What is Cold Calling and Does Cold Calling Work?

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I meet a lot of sales people (and pundits) who tell me cold calling doesn’t work.  As you poke about and explore things a bit, you find a number of recurring elements among the “cold calling is dead” argument.  One of which is the question, what’s not working, the process or the execution, or at times both.


Let’s start by defining what a cold call is, because definitions are important. One of the things you’ll notice about leading sellers is that they like things to be defined, rather than leaving them ambiguous, which is where many sellers like to hide, great sellers know clarity is their winning edge”. By cold call we are talking about any call to someone who does not have that call diarized or planned. This can include a referral where the person making the referral has not set up or warmed the call up by letting the person in question know you’ll be contacting them.

Your current customer Bob says to you:

“George, you should call my buddy Harry, I think he could use this.”

Unless Bob calls Harry and tells (warns) him to expect your call, that call is cold. It is not as some “cold calling is dead gloom and doomers” (usually with an alternate product to sell), want to paint a picture of a cold call as the act of picking up a phonebook, opening it up on a random page and start calling, saying “wanna buy, wanna buy, wanna buy?” That is not cold calling, that’s a lottery, which pretty much describes some of the e-mail and social campaigns I have been the victim of.

One of the other things common to sales people who tell me cold calling does not work, is their answer to the question; “When was the last time you tried?” Exactly, never, because they heard it doesn’t work, or they have a morbid fear of trying something different, i.e. change. Most of the naysayers will tell you the reason cold calling no longer works is because things have changed, so they have, and so must your approach. Buyers have more on their plate, there are increasing distractions on both sides, and as with all elements of successful selling: It takes work.

In most instances, it is more a lack of effort than a lack of effectiveness. Setting up an effective inbound campaign, takes work, doing proper segmentation and qualification takes work. But for a seller it all seems easier when others have done the heavy lifting of setting up an inbound process that delivers workable leads.

It takes work to figure out what other means of prospecting or engagement you will need to leverage ALONGSIDE cold calling, rather than INSTEAD of cold calling.  As good as the alternate means of engagement are, their effectiveness is limited to those buyers “out there looking”.  Whether that is a search, or asking their peers, they are the ones coming to the market to look, and that is how they interact with your “campaigns”.  But there are other similar potential buyers who are not out there looking, who left to their own devices will continue down the line they are on.  So here is the question:

Can people who are not actively looking benefit from your offering? Or can you deliver value to those “look-a-likes” who are not looking?

If you answered yes, your best shot is a cold call, be that phone or e-mail.  And for those of you in Canada, e-mail is out thanks to CASL.

I recently engaged with someone who went to social media looking for sales development, but there are dozens of companies with the same objectives who can also benefit from what I do.  Should I wait till they realize that on their own, go to the web, and draw me into a “beauty contest”?  Or should I be proactive and reach out and engage ahead of the crowd?

It also takes work to develop an approach that balances the dynamics and messaging involved in effective telephone prospecting. It takes effort in developing a voice mail message that generates a predictable steady flow of call backs. You will have to target better, dial more people in the same opportunity, which is why many turn to automation. And you will need to work hard to develop a talk track that cuts through with prospects who deserve to buy and benefit from your product.

My experience is that many are not willing to put in the work it takes, whether it is cold calling or cooking a fine meal. Easier to go to the drive thru than picking up the best fresh ingredients at the market, washing slicing and dicing, and preparing things, and then waiting to taste the results as it cooks. But the result is better for your palate and your hips. The same in prospecting, along with all the other things we work at to engage with the right buyers, it takes work to make cold calling work, work many just don’t want to do. Leaving one to ask, “what’s not working, cold calling or you?”

What’s in Your Pipeline?Tibor Shanto

© 2016 by Tibor Shanto. Tibor Shanto – Principal – Renbor Sales Solutions Inc., is a recognized speaker, author of award winning book Shift!: Harness The Trigger Events That Turn Prospects Into Customers, and sought after trainer; his work has appeared in numerous publications and leading websites. Called a brilliant sales tactician Tibor helps organizations execute their strategy by using the EDGE Sales Process  to create the perfect combination of strategy, tactics, skills to ensure execution. Tibor can be reached at info@SellBetter.ca This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or +1 416-822-7781. You can read our blog, The Pipeline with new material three times a week, and follow Tibor on Twitter @Renbor.

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