Ending the Debate on Cold Calling vs. Social Selling

You’ve heard it a thousand times: “The cold call is dead.” And many sales professionals are ready to simply close the door on the cold call era and transform into social selling organizations. But only a small number of people truly understand what social selling is—and if it’s done poorly, revenue and sales can plummet. So I sat down with two sales experts to get the definitive answer to the question every sales professional wants to know: Which is more effective? Cold calling or social selling? The answer may surprise you.

Meet the experts
Mike Scher is the co-founder and CEO of FRONTLINE Selling, which created a SaaS solution that combines technology with a prospecting methodology born from the analysis of nearly 2 million outreach efforts. The cornerstone of their product offering is a precise, multi-touch approach solution (that yes, includes using the telephone!) which leverages a company’s internal communication system to effectively reach and influence key players. Mike has an illustrious sales career, which earned him 18 appointments to the President’s Club. Mike lives, breathes and studies the art of the cold call.

Mario Martinez Jr., is a sales leader, speaker, and social selling champion. He spent 72 consecutive quarters in sales & leadership and made his way into 100%+ Club 15 of 18 years. He recently left his VP of Sales position to follow his passion and launch a new company, M3Jr Growth Strategies, dedicated to helping B2B companies create a powerful, effective social selling strategy which drives quantifiable sales results. Mario lives, breathes and studies the art of social selling.

What Mike says…
Not surprisingly, Mike doesn’t believe the cold call is dead—or ever will be.

“There are two types of prospects out there: those who raise their hand and show an interest in your product, and those who didn’t wake up this morning knowing they needed to buy from you. For that latter group, how are you going to reach them to show the value you can bring to their company? Simple. You’re going to call them. No amount of LinkedIn posts or well-timed tweets will help you truly understand their business pain and how you can solve it—you need to have a real, live conversation to discover those important facts.

Does that mean that a social platform like LinkedIn isn’t valuable…heck no! LinkedIn is hugely valuable in three ways:

  1. Building awareness of your message or brand
  2. As a means to see/hear what people are saying (but note, not all people say all they have to say on LinkedIn!)
  3. As a way to connect with people

In my opinion, social selling is a misnomer, in that nobody ever bought a complex B2B product from social alone. Social doesn’t sell, people do so you need to connect and have a conversation with a prospect. Social is another way to reach out to them and build awareness and relationships—but you still need the phone to sell.

What Mario says…
“I personally make zero cold calls to generate leads, as my social selling strategy brings in one to three appointments a day. So I can’t say that companies HAVE to cold call to succeed. But in many cases, especially B2B selling, I agree with Mike in that social selling alone doesn’t sell. I have NEVER told a client to stop all calling and emailing efforts to focus solely on social selling, as I don’t see it as a replacement for cold calling today. It’s a critical part of what I like to refer to as the trifecta of sales—social selling, cold calling and email. I believe reps must use all three to successfully reach today’s modern buyer. Nearly every cold call can be turned into a lukewarm call with social selling, and combining these approaches is magic.”

What Mike says…
“There is great wisdom in what Mario just said. Combining cold calling and social selling, along with email, can be incredibly effective. But the key here is effective time management. Too often I have seen reps waste valuable hours combing the internet for information on prospects, and calling that ‘social selling’. That is called research, and if reps are spending more than 5-10 minutes doing that before a cold call, they are simply procrastinating.

I once visited a client’s office to observe the sales team and see if I could identify some areas for improvement. When I walked onto the sales floor, it was quiet. I mean, crickets chirping kind of quiet. I asked the manager what they were doing and he replied ‘research’. It was crazy. Sales people still have to sell—and that starts with developing a “genuine” understanding of the prospect and their challenges. To do so, you must make a real, personal and ‘live’ connection.”

What Mario says..
“I would argue that ‘research’ is in fact one of the 5 pillars of Social Selling.  By itself it is not social selling but it is when combined with the other 4 pillars.  Research is not just finding stuff about what they do and their role. It’s understanding the company, the goals, announcements, challenges the company may be facing, and then bringing it down to the individual. You need to understand their role, their likes/dislikes, what they post or tweet about, what’s on their mind, their interests, who are they connected to and what commonalities exist.

For every sales call I say you should take 15-20 min of research.  If you do 5-10 min you are doing exactly what your competition does—but if you take the extra 5-10 min to find the golden nugget your competition does not, it benefits you. As far as social selling, I advocate to start out with 30 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes in the afternoon and 30 minutes in the evening. If trained correctly to “engage”, “connect” then “feed” your buyer with content I believe that social selling alone can reach a fair portion of your targeted audience but not all of them; thus the need to engage with cold calling and email.”

What Mike says…
“I would agree that when you have a call scheduled with a prospect, the 15-20 minute research is absolutely worth the time. However, if we are talking about BDR’s, SDR’s etc., their job is simply to call their leads with the goal of scheduling a 20-30 minute discussion to see if there is a good business fit. The reason the Staccato methodology works so well is in its consistency and commitment to NOT selling in any way on that first call. Should a call get scheduled, the sales manager should absolutely do his homework on that individual and their company, just as Mario suggested.

Ultimately, I view social selling as another tool in the salesperson’s toolkit. It’s yet another way to connect with prospects and begin to develop a relationship. It may not be the way I succeeded as a sales professional, but it absolutely has a place in today’s modern sales world. I highly suggest that companies who want to launch a social selling initiative do it the right way—get properly trained and secure full buy-in from the direct managers. Without structure and strategy, social selling will be nothing more than a distraction.”

What Mario says:
“Sales leaders are scratching their heads a little bit with what to do these days. They can’t just abandon their current sales productivity model and adopt social selling only. But it’s time to turn cold calling into an insightful based discussion. With social selling you can gather information that brings your buyer in to listen to your voicemail or read your email.

For example, the people you are trying to reach often have published content on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or the internet. Why not reference that great article in your email before executing your normal value prop or methodology? (i.e. “Hi Mario, I read your recent article on social selling and it was really spot on, especially the part about the trifecta of sales. I’d love to take 20-30 minutes to get your viewpoint on <insert a thought provoking question> and discuss <insert value prop>…)

When you can do this effectively, that’s prospecting at its finest. Alternatively, you could leverage this same messaging through the use of inMails or emails too!”

So, what’s the verdict?
Contrary to popular belief, the cold call is not dead. And social selling does not replace other prospecting methods. They aren’t competing with one another—in fact, they complement each other quite nicely! Social Selling is leveraging Social Networks to help a sales person establish a personal and professional brand, understand their buyers by performing research, and allowing them to relate and build a relationship with today’s digital, social and mobile enabled buyer through content and social engagement, which ultimately drives sales. There’s no question that it’s a completely different approach than the cold call, but ultimately the goals…and the results…are the same.

Happy prospecting!

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