Your Content is the New Cold Call

Editor’s note: Today’s post is from myDocket CEO Jason Wesbecher. Jason did a previous post on the Funnelholic: The “3 Ps” of Killer Drip Campaigns. The post absolutely blew up — tons of traffic, lots of compliments. So when Jason had another idea for the post — I jumped on it. Jason and the team at MyDocket are taking on a challenge that is near and dear  to my heart — helping sales leverage content when selling. This is a great post…enjoy.

content selling, prospectingA few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend Forrester’s Sales Enablement Forum and talk with peers in the industry about how thoroughly B2B sales is changing (the phrase “tectonic shift” was not overused).  The facts support the narrative that selling today is radically different than it was a mere decade ago: 80% of customers prefer getting their info from content rather than sales reps; there are 5+ stakeholders now involved in every purchase decision; and less than half of the deals in the forecast close today.  In other words, it’s a mess.  And sales reps & managers are left trying to sort it out.

One of the things that struck me is how outreach has changed.  If buyers want to conduct research at the time and pace of their choosing, then what is the role of the cold call?  While I hate to reopen the “cold calling is dead” debate, I do have a strong opinion that it simply isn’t an effective or productive tool in this new selling environment.  Your content is.

What Works for Me

In the past year as a venture-backed CEO, I have gotten sold to a lot.  This was new to me, since the previous 17 years I was the one doing the selling.  I did a very unscientific analysis of some of the stuff I purchased and the stuff I ignored and found that inbound cold calls generated zero purchases from us.  Here is a quick look at what worked:

  • InsideView – we purchased licenses for the CRM intelligence tool as a result of a lunch & learn they held at their office (which were conveniently located a few blocks from our HQ).  They served great food, shared some relevant case studies & best practices and then after 1 sales call we signed a deal.
  • Michael – Michael is a sales rep who wanted a job.  Instead of cold calling me, he sent me an email with a personalized video embedded in it where he talked about how he could help grow our customer base.  I was transfixed.  This was really quality content.  We hired Michael.
  • Corporate Executive Board – we sponsored their Sales & Marketing Summit last year.  They arguably have the greatest sales content going right now with their book The Challenger Sale.  We have a strong affinity for the book and contacted them after reading it & researching their events.
  • Pardot – after attending a webinar and then speaking with a couple of people locally who are marketing automation experts, we determined that Pardot was the right solution for us.  Then we called them.

Now, sure, this is just a small sample size.  But in each instance, content was the pivotal tool that the seller used to move us to a first step.  The dozen or so cold calls I receive each week have little chance to influence me because they force me to stop what I am doing and give priority to the sales rep rather than allowing me to “self serve” on my schedule.  Plus, I can spend 20 seconds scanning a relevant content piece in what seems like it takes a cold caller several minutes to deliver a similar message.  And unlike the cold call, content doesn’t come packaged with contrived chitchat.

The Problem with Cold Calls Today

Prospecting, content selling, sales 2.0Ten years from now we will look back at cold calling much in the same way that today we look back at door-to-door selling.  It was the thing that salespeople did because it was the only way to get the job done.  It’s just so totally different now.  Aside from the fact that customers have become fatigued by years of poorly executed cold calls, there are two foundational aspects at play: (1) customers want to consume vendor info at their own pace, not at the pace of the sales rep, and (2) people often don’t use their phones for calls anymore.

Has anyone actually enjoyed giving or receiving a cold call?  Ever?  It’s an awkward business practice that, these days, borders on intrusion.  Given how people actually buy things now, cold calling is an anachronistic method of engagement.  And besides, people don’t use their phones like they used to.  The explosion of smartphones has paradoxically reduced people’s use of the phone itself.  People check their cell phones on average 110 times per day.  They use mail, maps, social apps, games, and the browser.  But unless it’s your mother or the nurse at your kid’s school, fewer and fewer people actually use the phone to talk with someone.

Content is the Currency of B2B

content selling, sales 2.0, cold callThere are far more effective alternatives for sellers today than cold calling.  Sales managers over the age of 40 collectively gasp.  If a warm referral isn’t possible, use content.  Use rich media (videos, photos, infographics, animations).  Use thought leadership (analyst reports, blog posts by luminaries, news items).  Or use something more homegrown and personalized (research their interests and appeal to that).  Remember, it doesn’t have to be content from your marketing department.  In many cases, content that you source from third parties is often superior.  Focus on teaching the customer something that they otherwise would not have known.  Let them take this content and pass it around internally as their own.  It will have a massive impact.

The implications of this change in B2B sales are nothing short of staggering.  The rigid, transaction based mindset that has sustained sales & marketing organizations for the last several decades doesn’t translate today.  We simply can’t use 20th century approaches to solve 21st century problems.  Content is the new currency of B2B sales.  Start taking spending it today!

Editor’s Note: Don’t forget to sign up for the Funnelholic Virtual Sales Summit April 17 — it will be awesome — Jill Rowley, Jill Konrath, Dan Waldschmidt, and Matt Heinz. Sign up here, content selling, sales, modern salesAuthor: Jason Wesbecher is the CEO & co-founder of myDocket, a tool that helps salespeople measure the intent of customers based on how they engage with their sales collateral.