Does Cold Calling Still Work?

In this day and age, many unsolicited sales calls go unanswered. Modern sales and marketing professionals are up against savvy buyers who have easy access to detailed product information on the Web and through Social Networks.

Everyone is connected to the latest information. Buyers today are pretty good at blocking your calls and emails, through Caller ID, email spam filters and they can easily send your email to its grave with a simple click on the delete button. But since so many sales people continue to follow this old school approach, it makes me wonder if in their minds they are saying to themselves…”I just know that I can get through all these defense mechanisms and land that one magical deal.”

Can they? Based on what clients are telling me, I believe the answer is no.

This question was the subject of online consultancy Software Advice’s latest Google+ Debate, “Does Cold Calling Still Work?” The panel, moderated by Derek Singleton, brought together inbound marketing and inside sales experts to debate three questions:

  • Given how the Web has empowered B2B buyers, is cold calling still relevant in the Internet Age — and are companies still generating a return on investment (ROI) on it?
  • With other lead generation activities on the rise, like paid search and content marketing, can cold calling help marketers stand out from the noise?
  • Can inbound marketing and analytics help us better decide who to cold call and when?

Here are the takeaways from the discussion, and I’m pleased to say that they jive with what I have been evangelizing for several years now.

Cold Calling is Shifting to Warm Calling

Understandably, every panelist agreed that cold calling (in its original form) is decreasing significantly in effectiveness. Furthermore, there is no excuse for business calls to be random and unsolicited anymore. In the words of Anneke Seley, Founder and CEO of Reality Works Group, “in this day and age, there’s no excuse for a call to be cold anymore.” Anneke – you are right on!

I recently read a Selling Power poll in which 47.76% of sales reps said that they were never prepared for the initial conversation with a prospect and 2.81% said that they were rarely well prepared. That, my friends means that 50% of the sales reps out there either can’t or won’t take the time to do a little homework before engaging with their prospect. And that should be enough motivation for companies to expect their salespeople to approach prospects differently. When you can turn to LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook, and it is SO very easy to find out information about your prospect before you pick up a phone, why aren’t more sales reps doing it? Your prospects, by the way, are using similar channels to learn about you before committing to a call.

The group described the process of doing your homework in advance of calling prospects “warm calling.”

Only Call the People that Come to You

But Mike Volpe, CMO of HubSpot, thinks that marketers can take it one step further and not even waste time reaching out in this manner. Volpe believes that the world is shifting away from any type of outbound marketing – I respectfully disagree Mike - and that your inside sales team should only reply to inbound inquiries because you already know that they have an interest in your product or service.

Meanwhile, Volpe explains that inbound marketing tactics like SEO and PPC that are significantly cheaper than doing things like employing a great sales rep to make outbound calls. And he says it’s also a much less invasive approach to contacting buyers.

Sounds good but are all inbound inquiries created equal? I’m probably not the only one who likes to benefit from all the free informational content out there. I may have downloaded a white paper on your website, which many marketers would term an “inquiry” but that does not mean that I’m a qualified buyer. In defense of Hubspot, they are pretty savvy in terms of knowing when salespeople should engage with someone who proactively entered their world, but I would say that a lot of companies still are not at Hubspot’s level of sophistication.

Find a Happy Medium by Employing Both Tactics

Of course, there’s usually room for middle ground. And that’s where Ken Krogue, President of, sided on the debate. According to Krogue, relies very heavily on inbound marketing tactics but the leads they generate by purely inbound means just aren’t high enough value. So he turns to very targeted outbound calling after warming up contacts. To quote Krogue:

“If we [at] just rely on the Internet to bring us leads, it’s like a fish sitting in a pond waiting for the river to bring whatever it brings them. What we’ve found is that if you look at a typical bell curve, 70 percent of all the leads that come in are small. For example, we’re moving up to enterprise class companies and we have to forget about the Web bringing us those leads and have to reach out to initialize the conversation (usually through calling), then we move to a Web-based type of nurturing.”

In any Case, Marketing is Becoming Permission-Based

One point each panelist could agree on was that lead generation is shifting toward a permission-based model of marketing. This means marketing will need to evolve into being about showing buyers the value to them in doing business together, and ultimately getting them to come to you. If you aren’t demonstrating your value in a tangible way, then buyers will increasingly overlook your company; ignore your marketing efforts and move onto the competition.

It was a great discussion from thought leaders that I admire and follow. I’m curious. What are your thoughts on the evolution of outbound and inbound selling and marketing? Share your thoughts and comment below.

If you’d like to read the full article, visit the B2B Marketing Mentor

No More Cold Calling - A Sales Mastery Interview with Joanne Black

Recently, I sat down with Joanne Black author of No More Cold Calling to talk about No More Cold Callingreferral selling that drive revenue results. Referral selling is probably one of fastest ways to speed up those sales cycles, yet, as you’ll hear in my interview with Joanne, it is an area in which most salespeople desperately need help.

During my conversation with Joanne, we talked about…

  • Why referral selling is so much more effective than other methods.
  • How referral selling helps salespeople be more competitive in a tough marketplace.
  • How referral selling compares with other prospecting techniques such as cold calls, direct mail, advertising, etc.
  • Why more salespeople are not using referral selling in their day-to-day sales practice.
  • How social media can be used to generate referrals.

As I always do when interviewing top sales leaders in their fields, I learn something that I can put into practical application myself. My take-a-way from Joanne’s interview is that “referral selling” must be top of mind and something that you do consistently. If you follow Joanne’s proven process, you will find yourself dealing with more business than you can handle. And that…is a very good thing!




Do You Have the Inside View?

The debate about whether sales tactics like cold calling are an effective use of time these days will probably wage on for some time. Personally, I don’t get why sales managers and sales people cling to the idea that calling (or emailing) a list of strangers works. If you are keeping up with trends in sales, there are numbers of studies that confirm that buyers will not call back or respond to email from strangers. As colleague Trish Bertuzzi put it, it isn’t the calling that’s the problem, it is the cold.

I started selling professionally about 29 years ago. In the early days, our ability to do research on our prospects was pretty limited. There was no internet to surf, so we turned to libraries. Remember libraries, those brick buildings full of books? I don’t even recall what the books were called anymore but we’d pull these business data books off the shelf to try and dig up as much information as we could before making the call. At least I did. I’ve never been into cold calling and never will be.

Fast forward to 2012.

What information can’t you find in the blink of an eye? This is why I do not understand why more sales people do not leverage information to their advantage. How hard is it to take a few minutes to peruse the website, blog or LinkedIn profile of your prospect before you call them? The answer is that it isn’t. And with business intelligence tools like InsideView, you can uncover even more in-depth intel about the company and the people that you are targeting.

Countless clients tell me that making a shift in their approach has led to significant increases (somewhere around 50-60%) in their ability to secure meetings with their prospects. All they did differently was to approach the call or email from the viewpoint of the prospect. When you focus on what is important to them – and that takes do a wee bit of homework – the sales results improve dramatically.

So, get off the lazy train and start doing a little homework before trying to engage your prospect. The results will speak for themselves. Oh, and you’ll kick your competitors backside in the process.


Know you need to leverage business intelligence but really don’t know how? I can help turn you into an information gathering ninja. Our sales meets social media coaching program will teach you a process you can follow to quickly get at the information that you need. Call me at 404-949-0199 if you’d like to learn more.