Why Inbound Marketing Works Better Than Cold Calling

The Clock Is Ticking On Cold Calling

All right, you can say that clocks in the 21st century don’t tick.

Besides that, cold calling is rapidly moving to the great marketing junk heap to commiserate with volumes of printed Yellow Pages and fax machines.

And some recent studies prove the point…

A study done a few years ago by the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina concluded that some 80% of B2B decision-makers in the US absolutely, positively won’t buy from cold-callers.

A more recent study by the Keller Research Center at Baylor University, Vaco, Texas, showed something very interesting.

50 experienced salespeople, with significant cold-calling experience, made 6,262 cold calls.

Well, calling the results mere “dismal” would be a serious exaggeration.

  • 72% of the calls lead to instant rejections.
  • 28% of the calls were labeled as “productive” just because prospects didn’t hang up right away. It’s like saying that just because a girl wants to have a second date with you, she’s wants to have your babies. Not exactly.

So, then the salespeople followed up on the 28% of prospects.

Following up on the 28% of prospects resulted in 1,774 calls, which lead to 19 appointments.

On average, it took 7.5 hours to secure one appointments.

And finally, the 19 appointments led to a total of four sales.

Now let’s look at the financial aspect of such an approach.

Experienced salespeople don’t work for straight commission. It’s just a fact of life.

Let’s be conservative and say that for the two-week period, each salesperson got $2,500 base pay.

For the 50 salespeople, this is $125,000.

It seems…

The Buttons Cost More Than The Whole Coat

Let’s escort buyers on their journey from the cold call to the buying decision.

The real buyer’s appointed substitute, let’s say, a procurement agent, with interest in checking, evaluating, assessing what’s out there at a competitively low price.

Traditional business development is based on maniacal pursuit and practiced by dreaded peddlers employed by replaceable vendors.

It’s based on the idea that buyers buy whenever sellers have a need to sell something, and force their wills on buyers using manipulative sales tricks.

In fact, a few years ago at a conference, a sales manager told me…

“Tom, it’s easier for us to chase after people, hunt them down and twist their arms until they buy than find and hire all the expertise we need to do this inbound marketing thing.”

Granted, he was right. Brute force selling is almost instant gratification.

This type of business development is a 100% manual labour grunt work-based process with very little or no automation at all.

The only leverage sellers have is the number of feet on the streets, the number of fingers on telephone dialling pads, and the number of hours they pump into chasing reluctant prospects.

This process can’t be scaled without sending the business owner either in an early grave or a lunatic asylum in a few years.

In essence, using demeaning cold calling drudgery, salespeople chase after their target markets and try to engage apathetic suspects to listen to their dog-and-pony show sales pitches. Right from their first contacts, sellers’ objective is to hammer buyers with sales pitches, hoping to sufficiently “tenderize” them and sell them something.

Some prospects are real decision-makers, but opinion-makers exalted titles. And those titles can often fool sellers into believing they are talking to real buyers.

After some brain-picking meetings, sellers volunteer to write and submit their proposals to apathetic or mildly interested opinion-makers.

And opinion-makers use those proposals to pick ideas from either for in-house implementation or hiring the lowest bidder to implement it.

Sellers, even if their proposals are accepted, find that those engagements are based on “master-slave” relationships and their fees and prices get haggled almost down to the point when sellers lose money by accepting projects.

This type of cold calling leads to low quality clients, low profit margins and very little repeat and referral business.

And we haven’t even talked about diminished respect for the seller as an industry expert.

Now imagine the buyer’s response when she receives a cold call. She doesn’t voice her concerns, but this is what goes through her mind…

  1. Why are you cold-calling me?
  2. Is your company so broke that it can’t afford a decent lead generation program?
  3. Are your products/services so bad that you need to hunt for clients and sell them through brute force?
  4. Will your company around when I need help with your products/services down the road?
  5. What sort of horrible customer service does this company offer? Minimum wage boneheads and other losers.

In a humorous way, this is what the “Man in the Chair” commercial (made for McGraw Hill by the Fuler, Smith & Ross advertising agency in 1958) at the Business Marketing Association’s 2009 national conference accomplished. It shows how buyers and sellers are supposed to build relationships before selling. And inbound marketing integrates consumer research, while cold calling skips it, resulting in buyer’s laments.

  1. I don’t know who you are.
  2. I don’t know your company.
  3. I don’t know your company’s products.
  4. I don’t know what your company stands for.
  5. I don’t know your company’s customers.
  6. I don’t know your company’s records.
  7. I don’t know your company’s reputation.
  8. Now, what was it that you wanted to sell me?

Well, the failure of this heavy-handed approach is as obvious as a ham sandwich. It also means that…

The 21st Century Requires A Different Approach

First, we start with a real buyer with real intent to buy.

Inbound marketing is based on magnetic attraction and practiced by sought-after industrial authorities. It’s based on the idea that buyers buy whenever they decide to buy, and if sellers try to force them to buy, they scare them away.

You invest your resources in in-person diagnostics, not presentation, if and only if there is a 99% chance that the prospect becomes a client. The synergy of education and automated disqualification qualify buyers even before in-person time and effort are invested.

Education is also a pre-selling process. It’s the equivalent of the warm-up section of a workout in the gym. Without that warm-up, you can cause some serious damage to your muscles. In this case, the damage is done to the relationship with the buyer.

If you neglect to educate your buyers correctly, then they are likely to make buying decisions based on the wrong buying criteria. Buying criteria that may be beneficial to your competitors, but detrimental to you.

Correct buyer education…

  • Eliminates price objections by using “apples to oranges” comparisons.
  • Positions you as a recognized expert, not just another desperate vendor.
  • Puts you into a “category of one”, and in doing so makes your competitors irrelevant.

At the point when the buyer becomes a self-qualified buyer, he requests the first meeting with the seller.

So, systematize and automate the 90% of your company’s marketing activities that are recurrent so that your people have the freedom to humanize and customize the crucial 10% of your activities that are ever-changing and unusual.

A company without this freedom is a sweatshop.

A company without values, policies and systems is a country club for loafers and deadbeats.

Conformity (a.k.a. systematization) is essential or you won’t be effective. Differentiation (a.k.a. humanization) is essential or you won’t be special.

Differentiate the 10% the public sees and experiences. Manage the 90% that happens behind the scenes with the effectiveness of processes, systems and procedures.

It’s never one or the other. The answer is always “both.”

In his Breakthrough DNA book, copywriter, marketing expert and one half of the I Love Marketing podcast, Dean Jackson defines three stages and eight steps, a.k.a. “profit activators” for effective inbound marketing.

Before (the sale) unit: Profit activators #1-3

  1. Profit Activator #1: Narrow your focus and select ONE target market (at a time)
  2. Profit Activator #2: Use direct response offers to compel prospects to call YOU
  3. Profit Activator #3: Patiently and systematically educate and motivate prospects to meet you… when they’re ready

During (the sale) unit: Profit activators #4-6

  1. Profit Activator #4: Present your unique service offer in a way that makes it EASY to get started
  2. Profit Activator #5: Deliver a “dream come true” experience designed from your client’s perspective
  3. Profit Activator #6: Provide after sale service – even after you’ve already been paid

After (the sale) unit: Profit activators #7-8

  1. Profit Activator #7: Nurture lifetime relationships and focus on lifetime value
  2. Profit Activator #8: Orchestrate referrals by giving your clients the opportunity to feel great

Before buying anything, especially expensive products/services, buyers want to be educated on their biggest questions:

  • I don’t know how to choose the right company in your industry.
  • I don’t know anything about the product or service that your industry sells.
  • I don’t know about your industrial practices.
  • I don’t know how I may get screwed over.
  • I don’t know what to ask of your salesperson when he meets me.

But these are superficial questions. The real concern is something like this…

“Since I’m emotionally entangled in the effect (experienced symptom) of the real problem (a.k.a. root cause), I have no idea how to dig down to the root cause and eliminate it.”

But this concern doesn’t get voiced. This is what the seller must discover during the initial discovery/diagnosis conversation. Buyers are worried that if they present their concerns right out of the gate, they get regarded as idiots.

But they’re not.

They’re regarded as successful men and women who have the spine, guts and balls to admit their mistakes and shortcomings.

Look, doctors don’t degrade their patients; therapists and consultants don’t degrade their clients. We all have blind spots, and we need objective outsiders to point them out to us.

And this takes us to…

The 5-Star System

While with cold calling, you can end up with just any kind of client, in inbound marketing, due to the extended and meticulously choreographed contact-to-contract process, you can precisely fine-tune the type of clients you want to get.

For instance, for a real estate developer firm, the 5-star prospect is someone who…

  1. Is willing to engage in honest dialogues.
  2. Is friendly, cooperative and candid during discussions.
  3. Is clear about what he wants to achieve and is willing to share it.
  4. Is moving forward on the purchase in the next 4-8 weeks.
  5. Is considering us to help.

But if you try to turn random people into 5-star prospects, you’re likely to fail and get depressed beyond hope.

Prospects are either 5-stars or not.

Or as Mark Twain once put it…

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter – ’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.”

If you have a good inbound marketing program in place, then you can afford to accept clients if and only if they fulfill all five criteria. Three or four are not enough.

It’s like pregnancy. It’s an “either or” deal. There is nothing in between. Not a sausage.

You marketing and perfect client selection should be the same.

And this leads us to the weight of your business. Is it a…

Marketing Or Sales Heavy Business

Peter Drucker wrote on Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices (1971) that…

“There will always, one can assume, be need for some selling. But the aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous. The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product and service fits him and sells itself.”

Both marketing and sales serve business development.

But there is a difference between sales- and marketing-heavy business development and organizations.

Let’s start with the definitions…

Selling is the act of attempting to convince others, often using dubious, unethical and even downright illegal methods, to have buyers buy the seller’s products/services regardless of whether or not the buyer wants or needs them. The process often involves heavy arm-twisting and haggling, and the buyer frequently experiences buyer’s remorse after completing the transaction.

Since inbound marketing is all about creating a buying environment in which buyers can self-select…

Buying is the act of willingly purchasing products/services that the buyer wants or needs, and willingly paying the seller’s price for them. Both the buyer and the seller leave transactions feeling satisfied and fulfilled.

Some call this too idealistic.

It’s because human nature values effort higher than results. In most organizations, busy-looking people get promoted before high-achieving people.

A few years ago, in one of Bob Bly‘s emails I read a sales trainer’s snarly comment to information marketers…

“Marketing is for people who can’t sell.”

Bob also mentioned in his email that this sales trainer’s bread-and-butter business was teaching salespeople cold-calling.

Basically he taught salespeople how to interrupt strangers who try to avoid them like the plague. Then how to trick them into listening to his sales pitches about products and services which these interrupted people neither want nor need.

The essence of traditional sales is to proactively seek people out and beat them into submission with sales pitches, then take their money and run very far and very fast.

Have you noticed that sales-heavy companies usually have poor customer service? They just want to hawk their stuff and then quickly move on to their next victims.

Good inbound marketing is about having self-selected people come to you on their own volition, and do business with your firm. There is no forceful selling only powerful marketing.


Traditional brute force selling is about convincing anyone to buy something. Good inbound marketing is about engaging and compelling those people who already have a high probability of buying what you sell.

I’ve read somewhere that, according to military records, a modern army uses some 15,000 bullets to kill one enemy soldier. For snipers, the result is one kill for every 1.2 expended bullets.

That 12,500-fold improvement is not due to more effort but a drastically different approach.
And if the military is willing to invest in training snipers for great results, smart business leaders may also be crafty enough to change their companies’ approaches for better results.

Picture of Todd Mumford

Todd Mumford