The art of cold calling – Is cold calling dead?

There has been a vivid discussion regarding the added value of cold calling in several forums. There seems to be as many opinions on the topic as there are people commenting it. I think this is natural, it really depends on your line of business and your personality whether cold calling is a useful tool for you or not. Let me open this topic a little bit further.

There are companies that are solely based on the inbound sales model. If you are selling a “low priced shrink wrapped off the shelf” software tool to a consumer audience, it probably does not make sense to start calling them. But if you have a totally new product concept that is intended only for large corporate customers that you can easily identify, it makes sense to give them a call to promote your product. Even if you would not succeed in selling your product, you could get valuable insights regarding potential customers and their processes. You can also learn a lot about your competition from the customer calls.

"If you have a totally new product concept that is intended only for large corporate customers, it really makes sense to give them a call to promote your product."

It is obvious that no one is successful with each of the cold calls they make. But you can improve your success rate considerably by doing your homework properly. If you have a clearly defined target market for your product or service, it’s quite easy to find information about potential customers. Internet and social media have made this a no brainer for most businesses; you can find potential contact persons quite easily for example from LinkedIn if you do not have any other sources of information available.

If you have trouble identifying the prospects that you could make your calls to, you could try information service providers like Vainu that analyze a vast amount of data and suggest potential prospects to your line of business. AI is increasingly used for data mining and identifying possible prospects so I’m expecting that these types of sales tools will be used more widely in the future.

Once you have identified a list of potential prospects, it makes sense to check their background at least by browsing the web. If you do not know anything about your potential customers’ business, it would be probably beneficial to spend some time to understand at least the basics of it. This will help you articulate your pitch better.  

"Learn your product or solution well before making the call, think through your key messages, and be prepared for counter arguments that your prospects will have. "

Every now and then you hear horror stories of cold calls that have been complete disasters. For example, the caller has not bothered to learn their pitch properly or he/she keeps repeating the same story again and again if the prospect asks a question. So, learn your product or solution well before making the call, think through your key messages, and be prepared for counter arguments that your prospects will have.  And if you can add some personal touch into your sales pitch that’s even better.

People tend to be very busy so it is not easy to reach people by phone; some have even chosen a policy not take any calls from people that they do not know in person.  If your top prospect falls into this category, you could try to approach him/her with an email that explains the reasons for your call. If you can make a prospect feel guilty that they haven’t returned your call or that they have missed a “once in a life time opportunity”, they will come back to you for sure.

Finally, please remember to be present and listen to what the prospect is saying to you during the call. I think this is the most important thing – you as a sales person are the key link between the customers and your company.

For further reading, here is one of the many discussions on cold calling that I found interesting here.