I recently came across an interesting piece published on the Hawkeye blog. According to the author, it has been proven that it takes at least 5 touches “just to begin making an impression in your targeted audience; hence less than 5% of all B2B leads generated are sales ready”.

The point of the piece was that if you get the content just right for the people that you have researched and understood, then they will engage with it. However, that does not mean that they are ready to buy anything from you.

So how do you identify the sales-ready 5% among all those who are consuming your content?

Marketing automation is one solution which proposes that if you can identify that someone from your content community meets certain criteria, then the probability of them being sales-ready is significantly higher. The criteria may be a grade/score based on how often they have interacted with your content, whether the content was Top, Middle or Bottom of the Funnel content, if their organisation and role match one of your target personas and how recently they interacted with you.

While these are well established methods to qualify leads, I believe that in a B2B market there is only one certain way to establish if someone is in the 5% – and that is to call them.

This opinion may be perceived as inbound marketing heresy and there are comments out there which suggest that unsolicited contact is a big no-no.

However, I would argue that calling someone who has indicated an interest is no more intrusive than striking up a conversation in the line for your morning coffee or reaching out to someone to make a LinkedIn connection.

I am not an advocate of cold-calling. Especially the way it is commonly done – when someone traps you into listening to their pitch which is all about them and nothing to do with you, and then goes for the close.

What I am suggesting is that if 5% of your content consuming community wants to have a sales conversation with you, then you have permission to go find them based on the fact that they have provided you with their contact details.

What I am not suggesting is that you have permission to go pitching to everyone that has downloaded your latest white paper. But there are ways of preparing and conducting a call that will make it valuable for the person receiving it.

Filtering your leads to focus only on the people whose organisation and role match one of your target personas is a good start. Then researching both the person and the company to come up with some insight that is relevant is important. Once on the call, it is crucial that you offer your insights freely and communicate to the recipient that they are in charge of the call (i.e. they can end it whenever they like) and that you communicate that you, too, are keen to continue only if it is relevant.

This way the 5% will be glad you called and the rest will be left feeling respected and valued.