Is Cold Calling Dead?
March 23, 2022 | Written by Tom Callinan
The viability of cold calling is one of the hottest topics in sales today. I’m not talking about the 1980s style of B2B cold calling where you would literally walk office to office in a building, but rather simply calling a prospect cold. Many decision-makers would enthusiastically tell you that they’d never buy from a cold call, and many sales professionals would use that as support to justify not making cold calls.
My experience indicates that cold calling is extremely difficult yet effective. More times than I can count, I’ve stated that “If the prospect knew they needed what we were selling, they’d be calling us.” If a company runs out of coffee, they order more coffee; if they need another dozen office chairs, they order the chairs. Yet business is complicated, and until a great sales professional can ask some questions, the company may not realize that the inadequacies of their HRIS system results in three additional HR employees or the lack of an application management software requires six additional IT support employees.
There are many ways to attract prospects. Your company may have a stellar marketing team and a significant social media budget to drive awareness and marketing qualified leads. The company might invest time and resources in tradeshows or sponsorships. Yet, if the executive doesn’t realize they have a problem due to processes built to shore up the deficiency, they will not respond to those marketing approaches.
The educated sales professional will be able to have a discussion with an executive that surfaces opportunities for improvement and creates interest in the next step, whether that next step involves more team members, a demonstration, or proof of concept. Yet, unless that sales professional is referred, there’s nothing short of a cold call to initiate that conversation.
Challenges of Cold Calling
In my opinion, there are two significant issues with cold calls:
1. Sales professionals are resistant to cold calls because they require planning and a strong mental attitude
2. People hate receiving cold calls.
Preparation and Persistence
Why do sales professionals resist cold calls? Mainly, because the success ratio is very low, which holds true even when you’re totally prepared. Being prepared means you have a defined list of whom you’re going to call and some basic information about the contact and their company, so when you connect, you can have an intelligent conversation.
You need to make numerous cold calls to achieve success as measured by setting a solid BANT qualified lead. People don’t answer their phones (more about that later), so simply getting “a connect” has some feeling of success. My experience is that your connect ratio on large accounts is about 2% and is between 6% – 10% on mid-sized accounts. In other words, if you called 80 large accounts, you’d speak with two decision-makers, and if you called 80 midsized accounts, you’d speak with five to eight decision-makers. If you’re disorganized (you don’t have a solid list to call), you will not be able to achieve those results. Therefore, it is tough for a sales professional to stay mentally engaged.
Every Connect Does Not Result in an Appointment
Why do executives dislike sales calls? Executives work hard and usually have tight schedules; in other words, time is very important to the executive. Unfortunately, far too many salespeople have wasted the executive’s time, so they usually don’t have a positive impression of salespeople. I might exaggerate somewhat for emphasis, but I call it “The 499,” in that 499 out of 500 salespeople will waste my time. Therefore, why would I want to speak to 500 to find the one true sales professional that can be of benefit to me?
Every executive appreciates a great sales professional as they can help us in our business. That is an absolute when it comes to complex business solutions. You’d have a hard time convincing me I need a salesperson for something as simple as coffee. However, when I talk to a sales professional that knows precisely how their solution can address issues the solution I am currently using doesn’t address, and they can ask the right questions to help me understand those shortcomings, I will spend time with that sales professional.
As both a buyer and a seller, I am confident that a well-trained sales professional that is organized and educated can be successful with cold calls. Those sales professionals need company support: A defined list of target accounts with the correct buyer identified and an effective technology stack to enable them to make the volume of calls necessary to get connects. Give the sales team the technology, training, and development, and they will be successful with cold calls.