2B products for a living, you like to talk shop. Big sales, tough sales, bad clients.
Our career path lends a lot of stories and we love telling stories.
You know what else people love? Food.
Tip #1: Meet once a month and get to know sales reps in your area. Get to know them and have fun. It’s a tough job sometimes and venting with others is a great way to keep your sanity.
Tip #2: Chances are someone sells something that compliments your product. A little mutual back-scratching shouldn’t be hard if you can work out the details.
Effort: Picking a venue, making calls, and eating. Nothing too difficult.
Potential Result: The camaraderie is good, but a call now and again with a warm lead is definitely worthwhile.
Further Research: How to host a networking dinner via Entrepreneur.
Snail (Direct) Mail
Don’t knock it ’til you try it.
What’s in your mail box? If it’s like mine, you have bills, a package from Amazon, and something from a TV provider.
The point is, there’s room for something unusual. Like a letter or postcard.
Granted businesses do have letters and such sent to the office, but even still it’s getting rare. B2Bs that do regular mail well are killing it.
Tip #1: Don’t mass send these. Personalization can be done via email with software. The same-ish type of personalization on physical letters is only possible through incredibly expensive printer/computers. Send only to high-quality leads that seem a bit old school.
Tip #2: Make it something different. Not necessarily fancy. After all, a handwritten note in a handwritten letter is something that very few people do.
Effort: Tons of effort. You’ll either have to construct a physical mail campaign, or hand write letters to a small list of great leads.
Potential Result: The personal touch can have a great impact on the smaller amount of leads—leading to a warmer experience during the sales process.
Further Research: A great piece from Pardot about using direct mail with your marketing automation efforts.
Join networking groups. It’s free and easy.
Here in Phoenix we have a site like NetworkingPhoenix.com. There is a detailed calendar of networking events in the area. You may have something like this on different chambers of commerce in your area.
You can check MeetUp.com as well. Unless you live somewhere very remote, it’s likely you’ll have a group within driving distance.
Best Tip: Don’t just whip out your business cards. Have conversations and listen. Usually, relationships and potential leads will develop through the natural communication.
Effort: We’ll be honest, these can be grueling to go to all the time. Get a schedule that works for you and don’t go to events that make you uncomfortable (or put on your own).
Potential Result: Anything from partnerships, referrals, or warm leads can come from networking. It’s not going to sustain you, but there are many residual benefits to consider.
Further Research: A great article from LifeHack to help B2B folks.
No, don’t just do a sales presentation on a web chat full of a bunch of people you duped into being there.
Having a webinar has to entice people to come, but it also has to impress them once they arrive. If you just try out your pitch for 30 minutes, you’ll burn that field right over.
Best Tip: Give a group of people (that could be interested in your product) something that they truly want. Sell and inventory software? Talk about lowering shrink in the XYZ industry. Make it related to the pain you solve and let them know how well you know how to solve it (with the product).
Effort: If you know your target audience and your product, you should be able to put together a valuable 30-45 presentation in a week. Then, you’ll just have to generate interest amongst leads by inviting them, or a small ad budget.
Potential Result: Webinars can be one of the primary methods you use to bring a steady stream of leads into the funnel.
Further Research: 8 Tips for integrating webinars into your B2B sales and marketing process.
Call “Old” Leads
One of the biggest travesties of most sales reps is the lack of follow-up on old leads that never closed.
You know. All those qualifying calls that went sour and the closed-lost pile that’s full of people who already know about you?
It’s surprising how many people you’ll call months down the road and they’ll say “I’ve been meaning to look at that again”, or “We might have the budget now”.
Only Tip: Call old leads that didn’t buy the first time. Yes, develop a plan, make a schedule, yada yada. But just call them, please.
Effort: You may have to add a process to your CRM, and do a little adjusting to your weekly schedule. Nothing too life-changing.
Potential Result: Track the number of leads you contact who didn’t make it all the way. Take that number and track your follow-ups and conversion rate. Do it for 3-6 months and you’ll probably never stop.
Further Research: How to revive old sales leads courtesy of Vendasta.
Now you have a comprehensive list of sales prospecting methods to help you get more leads streaming into your funnel.There's only one more piece of the puzzle—You. Click To Tweet
Either you’ll keep on trying to cold call off of an inaccurate list—or—you could implement one or two of these strategies at a time. Test them, try them, use them.
Which tactic is your favorite? Do you have one we missed or other sales prospecting methods you recommend?
Want to get people to respond to your cold email outreach? Grab this guide which gives you 10 cold email tips you need to be using! It’s one of the best alternatives to cold calling that exist!