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How to successfully reach out to cold leads

Cold leads: entrepreneur sitting at desk using his cell phone

Key takeaways

  • It’s more difficult to convert cold leads into customers than warm leads or hot leads, so they need special attention
  • When marketing to cold leads, focus on boosting brand awareness—not driving immediate sales—so they become warm leads or hot leads
  • Helpful forms of cold lead outreach can include email marketing, content marketing, or cold calling

One of the most uncomfortable sales calls you can make is reaching out to cold leads: potential customers who haven’t done business with you—or even heard of you before. However, if you don’t already have a large customer base, this is exactly what you need to do to drive sales.

While converting cold leads to paying customers can be more challenging than working with other types of leads (like warm leads or hot leads), cold leads are still an important part of your sales process

Strong marketing efforts are essential for new lead generation and guiding cold leads through the 4 stages of a sales funnel so they become paying customers. Read on to understand the attributes of cold sales leads and the marketing strategies that work best for them so you can set up your sales team for success.

Cold leads, warm leads, and hot leads: What’s the difference?

two young women window shopping

First, it’s important to understand that cold leads are different from warm leads and hot leads.

Cold leads are generally considered to be individuals within your target audience who have not yet shown an interest in your products or services. They may not have even heard of your company before. Oftentimes, they aren’t ready to make a purchase decision yet and tend to have a lower response rate. They’re similar to cold prospects, who have previously interacted with your brand (or may have even bought from you), but aren’t currently looking to buy from you again.

Warm leads, on the other hand, have expressed some level of interest in your business, even if they haven’t made a purchase from you yet. This could include taking actions like following you on social media or signing up for a newsletter. Warm leads still need some nurturing before they are ready to buy.

Hot leads are high-quality leads who are further along in the sales cycle and much more willing to buy. This could include referrals from existing customers or individuals who reached out to you for more information on your services and pricing. These leads are usually ready to make a purchase in the immediate future.

While cold leads may seem like the lowest priority, there’s still value in reaching out to them.

Marketing goals when working with cold leads

Naturally, you want to turn a cold lead into a warm or qualified lead—someone who, even if they aren’t going to buy from you right away, is now interested in your business.

As such, the focus of your efforts with cold leads should be getting them into your sales pipeline so when you or a salesperson reaches out to them, they have some level of familiarity with your business. Turning these individuals into warmer leads will help ensure your sales team has a steady stream of new prospects to work with.

While it’s helpful to track your cold-lead conversion rate (i.e., the percentage of contacted individuals who become paying customers), keep in mind that these numbers will be much lower for cold leads than when you’re working with warm leads because of the difference in interest.

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The best marketing strategies for cold leads

Marketing professional standing in office using smartphone

When creating cold lead marketing campaigns, focus on lead qualification—building awareness that helps turn members of your target audience into warm leads. The following lead generation tactics work well for reaching cold leads.

Social media

In many ways, social media platforms have leveled the playing field for sales teams, making it easier to connect with cold leads than ever before. 

LinkedIn can be especially powerful for B2B sales since 80% of its users drive purchase decisions. You can glean a lot from LinkedIn profile information, and be sure to personalize outreach based on a person’s position or company. Research who the decision-makers are at any given company to maximize your outreach efforts.

That said, social media advertising can reach all types of customers, both for B2B and B2C companies. Targeting users based on interests, geographic location, or demographic information can put your company front and center in your target audience’s feed, whether you’re a florist or an accountant.

Cold calling

While many people ignore phone calls from unknown numbers, surveys reveal that 57% of C-suite executives and VPs prefer a phone call over other contact methods from sales reps. While it can often be hard to get someone to pick up, a phone call has the advantage of providing a more personable, human interaction.

Finding a way to personalize your cold call will go a long way in keeping someone on the line and turning them into a warm lead. Being friendly and upfront about the purpose of your call, mentioning a valuable benefit you can offer, and promising to keep the conversation brief are a few ways to improve cold calling success. 

You won’t necessarily talk pricing during this call, but instead focus on exchanging contact information and setting a strong foundation for future interactions.

Cold email

Like cold calling, cold emails can be helpful—as long as you use them the right way. A spammy email that comes from out of the blue is likely to be unread and deleted. You can improve the odds that users will open and click on your email content by including a catchy and relevant subject line, then keeping the message inside short and to the point.

Remember: At this stage, cold leads probably aren’t ready to buy. So your call to action could include a less sales-focused option, such as signing up for an email newsletter or email list. Give them a compelling reason to keep in touch with you.

For example, an auto repair shop could provide monthly car maintenance tips. Future emails could include coupons for discounted services, invitations to join a loyalty program, or testimonials from current satisfied customers.

Content marketing

Content marketing can be a powerful tool for nurturing both cold leads and warm leads within your sales funnel. Your content should provide helpful information that builds your authority in your niche, rather than making a direct sales pitch. This could include a wide variety of content, from written blog posts and industry case studies to webinar series that provide more in-depth video “classes” on industry topics. 

For example, an HVAC company could write blog posts on recommended maintenance schedules or create an infographic highlighting the most common air conditioning repair issues homeowners might face and how to prevent them.

The goal is to produce content that’s interesting and helpful so you can build trust with cold and warm leads alike. When they’re ready to do business, your expertise could make all the difference in having them reach out to you versus another business. 

Make the most of cold lead outreach

Working with cold leads can be challenging, and if you’re hoping for immediate sales results, it can be frustrating. But this doesn’t mean cold leads should be ignored altogether. If they’re part of your target audience, they still represent potential clients.

With appropriate targeting of your content marketing and focused messaging via phone calls, email, and social media, you can build awareness among cold leads and make a positive first impression. This way, when your salespeople follow up, those cold leads will be much warmer and more interested in what you have to offer.

Once you’ve made initial contact with cold leads, consider using these lead nurturing strategies to guide them through your sales funnel and close the deal.

The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.