If you still think conducting cold calls is a great way to build your business, think again. Tactics like random cold calls and black books with client contacts are signs of a broken system. These practices aren’t relevant in today’s customer-first selling cycle — they’re not only a waste of time and energy, but they’re also a punch in the gut to employee morale. In the past, buyers had only a few avenues to receive information. Businesses controlled sales conversations and pushed information to buyers through channels like radio and television ads and, yes, through cold calls. Today, buyers are doing their research online and are only ready to engage with a sales rep in the last third of the buying process: the decision phase. Before that, they actually want to remain anonymous while they gather information on their own. Think about it: When you’re shopping, what’s your standard response when a sales associate asks, “May I help you?” It’s probably “No thank you, I’m just looking,” right? And during this exchange, it’s also unlikely the sales person caught your name, contact information, or any actual details about what you were looking for. That’s because you were still in the “research” phase; you were still “just looking.” Apply this thinking to your sales and marketing practices. During the first two-thirds of the process, buyers don’t want salespeople calling up to offer product details or pricing information. In fact, cold calls are viewed as a nuisance. Buyers prefer customized service — once they’re ready to buy. The Effects of Outdated Processes The people who hate cold calls the most are the employees who have to make them. It is an emotionally draining process. It affects morale because employees know they’re inconveniencing customers, and they mentally brace for the backlash. Your team can only experience that for so long before they become burnt out. So why is approximately half of all sales time still being spent on unproductive prospecting? In a recent LinkedIn article, sales expert Serge Romano referenced an encounter with a new client. It turns out, the client’s sales strategy was rife with cold calls: “… their sales strategy was to have each of their team make 100 cold calls every week. When I asked how that was working for them – they replied that nobody was doing it, the sales team was unhappy and they were frustrated because of the lack of new business opportunities.” Another issue is that most companies still put more focus on getting new customers versus retaining or winning back customers who have already expressed interest. To keep new sales leads from falling through the cracks, it’s important to take the time upfront to carefully and consistently qualify new leads — you need to really get to know your customers so you can understand and better address their needs. Signs of a Broken System (and How to Fix It) There are telltale symptoms that can indicate a broken sales and marketing system. The good news is that it’s relatively easy to correct these flaws to increase conversions and generate more warm leads. #1. Lack of process is creating chaos. The first and most obvious sign of a broken sales and marketing system is the lack of an organized process. Are your contacts organized in a central place? Are your records accurate? Is your sales team duplicating follow-ups or not following up with prospects at all? This type of disorganization inevitably results in lost opportunities. First, re-evaluate your arsenal of tools. Take a step back to really dive into the tools (or lack thereof) your sales and marketing teams are using. If your potential customers aren’t engaging with you on the channels you’re using, you need to rethink your marketing processes. #2. Capturing prospect information is a chore. If you’re still manually entering prospect information into spreadsheets all over the place, you likely have leaks in your sales funnel. Make it easier on yourself by fully leveraging your website to glean prospect information. After all, it’s not just a pretty online brochure. It should cover the basic information, of course, but also provide an easy way for visitors to share their information — sparing you the tedious chore of manually doing so yourself. The solution? Find an effective and easy-to-use customer relationship management system. CRM technology helps businesses simplify, automate, and optimize the sales and marketing process. According to a study by RingLead, 74 percent of CRM users said their systems provided improved access to customer data. A CRM ensures your contacts are organized, sales leads are scored, manual tasks are automated, and information is shared across departments so all teams are on the same page. #3. Unqualified leads waste time. If your sales team is constantly chasing down unqualified leads, your marketing efforts are not reaching the right audience. A solid nurturing process can help marketing deliver warm leads to the sales team, ensuring every conversation is productive. You can accomplish this easily if you implement inbound marketing with marketing automation. More than 70 percent of companies already use marketing automation to some extent, with another 23 percent planning to do so soon. Why? Because most business owners say it is very important to overall marketing performance. Rather than making cold calls, you need to be educating prospects through content marketing. Nurturing leads will allow you to stay top of mind with prospects and reach them when the time is right: when they’re ready to buy. #4. High customer churn is prevalent. If you’re dealing with high customer turnover, you need to get back to the basics — understanding your core customer. It’s important to get a holistic view of your customers to help recognize early warning signs of churn. Track and analyze their interactions across multiple channels, such as visits to your store, previous product purchases, past calls to customer service, and online/social media interactions. This information can help shape your marketing and sales processes. Have a clear, detailed buyer persona. A deep understanding of a buyer’s pain points will help you solve her issues, making your marketing efforts more successful and increasing the likelihood that your sales conversations will convert. Look beyond the usual information (age, gender, marital status, job, etc.), and ask more probing questions: What do you fear most? What’s your favorite hobby or pastime? Who do you most admire? In today’s customer-first selling cycle, small business owners must abandon old-fashioned, out-of-date sales and marketing tactics. Cold calls are a thing of the past. CRM and marketing technology will ensure more productive use of time and resources, as well as happier customers and employees. What do you think? Have you moved on from conducting cold calls, or do you still stand by the tactic?