Sean Henri
Written By:

Cold calling is one of the most dreaded tasks in sales, but luckily there are countless other ways to generate leads. Below, we share nine effective ways to generate sales leads without cold calling. Some of these techniques include:

  • Networking and leveraging connections both in-person and online
  • Looking to existing customers for referrals and re-visiting old leads
  • “Warm” calling after utilizing marketing technology to gain information about your website visitors

For many in sales, especially those who are new to sales, cold calling is considered to be a dreaded but “required” activity. Sales management, coaches and trainers everywhere have long preached that in order to keep your pipeline full, you need to work the phones. After all, it’s just a “numbers game,” right?

But let’s face it – getting hung up on, ignored, or even yelled at isn’t exactly something people wake up and look forward to. Your prospects hate it too. Nobody wants to be interrupted by someone they don’t know to to be sold to.

You can say it.

Cold calling sucks.



At the same time, many in sales truly do enjoy the selling process. They enjoy their role as a trusted advisor with prospects and that they are the breadwinner for the company they work for. They just prefer to do this with those who actually have a need and are interested.

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In a perfect world, inbound leads would be enough to meet your quota and keep your pipeline full. This is rarely the case however. Most organizations who enjoy a strong flow of qualified inbound leads will still need to supplement those leads with prospecting activities in order to meet quota.

This means that if you’re cold calling today, you’re likely going to need to continue, at least until you can create a new, steady source of leads to close the gap. Fortunately there are many effective ways to drum up qualified opportunities for your business.

Here are several easy ways to generate sales leads without cold calling:

1. Seek Public Speaking Engagements

Speaking at events is one of the best ways to get prospects to approach you first. Think about it. When you speak at an event, you’re standing in front of room full of potential buyers that are intently listening to you share your expertise.

Although you’re not likely to walk out of the room with new opportunities in hand, you’ll have established your expertise and credibility, and once a need does arise you’ll be the first they reach out to. To increase your chances, include a call-to-action to visit your website and download a related offer that’s exclusive to them. Now you have everyone’s email address, and a chance to nurture them after the event.

Don’t forget to include your Twitter handle and LinkedIn URL on your slides, and ask people to connect with you and share what they like most about the presentation on social throughout your talk.

2. Turn Offline Relationships Into Online Ones

Meet someone at a trade-show? Connect with them on LinkedIn. Someone downloaded an ebook on your company’s website? Follow them on Twitter.

You don’t want to be creepy or too pushy, so don’t use social to jump into a pitch. Read the content your prospects share. Comment on their posts, retweet them, and share their blog posts with your own network. Try to provide true value and perspective. Add to the conversation.

I’ve gotten some of my best leads through casual conversations on Twitter, LinkedIn and even Facebook. As long as you’re being helpful, provided real value, being consistent and most importantly acting human, you’ll find success over time.

3. Engage With Your Prospects Online

Along the same lines as building social relationship, you need to be active online. Do you write blog posts for your company blog, or maintain your own blog? Do you comment on interesting articles? Are you aware of what content your prospects are reading, and the influencers they trust most?

You need to be engaged where your prospects are – whether that’s on social or other digital channels. Stay tuned in to the publications and sources of information that influences them and steers the industry. Create your own content or add additional value to the content others are creating to stay engaged.

4. Provide Incentives For Referrals

We’d all love for our current and past customers to be referring business to us left and right. The sad truth is that even your best customers may still need a little motivation. People are people, and the “what’s in it for me” factor is one you can’t ignore.

What are some ways you can encourage your customers to recommend you to their peers? Is it a discount? Referral commission? Free tickets to an upcoming event? Special recognition as a case study on your website?

Remember that you need to give a little to get something in return. Refer business to others, and they’ll likely return the favor at some point down the road.

5. Re-Engage Old Clients And Lost Opportunities

Remember that opportunity that stalled out a year ago? Maybe they couldn’t secure the funding, or had to fill an open position before they could move forward? It’s far too easy to forget about these opportunities in search for the next best thing, but in reality they could be your easiest source of new business.

Even if someone went with another competitor, there is a good chance they aren’t satisfied with their experience with that competitor, and may be open to switching. It’s worth a try finding out.

When an opportunity is lost or stalled, set yourself a reminder to follow-up every 6 or so months. Instead of “just checking in,” try to reference the specific reason the deal fell through. Ask how things have gone with your competitor, or if they filled that open role that they needed to fill.

Look to your old clients as well. Find out how things have evolved since you last spoke. If there isn’t an opportunity for new business, you can always ask if they know someone else who might have a need.

6. Embrace The Warm Call

Prospects get annoyed with cold calls, but it’s not the call itself that annoys them. It’s the fact that the call is “cold” – i.e., there’s no existing relationship between the caller and brand with the prospect, and the call isn’t in context to the prospects needs, interests or actions.

So how can you call without getting hung up on? Look for “warm” accounts. A warm account is someone you’ve determined to be engaged through their digital body language. There’s a ton of great new technology out there like HubSpot Sales that let’s you see when your prospects are engaging with your website, emails and online content.

Look at the prospects that have been on your website today. What pages on your website or blog posts did they read? How can you use these insights to open the conversation?

If you don’t have any engaged prospects, what companies have been on your website browsing anonymously? Using tools like HubSpot CRM and HubSpot Sales, you’ll be able to see a list of those companies and sort by recency, number of visitors, or page views consumed.

HubSpot Sales Website Activity Stream

If $50/month isn’t within your current budget, try out our free Google Analytics Prospect Report to identify these anonymous visitors on your own website.

Once you have a list of companies visiting your website, reference your CRM or LinkedIn to find the right contacts at the account. Here’s a script you can try to get started:

Hi Prospect,
I’m not sure who the right person to speak with is, but I’ve noticed a lot of people from your company have been looking at our blog post on [topic name] over the past few days. I’m not sure who that might be, but I want to make sure they have all the info they need. [PAUSE TO LISTEN TO THEIR RESPONSE]. 

Is [TOPIC] a priority for you right now, or do you know who on your team might have been looking for that information?

At this point they’ll either begin opening up to you about their challenges and initiatives or introduce you to the right contact. Now you’ve got your foot in the door.

7. Utilize Survey Outreach

This tactic is perfect when you’re out of other options, and it also benefits you in two different ways. It gives you a good reason to open the conversation and gives the marketing team material for future content.

Look to your social network or list of cold prospects, and shoot them an email or InMail message on LinkedIn. Your message could be something simple like:

Hi [Prospect Name],

Our marketing team is doing a survey on the top challenges and priorities for [INDUSTRY] companies in 2016 and given your role at [COMPANY NAME] and experience in this area I thought you might be great source of insight. 

Would you mind taking this short survey and sharing your thoughts? It should only take 5 minutes of your time.”

Once they’ve responded, use that information to tailor your follow up. If they expressed a certain pain point in the survey, point them to a relevant ebook offer or upcoming webinar that talks about that challenge.

8. Partner With Other Organizations To Offer Guest Posts, Podcast and Webinars

A powerful way to expand your personal reach is to tap into the networks of others. Who in your space offers complimentary services that target your same buyers? Come up with a list of those companies, and identify who you can reach out to.

Offer to contribute a guest blog, appear as a guest on their podcast, or co-host a webinar. Remember, they need to find ways to create content of their own, so chances are they’ll jump on this request.

9. Offer Free Assessments or Scorecards

Sometimes you need a champion to help make the business case internally before a company is ready to start speaking with vendors and evaluating solutions. By offering your prospects a free assessment, grade or scorecard, you could give them the ammo they need to build the case internally, while getting your foot in the door early on in their journey.

If you’re the one that helped them identify a certain pain-point or business challenge, you’ll likely be the one they turn to to help solve it.

BONUS: Embrace Inbound Marketing and Inbound Sales

The strategies above outline several actionable ways you can generate qualified leads for your business without picking up the phone. These strategies may or may not be enough to let you stop cold calling altogether.

The best way to generate sales leads without cold calling is to eliminate the need to call cold in the first place. You need a strategy that attracts good fit prospects to you, rather than you having to go searching for them. Create content that attracts visitors to your website and converts them into leads by answering their most common questions in a helpful, educational way.

Once you have identified who they are, you can continue building trust by delivering automated lead nurturing emails that deliver additional value and warm them up until they ask to speak with you. This approach, called Inbound Marketing, is a powerful way to generate a pipeline full of educated, good-fit inbound leads who know, like and trust you.

If you need a primer on inbound, HubSpot’s free Inbound Marketing Certification and Inbound Sales Certifications are excellent places to start.

These ideas are only a handful of the many ways a sales team could generate its own leads, without having to resort to the dreaded cold call. Whichever tactic you chose, remember to be consistent, determined and aim to help with every interaction you have and you’ll be successful.

Definitive Guide to Selling Better and Faster

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