• Duane Cashin

Cold Calling Isn't Dead

Updated: Feb 17, 2020

If you talk to anyone in sales or sales leadership for very long, you’ll soon encounter an ongoing industry debate:  Is cold calling dead?

People in sales are pretty passionate about the topic. A quick Google search will produce a ton of articles on both sides of the argument.

As the digital transformation continues, the art of selling needs to evolve with it, and how we connect to buyers also needs to change.

People are attached to their phones but rely on it more for social media, texting, and email than they do for actual conversation. 

To effectively debate this topic we first need to define “cold calling”.

Cold calling has the following characteristics:

  • The sales representative randomly calls a list of companies.

  • The list is not industry-specific and has not been sourced based on any specific criteria.

  • The reps approach to the call is to basically make the same statements and ask the same questions regardless of what industry the suspect is in and regardless of the suspect’s title.

  • The reps’ messaging relies mainly on the features and functions of their product or service to capture attention and create interest.

This is “cold calling”. And, I would agree, calls made following this model will be ineffective.

To answer the question, “Is it a good use of my time to pick up the phone and introduce myself to someone that I have never met before?” you need to keep in mind the fact that company leaders are constantly on the lookout for insightful information that is going to help them accomplish their objectives. Leaders and decision-makers are under significant pressure to get positive results. This is a fact.

So, it stands to reason if a rep has insights into some of the challenges or opportunities, by industry, that a suspect might be facing, and if the rep makes a call armed with this information and their questions are focused on these issues, it is possible for them to capture the attention of a decision-maker.

It is of paramount importance that reps are capable of establishing credibility and “equal business stature” in any phone call, voice mail, email or face to face meeting.

So, for the purpose of this discussion, let’s change the term from “cold calling” to “insightful contact”.

Insightful contact works.

In fact, case study after case study confirms that it’s still a highly effective sales strategy when done properly --second only to referrals.

I’ve personally seen insightful contact work as a major part of a lead generation -- doubling lists of qualified prospects and increasing the pipeline by fivefold. 

Insightful contact is alive and (very) well. Should it be your only sales strategy? Of course not.

Email outreach and social selling via social media are critical elements to add to your overall strategy. It’s just that there’s still something to be said for picking up the phone and bringing the human touch back to sales.

Consider these additional benefits to insightful contact:

  • Much of your competition ISN’T picking up the phone, affording you the opportunity to stand out among your peers.

  • Less miscommunication/misreading of tone and/or content as often happens in email threads.

  • Immediate feedback instead of back and forth email chasing that can be a complete waste of time.

  • Phone calls contribute to building strong pipelines.

  • Learning about prospects’ personalities -- how best to approach them, their likes and dislikes, how they speak, etc. -- will increase their engagement and close more deals.

There aren't many salespeople who are good at making insightful contact (only 33% of sales reps are “hunters” who are mentally wired to make outbound calls, but many lack the preparation and insights to establish a peer to peer relationship. However, those who prepare and are committed to making them, are disciplined about it, and call until they reach their targets, succeed because they did what most salespeople won't do.  

With that in mind, here are 3 simple insightful contacting tips for success in the new era of sales:

1. Create a targeted list, and be persistent.

Insightful contact works but only if you get to the decision-maker. Most salespeople give up after four attempts, but it takes between six and fifteen attempts to actually get through. Persistence is key! Before getting started, salespeople need to know their potential buyers: what industry they are in, the company size, specific job titles and job duties, what challenges they face, and so on. This information allows each sales rep to create a qualified list of companies and decision-makers to get in front of and ensures no one wastes time pitching your product or services to people who’ll never buy them. Remember when I said social selling was a great addition to your overall sales strategy? Well, here’s where it comes into play. Social listening and social selling can be incredibly helpful in getting to know prospects.

2. Never start a conversation with a sales pitch.

Think about your own inbox or voicemail for a moment. The amount of unsolicited pitches we get is astounding. What do most people do with messages they think are just sales calls? They delete them. Your sales team should view the first call as an opportunity to build rapport and trust with the prospect. Yes, you want them to close deals, but they’re never going to do it on a first call, and being too aggressive upfront can turn the prospect off completely. Allow your reps to take a step back and invest the time upfront to establish credibility and an element of trust.

3. Leave your desperation behind.

People have an incredible ability to sense desperation, and it’s one of the worst ways to start a conversation, particularly in sales. It makes the prospect incredibly uncomfortable and turns them off almost immediately. Begging is not a sales strategy. Using roleplay exercises in training and coaching exercises can help you eliminate frantic sales pitches.

The battle as to whether “cold calling” is dead or that social selling is better is really a waste of time.

The magic is in the “mix”. To realize successful outcomes, you need to focus on combining sales tactics together (insightful contact, email, social) in such a way that you add value to your prospects’ lives by solving their problems. ​ Please reach out for advice specific to your organization.

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