A cold call is an unrequested personal contact made by phone or in person by someone in a sales role to someone in a decision-making role. This contact is made with the intention of discovering the potential for establishing a business relationship.
That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
I’m not sure why there seems to be an increase in negative comments and questions about cold calling floating around the blogosphere. Lately, everywhere I look, I see questions like: Is cold calling dead? Is cold calling outdated? Is cold calling still effective? Has the sun set on the golden era of cold calling? Can cold calling be revived? Etc, etc, etc, ad infinitum.
My question is: Where did all of this skepticism come from? Now, I understand that the times, well, they are a-changin’, but why is everyone picking on cold calling? I have a couple of theories.
Theory 1: Those who have the pleasure of making cold calls day in and day out WANT it to die. After all, it’s not the most fun activity in the world, right? To my recollection, I have never heard anyone say that they live for cold calling—that they dearly love dialing and dialing and, for a change of pace, dialing some more. I certainly haven’t heard anyone say that when they finally do get a decision maker on the phone, they enjoy being told to essentially jump off a cliff because the person on the other end of the line would sooner bathe in sulfuric acid then talk to a salesperson on a cold call. Oh, the horror!
This leads me to my second theory. Theory 2: Some folks on the receiving end of these cold calls got fed up and decided to start circulating vicious rumors that this renowned and longstanding form of sales development is about to go belly-up. Sitting around in their oversized chairs, stroking their goatees, they thought, ‘Hmm… Maybe if this rumor gets around enough, cold calling will disappear from planet earth!’ Then, they started blogging.
While I sympathize with the sentiments and frustrations of both sides, I don’t think the fact that cold calls can be annoying justifies making the leap to thinking that they are dying or all but dead. On the contrary, I think it’s safe to say that cold calling is never going away.
Robert Louis Stevenson, a 19th century Scottish author, once said, “Everyone lives by selling something.” If the phrase rang true in his lifetime, it rings even truer now.
Even the way we go about selling hasn’t changed much since the 19th century, if you think about it. We may not schlep from door to door carrying cases full of wares anymore, but sales is still an interpersonal process that requires intentional and meaningful interaction between two parties. For that interaction to take place, a PERSONAL connection must be made. If a prospect is not aware of your existence, they will certainly not be buying your product or service, whether it’s a box of chocolates or a piece of software. There are sometimes a LOT of steps between an introduction and final close or sale, but no matter what, NOTHING happens without an introduction and value proposition that motivates the buyer toward further investigation.
Obviously, technology, social media, inbound marketing, and all of the opportunities afforded by the worldwide Web have empowered buyers by giving them better ways to investigate products and services on their own. This makes them less dependent on the sales community for knowledge. Nevertheless, I have yet to work with a company that was able to build an office, put up a sign, throw up a website, and just watch the prospects come marching in. I understand that the sales landscape is changing, but I think it is safe to say that personal contact in marketing and sales will always play an important role, especially in a business-to-business environment.
Cold calling and lead generation are all about building business relationships. Even in a world in which so much information is at consumers’ fingertips, it is still cold calling that engages prospects in a relationship-building process that heightens awareness, clarifies values and differentiators, and creates lasting partnerships. A few keystrokes and clicks of the mouse don’t do that.
It is up to salespeople to demonstrate the value of cold calling by keeping at it. Pick up that phone. Knock on that door. Showcase your product or service and show the naysayers out there that cold calling is a lot of things, but dead ain’t one of ‘em!