Are You Selling to Phantom Buyers?

Imagine you’re running a retail shop. Twenty or thirty times a day, your front door opens and the entry bell rings “ding-ding.” You trace the path of depressions in the carpet and see products shuffled around your shelves. Most of these journeys through your store end with an invisible departure.

Phantom Foot Prints in Your Carpet

This is what internet marketing looks like. Marketers view internet analytics and see which landing pages are creating the best results. Marketers trace the navigation paths to see what material is being read and downloaded. But unless a visitor fills out a contact form, they are just an anonymous phantom.

Salespeople are entering the buying process 70% of the way through.

The affordability and wide reach of internet marketing has established passive selling in the B2B world. Digital marketing machines are powerful tools, but will never equal or outperform live networking and prospecting. When I found myself in a new sales opportunity that was at the end of the process, I invested little and hunted fresh opportunities.

Entering the buying process late in the game pits salespeople against each other in feature and discount wars. I believe this is one of the reasons sales reps are complaining about the quality of marketing generated leads.

Before I began using sales and marketing automation in 1982, I called from the yellow pages and Dunn & Bradstreet contact cards. I regularly visited trade shows that potential customers attended. They say I made selling look easy, but it was hard work.

Red Motley said, “Nothing happens until somebody sells something” so I made things happen.

Sales and marketing automation did not make cold calling obsolete for me. It helped me make higher quality calls and deliver better messages. When inbound calls or sales activity waned, I was on the phone or out where my customers were.

What looked easy were my results. Heavy calling and networking developed higher quantities of opportunities, so I could be picky about which opportunities to work on. Because I got in early and established my position with customers, my negotiations were easier.

Early in my career, I found that marketing generated leads were lower quality than the leads I created on my own. This idea was confirmed by the constant complaints by me peers.

In 1982 during the last great recession, while working my way back from California to NY, I worked for a large home improvement company in Colorado for a couple of months. They generated leads for a dozen or so salespeople with a telemarking team. The leads were barely better than going door to door.

They paid telemarketers $7 per hour plus a bonus for any leads converted to sales. I was used to making my own calls as part of my job, so getting paid for qualifying my own leads was gravy. My closing ratio on my own leads was over 80%. I made enough money to move back to NY in 2 months.

Within a couple of weeks, I took a position in NY selling manufacturing automation. They had a sales and marketing automation system that strategically delivered content. They had a telemarketing team for lead development and list cleaning

The economy was horrible. Unemployment was over 10% and interest rates were double digits. Century old manufacturers were closing left and right. Our sales cycles were complex and generally long; 6 months on average. I hit the phones and trade shows. With the odds stacked against me, I closed my first two sales in six weeks.

It was hard work with great rewards and I cold called and networked until I retired. 

There is a widespread myth that cold calling is dead. Well, it is a myth. I know top producers who are still using the telephone successfully and have no intention of giving it up. Cold calling has evolved to what is now being called warm calling. With research, preparation, strategy, determination and persistence, the phones are still the most effective way to create sales opportunities.

There are a lot of no’s to get one yes. I love talking to people, so for me it wasn’t grueling. Cold calling and networking may be laborious, but it beats the heck out of digging ditches and scrubbing toilets. I know, because I’ve done both.

If you want to hit your sales goals, go where your customers are and make something happen. If you wait for customers to come to you, you may just see the faint depressions from their feet in your carpet.

Here are a couple of resources to put some people in those footprints.

Wendy Weiss is an authority on cold calling who leads salespeople to be successful in today’s sales environment. Her site is filled with incredible resources:

Cold Calling Techniquesy by Alen Mayer