Burr…Cold Calling Breaks the Rules of Social Sales

When I originally started this post, I was quite firm in my belief that “cold calling” as a tactic for driving sales was largely ineffective. I still am for the most part. But to be fair, I may have generalized a bit too much. Perhaps I’m jaded. As a business owner, I receive some of the dumbest phone sales calls imaginable. Everything from mortgage brokers trying to sell me refinancing for a building that I do not own, budding rap stars looking for their next big break, people selling products that compete with what I offer…really?…the list is endless. Didn’t check the website and clearly didn’t listen to our corporate voicemail message.

Still, during a recent sales program I facilitated, a senior sales executive challenged my assertion that cold calling gets you nowhere saying that, “Cold calling does work.  I’ve brought in a number of large deals as a result of cold calls that I’ve made.” So, I couldn’t help but be curious. What makes it work for you, I asked.  Listening to him answer, I realized that his success was due to his planning and preparation. This executive knew what he wanted to accomplish. He researched his target companies. He planned what he was going to say. And, when he did pick up the phone, he managed to successfully connect with his prospective buyer. So, I’ll change my tune slightly. Cold calling is generally a waste of time, and there are some people who are able to make it work.

For everyone else, here are 5 reasons why cold calling leads to sales frostbite:

  1. It’s about relationships first, sales second. People buy from people that they know, like and trust. If they don’t know you, they are very unlikely to respond favorably to your unsolicited call. Cold calling runs counter to what the social revolution is all about. In the social sales world, it’s all about delivering value in advance of the sale. That requires getting to know a little something about your prospective buyer first and then offering to do for them without expecting an immediate return.
  2. It is an interruption – think phone spam. To do lists are already tough enough to manage, so when you interrupt a busy executive that you have no relationship with at all, you risk blowing your sales opportunity altogether.  Buyers are not looking to have information pushed at them from sources they do not yet trust. Use LinkedIn to learn about the people on your lead generation list. Find commonality and then use your social networks to facilitate warm introductions that lead to securing sales appointments.
  3. The spiel is boring and focuses only on you. Worse than the practice of dialing for dollars (calling a list of people you know nothing about) is that sales scripts are usually not tailored to each person called. More often than not the focus is on the seller not the buyer. Sales scripts are nothing more than a verbal dump of the features of the product on the unsuspecting person who picked up the phone when you called. That isn’t likely to endear you to them.
  4. The world is not your client. This concept is counter-intuitive for sales managers who believe that calling a lead list works, but you can accelerate your sales traction if you go narrow and deep within your particular market space. It means you must first be crystal clear about who your ideal client actually is. Calling a random list of 100 names is far less effective than figuring out who the top 10 right people to call on that list really are. If you are in sales, you want to move from lead to close as quickly as you can, right? Wouldn’t it be easier to determine where those 10 right people might be doing business online and start a conversation there? That moves you right to the head of the sales line if you do it well.
  5. It’s about perception. If you can’t explain quickly, clearly and succinctly why someone would benefit from buying your product, service or idea, you will lose sales, no matter how great what you have to offer is. During a typical cold call sales scenario it is not uncommon for reps to rush through a rambling speech that annoys rather than engages. If this is the first interaction that your prospect has with your company, are you are creating a positive brand impression or harming it?

There was once a time and a place for the sales practice of cold-calling. Those days are long gone. Thankfully.


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