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Cold Leads: What They Are and How to Convert Them

cold leads - what they are and how to convert them

While most sales teams love finding a red hot lead they can immediately convert into a customer, finding hot leads is tough.

Most of the time, you’ll have to start with cold leads and turn the heat up to convert them into customers over time.

But what are cold leads in the first place?
In this article, I’ll highlight everything you need to know about cold leads.

I’ll tell you what they are and how they differ from other types of leads. I’ll also cover how to generate cold leads and when you should consider giving up on one. Finally, I’ll discuss how sales teams can warm up cold leads.

Cold Leads: Table of Contents

(Feel free to use the links below and jump to a section of your choice.)

Let’s get started.

What Are Cold Leads?

Cold leads are people or businesses who have shown little to no interest in your products and services.

Most of the time, you might have gotten their number or email address from the web, or they might have signed up on your landing page in exchange for a resource, like an ebook.

However, cold leads usually don’t respond to cold emails and other forms of outreach since they don’t know too much about you or your business.

They aren’t interested in your products or services yet. 

As a result, to convert cold leads into customers, you’ll first have to start warming them up using various strategies. This process involves converting them from cold leads to warm leads and then nurturing them into hot leads who are ready to buy.

But what are warm leads and hot leads, and how are they different from cold leads?

How Cold Leads Differ from Warm Leads and Hot Leads

Here’s how cold leads differ from warm and hot leads:

1. What are warm leads?

A warm lead is someone who’s shown interest in your services and products.

Usually, a warm lead follows your business on social media and subscribes to your newsletter because they want to know more about your business and what you have to offer.

As a result, they are more likely to convert to a sale than your cold leads. (The average cold email response rate is 1% to 5% — for warm leads, you’d imagine the number is considerably higher.)

However, since warm leads are still in the early stages of the sales cycle, you need to nurture them by helping them throughout the buying process.

2. What are hot leads?

Hot leads are qualified leads who understand what you can offer and are willing to commit. They are more likely to result in a sale, and you can use specific criteria to assess how close your qualified lead is to making a purchase.

For example, many businesses use the BANT framework to identify their hot prospects. BANT stands for Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeline — and it helps businesses separate qualified prospects and unqualified leads.

If you follow the BANT framework, you’d be looking at a prospect’s budget, whether your point of contact has the authority to move forward, how your offering can fulfill their needs, and the timeline they’re looking at for implementation. 

However, BANT has its drawbacks and if you’re looking for a more comprehensive set of questions to ask potentially hot prospects, consider using the CGP TCI BA framework.

This framework breaks down the lead qualifying process into three stages:

  • CGP stands for Challenges, Goals, Plans.
  • TCI stands for Timeline, Consequences, Implications.
  • BA stands for Budget and Authority.

Once you’ve established where your hot lead stands in the sales cycle, a simple nudge in the right direction will usually help them commit to your business.

Now that we’ve covered how cold leads differ from other types of leads, let’s go over how businesses generate cold leads.

How to Generate Cold Leads

Here are four methods you can use for cold lead generation:

1. Cold email outreach

Cold emailing is the process of sending out emails to people or businesses who haven’t interacted with you before.

Cold emails are a much better alternative to cold calling since they are less invasive and allow recipients the opportunity to unsubscribe if they aren’t interested.

If you’re looking for leads to send cold emails, your marketing team can search for them on social media or even use a lead generation service to get targeted leads.

However, you shouldn’t purchase email lists for cold lead generation.

Why you shouldn’t purchase email lists

Purchasing an email list is an approach that can give any marketer access to a ton of email addresses, but they will rarely belong to relevant leads.

If you use a purchased email list for your outreach efforts, you’ll be wasting valuable time and resources on recipients that will rarely convert.

Your business domain can also be marked as spam by recipients (cold email is not illegal and there’s a big difference between cold email and spam — but when you buy email addresses, you blur the line), which can ultimately affect your email deliverability when reaching out to your target market.

Moreover, sending emails to recipients without their consent can be illegal in certain jurisdictions.

For example, the E.U.’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) bans businesses from contacting individuals or using their data without their explicit consent. Violating such regulations can get any business or entrepreneur in serious trouble.

Want to learn how you can legally find email leads and conduct lead nurturing?
Read my guide on how to find and nurture email leads in 2021.

2. Cold calling

Cold calling is a common sales practice that involves a sales team using phone calls to reach people or companies who haven’t expressed any interest in their offerings.

While it’s a commonly used prospecting method, cold calls usually have a high failure rate since they are more invasive than other forms of lead generation. Agents randomly reach out to people regardless of whether they have a need that matches what the business is offering.

If you’re looking to generate cold leads for your business in 2021, cold calling is probably not your best option.

3. Social media

Communicating with cold leads doesn’t have to be solely through email or phone calls.

If you run a small business, a great way to generate cold sales leads without marketing emails is to use social media.

Emails can be detailed, but social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter help you engage with cold leads via shorter content like photos, infographics, and videos.

For example, client testimonials are the perfect piece of content to share on social media.

Customer testimonials help boost the confidence of corporate decision-makers and individuals in your target market so they feel comfortable committing to your business.

However, remember that social media alone doesn’t work as an effective method of communication with potential buyers.

Once you’ve found a cold prospect through a social media platform like Twitter or Facebook, it’s best to move the conversation to a more suitable platform for conducting online business, like email.

4. Lead generation tools

One of the most popular methods for generating cold leads is using inbound lead generation tools such as HubSpot and Leadfeeder.

Lead generation and marketing automation tools offer built-in features that can automate most parts of the sales process.

Some tools can generate leads based on industry, location, company size, and other specified criteria, and even provide marketing strategies to boost your brand’s reach among potential customers.

Lead generation and marketing automation tools also offer progress tracking, which helps you visualize the sales funnel stage your leads occupy.

Wondering what other ways you can generate sales leads?
Take a look at my article on the 7 best tips to generate sales leads.

However, sometimes, even after multiple attempts to reach out and engage with a cold lead, salespeople might feel like they aren’t moving in the right direction with a potential buyer.

What can you do then?

When Should You Give Up on a Cold Lead?

There’s no correct answer, and you’ll have to decide on a case-by-case basis whether to give up on the potential client.

Usually, any salesperson will give up on a potential customer after three or four unsuccessful attempts to reach out.

However, to convert high-value leads stuck in the buying process, they might have the incentive to try a lot more. Generally, the larger the potential deal, the longer every marketer should keep trying.

That said, you can use certain indicators to know when it’s time to give up on a prospect.

Non-responsive leads are one such indicator.

If your reps have tried to connect with a potential client multiple times every week for over a month and there’s still no contact, there’s a good chance they won’t progress down the sales pipeline and become a buyer.

However, remember that you shouldn’t permanently give up on qualified leads, especially if you are a small business owner.

High-quality leads are usually tough to come by, and letting go of leads already in possession can be costly for any entrepreneur.

Even if you have a qualified cold prospect who is unlikely to convert, have your sales team check in on them once in a while or use drip emails and email newsletters to engage them.

This way, when that qualified lead has a need that matches what you offer, your business will be the go-to solution that the potential buyer thinks about and approaches. You can then step in and guide them through the decision-making process.

I’ve covered how you can deal with cold leads who aren’t willing to progress with your business. But how do you warm cold leads that seem promising?

How to Warm Up Cold Leads

Turning the heat up with cold leads is critical to move them along your sales pipeline.

Here are a few ways you can warm cold leads and convert them into paying customers:

1. Remind them of their prior interest when you first reach out

Chances are, when you send that first email, most cold leads have forgotten their previous interactions with you.

Some leads may have signed up to your mailing list after attending a webinar your business sponsored, and some may be referrals from existing clients.

Whatever the case may be, it’s essential to provide context to any conversation with a potential customer. Not only does this make it easier to garner a reply from leads, but it will also remind them why they connected with you in the first place.

If your offering fits their needs, you can then direct the conversation down the path to the next stage in your sales cycle.

If they don’t need what you’re offering, you can still get value from the lead by moving them to the set of leads you check on once in a while.

2. Send custom emails tailored to cold leads

Do you like getting generic marketing emails that don’t even address you by name?
Your leads don’t either.

Sending personalized emails to cold leads is essential, especially when you start your sales process.

A touch of customization shows recipients that you value their time and the opportunity to work with them. This, in turn, helps establish a close relationship from the get-go.

If leads don’t reply to the first couple of emails you send, an initial custom email makes it easier to send follow-ups.

When you customize emails, you can include details like:

  • The recipient’s name
  • The recipient’s business
  • The role they play at their workplace

This way, you’ll get better engagement rates from most of your email recipients.

And if you’re looking for the best way to send personalized emails and follow-ups, GMass is the perfect tool for you.

What is GMass?

GMass is a free email marketing tool used by many companies worldwide, from tech giants like Google and Uber to social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn.

But don’t worry, GMass is perfect for small businesses, startups, solopreneurs, and anyone else looking to conduct email outreach!

With GMass, you’ll be able to:

And to get started with GMass, just download the GMass Chrome extension and sign up with your Google account.

3. Promote new products and offerings

A cold lead doesn’t always have to be a new lead.

Many cold leads can come from individuals who were once an old lead — they were interested in your offerings at one point, but eventually lost interest.

If your sales reps reach out to an old lead who stopped responding because they lost interest, introducing them to new offerings in your lineup can help you get a better result than your first interaction.

Your sales rep could also talk about a new feature or even a change in pricing that would entice these recipients to think about your offering.

If you’re sending an email in this case, make sure to highlight the new feature in your headline, so it’s the first thing your recipients see. This way, interested leads will open your emails and respond faster.

4. Personalize your interactions and offers

I’ve already talked about how personalizing your marketing emails helps get better results.

But you don’t have to limit customizations to just the content of your emails.

The more customized content your marketing team can offer to a lead, the better your chances of getting them to convert.

Train each sales rep to look at individual cold leads and determine how to provide a personalized experience based on the unique needs of leads.

Ideally, your sales team should provide offers tailored specifically for each lead.

This way, leads will understand that you have their best interests in mind — and you’ll have a better chance of warming up cold leads and converting them into paying customers.

5. Include CTAs

After a thorough rundown on what your online business can offer, you’d expect a lead to move down the sales funnel and convert to a paying customer, right?

Well, usually, they need a little nudge, and a call to action (CTA) can help you get the result you want.

A new lead or cold lead won’t instantly convert into a paying customer, but you can use a CTA to get them to do other things like signing up for your mailing list or scheduling a follow-up appointment.

Since cold leads are usually on the fence about committing, a CTA can be a great way to nudge them over to your side.

6. Offer the chance to unsubscribe

No matter how hard you try to warm up a cold lead and convert them into a customer, some just won’t be interested in what you have to offer.

Trying to establish direct contact with someone who will never be interested in your products or services is a waste of time.

That’s why you should offer recipients the chance to unsubscribe from your mailing list.

Not only does this remove uninterested recipients from your mailing list, but it also helps you focus more resources on warmer leads who are likely to convert.

Additionally, as I mentioned above, giving recipients the chance to unsubscribe from your mailing list will save you from a lot of legal trouble in the long run.

Cold Leads: Final Thoughts

While cold leads can be tricky for any business to deal with, some of them can turn out to be loyal, regular customers in the future.

That’s why it’s vital to warm up cold leads with the tips I’ve mentioned in this article.

And remember, no lead generation campaign is complete without a solid marketing tool like GMass. It’s one of the easiest ways to help you with converting cold leads into regular clients easily.

Why not try GMass today and up your cold lead conversion game immediately?

See why GMass has 300k+ users and 7,500+ 5-star reviews

Email marketing. Cold email. Mail merge. Avoid the spam folder. Easy to learn and use. All inside Gmail.


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1 Comment
  1. It’s often difficult to stay in touch with your customers when you’re in an entirely different industry. And when you’re in the marketing industry, there are even more challenges. The Aritic PinPoint tool makes following the competition easy.

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