In my earlier days, as a vice-president of business development, I once had to call on a prospect 52 times before our agency was invited to pitch for anything. But the last client I picked up at my current firm took exactly one call and a meeting over beers.

Exact same result. Far less effort and expense.

So what am I doing differently today to create that streamlined, one-meeting-and-a-beer pitch? Simple, I stopped being limited by my sales and marketing database. Instead, I embraced a content-marketing powered, data-based approach more appropriate for today's digitally centric buyers.

And now, instead of spending all of my time "working my funnel," I invest that time creating and distributing helpful content that can be found by B2B buyers looking to educate themselves on marketing problems my firm can help them solve.

Let's be clear. I'm not advocating that you destroy your sales and marketing database or cease all traditional outbound sales prospecting efforts. Yes, they're inefficient, but they do work; and you'll need to keep driving biz-dev while you're creating your own painless prospecting platform.

But you'll need to switch sooner rather than later if you hope to compete in today's "invisible sale" world.

Today's prospects are hiding behind the anonymity of a Google Search, with 77% (according to a DemandGen 2012 Report) indicating they do their online research before contacting any vendors. That same report noted that over half of those buyers claimed they proceeded to short-list development before contacting any vendors. Meanwhile, a Corporate Executive Board Study found that buyers are 57% of the way through the buying cycle before they reach out to companies they are considering.

So ask yourself how many of your company's prospects are online right now trying to find information to help them make a buying decision.

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image of Tom Martin

Tom Martin is the founder of Converse Digital and author of The Invisible Sale. He teaches companies how to increase sales, enhance brand perception, and take the pain out of prospecting.

Twitter: @TomMartin