The Death of Cold Calling – Ending the Debate


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Cold calling is the process of approaching prospective customers or clients, typically via telephone, who were not expecting such an interaction. The word “cold” is used because the person receiving the call is not expecting a call or has not specifically asked to be contacted by a sales person –wiki. Basically, picking up the phone with a list of names and numbers and running down the list hoping that someone will pick up and then have the time or general interest in talking with you for a few minutes. Sure, this works if you have a dedicated sales team that puts on their Plantronics headsets and can spend hours a day making calls to people that have never displayed an interest in your product.

The Cold Calling Debate

I’ve been a little rash when it comes to my thoughts on why cold calling is the bottom of the barrel. When I was in sales, I was measured by the number of calls I made in a day and if I didn’t hit the “magical” number of calls my professionalism was called into question. This post is the #4 most tweeted article from all of my posts on the blog. The comments from the post were insightful and come from some of the leaders in sales, training and services industries.

A few blog articles were made in response to the post from people with their own take on the idea that cold calling is dead. Ken Rouge wrote in Predictive Sales Intelligence Will Redefine CRM and the Sales Process that InsideView proves that the value of social media increases exponentially when it can be applied directly to the sales/buying cycle. Marketing automation solutions like Eloqua manage opt-ins and content, all directly linked back to lead generation and sales acquisition costs. Dialer tools like the PowerDialer for Salesforce manage and predict call cycles for lead generation, pushing the highest-quality leads and data to the reps right when they need it.

All of this is designed for a single purpose–to close the gap from “old” sales to new. Getting attention through marketing channels is harder than ever. So when a company finally does “get some love” from a prospect, the tools have to be in place to make every opportunity count, to have the highest chance to contact and close the deal.

While I don’t totally agree with InsideView that cold calling is “bottom of the barrel,” the shifting sands of demand generation and sales intelligence in 2011 means that true “cold” calling will almost be misnomer in the future. Our ability to “predict” who and when to call, what to say when we do, and the value proposition a prospect will most readily respond to will ever increase as the sophistication of the tools we use increases with it.

One of our great advocates Trish Bertuzzi of The Bridge Group referenced our article in her post “It’s the ‘cold’ that’s dead, not the ‘calling. Not a day goes by that I don’t see numerous bloggers, tweeters, etc. arguing passionately that cold calling is dead. The problem is that people are confusing cold calling with outbound calling. Picking up the phone still works as part of a Sales & Marketing approach that integrates inbound marketing, social media, great content, lead nurturing, etc.

Brian Berlin who is a good friend and past manager of mine is the owner of Straightline Strategies even found some data to back up the idea that cold calling is not as bad as we might think.

Ending the Debate on Cold Calling

As a social selling advocate and sales professional, I would never stand on a soap box and say that using the phone to contact prospects is a bad idea. I can’t say that because I still make daily calls on my Plantronics headset too. The difference is that I don’t blindly call people that I have to convince that it would be in their best interest to spend a few more minutes with me to hear a sales pitch. Times have changed and sales processes must change to keep up. Should sales people blog? I have my opinions on that. I have more thoughts on why sales teams are not leveraging social media and it boils down to FEAR.

I agree with Trish, most people confuse cold calling with making outbound calls. Calling names based on a prospecting list generated by marketing with contact data is not needed in the age of sales intelligence applications.

“There’s the old adage that 90 percent of people hate cold-calling and the other 10 percent are lying,” says Brian Carroll, CEO of InTouch Inc., and author of the book, Lead Generation for the Complex Sale.

However, even in today’s business world, picking up the phone remains one of the best ways to reach an organization’s senior executives. A 2007 survey by MarketingSherpa, a research firm that tracks what works in the marketing profession, found that only 11 to 17 percent of business prospects were annoyed by getting an unsolicited cold call. On the other hand, 45 to 53 percent of the executives interviewed said that a cold call they received had helped vendors leapfrog onto the consideration shortlist for purchases. –

Adding a layer of intelligence to your sales process will dramatically increase sales productivity and increase your opportunity win rates. Does social media answer all the needs of every sales organization? No. But it adds an additional layer that gives sales people an edge when identifying new prospects and making that first phone call less awkward. Even marketing automation companies like Marketo see the value in leveraging social media for sales.

Making a global shift from the ‘cold calling’ mentality will take time but the shift is happening. Much faster than most companies can adjust.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Koka Sexton
Koka Sexton, Social Selling Evangelist and Sr. Social Marketing Manager at LinkedIn, is one of the most recognized social selling experts in the technology industry. A career in helping companies use social media for lead generation, creating new opportunities, and engaging customers. READ MORE at the LinkedIn Sales Solutions blog.


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