“The 600-series had rubber skin. We spotted them easy, but these are new. They look human… sweat, bad breath, everything. Very hard to spot. I had to wait till he moved on you before I could zero him.” -Kyle Reese, The Terminator

Sales Lead Generation For Sales Reps

Back when I started selling and marketing Dale Carnegie programs, I did what all good sales reps are prone to do – I looked for ways to make cold calling easier and more effective!

At that time, the web was still relatively young. Websites were plentiful, but blogging was still in its infancy. The term “inbound marketing” hadn’t achieved buzzword status and “inside sales” was something outside reps did to insure a steady flow of opportunities through their sales pipeline

I remember spending more than a few late evenings talking with the owner of several regional Dale Carnegie franchises about ways we could use the web to drive revenue. Typically, our conversations were about creative ways of using Dan Kennedy’s direct marketing techniques to increase online interest and make people more receptive to our offer. That way, when the prospect received a phone call from our sales team, opened an email from our marketing team, or happened to find our site through a search engine, they already knew who we were and what we could do.

I was experimenting with a variety of marketing media and tactics to publish our message. And while I used a lot of content creation, email campaigns, and original SEO techniques, some of the tactics I used back then would identify me as a spam bot in today’s environment.

When I talk with sales reps and small business owners, I discourage them from using the following tactic. It’s just too easy to look like a spam bot or a bad actor mounting a spear phishing attack.

Simple Sales Fact About Composing and Delivering Your Message

For all you sales reps out there, you always want to tailor your message to your audience. By blasting out a generic message to no particular person and addressing no specific issue, you mark yourself as spammer.

In my campaigns, I personalized the message by addressing it to the person and using their title. I tuned the message by addressing  a specific aspect of their industry. And I always attempted to inject some humor into the message to make it memorable.

But occasionally, I found a company in the area that I wanted to contact but I couldn’t find a person to reach.  So, I resorted to what I called the last-ditch effort.

I would visit the company website and find the “Contact Us” page. Then, I would compose a brief message, addressed to the web administrator. Now realize that as a sales rep selling communications programs, my target audience was sales managers, operations managers, and small business owners. None of these people managed the company website. However, the first person seeing my message was going to be the web administrator, a technical contact. And they were going to cast my message aside unless I convinced them I was a real person and I could make their lives easier if I just had the ear of the sales manager, or the operations manager, etc.

Remember sales reps, you must speak to your audience.

This didn’t work all the time, but I did get some traffic back to my home site and I did get a few responses from people wanting to know more information. I kept track of the sites I left message. After reviewing my records, the response rate was about 10%.

That was over 10 years ago.  A lot has changed since then.

Typical Message Today Through the Company Contact Us Page

After having maintained a few sites, served as a web administrator, and run a few marketing campaigns, I don’t encourage this practice.

In today’s online environment, the “Contact Us” page is a customer service portal. And while it’s easy for a spam bot to easily send a message through it, sending a simple sales and marketing message is usually a dead giveaway.  Currently the messages I’ve seen from the sites I’ve managed tend to be around SEO offers, website development offers, get-rich-quick schemes, or recreational-pharmaceuticals. And they all generally read the same way.  Here’s a sample:

Forgive me for reaching out through your contact form, but I thought it would be less intrusive than cold calling. I am a very skilled web developer that is looking for new projects/clients. I was just on your site and it’s a nice site, but it could be amazing. I would really like to help you with it. Are you interested in redesigning the site or adding some features? I have a lot of ideas I’d like to share with you.

Let me know if you’re interested in speaking and hearing some of my ideas as well as getting a proposal. I’d really love to help with your site. Hope to hear from you soon. Thanks!

Tyler Webb

Name:
Email: seriousdesign1@gmail.com
Website: http://n/a
Phone: 354-478-8853

The Spam Markers

Here are five obvious signals:

  1. Contacting through the Contact Us form. Serious web designers will put in procedures to thwart form spam instead of using it to promote their services. Remember, these days the “Contact Us” form is a customer service portal. Any sales or promotional oriented activity will be viewed as spam.
  2. Throwaway gmail address. If you have your own consultancy designing web sites , you should have secured your own domain name. That email address should read tyler.webb@seriousdesign.com, which requires: a) the sender to invest some time in selecting and setting up a domain name and the email records; b) the sender to spend some money on their domain name; c) the sender creating a paper trail. The Whois service doesn’t have to display your name, but your domain name registrar will have a point of contact on file which means if you are up to no good, it can be traced back to you. Speaking of names…
  3. Tyler Webb. Really? Can we be a little more creative here? To be fair, I did sell sales training programs to a sales manager whose last name was “Deal”.
  4. No Website. A legitimate web designer would be eager to highlight his/her skills by displaying their own site along with a gallery of sites that they’ve worked on. N/A is not acceptable.
  5. The phone number.  The area code 354 is unassigned, meaning this is a spoofed number. Telemarketers hide behind these groups of unassigned area codes to prevent you from identifying and blocking their calls.

Sales Reps Insights From A Web Administrator

In today’s online environment, form spam through the “Contact Us” page is frequently used as an entry vector for promoting services of dubious quality, phishing attacks to collect personal information, or as a preliminary probe of your WordPress site.

If you are looking to reach a company contact, don’t use the “Contact Us” Page. Remember these points:

  1. First, the web administrator will be monitoring the form input. They are stretched for time and have low tolerance for your “are you the right person” requests.
  2. Next, you will be competing with an army of spam bots. Spam bots are plentiful. They are searching for forms to push their message spam, like the above example. You don’t want administrators to put you in the same class as them.
  3. Finally, spam filters are in place. Some input forms today use CAPTCHAs to distinguish between spam bots and human beings. However, we now have more sophisticated and active agents available that will block entries from spam bots based on behavior, IP address, or keywords.  For those of you using a WordPress site, the two plugins I’ve found useful are WP-SpamShield and iControlWP Shield. WP-SpamShield will block spam entries before the WordPress engine can process them.

For sales reps looking to reach a company decision maker, your best course of action would be to review their social media profiles, find a point of contact through the site, or make a phone call and start talking to some people. Cold calling may be dead, but talking to people never gets old, especially if you’ve polished your communication skills and you have a decent offer centered around their wants, needs, and desires.

Bottom line for sales reps, stay away from the “Contact Us” page and retain your credibility as well as your reputation