In an Inbound Marketing World, Should Cold Calling Still Have a Role?I got an e-mail this morning from one of the icons of the sales profession, inviting me to subscribe to his webinar, “Cold Calling Tips and Scrips.” After fighting the urge to trash the e-mail by hitting the SPAM button (since I got this solicitation without asking for it, and that’s SPAM, right?) I looked at the agenda to see what they offered to teach participants in 77 minutes. What I saw was the expected stuff: Writing the perfect script, overcoming objections, dealing with rejection, how to keep the conversation moving forward in the face of resistance or hostility.
My first reaction to the agenda was an instant feeling of superiority, thinking to myself that cold calling has no place in a 2.0 world, and wondering when I’ll see the last serious reference to cold calling as an accepted business practice. After all, Inbound Marketing is clearly the preferred way to attract and nurture qualified leads, with lower cost per new customer acquisition and a far more satisfying experience for most sales and marketing people. So it made me wonder, are there any arguments for continuing to do cold calling as part of a comprehensive sales plan? And as I looked back over the webinar agenda I had to admit and accept that cold calling still has a place and still provides value, as long as you understand situationally where it best fits.
Here are the the top five reasons I can see for still considering cold calling as part of your sales strategy:
- It’s easy. By that I mean there aren’t many barriers to getting started. The work of cold calling isn’t easy, but lists couldn’t be easier to assemble and buy than they are now, and scripts aren’t difficult to write. So if you have resources (people) that need something productive to do, effective cold calling has positive value because, done properly, it will produce some qualified leads.
- Feedback is black & white. There’s no sugar-coating in cold calling. When I talk to an Inbound lead who has downloaded our e-book, they often feel beholden to be interested, so they’re likely to lead us on. They feel they at least owe us that much because we gave them something for free. On the other hand, a cold call target will never lead you on. On the contrary, some will cut off the call and then Google you because they were interested in what you’re selling but personally annoyed by your interruptive call. In that case the cold call is sort of like chumming for fish. Not pretty, but something might hit.
- Low cost of entry. Because it’s easy and manual it doesn’t require much investment in training or technology. If you can dial a phone and read from a script you’re qualified to do cold calling. Persistence, thick skin and an engaging personality will contribute to better results, but they’re not mandatory.
- It’s fast. Like PPC, cold calling identifies qualified leads in real time, so in a crunch having effective cold calling protocols in your back pocket isn’t a bad idea. Kind of like steriods for aching joints. You know you can’t or shouldn’t always rely on them, but in a pinch they have a role. And cold calling can give a businesses a jump start, with a caveat. Since you found the lead and not the other way around, most of them may not be ready to buy. But at least you can work at getting them in the pipeline.
- Good training. I’m not being sarcastic with this point. Requiring sales people to cut their teeth on cold calling has some great training by-products that shouldn’t be ignored. You learn that attitude (your own!) makes a difference, that rejection shouldn’t be taken personally, how to think on your feet in the face of hostility, and that preparation, even for a cold call, can improve results. As someone who many years ago spent most of a year doing almost nothing but cold calling, the most important thing I learned was how much I preferred talking to warm leads! That is, people who had indicated through opt-in behaviors that they wanted to talk about something I was selling.
So while I have to reluctantly agree that there will probably always be a place for cold calling, my memories of cold calling will serve as a constant reminder that urgency around our Inbound activities helps to keep us away from situations where we have to rely on cold calling. And that works for me.
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