Recently, someone made a comment saying, “It’s interesting to see cold calling coming back into style…”
The comment startled me, and I can see where the speaker was coming from, but I couldn’t have disagreed more.
The reality is cold calling has never gone out of style. As you look at the performance of consistent top sales performers, you see they always have held themselves accountable for making sure they generated a sufficient number of opportunities to achieve their goals, quarter after quarter, year after year.
These top performers realized they needed to find these opportunities, hunting for them. They never relied on inbound or others to find those opportunities, instead thinking of them as incremental to what they generated.
Unfortunately, there has been too much noise, there have been too many claims by those who want to sell an alternative to cold calling, too much wishful thinking on the part of mediocre sales people.
These people have wanted cold calling to die. Sales people who don’t want to do the hard work. These sales people would also prefer most of the rest of the sales process would die as well, leaving them to take orders.
There are those who have a vested interest in convincing you that cold calling has died, because they have something they want you to buy. Yet, most data I’ve seen indicates these alternatives fail to consistently generate the volume of opportunities necessary to achieve our goals.
I’m not suggesting we not expand our methods of generating new opportunities. We need to leverage everything we can. Marketing must look for new ways of generating awareness and interest. Customers will increasingly look for information and insight in different places. We have to be present in those places.
Cold calling is important. It’s not just important to fill our pipelines, but it’s important because it enables us to capture customers in a different space, creating more value than we might through all our other demand generation.
Think about those customers that don’t recognize they have a problem or the opportunity to change. They are overwhelmed with just getting things done on a day to day basis. Our awareness and demand generation programs will never reach them. Our SEO optimization is meaningless because they aren’t searching, they aren’t looking to change.
Top performers have long recognized this. They realize their greatest opportunity to create value and differentiation is to incite customers to change, to help them imagine new possibilities.
Waiting for the customer to determine they have a need, waiting to intercept them on their search, or when they may a query, is often too late. When we get visibility to their “interest” they are already late in their problem solving cycle and, perhaps, very far through their buying cycle (depending on the research you believe, 57-92%). Intercepting them there decreases our opportunity to differentiate and maximize our value creation.
Top performers have always recognized these things. Cold calling has never gone out of style to them, it’s their competitive differentiation.
For everyone else, well, I think it’s actually tougher to sell and differentiate by waiting for the customer. I’ve never seen a sales person consistently make their numbers by waiting. And it’s harder to stand out. But go ahead and wait. It makes it easier for those that don’t.
Afterword: Please don’t get into a semantic debate of “cold,” versus “warm” or anything else. That’s just a diversion. Top performers know every cold call is a researched, prepared call.