Right after I wrote the last article, I began seeing a thread through the blogosphere about sales and sales prospecting. Specifically the good and evil of cold calls as a marketing tool. Frank Rumbauskas, who wrote Never Cold Call Again discusses cold calling as a way of looking desperate, Jill Konrath, My favorite blogger and one of the "smart guys" in sales, (gender non-specific reference) writes about how a callers true intentions shows and Nigel Edelshain who bless his heart, thinks a lot like I do, starts by saying "Sales is a profession rife with cliches." Only a gentleman speaks like that. He then goes on to point out the foolishness of old school management that suggests it doesn't matter whether or not someone is good, only active.
One would think the other side of that coin is represented by my friend and soon to be blogger, Connie Kadansky who is an international presenter on "Overcoming Cold Call Reluctance." In fact, I have watched Frank and Connie discuss this quite publicly on the Yahoo Group for professional sales people AzSalesPros. The reality here like most arguments is that when you look at what everyone is saying, there really is no conflict. There are perspective differences that are put in place by simply understanding the dynamics from a higher viewpoint.
As Sales Professionals, our job is to find new people to express the value of our product or service to on a fairly regular basis. Even if we have an established account base, very few sales professionals survive or thrive without finding new opportunities. Every sales organization has a different mindset for what that looks like and while rarely true, one would hope that mindset has been validated as to the efficiency of cost and time per customer acquisition.
Our problem in whether or not cold calls make sense is exacerbated by a lot of emotional baggage about selling as a profession both for the caller and the callee. It is impacted by issues of voice mail and gate-keeping (See Jill's link above) and it is just beaten to smithereens by management who knows neither how to train nor execute a cold call campaign. It is absolutely no wonder in our supply and demand society that Frank gets tons of demand for ways of building business without cold calling. In fact I salute you Frank for finding a niche with a monstrous demand.
This does not however mean that cold calling is a bad idea.
The purpose of cold calling, like all Opportunity Discovery effort is to find someone who can choose a product/service, and is interested in what I offer. Period. The value of cold calling to any campaign is specifically determined by whether or not the time and cost to find that person and help them become a customer is within the windows of a companies budget and time-line. Period. These are performance issues.
Pardon me if I am getting long winded (fingered?) here, I am about to launch into what is important to understand in ANY Opportunity Discovery campaign.
- People have an inherent distrust of sales people due to a mistaken notion that ALL sales people are singularly focused on their own agenda and the customer be damned. As professionals, we know that is not true. Our job is to help our prospective customers recognize we will support their agenda and earn a living doing it.
- No decision to make a change in life comes before a mental calculation of "what's in it for me(wiifm)" and "what is it going to cost me." When wiifm is greater than cost in my mind, than I will move forward. Until then forget about it.
If we have chosen a cold call campaign then we must speak to people recognizing their distrust, and craft our message so that the value is clear to the buyer. It is really that simple. (OK, not necessarily easy... but simple.)
Why would we even want to do this?
- From a sales and marketing perspective, cold calls allow us to cover a lot of real estate in a very short amount of time.
- Cold calls are one of the least expensive means of developing buyers.
- Presuming you have done your homework in targeting the list and building your campaign, it is a very quick way to find customers.
- There is no faster "live fire" feedback method to develop skills as a sales professional then getting on the phone and talking to someone, or even a voice-mail system. Voice mail will absolutely provide you feedback on whether or not your message provides a clear value proposition.
- Almost all sales positions require telephone work of some kind or another. As mentioned earlier, cold calling builds proficiency at all phone work and in fact in all sales interactions.
Does all this suggest I believe cold calling is the end all be all of sales and marketing? Far from it. It all simply means that when we remove the hype and myth from this activity, it is easy to see why it is a staple in the world of sales and more importantly that it has a place.
I also understand Jill's preference for finding other ways and clearly appreciate Franks notion of improving your effort through more effective "Opportunity Discovery" methods. I do have to strongly disagree with you here though Frank, Cold Calling done well doesn't make you look desperate. (Done poorly, OK, it can ruin your day)
One last thought, whatever Opportunity Discovery route you choose, no one ever complained about making the message briefer. Hopefully the value in this message was worth the long windedness.
Michael D. Goodman