Every company wants more sales. After all, it’s how brands stay relevant, necessary, and in the black. Businesses are constantly challenged to attract attention, build loyalty, and move the needle on conversions. Figuring out how to balance this internal need with the external marketplace can be challenging.
Some brands, in fact, feel like the marketplace is constantly dealing them blows that hamper their attempts at boosting sales. Businesses from department stores to healthcare companies feel that Amazon is a looming threat to their long-term revenue. Baby product brands are seeing sales drop as the birth rate in the U.S. falls. And as ride-sharing services become more popular and public transportation is in vogue for its environmentally friendly benefits, U.K. car dealers are seeing sales shrink.
But focusing on the external factors that limit sales distracts companies from what they can do to boost them. They have a lot more control — and more options — than they think.
Going Beyond Cold Calls
When pressure to increase sales hits, most companies default to cold calling as the solution. That’s not necessarily the way to go, particularly if that’s the only tactic a business is capitalizing on. “Phone calls produce more in-the-moment pressure to do something, which can yield the lowest-quality meetings,” says Jeff Winters, the CEO of Sapper Consulting.
He says people are constantly looking for a “how to cold call” guide, but that misses the point: “It doesn’t take into account that people will respond, or not respond, to different mechanisms. There’s a whole population that will never take a cold call, as well as a whole population that won’t respond to email or won’t read LinkedIn messages.”
Here’s what brands wanting higher sales should do instead:
Build an integrated plan.
Winters recommends that brands build lead-generating plans that include cold calls in addition to emails, social touches, thought leadership, and other tactics. By assessing which personas respond best to different kinds of outreach, brands can tailor their methods to the specific audiences they’re targeting. The goal is to determine which method works best for a particular type of customer so the quality of the ultimate conversation is improved.
Make the most of digital tools.
Some companies still heavily rely on in-person meetings to close deals, but digital platforms can offer more efficient ways of connecting. Better yet, they can gather data that informs the entire team’s efforts. McKinsey & Company found that fast-growing companies invested in digital tools that delivered actionable insights to their salespeople; they then shared the collected information with partners, ensuring consistency across efforts. “Mobile-first” isn’t just convenient for prospects and customers — it’s useful for sales teams.
Ask for referrals.
Many people feel they can only ask for referrals from customers who are incredibly happy with their current service — and they do make for great referrers. But people who have said “no” in the past are also strong sources. While they themselves may not have had the budget for the brand’s services or may not have felt the urgent need, they may know other companies that do. By offering incentives for referrals — which can range from discounts to cold hard cash — a company can boost its lead sources, even among businesses it couldn’t help.
Ensure your brand is hard to miss.
While not every company can afford a line of billboards or Super Bowl ads, every business can do something to heighten its visibility. A company blog is a good starting point: Having your content address customers’ pain points provides sales collateral for your salespeople. (Bonus points if they write it.) External content can also be a game changer: Whether a brand is pitching a well-known industry publication or a local business magazine, it’s putting itself in front of its ideal audience. But don’t forget what may be the most natural platform for salespeople: public speaking. By booking them opportunities to speak — whether it’s at a conference or in front of a local Chamber of Commerce group — sales experts can bask in their strengths while providing value to (and attracting interest from) others.
Actively look for upsell opportunities.
Companies that provide services or product-based customer service often separate their sales and customer service duties. While this makes sense, this also places a divide between these perspectives. Schedule blocked-off times to have salespeople sit with account managers or customer service representatives and talk through client accounts or recent calls. By hearing about customers’ concerns, salespeople can improve their ability to overcome obstacles when closing sales — and they can also help reps and account managers find overlooked ways to increase the value of existing accounts.
Cold calling may have been viewed as companies’ savior in the past, but it can’t be viewed as the be-all, end-all in an era when there are nearly as many ways to communicate as there are audiences. By tying lead generation to a variety of tactics, businesses are more likely to find just the right way to talk to the right people.