Don’t Cold Call!
Why what you think works does not… and what to do instead
Practical sales advice based on conversations between experienced training consultants Fred Copestake and Clare O’Shea
Fred: In this episode, we’re going to talk about Don’t Cold Call and that’s one that you brought to the table Clare. I’m intrigued at this one. Don’t cold call. Tell me, what do we mean by cold calling to start with let’s just set the stage.
Clare: Okay. Well, a lot of people think cold calling is good because cold calling is basically when you ring somebody normally off a list, a name, a company, a contact or whatever. And obviously you’re trying to do a pitch and get them interested.
Cold calling is when you have no relationship with the person already, they’re clearly not buying from you and you may never have spoken to them ever before. That’s classic cold calling because they are a cold prospect. That’s the definition of cold calling.
Fred: Okay, well, that sounds like a good thing.
Clare: Absolutely, and I do a lot of programs on cold calling and in the same way I do presentation skills, often my first slide is – Do.Not.Cold.Call.
Fred: Another one of your ‘Do Nots’. That’s what I like. It’s what inspired the series.
Clare: So why do people think cold calling is good? Well, there’s definitely a focus on new business is king.
The mentality is if you get new business, let’s get even more. There is a lot of focus on new business and a lot of sales managers and companies still today pay more bonus for new business. It reminds me of that lovely quote, which is ‘Revenue is a Vanity; Profit is Sanity’ and of course that arguably ‘Cash is Reality’ in today’s world as well. Hence, revenue isn’t necessarily just vanity, because of the cost there has to be when it is cold calling. It’s new business, and people have KPIs and incentives to achieve those.
There’s also a couple of other things. I think why people think cold calling defined them as a salesperson as in ‘If I break into an account then I must be a really good salesperson, much better than all those others’. The somehow figure that’s better selling. More efficient, more effective, so you’re the king of the castle if you like. I think that’s quite interesting.
The other reason we think it’s important; is people tell us to do it. It goes back to the philosophy, which I think is flawed, which is it’s just a numbers game. Everybody’s got to cold call and so a lot of people do. Both existing and new businesses have a focus on getting new logos, you’ve got to cold call. There’s a lot of expectation out there.
Fred: Okay. So let me just double check my understanding, because I think I hear where you’re coming from.
I’ve heard of somebody refer to this as ‘Bro selling’. It’s like, ‘Come on, bro. Let’s get out of there and let’s smash it. Let’s do it. Grrrr, I’m a tiger’. I mean all that kind of thing.
Clare: And all that ‘Rah, Rah’ stuff.
Fred: It’s really pushed a lot. You know, you look on LinkedIn, or you look on other discussion platforms it’s being promoted as the way to go about doing things.
We need to have a think about why that’s flawed then. What’s our thinking on ‘OK maybe that’s not quite as clever as we think?’
Clare: The number one reason why it’s flawed is – cold calling does not work.
So why do it?
Because of the numbers game. Again, we go back to all that prospecting stuff. If people do it they just have to keep at it and at it and at it, and be persistent. Of course for those of you interested, go and listen to the episode where Fred talks about ‘Don’t be persistent’ because it’s also a fallacy.
So first of all, cold calling doesn’t work, even when you do it quite well, because the numbers are so low and the cost is so high.
The other reason is that as a salesperson it needs a different mindset when you have to cold call. That is why people procrastinate a lot.
As a result, a lot of salespeople don’t actually do it anyway. (Until someone says go and do it). They are not doing it. It’s just a lot of people are saying they’re doing it. But really it’s the last thing that they want do, and then they just do it to hit the numbers. ‘Yes boss I’ve now rung twenty to a hundred people, which includes a pig farmer or two, because the databases are all a bit wrong’.
So they procrastinate it. It’s just not a very efficient, effective way of doing it.
Fred: That’s funny because we are kind of saying ‘Don’t do what you’re not going to do anyway’. You set yourself up to to something but you’re not really going to do it. You’re doubly wasting time. You are wasting thinking.
Clare: And, and what’s sad about that is the wasted amount of energy and motivation that’s lost
We’re pushed to do it. It’s something that a lot of us don’t want to do or people don’t do. They procrastinate anyway and then get stressed by it all.
So what should we do instead?
Well, the answer is very, very rarely do you have to cold call. Instead ‘prospect’, make that cold call into a warm prospect before you even speak to them. That’s one thing, make it warmer.
Fred: So warm call. In a nutshell – ‘Don’t cold call; warm call’.
Clare: Don’t ever phone somebody cold if you can do some warm stuff beforehand. And the warm stuff you can do beforehand is you can prospect more, research more and plan more.
You might network with them. You might send them an email or a video. You can connect with social media. Start just by connecting with people and slowly build it up to have a social media strategy that in effect that builds up those contacts.
The number one point is don’t cold call and make it warm prospecting instead. And focus, focus, focus on qualifying that prospecting.
Then the second point is go to your existing contacts.
Most salespeople once they’ve been around for a few years will have sold to customers. So ask the question ‘Are you selling enough to your existing customer base?’. The purpose is to consider how to manage those accounts and those customers more.
Let’s cross sell and upsell. And as sales managers let’s give more to people for cross-selling, upselling because we know that cold calling is up to six to ten times the cost of selling repeat business to existing customers.
So actually, let’s maintain and grow our existing customers much, much better.
With your existing contacts, it’s not just people you’ve sold to, its people you’ve been connected to for any reason. Go to them and ask for referrals. So many salespeople just do not ask for referrals. A really good way for getting referrals is do a feedback call. Ring them up to see how things have gone.
Nine times of ten, your customers are going to say ‘Yes, it’s going really well’. And that’s the point, to be able to say, ‘Oh, I’m glad to hear it’s going so well. Would it be possible to use you as a case study or would you, could you suggest somebody else I could talk to? Either inside your organization or outside’. That’s the beginning of the warm prospecting.
Therefore, as the concept is don’t cold call but instead warm prospect, then even before you start thinking about new business, think about your existing contacts. Not only those customers you’ve sold to but your whole network.
All of us are so much more connected, nowadays. Friends of friends of friends. Use the list to get introductions. The rest is down to you. We have such vast networks nowadays, I think cold calling is crazy in today’s world.
Fred: Wow. I just picking up on something. You’ve indicated that even the expression cold call has got negative connotations. You shifted it to ‘prospecting’, and I just want to really underline this in case it was missed.
Prospecting in its original sense, was going out finding the little nuggets of gold. So, going to the right place where you knew the gold was. You could try asking people where they were getting their gold from, but they’d probably not tell you in that scenario. But nowadays, why would a customer or somebody that’s on your side, not want to help you be more successful.
Use that and then warm people up. Provide them with good, useful stuff like video, social media interaction, insightful information. Whatever it is that will be useful to them. Let’s take cold to warm, to hot if we can.
Clare: Absolutely, I will add one more point. If you are going to call you can send an email to customers beforehand, which will help with the introduction.
If you haven’t had a chance to warm people up already, you should still have researched and planned what you are going to say. So send an email that is tailored and specific to them. You have an opportunity to say, ‘Look, I know this about you and therefore I think our call will be useful’.
Those techniques can work. I am happy with some forms of cold calling out there, but for me it’s not cold calling, it’s warm prospecting that works best because you’ve really planned it. It’s not the spray and pray technique of the old numbers games. It’s about being focused and that’s where you’ll get more contacts and therefore grow the business.
Clare O’Shea is Founder of Marlow Sales Academy
She was instrumental in the design of the first ever Qualifications in Sales back in 1998 with the first Institute of Professional Sales and continues that interest as Course Director for the CIM Certificate, Advanced Certificate and Programme Director for the Post Graduate Level 7 Diploma in Strategic Sales Practice
Clare specialises in helping salespeople to be more consultative and consultants to be more commercial, by developing the right mindset, process, tools and skills.
Fred Copestake is founder of Brindis, a sales training consultancy.
Over the last 22 years he has travelled round the world 14 times visiting 36 countries to work with over 10,000 salespeople.
His book ‘Selling Through Partnering Skills’ looks at the evolving world of sales and sets out what salespeople need to do to refine their approach. It explores how to take things to the next level through understanding partnering intelligence and using the innovative VALUE Framework.