May 16, 2019

Inbound, Sales, & Picking Up The Damn Phone

By: Josh Dougherty


Over the last eight weeks I’ve participated in Hubspot’s Pipeline Generation Bootcamp led by Hubspot employee #6, Dan Tyre. To be honest, it’s been a bit of a struggle for me trying to juggle an hour of homework every day in the midst of running an agency, doing sales, and digging into important client projects…but it’s also been hugely valuable.

Dan’s bold claim is that those who pick up the phone win all the business. I was skeptical at first. Eight weeks on, with the healthiest new business pipeline our agency has ever had, I wholeheartedly agree with him. The proof is in the results. It turns out that you just have to pick up the phone and make calls in the right way…no cold calling here.

Let me share why you should consider this for your business as well.

Why Would An Inbound Agency Be In Favor Of Outbound Calling?

The first question you might have for me is this: “Josh, you’re the CEO of an agency that specializes in inbound marketing. How can you possibly advocate for outbound calling?” Good question. I have two specific reasons.

1) Inbound Is A Methodology Not A Set Of Tactics

What do I mean by this? It’s simple. The inbound methodology is all about attracting the right prospects to your company by relentlessly helping people. In a marketing context this means why we typically talk about as inbound marketing: attracting people through valuable content and then nurturing and qualifying them using marketing automation and numerous other tools.

In the sales context it looks a little different. It means whoever’s doing sales in your organization shifts from pushing a product to helping solve people’s problems. Whether I'm following up with an inbound lead or calling a prospect that we’re targeting, that’s my posture. It’s all about finding a way to best help them. And that, my friends, is inbound.

2) A Brave New Is A Growth Agency, Not An Inbound Agency

If you know me or my business partner Polly, you know that we pride ourselves on being just a bit scrappy. That means that while we’re primarily focused on inbound marketing for clients, we’re also helping clients refine their sales tools and delight their current customers. We also help clients develop unique brands or build a kickass website.

We’re focused on growth both for our clients and ourselves, and if picking up the phone helps drive that growth, we’re going to do it.

How To Pick Up The Damn Phone, Without Cold Calling

Ok, so what does it mean to use an inbound approach to prospecting on the phone. Here are five tips:

  1. Identify a target market & buyer persona: Too many people say they’re targeting everyone with their sales efforts. This is disastrous in inbound marketing. Turns out it’s disastrous when you’re calling prospects as well. Do the hard work to define the specific type of company you’re targeting and the roles within that company that you need to talk to to make the sale. This will allow you to identify the right people to call.
  2. Start with your closed lost list: If you need a little jumpstart to get going with calling, try calling the leads that got away over the last year first. These are people that already know you. It should be easy to call them and ask them if anything has changed since you last talked.
  3. Do some quick research before you call: I spend 5-10 minutes researching prospects on LinkedIn before I call so that I can bring up something that’s a mutual interest, reference something that’s going on in their company, or just establish some rapport. I also use a piece of software called Crystal Knows to understand how they like to be communicated with.
  4. Don’t get discouraged if you hit someone’s voicemail, send a follow up email: You’re going to hit someone’s voicemail the majority of the time. Don’t get discouraged, this is normal. Leave the voicemail, people have caller ID so it’s going to be more weird to not leave a message. Once you’ve gotten off the phone send them an email with something that’s truly helpful inside (maybe a blog post, or a link to a white paper you know they might enjoy because of your research). You likely won’t get called back, but they are much more likely to respond to email.
  5. Call five times before you move on to the next prospect: Be persistent, like 5x persistent. You’d be surprised the number of people who respond after the fourth attempt to reach them thanking you for your persistence and wanting to engage in a conversation. People aren’t avoiding you necessarily, they’re just busy. Be sure to give someone something valuable every time you contact them.

There’s so much more you can do, but these 5 tips will get you started and that’s more than half the battle.

What To Do After Connecting With A Prospect

One of the biggest mistakes that I make frequently is jumping to a proposal too quickly. I constantly have to remind myself to stop, listen, and co-develop goals and a plan with the prospect. It turns out, when you do this you’re far more likely to land the prospect and bring on a new client.

In our sales cycle, this means that I’m not likely going to show you a proposal until our at least our fourth conversation. Here’s how my typical process goes:

  • Connect: My first call (that I’ve been talking about above) focuses on identifying if there’s a problem or challenge that I can help solve. If there isn’t I’ll try and refer the prospect to someone who can. If there is, we’re in business.
  • Explore: On the second call I’ll ask a ton of questions to get to the root of what the prospect’s pain points, challenges, goals etc. You may want to use a framework like BANT to determine if a prospect is a good fit for you. At the end of the call, the prospect and I will decide together if it makes sense to move forward. If I’m helping them, and they’re a good fit or our agency, they usually will. If not, no worries. It’s better for them to find a partner that is a better fit.
  • Plan: The third call is all about goals and planning. We’ll use the call to define some solid goals for what we want to achieve together and in what timeframe we want to achieve them together. Then we’ll talk tactics. Sometimes we’ll even put together an initial projection of the return they could see working with A Brave New.
  • Proposal: Finally, we’ll present a proposal. Usually I’ve spent at least two hours with the prospect at this point. We’ve started to build trust in each other. Now it’s just about putting a compelling proposal together.

Is your sales approach like this? If not, I encourage you to give it a try. You will not regret it. Want to learn more? Check out Inbound Sales. It’s a quick read, and works really well.

It’s Time To Be Pick up The phone

There’s tons of people who need what your business provides, it’s your job to find them.

But, don’t do it alone. Find a group of people that can support you in your efforts, whether it be the rest of your sales team, peers who work at other companies or just a group of likeminded people in your LinkedIn network.

Most of all, pick up the phone, because at the end of the day Dan is right. It’s the people who pick up the phone who get all the business.

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