This is my all-time favorite question. Well, except for perhaps, “Is cold calling dead?” or “Are the Yankees better than the Red Sox?” (No brainer…) But I love this question because it’s asked so often and debated so vehemently. Anyone who knows me or my company can easily predict my answer—yes, cold calling absolutely does work. Even with the explosion of new sales techniques, B2B sales still need (and will always need) cold calling.
The core of the cold calling argument
A quick Google search turns up literally hundreds of articles about cold calling and whether or not it works. Why are so many people writing about this topic? And even more importantly, why are so many people interested in this topic? It’s clear that sales reps are struggling to connect and engage with their buyers and desperately seek the most successful way to get in front of their prospects. But it seems to me that more and more reps are hoping to find justification for their utter aversion to cold calling—like, finding 25 articles on ‘why the cold call doesn’t work’ lets them off the hook when their manager pushes them to make more calls.
Technology isn’t everything
Despite the advances in technology and sales acceleration tools, reps today are no better off than they were 10 years ago. The fact that only 54% of reps hit quota is proof enough. With the aggressive revenue targets companies are facing, achieving 54% of quota is just not acceptable.
The best sales acceleration tool in existence is the phone. But I’m not naïve. I can see why naysayers denounce the effectiveness of cold calling. It’s partly due to the explosion of social selling and the new-found reliance upon marketing automation and email—which makes logical sense when you think about how buyers are searching for information. With our mobile-enabled world, buyers are literally online all the time.
But here’s the bad news. CEB notes that by the time a buyer contacts you, they are 57% through the buying process already. They have ruthlessly researched your company, products and competitors through Google, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. “That’s great!” you say. “I have optimized my website, mapped my content to the buyer’s journey, created brand awareness through paid search campaigns, nurtured our prospect list and my reps are hitting it out of the park on LinkedIn and Twitter! I’m confident we’ll win the deal!” Wonderful! So you’ve done everything you can to build a solid and appealing online presence and strategy. How’s that working out for you? Are you hitting your quota consistently? Is the sales team elated at the bonuses they are raking in month after month? Are you inundated with high-quality leads? I didn’t think so.
The crux of the problem is that buyers will always need a human connection to sign a deal. And they truly believe they can gather all the necessary product and pricing information on their own, so deals with these ‘educated buyers’ will inevitably come down to price. In the absence of your ability to show them your product’s real value and how you can uniquely solve their business problem, the only information they have to make a decision is price. That means that even if you win the bidding war and sign the deal, it’s likely far less profitable than it should be. So It’s important that you get in front of buyers before they are looking for a solution such as yours in order to position yourself as the only solution in the marketplace. The most effective way to do that is through cold calling.
Not all cold calling works
Cold calling can be very effective. However, the problem is that so much of it is done so badly (which is putting it nicely). As CEO, you can imagine how many cold calls I receive any given week but I never hesitate to take those calls. With my passion for prospecting, I can’t help but evaluate how the salesperson conducts the call (I seriously just can’t resist) and of course, I’m interested to see if they have a product or service we may need. Far too often I am actually embarrassed for the reps. From the fumbling, ill-prepared rep who’s shocked I picked up the phone to the eager, speed-talking rep spitting out his entire sales pitch before I can hang up, it’s no wonder cold calling has such a bad rap!
Like anything in life, cold calling is only worth doing if done well.
Like anything in life, cold calling is only worth doing if done well. Poorly handled calls and follow-up will not only be ineffective, but may actually hurt your brand. Considering how much money is spent on creating brand awareness and loyalty, it’s critical that calls are executed flawlessly, every time, to protect your reputation.
Top tips on doing it right
Here are my top 3 tips to help you (or your team) successfully execute cold calls:
Don’t sell. It is a natural inclination for reps to pitch their product/service as quickly as possible, in hopes of piquing someone’s interest. But when a prospect actually picks up the phone, keep in mind that you are interrupting their day—so being respectful is key. Let them know how your product can help them solve a business pain and secure a second conversation to dive into the details. It may sound impossible to secure an appointment that way, but I promise you, when this call is executed to the letter, it works.
Treat the ‘gatekeeper’ as an ally. You have likely heard this before (I see you rolling your eyes!) but the simple act of asking an admin for their help (and not using trickery to get around them) will go a long way to putting you in front of the right person. Humans are wired to help others and with this approach, the all-knowing admin will happily point you in the right direction. Remember, the admin’s boss may not be the right person for you to speak with, so be sure to ask pointed questions. They can route you to the person who would be most interested in your product and save you many burned cycles barking up the wrong tree.
Be persistent. Yet another tip that sounds like a given, right? But forty-four percent of reps give up after one follow-up from initial contact. Eighty percent of sales require at least 5 follow-ups (with varying studies citing that number closer to eight or nine). So 44% of reps have an 80% probability they won’t close the sale. If something doesn’t change, quotas and revenue are forever doomed.
Just do it
Cold calling isn’t easy. In fact, it’s hard. No sense in sugar-coating that. But the difference between core performers and high performers is that high performers understand its value, embracing and mastering it, which leads to fuller pipelines and fatter paychecks.
Cold calling isn’t dead. It isn’t dying (any more than Twitter is). And it isn’t a waste of time. But if you are going to cold call, do it well. Flying by the seat of your pants is a losing proposition, so be prepared with a clear, consistent plan of exactly who you’ll call, what you’ll say, when you’ll follow up and how you’ll do that. And when you do, let me know how it goes. Nothing warms my heart more than hearing of a cold call that resulted in a lucrative deal, because that singular experience typically converts a naysayer into a believer, like me.