Technology's sales upside: The death of the cold call

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There are few things in life less appealing than cold calling, but, until recently, that's how most people thought about the role of the inside sales rep - endless cold calling.

Recently, however, Web 2.0 technologies have enabled ways to leverage e-mail and the Internet, to speed up sales cycles and better serve customers. Never before has there been so much prospect information so readily available to the frontline sales rep. It's changing the way they sell, and it's resulting in the death of the cold call.

It used to be that reps had to spend countless hours researching, calling and re-calling to land a few conversations. Unfortunately, many of those conversations were either fishing expeditions, misdirected or, at times, even counterproductive (not to mention exhausting and discouraging for the sales professional). Today, technology is enabling what can be called "Sales 2.0," the intersection of Web-based technology with new methodologies for driving higher volume deals with greater velocity. Sales 2.0 vendors are enabling sales professionals to better attract, interact, track and manage their customers and prospects via the Internet.

A key step in enabling success with Sales 2.0 is to better use the company Web site as a source of qualified leads. By driving traffic to the company Web site (via Google

or Yahoo keyword advertising) and then making it easy for site visitors to request more information via Web-to-lead forms, marketing departments can funnel contact information directly to the appropriate sales reps for follow-up. Sales 2.0 solutions can also enable Web site visitors to chat live with members of the sales team. It seems obvious, but prospective customers are demonstrating interest when they visit your Web site - why not do everything possible to create an instant opportunity for a conversation with a sales rep right when the prospect is on your site? Customized landing pages and Web greetings that promote relevant offers can help motivate visitors to connect with a sales rep online.

In another approach to effective prospect targeting, sales professionals can now use online database and networking tools like Jigsaw, SaleSpider, Hoovers and LinkedIn to develop lists of prospective customers, based on a variety of target criteria, such as company size, type, location and so on. Sales 2.0 vendors supply the next step - identifying those prospects who are most interested in what you're selling.

Armed with instant insight about which prospects are most interested, sales reps can then use other Sales 2.0 solutions to speed up the sales cycle. Web conferencing solutions like WebEx and Adobe Connect, or rich media presentations from Brainshark, enable them to quickly reach out to the most interested prospects with tailored and powerful communications.

All this information can be retained in CRM solutions, from Salesforce, SugarCRM, Oracle and others, so the rep can track his or her pipeline activity, its recent developments, history and actions. What results is a living document of each prospect that can be shared across the sales organization. Now sales has both the tools and the insight to reach out to the right people, at the right time, with the right message.

Sales 2.0 technologies are delivering instant information that builds relationships and enables sales to be more efficient, more cost-effective and more productive than the old dialing-for-dollars paradigm.

Sales 2.0 reps are learning about, and now instantly adapting to, their customers' buying behaviors in order to help their customers when they need it. This new form of relationship selling isn't about simply selling anymore - it's become helping the customer with their buying. And it's a win for both sellers, who want to close more deals, and buyers, who want appropriate and immediate service. n

David Thompson is co-founder and CEO of on-demand provider of marketing solutions for sales and marketing professionals Genius.com. Reach him at david@genius.com.

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