I’ve seen a lot of chatter recently about the death of cold calling. The phone still works. We all answer calls. Cold calling isn’t dead. It’s simply a matter of whether it is right for your business and your sales process. Plenty of sales people are successful on the phone. In fact, there is an enormous global industry based on providing cold calling services to many diverse and well-known companies so not quite dead yet. I’m certain you get those calls at home, on the weekend, during dinner. But like most everything, what works for one may not work for another. Never mind what the person on the other end of your call prefers.
How do you feel when you are on a deadline, rushing to complete a report, preparing for an important meeting and the phone rings? You probably check the caller ID, and if you don’t recognize the number, you don’t answer. But maybe you are expecting a call from Mary who got the final numbers for your report or the doctor’s office to find out if the strep test is positive. You’ll pick up the phone out of reflex. Aha! I’ve got you. I completely disrupted your thinking, your momentum and your time to force my pitch upon you. Where do you expect that relationship to go?
Regardless of your personal preference, let's look at the data. Among marketers surveyed, cold calls are the least preferred method of contact; only 1.5% say it is acceptable, down 36% from 2010. In other words, 98.5% of your prospects won’t pick up the phone if they don’t recognize the caller ID or if it reads unavailable or restricted. You can read how they really feel in this previous post. Other data shows that cold calling is only 3% effective, down 47% from 2010. Only 2% result in a meeting. On average, it takes between 8 and 18 calls to connect with a prospect, much higher than the 3.7 average in 2007. Call back rates for those clever voicemail messages are less than 1%. Under these declining conditions, you have to be incredibly talented at working the phone to produce and sustain acceptable results. That may be why only 24% of callers hit their quota, down 35% from 2014.
There is no doubt that cold calling is an art. As mentioned, some people are very successful on the phone and can turn disruption into a conversation. They have very specific techniques and an iron will to dial countless numbers each day to make the math work out in their favor. On average, they are calling 58 people each day, one every 10 minutes but know how to turn those percentages into business. But they are a rare breed. Are you one of those? Statistically, I suspect not. And if you are not, cold calling is one of the most dreaded and frustrating experiences that turn many business development people into other careers.
The decision should be a matter of the best success rates. A cold call is the start of a long process. If you analyze your wins and identify those that began from a cold call, I suspect the number is tiny compared to other starting events such as a referral, a friendly introduction, an inquiry, or a warm conversation at a conference. Calling is an easy task with very specific and immediate metrics that are simple to measure. Other methods of engaging prospects are much more complicated and harder to attribute value to except the outcome. At the end of the process, what methods worked best for you? Whatever it is, do more of that and less or none of the low probability tactics that almost everyone hates, both the caller and the victim.
I’ve got a lot of advice on how to make your business development efforts more effective and would enjoy sharing what I know. If you like this post, click the thumbs up, so I’ll know and then sign up for my new business newsletter. Find me on Twitter and LinkedIn for daily tips, tricks, and insights. And, please share your new business advice, successes, and failures. #LetsGrow!