Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Let's Talk Cold Calling

Let’s talk sales cold calls for a little bit……

Sales managers have been beating the concept of business development achieved through cold calls into sales professionals for decades. When I first started in sales at AT&T in the 1980’s, I had to go through a “role play” scenario where I made the initial appointment, sat with the client and fact found, then developed and presented a solution based program. My skills were “assessed” by a team of sales managers and trainers and I was hired because I followed what was considered proper process. I was practicing “Sales 101”.

When I was in my 20’s and starting out, this was overwhelming and I was brainwashed by the managers that this was the time proven method towards success in sales. After years of mediocre results following the classroom methods taught by sales managers, I learned cold calling is really a waste of precious time which a salesperson could better spend closing leads, not trying to generate them at a clip of less than 2% per attempt (and if you’re seeing 2% success rate on your cold calling, congratulations! You’re doing GREAT!)

Problem here is today’s companies typically have two types of executives:

The first type is people who have large capital to invest and fund the start-up of the organization. This is the true wildcard. Many of these people come from financial backgrounds, and feel the best way to run a profitable company is to watch every dollar and purchase the lowest priced product or commodity on the market. In the short term, this approach may save money, but the lowest price isn’t always the best option. In addition, most of the companies run by those with financial backgrounds look to buy low, and then sell their own product high. This inconsistent approach will in the long run, most likely cause the business model to fail.

The second type of executive is those that have worked their way up the corporate ladders, either through operations or sales. These are the most difficult folks to cold call. They’ve been through the ringer, know the “ropes”, and have used all the “tricks of the sales trade” that get taught to up and coming sales personnel.

Problem is this type of executive often manages today’s sales people, and employs yesterday’s sales management statistics (number of cold calls x close ratio = number of sales). This just doesn’t work. If you have a 2% success rate of presenting a proposal via cold calls, neither you nor the company will ever make any significant revenue. Think of the major league baseball player….if he had 2 hits per 100 at-bats, he’d have a 0.020 batting average and would be out of baseball within weeks. Why sales managers keep pushing the cold calling technique with results like this is puzzling?

So how do we develop new business leads, contact the appropriate decision maker, and close the sale?

Today’s intelligence explosion through the internet and other social channels is the wave of the future. Every show I watch on TV is trying to get their message (product) to “trend on Twitter” or be “liked on Facebook”. Many of us have fought the evolution of social media’s usefulness, but we need to accept the fact that it’s here to stay. Next time you’re sitting at home, watching your favorite show, pay attention to the “pop-ups” on the screen, telling you how to “follow” your favorite actor, or “like” your favorite product.

If social media is working for the most successful shows aired today, why can’t it be successful for your product and brand? It most certainly can.

Let’s look at a quick scenario…..last time you were interested in purchasing a new product, whether it be a TV, a car, a plane ticket, or almost any other commodity, how did you buy it? Did you run down to the closest store and buy the first one you saw? Maybe….but most likely you researched it on the internet and compared your options. This is what we need to accomplish for ourselves in our professional career.

If you are in sales (or looking to get into sales), sign up for Twitter. Start following a few people within your industry and before long you’ll begin to build a list of “followers”. As your list builds, you will see your name start to appear more prominently within the various internet search engines, creating a presence for yourself. If you work this over time, you will begin to see prospects contacting you, looking to buy your product. Most decision makers today will search on the internet for a supplier, and the more prominent you name is in the search results, the better your chances of being contacted.

I have written several previous posts about additional methods to assist on developing brands and increasing your search results. Check out “Can Twitter Really Do That for Me”, posted on 5/11/2011 and “Social Power by Use of Personal Sites” posted on 10/26/2010 for some more specific info on building a personal brand.

I’d enjoy hearing any suggestions you may have to help build a brand and drive customers to your sites. The more input we are get, the quicker we’ll develop new sales techniques to succeed in today’s information age.


  1. Thanks Ilona. I'm pretty passionate about the dramatic changes we're seeing in today's business environment. The days of the sales person calling the president of a company without an appointment have passed us by. Willy Lohman comes to mind. We need to adapt in order to continue to be successful in sales. How do you see the market evolving?

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