Sell, But Never “Sell”

At Nebo, we have a business development team. But we never “sell.” To “sell” implies cold calling. To “sell” implies pushing out email campaigns to prospect lists. To “sell” implies sending brochures or company literature via snail mail. To “sell” implies talking about your company from a product-focused perspective to “targeted decision makers.”

Many contemporary “selling” techniques still rely on disruptive, interruptive, and psychologically superficial methods of engagement that turn business development into a numbers game with poor odds of success. You may still sell occasionally, but the number of closed deals will be such a low percentage that your time and efforts will be inefficiently spent. For example, Jeffrey Gitomer estimates that even great salespeople may only close two deals for every 100 cold calls.

When Nebo originally began, it was tempting to accept the status quo and hire some salespeople to make cold calls and set up meetings. But several clear flaws always jumped out to us when considering outbound sales.

Disruption – Cold calls certainly feel different when you’re the one receiving them. When I have to take a cold call from some company pitching me about their services, I feel interrupted and I’m already defensive – and that’s if I even take the call. Occasionally, the caller may be so impressive or the timing so right that I gave them a call back. But that is ultra-rare. Most calls never get returned, voicemails get deleted immediately, and it’s usually not the right time to talk. So, if I’m reacting that way, it’s not hard to think, “What happens if Nebo were to call other companies?” Answer: The same thing.

Inefficiency – Cold calling amounts to an inefficient use of sales resources. It also turns sales into a shallow game full of quotas: call volume, number of meetings, number of proposals sent, etc. If a salesperson is focused primarily on a numbers game, then they are focusing on volume rather than quality. It’s tactical, not strategic. And it wastes time, despite looking very busy.

Technique Over Knowledge – If the goal is more calls, more meetings, and more proposals, then there is a tendency to focus on psychological and tactical sales techniques such as ways to overcome objections on the phone, ways to solicit cookie-cutter information during a brief 20-minute phone meeting, or ways to quickly crank out generic proposals. Even if you are successful, great outbound sales requires such finesse and adherence to process that technique often must trump product and service knowledge.

However, pointing out these outbound sales flaws still doesn’t answer why Nebo chooses a strictly inbound sales approach. After all, even great companies hold their nose and admit to cold calling – usually with great market research, process, structure, and training to support their salespeople. It’s not impossible to do outbound sales successfully and with excellence (despite its disruptive, inefficient nature).

There are deeper reasons why we have chosen the inbound sales path, and they relate closely to what we do as a business – and who we are as a company.

As An Interactive Marketing Agency, We Practice What We Preach

As an interactive marketing agency, we hold ourselves to the highest standards of what “interactive marketing” means. At its most basic level it means engaging, literally interacting, with an audience. It means sharing relevant information about specific products and services to a person at the right time.

If we are not reaping the fruits of our own interactive marketing services, something is wrong. We rely heavily on our search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising to ensure that people find out about Nebo as part of their natural research into their marketing problems. We supplement that experience with a relevant, well-crafted website, quality content, and an appropriate social authority that reflects a pristine award-winning brand. That’s what we do for our clients, so the ultimate test is always practicing what we preach on ourselves.

Nebo’s Business Development Team Become Consultants – Not Salespeople

Because they don’t have to focus on cold calling techniques and artificial ways to “get the meeting,” our business development team is ready to have an engaging conversation with prospects about their business needs – immediately. We take those voluntary reach outs seriously. Even in those first few minutes, the way you engage a prospect can significantly increase the likelihood of a sale closing. From the minute we begin to talk to a prospect, we are helping them solve a business problem. We are consulting. We are advising. If we are not a fit, we tell them, and may even refer them to a company that may better meet their needs.

Our Reputation, Results, and Customer Satisfaction “Sell”

While our business development team is essential for helping consult with prospects who reach out to us, ultimately it is Nebo’s work that is our best “salesperson.” That is what leads to additional business with existing customers. That is what leads to referrals. And that is what makes all interactive marketing strategies have a sound foundation for success. The minute we lose sight of this essential point, we lose our best “selling” tool.

In a sense, every time a Nebo team member does excellent work on a project, no matter how big or small, they are “selling.” And with enough great work – as has been the case at Nebo for eight years –the inbound leads will come.


Written by Alice Jaitla on February 8, 2012


Add A Comment
Kemar says:

Interesting statement. While I believe cold calling maybe out dated, it apparently still works as that person to person conversation still resonates with customers at times.
Depending on Pay Per Clicking can be expensive and time consuming unless you have done it well. Pay Per Clicking is interactive but also be aligned with the same pitfalls as cold call with these pervasive, every growing ads being everywhere. Too much. However, to each own on these issues.
May be you could share some of your strategies as to gaining new clients :)

Written by
Alice Jaitla