Can cold calling even work?

We’ve heard you’ve recently been in a car accident and may be entitled to claim compensation.

Robocalling has given cold calling a bad name. Frankly, so has the term cold calling. Although in some parts of the legal profession — and perhaps American politics — these tactics must work, they just don’t for technology sales. Add to that the challenge in our industry of there still not being offices with desks to dial into, and cold calling is harder than ever.

You need to have some sort of existing relationship or brand recognition in order to close a tech sale. It’s not a job that can be done cold. This is doubly true in a new country market and language.

So if it can’t be done cold, how does modern lead generation and tech sales even work? 

How to get around the ‘cold’ part

To warm up a lead, you need either product recognition or at least category recognition. There are about 50 truly recognized software brands out there that will always have more success at demand outreach, even if they are releasing a new product or to a new customer base. And sometimes there’s a new tool in a really in-demand horizontal category, like ERP or CRM, that there’s enough market knowledge to blindly reach out to a certain role and you’ll eventually get bites. But most companies don’t have this luxury. ma

Add to this, technical audiences loathe marketing. Developer relations, developer advocacy, developer evangelism. Call it what you want, DevRel is a whole industry developed in response to developers who hate being marketed to. So how do you market and sell without directly marketing and selling? Your tech lead gen funnel begins with a lot of thought leadership. Representatives of your brand out there speaking at events and on Twitch — online and increasingly again in-person — on experience as much as giving live demos. Blogs and social shares, including on Mastodon and Discourse. Engaging in dedicated Slack communities and adding responses on StackOverflow. Developer marketing is giving back to the overall developer community.

What used to be a knock on someone’s door or a phone call has evolved into an average of 12 points of direct and indirect contact. Your lead generation strategy needs to make you visible across target media without being seen as salesy. This is a longer process, but, the more technical you get, the less generic you can be.

When looking abroad, it’s good to have locals that already know where to find leads online. Sure, LinkedIn is international, but German-speaking countries love Xing, while the French flock to Viadeo. (Of course, reaching out on these media just won’t do in English.) Leverage both paid advertising and organic thought leadership to create a local buzz before you try to pick up that phone. 

This means not adding someone on LinkedIn and then reaching out 24 hours later with a dissertation-sized generic sales pitch. Launching a new technical product, especially in a new country, takes more thought than that.

How to get around the ‘calling’ bit

The majority of the tech industry is not fully back in the office. That makes it a lot harder with no receptionist or employee directory to get through. Actual cold calling is nearly impossible — even if they list their mobile on LinkedIn, calling it is tacky at best and GDPR non-compliant at worst. And sending a video link to a basically unknown will more than likely get you blocked. Even an unsolicited Calendly feels spammy and makes it about your availability, not theirs. 

Instead, after you’ve warmed up the prospect with some personalized messaging, it’s time to engage directly. Start with brief messages — an equivalent of what could fit in a popup LinkedIn messaging window, just a few lines. Ask those first open-ended questions that you would if you met at an industry event. Look to uncover their main pain points. Only then suggest a call — in their timezone and likely on a locally popular video conferencing tool.

Keep this first conversation brief — 15 minutes tops — looking to clarify what they are looking for and their intent to consider buying in the next time period. (Again this decision period will vary depending on size of purchase, tech integration complexity, and how many decision makers factor in.) Once you’ve qualified this lead further, you can do a soft handover to a local sales rep who can take that sale to a close.

Zero in on your ideal customer

Don’t waste your time — or theirs. It’s harder to get them on phone or video than ever. As much as you can, you want to move them down the pipeline and qualify them as a lead before even reaching out. That’s where the all important ideal customer profile or ICP comes in. 

Reflect on your most successful sales in your home base. Answering who is your ideal company in terms of:

  • Vertical
  • Size
  • Type 

Then get down to your target individual profile, clarifying:

  • Who are your fav customers right now?
  • What job titles are you selling to? (In certain markets like tech and marketing, there can be many names for the same role.)
  • Why are they buying from you? (Clarify your unique value proposition with some of your fav customers.)

From these answers, develop a buyer persona for each stakeholder profile. Then adapt and translate these role titles and use cases to new markets and cultures. Understand that in certain countries, a term like “manager,” or its seemingly direct translations, are reserved only for the top c-suite, while in others, manager could just be a mid-level marketer. Tech lead, principal engineer and architect can also vary in decision-making power even by company.

Then you tailor your messaging and cadence down to that particular customer persona. Online advertising is already deeply personalized down to geographic location, relationship status, and buying habits. So, within local data protection guidelines, you should be doing the same for tech buyer outreach. (For example, we are writing this newsletter to our outreach list of tech company founders and sales leadership that believe they have an interest in Europe, but may not have the local talent to achieve growth objectives across the continent.) 

Just remember that, while you have an ideal customer profile, you may need to apply that multi-channel approach across different decision makers within an organization. Different ICPs will require different kinds of outreach before they can do that warm handoff. And eventually make that sale!

Just remember, you don’t have to go at it alone. Partner with a sales outsourcing and lead generation agency like us, and get trusted advisors with the local network and knowledge to help you make a faster impact across Europe. Just reply to this email if you have any questions.

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