Alternatives to Cold Calling
Top Cold Calling Alternatives for B2B Lead Generation
Cold calling remains one of the top ways to generate high-quality leads and secure more successful long-term business relationships. However, not every salesperson has the necessary time, resources, or skills to run a successful cold calling campaign. Other sales professionals simply do not enjoy performing these tasks and would rather focus on closing deals and gaining revenue.
Cold calling is an integral part of the sales cycle, connecting your business to your ideal prospects. Your business can’t survive without a steady pipeline, so you need to have other strategies and cold calling alternatives to provide you or your team with more sales appointments.
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How to Generate High Quality Leads Without Cold Calling
Besides face-to-face selling, cold calling is one of the oldest strategies for generating B2B leads. It can also help generate brand awareness, qualify interest, and set the next meeting or appointment, all from a single call. While techniques and methods have certainly evolved throughout the years, cold calling remains a solid foundation for many sales reps wanting to have better, 1-on-1 conversations with their potential customers.
If you are looking to supplement, replace, or just eliminate cold calling functions from your sales department, you need other alternatives for keeping your sales pipeline strong with consistent, high-quality leads.
These cold calling alternatives can help you keep a more balanced outbound strategy, but it is important to choose the strategy that corresponds best with your ideal customer profile and their preferred communication methods.
LinkedIn defines social selling as modern-day relationship building, or the practice of using a brand’s social media channels to connect, engage, and develop long-term relationships with prospects as a means of meeting sales targets.
“Actively connecting with potential customers on social media can help you be the first brand a prospect considers when they’re ready to make a purchase.” – LinkedIn
Since the rise of social media, social selling has seen a dramatic increase in popularity as an alternative to cold calling. If your business has a LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media platform they use to actively communicate – you’re already participating in social selling.
If you’re not already integrating social selling into your outbound strategy, here are some reports that may start to change your mind.
- 78% of social sellers outsell their peers not using social media
- 39% of B2B professionals reported they were able to reduce the research time needed for prospecting with social selling tools.
- 76% of buyers are ready to have a social media conversation with potential providers.
- 53% of customer loyalty is driven by a salesperson’s ability to deliver unique insight, easily done through social media.
B2B buyers are selective. According to data from Salesforce, Millennials and Gen Zers are 4.1x more likely to say that product reviews, photos, or testimonials from other customers are the most important factors when considering a purchase.
It may sound like social media marketing, but social selling is actually quite different. Social selling revolves around creating revenue and leads through direct interactions, while social media marketing is more about creating brand awareness through regular posting. Social selling requires a well-thought-out strategy and a long-term time commitment or you won’t see much success.
Direct interactions and social networking can help you create a stronger brand authority, with more credibility and trustworthiness on social media. While engaging with leads on social media can sound easy, for most sales professionals, it can be quite time-consuming and difficult to consistently post and create content. Remember, it isn’t just one interaction or one back and forth to get a sale, it is about establishing a secure relationship.
How to Become A Social Seller
According to LinkedIn, the first step to social selling is to show that you are an active participant in your industry by sharing relevant industry content, commenting on popular channels, alerts, and staying up to date with the latest prospect news and information.
Key Points: Build trust with prospects by sharing your perspectives and helping provide relevant information to common pain points. Have genuine conversations and focus on the needs of the prospect first, selling second.
Some other social selling tips:
- Be active in your industry
- Identify new contacts or decision-makers with target accounts
- Share your perspectives on these important industry issues
- Help provide more context or details that can help your audience
- Always provide value with your content and engagements
Referral Networks & Programs
Recommendations and referrals can make a huge difference in the number of leads generated each month. While some companies with strong brands and positioning in their market fully rely on referrals, other B2B leaders struggle to even ask for a review. This can lead to inconsistent, random, and unpredictable referrals, which won’t help you generate a strong sales pipeline.
To use referral networks and programs as an outbound marketing strategy, experts suggest creating a specific program or standardized process for sharing, tracking, rewarding, and reporting the different referrals your business may get from different channels.
Two of the most popular channels for referrals are networks and programs.
A referral network is a formal or informal group, that typically matches industries with their ideal target audience or consumers who find value in that specific offering. Group members engage with each other on a regular basis, locally or remotely, with the intent to help each other increase their network and visibility. Some referral networks charge dues for participation while others are free to attend. In return, this helps you create a web of connections that provides value to every party involved and while establishing your credibility and reputation.
A referral program is a standardized process through a particular software or referral page for receiving referrals as a lead generation strategy. By encouraging and incentivizing friends, family, and satisfied clients to recommend your brand to decision-makers at other businesses, you help create a mutually beneficial structure that builds upon existing customer satisfaction.
According to the Sales Optimization Company, you should think of referral networks and programs as a specific stage of your sales process with its own approach. They recommend reviewing this template before moving forward with a program or network.
- Have you perfected your product or service?
- Who’s your ideal customer?
- Have you set achievable goals? What is it you want to gain? More revenue? Exposure? Influence?
- Record all expectations – what is your process for rewarding loyal customers?
- What is the end benefit for all parties involved?
Once you have answered these questions, experts say you can move forward in creating or joining your own referral program or network.
Top Tips for Referral Programs and Networks
- Get involved with your industry and the groups that currently exist. The more you can engage directly in your industry, the more you can elevate your own personal branding and reputation in the marketplace. Dedicate time each week to connect with those relevant businesses and attend every industry event or trade show you can.
- Evaluate your strongest and most relevant, existing clientele, network, and connections. Is there anyone who could benefit from your offering? By organizing the value of businesses in your network to your own sales cycle, revenue, and exposure – you can then utilize this evaluation to decide where to apply the most attention.
- Share your knowledge. It is important to always be providing value to your network by sharing your knowledge and industry information. This will help you stand out from the crowd and get recognized by professionals in your industry more often. This is by far one of the best ways to increase your credibility and build trust among your connections.
- Collaborate with your connections. Networking takes action and initiative. Don’t wait for others to contact you, try reaching out to them first. If you can’t find an industry event, try hosting one. On average, there are about two hundred connections behind every person, so it’s all about building a network of connections who know what you are what you could do for them. Collaborating is a great way to start.
- Ensure your clients are satisfied with their results. This might seem like a no-brainer, but you can’t start a referral network or program if your clients are unhappy or unsatisfied with the work you or your team performed. Before reaching out for referrals, it is important to make sure your clients are happy.
- Create a standard process for referrals and share this process with your network. Once you create the specific process, make sure you stick to it. If you don’t stick with the process, you won’t have steady leads, which can cause a lack of revenue.
Events, Podcasts, and Webinars
Events, podcasts, and webinars can be effective methods for helping you replace cold calling in your outbound strategy. Hosting these types of outbound events can be a powerful and direct way to build thought leadership in your industry, proving to prospects that you are the right expert for the job and they should want to work with you. Choosing the right option depends on your industry and the amount of time you can commit to working on a specific topic or project.
Experts suggest paying attention to what questions your ideal targets audience is asking, how long it takes them to complete certain tasks, what their participation rates look like, and the particular types of presentations that seem to generate a higher number of both attendance and engagement. This will allow you to identify the subject matter that most motivates your audience. It will also inform you where the demand for more or better content is.
- Events: It’s one thing to just join an event, but hosting one could be a great benefit for your company. It is one of the best ways to build a stronger network and be more widely recognized by prospects. The number of online events has dramatically increased since the pandemic, where attendees have greater accessibility and venue limitations no longer matter. Through the strategic use of email, event apps, and even a custom virtual event platform, you can start interacting with potential leads before the event and through polls, questions, or follow-ups you can stay in touch after the event as well.
- Podcasts: Starting your own podcast can be amazing for generating leads and creating that brand authority everyone wants in their industry. While it can be costly in both time and resources, podcasts appeal to a wide audience and can create a myriad of opportunities for other speaking events. You don’t have to create your own podcast to generate consistent leads, you just need to have a plan to secure more guest appearances. By just appearing on a podcast, you can derive leads from three different sources – the audience from content marketing, the host(s) and their network, and SEO from backlinks. This also gives the opportunity for more sales professionals on your team to appear, which can help your company leverage an even bigger network.
- Webinars: Webinars were originally created to help move educational seminars into the online space, which could provide more accessibility to the market. They are used as an opportunity to share information, whether it is a training session, lecture, or workshop. While they can be very intricate and time-consuming, but all you really need is a topic, some speakers, and (of course) an audience.
Whether you choose to hold an event, start a podcast, or host a webinar, it is important to be memorable. The right guest, speaker, and topics are critical for success. Try to vet speakers and presenters by looking for ones not only entertain your audience but will also generate leads by participating in your virtual event. By doing this, you’ll increase the chances that they accept your invitation to participate.
Search Engine Optimization and Content Marketing
Content marketing focuses on creating, publishing, and distributing content for a targeted audience online. Search engine optimization (SEO) is defined as the process of improving the quality and quantity of website traffic to a website or a web page from search engines through organic (unpaid) results. The better your SEO, the higher your ranking on search engines like Google.
It doesn’t matter what stage or size your business is currently at, anyone can start generating leads from search engine optimization (SEO) and content marketing. Larger companies typically have more advanced content marketing capabilities than smaller ones, but small organizations appear to be better at measurement and attribution, focusing on quality content, and understanding the requirements of the customers and/or stakeholders.
Publishing content from your professional brand can help:
- encourage your audience to interact and engage with your brand.
- presents your company as an industry leader in your niche.
- your business gain trust in the market
- directly support your business goals, mission, and values
If you are looking to use SEO and content as a means for lead generation, you need to be sure you are getting the most out of your content. Before building your SEO and content marketing strategy, make sure you have detailed the following requirements.
Identify Target Audience and Their Pain Points
Your ideal customer profile(s) and buyer persona(s) – your target audience – need to be well defined in order to produce the best content that speaks directly to their wants and needs.
- List each buyer persona in a spreadsheet.
- Use data from past customers, current clients, and online research to figure out what kinds of problems they are having.
- List each pain point according to the persona most experiencing that problem.
- How does your offering speak to each of the issues they are facing?
- Each of their questions is a new piece of content.
- Every new piece of content is an opportunity to attract leads.
- Map Your Customer Journey:
Awareness – In this stage, content needs to educate your readers and make them aware of the issues they face and that your business exists to help them. You can do this through white papers, paid advertising, checklists, eBooks, and blog posts.
Consideration – Once users are aware of their pain points, they will start to assess their options and consider your solution. Content under this stage should better inform your readers using content like tutorials, slideshows, infographics, and case studies.
Decision – Finally, at this stage, your leads will evaluate the solutions available and make a purchase. Convince leads to choose your offerings through content like newsletters, demos, free trials, and guides with a specific call to action based on each buyer persona.
Focus on SEO Opportunities
Leveraging your research from the previous step, you can start to generate more traffic (and leads) by aligning your content with keyword opportunities. By doing this, your SEO can help replace cold calling at the top of your funnel, bringing consistent leads to your website.
- Conduct Keyword Research – Experts say to consider factors like volume, difficulty, page authority, domain authority, link domain, and actual SERP position when deciding which are the best keywords to target.
- No Keyword Stuffing – Try not to keyword stuff in your content. Strive to include keywords naturally. You can increase keyword count by also using related terms.
- Add Links: Adding internal and external outbound links can help direct readers to additional resources, which will keep them on your site for longer and reduce your bounce rate.
- Learn SEO Rules: Learn more about how your meta descriptions, titles, URL structure, and image alt text can alter your SEO score. Be sure to include your keywords in all of these elements.
Add Graphics, Videos, or Interactive Polls
Hubspot suggests the average customer views 3-5 pieces of content before deciding whether or not to speak with a sales rep, so if you are not providing thought-provoking, visually appealing content, you are likely to lose them somewhere in the funnel. Your content needs to spark enough interest during those first pieces of content so that they follow through on your (reasonable) objective or call-to-action.
Graphics, videos, and interactive polls are a great way to spice up your content and get more interaction with your audience. Visual aids provide another way of presenting your information, which can be especially useful if you have a particularly complex or hard-to-explain topic. Videos are also a great way to provide more context or explanation, and with Youtube, you can embed them in your blog posts rather than hosting the content yourself. This will improve engagement on your YouTube channel and help users access more of your video content.
Distribute in Proper Channels
You need to be posting where your audience lives. You should know enough about them at this point to understand what channels they spend the most time on.
Do they spend more time on email or on social media?
Which specific platforms do they use the most?
When and where are they most likely buy?
- Test your content on social media channels and targeted social media groups.
- Seek out guest blog opportunities and post on blog directories,
- Generate backlinks, use webpages to link blog posts with evergreen content
- Continuously look for distribution opportunities.
Analyze Content Metrics & Make Improvements
If you are looking to use content marketing and SEO as a way of generating quality leads, you need to be analyzing your content metrics and consistently making small improvements as you create new content. Pay attention to which pieces of content perform well and which ones were less successful.
As you become more advanced with data tracking, you can better prioritize those channels that consistently deliver higher-quality leads. For example, with new content, if the lead qualification rate is below average, then you can revisit the content or remove lead forms from it so you are only working with the best leads.
Cold Email Marketing Campaigns
Another alternative for cold calling that can help you effectively generate and qualify leads is cold emailing. Cold emailing involves strategically moving your prospects down the funnel through creative and interesting content, sparking their interest, educating them, and then further down the line, attracting them with a specific offer, all through email.
Types of Email Campaigns:
- Weekly or monthly newsletters
- Content or event promotion
- Automated drip sequences explaining a specific offering
- Special offers or discounts
Some of the variables you can test are:
- Subject line
- Email length: short vs. Long
- Including a “thank you” note
- CTA: asking for knowledge vs. asking for a favor
It is important to segment your email campaigns as well as possible into different buyer personas to speak clearly and directly to their specific pain points. Segmenting your emails makes the information in them more relevant to your prospects. The more relevant the messages, the more opens and clicks you will receive.
Need more email addresses? Try growing your email list by requiring your prospects to put in their email addresses in order to gain access to your content, otherwise known as gated content. You can also use the retargeting methods we talk about below.
Retargeting & Chat Bot
Your website is the ultimate lead generation tool. Like previously mentioned, adding SEO and content marketing can help increase your chances of generating more leads. However, you can also add tools to your website that can help increase conversion rates.
A chatbot is one tool that can help your business interact with more website visitors through a programmed chat interface that can be designed to meet the needs of your sales goals. They can help provide links, answer questions, and manage return callbacks.
These chatbots can be extremely useful in managing inbound leads that are driven to your website through outbound communications, especially if you have a small team handling inquiries. Adding one of these bots to your website can help convert visitors into clients.
Another tool that can benefit your website’s lead generation is running a retargeting campaign which can help reengage visitors who didn’t become leads or clients during their first visit. Retargeting campaigns can be done through Google Ads, Facebook retargeting, LinkedIn Ads, and other retargeting advertising platforms. Experts suggest using personalized, call-to-actions based on the visitor’s past interactions with your website.
Using Facebook Pixel is another great way to reengage and convert your social media followers into clients. By setting up the Facebook pixel, you can use remarketing campaigns based on a specific page on your site, visited by that Facebook user. This information is a huge benefit in personalizing any ads you may publish for that custom audience and your top-of-the-funnel content.
Outsource Your B2B Lead Generation
Say you read through all of these options and came to the conclusion that you just didn’t have the time needed to properly run a successful lead generation campaign. Outsourcing your B2B sales prospecting and cold calling can help you generate highly qualified leads without the costs associated with hiring and managing an entire sales team internally.
The highest performing outbound campaigns have quality data, clear and consistent messaging, and focus on providing the best customer experience, which takes time, knowledge, and expertise. If you don’t have the dedicated team or resources for these vital functions, outsourcing can help.
When choosing an outsourcing partner you need to:
- confirm they are following the highest outbound compliance standards
- make sure they provide real-time tracking and transparent reporting
- check out their reviews, their Clutch profile, and website for more information
Once communicating with an outsourcing partner:
- ask for referrals or previous/current clients
- find out what prospecting tools they use
- clearly define the objectives of your business
- state your needs and expectations
- describe how you would like outsourcing to fill areas of opportunity
This will help you align your sales goals and ensure that your outsourcing partner has the best tools and resources to meet your specific industry needs. Your outsourcing partner should be able to work with you directly to customize a package that aligns with your sales goals.
Outsourcing Your Cold Calling
When outsourcing your cold calling, a third-party sales development representative (SDR) will represent your company in the process of searching for, identifying, and reaching out to prospects with the goal of having a quality conversation and moving prospects along to the defined next steps.
This allows you to spend more time focused on closing sales and building relationships, rather than prospecting and searching for leads all day.
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