Anyone ever made a cold call? ✋ Probably all of us. Anyone enjoy them? Probably a very small minority of people… extreme extroverts only. ???? So, that begs the question: if we all hate cold calls, then why are we doing them?
Put it this way— if you’re starving and someone offers you a fishing pole or a pack of seeds, which would you take? The fishing pole, of course. Cold calls are like fishing. They’re useful when you need a client now, and we get it. Cold calls let you survive another day, like fishing for dinner. That’s also the biggest issue with cold calls: If that’s your only real way to gain clients, the cycle will never end. You’ll be making sales calls FOREVER. But we’ve been there— survivor sales. Also known as a traditional Outbound Sales Funnel (AKA, fishing). At the end of 1,000 cold calls, you have 10 clients, a headache, and an emotional breakdown. Then you get to start over again.
Here’s a little quip from one of our owners Joanna about her time in that cycle:
“When we relocated from NC to Greenville, SC, I knew that I would need to do the hard work to find clients. Along with attending dozens of networking events, I spent hours upon hours making cold calls or sending cold emails. And I hated it. But I have three kids who eat a lot, so I had no option. But I refused to accept the fate of cold calling every day forever. So I made a choice. I would keep on ‘fishing’ but I would ALSO plant some seeds. I began putting a long-term plan in place that is paying off now. At this point, I literally can’t remember my last cold call but the clients keep flowing in.”
SO, what can you do to get out of the survivor sales cycle? Our suggestion is: DO BOTH! Keep fishing if you need to now, because you gotta eat. But also plant some seeds to invest in long-term growth. And you can do that through creating what’s known as an Inbound Funnel.
Goal of an inbound funnel is to, instead of going after clients, simply take steps. You plant seeds to attract clients, then you water them so they come to you, then you get to harvest the crops. (Can you tell we love a good plant metaphor? ????)
At surface level, the funnels can seem similar, but when you break them down, you’ll see the clear differences. Plus, perhaps the biggest difference comes in step 4. Stay tuned. ????
1. Create Awareness
Potential clients won’t come to you unless they know you exist. Crazy, right? So the best way to get your name out there is to use a variety of methods. The more methods you use, the broader your funnel will be. In the farming metaphor, think of planting a variety of crops. Ideas for exposure? Most exposure methods are free/cheap but you can amp up your funnel by paying. Check out our handy dandy graphic for ideas for free vs. paid exposure.
2. Build Value & Trust
After exposure is executed, potential customers may visit your website, visit your store, or follow you on social media. Caution: Do not try to switch back to fishing and scare them away. Step 2 in a sustainable inbound funnel takes time. Many people fear losing the customer’s attention so they jump to sales again. Yes, short attention spans are real and they may lose focus, so using forms to gather contact info is okay, but don’t start a hard sell just yet. The natural progression is awareness, discovery, interest. The jump from discovery to interest is difficult because no one wants to be “sold,” so the marketing/sales tactics need to be balanced with building trust/goodwill.
So how do you do that?
- Offer Valuable Free Resources
- Testimonials & Customer Reviews
- Ask your customers/clients to write you a positive review online. In fact, we wrote a whole blog about how to do this well and why they’re beneficial. Check it out here.
- Insider Info
- Meet-the-team posts add a personal story and help viewers get to know you in a low-pressure setting.
- Sharing industry secrets by blog or social media can be a huge advantage for you over your more tight-lipped competitors.
- Features v. Benefits
- Keep touching on the benefits of your business or product rather than just the features. People make purchasing decisions based on benefits, not features.
- Nurture Interest
- Whether through email, social media, blogs, etc., make sure your customers see a product that meets their need(s) several times.
3. Close the Sale
You are still not a salesman here. We repeat. Not a salesman. ???? This isn’t time to “reel them in;” it’s time to reap the harvest. BUT When the customer shows true consideration (fills out a form, adds item to cart, asks for price quote), you need processes in place to help convert them. Some things to consider here:
- Ease of purchase: Can they do so without having to call? Is it intuitive? Do you accept various payment methods?
- Incentivize purchase: This may include increased direct marketing (call or email), coupon codes, limited-time introductory offers (positioned as only ONE TIME).
4. Create a Sustainable Funnel
The initial sale conversion isn’t the end. It is simply the beginning of the customer relationship journey and start of constantly refilling your funnel. If your whole funnel ends after a single purchase, your funnel isn’t sustainable. Here are a few great ways to create a sustainable funnel through customer relationship and retention
- Multiple Purchases: Could customers buy more than one of your products? How about a subscription model? How about a discount on second purchases in the same month? A loyalty program.
- Replacement Purchases: If customers won’t need multiple products, how long until they need a replacement? Do you have a long-term marketing plan in place that keeps the customer in contact until that time? Should you offer loyalty incentives? Email marketing and social media work great in this long-term plan.
- Complementary Products: What complements your product? If you know they will need another product in conjunction with yours, selling that complementary product not only gives you another sales channel, but also it’s good customer service. People like convenience.
- Customer Service: Go above and beyond expectations. Create a culture so your employees know to do the same. Great customer service creates a sales force of brand advocates, because content customers just come back. Surprised customers tell others!
Speaking of telling others, word of mouth is the best way to get you inbound leads, and by the way, it has the absolute best ROI you can ever get. So, ask customers to leave you reviews. Ask them to share with a friend for them both to get an incentive. “Ask and you shall receive…” That’s a popular saying for a reason!
And if you go above and beyond to thank customers who advocate for you by sending a hand-written thank you note, sending a gift card, or mentioning them on social media, they will feel validated as an important part of your company story, which they are! And then they’ll be more likely to continue to advocate for you. Advocates help fill your funnel with potential customers that are not only aware, but already have trust and are ready to convert. This cycle will grow, and soon you will be done with sales. Woohoo! We’re so excited about the potential of that, we’re leaving you with another awesome graphic.