By: Gil Cargill, Sales Acceleration Coach

Without a doubt, the game of selling our products and services has changed as the technology we sell has changed.  Unfortunately, in far too many cases, the tactics and strategies utilized to gain leads and appointments to sell our products and services haven’t kept up with the technologies that we sell.

As a result, many sales organizations underperform in comparison to the cost of sales.  Salespeople are frustrated, they burn out and leave, attrition goes up, and cost goes up.  I believe that the number one culprit for sales dissatisfaction, as well as the dissatisfaction of the owners of sales-driven companies, is the inability of the sales team to generate sales-qualified leads predictably and consistently.

In the 21st century, lead generation tactics must change; and I say this for many reasons.  First, the buying habits have changed.  Early in my career as a copier salesman in IBM’s office products division, customers needed to talk to a salesperson to understand how our products worked.  The process forced more face-to-face, human connections.

Today, some studies show that 80+% of the product selection and evaluation process is completed before a prospective buyer reaches out to a sales rep; and I believe that’s the case in our industry more than many.  Without a doubt, our buyers are more sophisticated, clearly understand their needs better than they did in the “good old days” and, consequently, are much more challenging to sell to.

The tactics that work best in the 21st century are evolving.  You must stay abreast of these new tactics because the prospective buyers have developed strategies to deflect traditional sales approaches.  Ninety-five percent of cold calls go into voicemail.  Consequently, salespeople get burned out leaving the same message hundreds of times per day.

A study done at Tulane University recently showed that, out of 6,800 cold calls, nineteen qualified appointments were generated!  On average, the salespeople invested 7.5 hours of calling to generate one qualified appointment.  So, what can we do about this situation?  Following please find a checklist of things that I encourage my clients to embrace in order to optimize their lead generation capabilities.


  • Database: If your database is inaccurate, out of date and/or incomplete, then you are starting the lead generation game with a significant deficit.  Your database must include all demographically qualified organizations in the geography you wish to serve.  Otherwise, you can’t generate all the leads that you need.
  • Cold-emailing: Properly done, cold-emailing is a very effective way to find the appropriate person with whom you should hold discussions.  Cold email is beneficial because it requires no sales rep time and, even better, no psychic disappointments based on numerous rejections every day.  The cold email goes out; if someone in the company is interested, some indication of that interest will be tracked via the software that is sending the cold email; and then the salesperson follows up on that interest.
  • Website: Does your website have an anonymous visitor ID tool installed?  If not, go get one.  This tool is invaluable in that it will tell you which companies visited your website yesterday.  You can then start prospecting within that company with the knowledge that someone at that company is interested in the products, concepts and/or services that you provide.  This reduces cold-calling.
  • Newsletters: Some say that e-newsletters are becoming passé.  And, if they are sales pitches, I agree they are a waste of time.  But, if you are creative and spend some time to create newsletters and/or content that educates your market, then you will have a following of prospects who, at bare minimum, will consider your company when they recognize the need to buy.
  • The magical intersection: I like to call the intersection of trust and timing as a magical place in the sales process.  No one will buy anything from you, if they don’t trust you.  Even if they trust you completely, if your timing is bad, they won’t buy from you.  As a result, the sales process must have a way to 1) get in touch and 2) stay in touch with all demographically desirable opportunities.
  • Multiple decision-makers per account: As you’re building your database, keep in mind that every new account, in my experience, has three to five decision-makers and/or influencers involved in making a switch from one solution to another.  Consequently, your prospecting efforts must seek to maintain top-of-mind awareness with all decision-makers and all influencers in the aforementioned demographically desirable accounts.
  • Sales Development Representatives: One of the best strategies that I’ve implemented with my clients is the concept of creating a Sales Development Representative.  The Sales Development Representative is responsible for following up on all of the marketing activity, inquiries, visits to your website, et cetera.  This is an entry-level job that won’t cost your company very much money but, when properly implemented, the Sales Development Representative position will be a moneymaker and a game-changer for your company.

In summary, the buying process has changed; and we must change the way we sell.  Manage and measure the number of marketing-qualified leads that are currently being handled in your database and compare that to a count that a list broker will produce for you at no charge.  A count is obtained by calling a list broker and describing the demographically desirable companies to which you’d like to sell.

The broker will then give you a count of those companies.  If that count far exceeds the number of names in your marketing database, then you need to get busy.  You can’t win all of the competitions that occur in your market, but you certainly can compete for all of them, if and only if you put your marketing program into high gear.  Align your marketing program to comply with these 21st century prospecting realities, and you will enjoy continued success.


As always, I wish you…


Good Luck and Good Selling!!!