To call or not to call? Leads etiquette

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Image courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo

It wasn’t too many years ago that the accepted practice when you met someone at a business event was to pick up the phone and call them afterwards, to attempt to start a discussion about your business offerings and possibly set up an ‘exploratory meeting’. 

These days, if you do this without an invitation, you’re likely to get blacklisted from your new contact’s circles.

So how relevant is the old sales call technique in today’s business world? One thing to consider is whether a ‘lead’ is really a lead.

In at least one networking association I know of, a lead is classified as ‘hot’ or ‘warm’, to signify how much the contact wants to hear from you. They could be someone you’ve already met or they could be referred to you. In the world of traditional sales, many ‘leads’ are actually cold – they’ve never even heard of you when you pick up the phone to call them.

People have different tolerance levels to the sales call – and mine is virtually non-existent, regardless of industry or connection level. If I haven’t asked for information, I really don’t want it delivered directly to me. I think a great many people feel the same way, and certainly market trends are showing that your next client is discerning and savvy and wants to do their own research before they have a conversation with you. Chances are they prefer a recommendation from a trusted friend or colleague, too.

Of course, there are industry variations – what works for one field will not for another. It depends on how your customers prefer to engage with you and your offerings. A solid understanding of where this is at in your industry, right now, is essential Sales 101.

But I would argue that in an increasingly fast-paced, competitive, information-rich and sometimes impersonal world, the vast majority of people want to feel they are being communicated with on a human, transparent level. They want real information, to be genuinely listened to, and assisted to achieve their goals – when they ask for it. They don’t want their workday or social time interrupted by unsolicited sales calls, texts, emails or visits.

As a business owner, I personally want only to work with people who want to work with us – if I have to convince you, I don’t think it’s worth it. Might sound idealistic to some, but for me at least, as a consultant with a small and passionate team, I have better ways to focus my sales and marketing resources than to sit on the phone cold-calling or attending time-wasting meetings that aren’t mutually beneficial.

How about you?

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