Cold calling, or conducting sales calls without first qualifying them as warm leads, is a practice that dates back to a manual written by John Patterson in 1873. At the time, the telephone had not even been invented. Rather, Patterson’s manual was primarily concerned with canvassing potential customers in person — the original cold call. It was the opening of the first telemarketing firm in 1957 that saw cold calling really take off as a sales technique.
In the years since, cold calling has gained a fairly negative reputation among salespeople and customers alike. Customers today are rarely responsive to an unsolicited sales pitch, and many sales reps view cold calling as a form of practice at best, and a pure waste of time at worst. Nevertheless, employing the right cold calling techniques can help your sales team capitalize on worthwhile opportunities.
In this blog, we’ll discuss why cold calling can still be an effective sales practice today, before exploring five no-nonsense calling tips that can breathe new life into this decades-old practice.
Is Cold Calling Still Effective?
Given the negative reputation that has come to surround cold calling, it’s fair to wonder whether the practice is even worth the effort — and if you are looking for them, there are plenty of statistics to suggest that it’s not.
Research by XANT shows that 60% of cold calls go straight to voicemail, meaning that the majority of cold calls don’t actually connect with prospects right out of the gate. A ZoomInfo survey shows that 63% of sales reps consider cold calling to be the most unenjoyable aspect of their job.
Statistics such as these might suggest that cold calling is a thing of the past. However, there are also reasons to support the idea that cold calling is still worthwhile when it’s used effectively.
For example, a RAIN Group survey shows that 82% of consumers report accepting a meeting with a sales rep at some point in their life after first being contacted via cold call, demonstrating that cold calling can indeed lead to positive outcomes. Another RAIN Group survey shows that 27% of sales reps say that cold calling is still an effective first step in a well-structured sales strategy.
In the end, the results that a sales team can expect to achieve through cold calling are almost entirely dependent on the cold calling strategy they use. Today’s customers are inundated with more ads and sales pitches than ever before, and email is an especially saturated channel. Companies hoping to gain ground through cold calling need to be thoughtful and creative in their approach to cut through the noise and capture a prospect’s attention.
Misconceptions About Cold Calling
1. Cold Calls Are Only Placed via Telephone
Phone calls and voicemails aren’t the only medium by which cold calls can be placed. In addition to cold calling prospects by dialing their phone number, cold callers can also contact prospects via email, SMS, and social media messages. Any form of contact with potential customers that’s unsolicited — whether it’s a cold call or a cold email — is generally viewed as cold calling regardless of the medium that’s used.
2. Nobody Wants To Be Cold Called
If consumers were wholly unresponsive to cold calling, then the practice would have died out a long time ago. Data shows that there is an audience segment that will be receptive to the message. It’s true that the majority of people you contact will be annoyed if your cold outreach lacks process or preparation — but that’s an unavoidable scenario.
3. Cold Calls Are Always Placed at Random
There’s a common misconception that cold calls are placed to completely random numbers without any kind of screening or qualification. However, the reality is that good cold calling is purposeful outreach, and is most effective when sales professionals narrow their sights to target their ideal customers.
Potential customers who receive a cold call may not have asked to be contacted, but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t carefully chosen based on available data regarding their demographics and pain points. As we’ll cover below, the key is for sales reps to earn the prospect’s interest with a tailored pitch that proves they’ve done the research.
4. Sales Reps Should Only Be Judged on Their Cold Calling Success
Some companies place too much stock in how successful sales reps are at cold calling customers — a process that has been shown to fail a lot of the time. So much so, that reps won’t be considered for a promotion unless they’re able to close deals directly via cold calls, no matter how well they perform on other channels or in other portions of the sales process.
In reality, it’s important to avoid putting too much pressure on cold callers to achieve desired results. We know it’s a strategy that doesn’t always lead to the outcomes that sales teams want. Instead, companies need to view cold calling for what it is — a difficult, yet still valuable, strategy that is much more profitable with the right sales training and intentionality.
Cold Calling Is Purposeful Outreach
Now that we’ve discussed the misconceptions about cold calling and what cold calling is not, let’s take a look at what effective cold calling actually involves. In its most valuable form, cold calling is highly targeted outreach. With modern sales software and traditional prospecting techniques, it can take as little as 5-10 minutes of research to identify the people most likely to be interested in your product or service.
Let’s say your sales team has a $100,000 business intelligence tool at its disposal to identify ideal enterprise prospects. There’s simply no reason to cold call a nine-employee company. Even the most compelling sales rep in the world is never going to convince such a company to purchase your product or service. Instead of pressuring sales reps to perfect their cold call sales script or success rate, it’s much better to focus on lead qualification and sales rep education
By spending more time on this, companies can boost the value they receive from cold calling, while eliminating unnecessary pressure on sales reps to make a certain number of dials per day.
5 No-Nonsense Cold Calling Tips
1. Find Ways To Disrupt Patterns and Surprise People
Most people who respond to a cold call start out in an almost autopilot-like state. They see the first few words of a LinkedIn message from an unknown member, fully expecting it to either be a salesperson or a recruiter. That means they’re typically ready to close out your message and move onto the next one the second they lose interest in your pitch. Therefore, one of the best sales tips for cold calls, no matter the platform, is to disrupt this pattern by defying what customers have come to expect from a cold call.
For example, you could start a phone-based cold call by letting the recipient know right away that you understand that they’re busy and offer them the opportunity to call you back. Then, ask them to provide you with an email address that you can use to get in touch with them at a later time. This lead generation strategy is just one example of how a unique cold calling script or template can help you surprise people and extend the sales conversation in an organic way.
2. Don’t Call People That Aren’t a Good Fit Right Now
As we’ve already discussed, cold calling is much more successful as targeted, purposeful outreach than it is as a “spray and pray” strategy. If you aren’t at least somewhat qualifying your leads before you start placing cold calls, you are likely just wasting the time of everyone involved.
Let’s go back to the example of a company selling an enterprise solution. It wouldn’t make any sense for the sales rep to contact small- to medium-sized businesses that can’t afford such a large investment; if they do, they’re almost guaranteed to not make it past the gatekeeper or decision-maker.
By the same token, a company selling services geared toward SMBs, such as DIY payroll processing, would be barking up the wrong tree if they contacted large corporations. They’re almost certain to have an entire department of accountants already handling that responsibility or be outsourcing payroll to an enterprise solution. Whatever it is that you happen to be selling, a little lead scoring can go a long way toward ensuring that the time and money you spend on cold calling isn’t wasted.
3. Don’t Call if You Don’t Know What To Say
Placing cold calls without first taking the time to develop an effective script is often worse than not calling at all — it’s almost guaranteed to be unsuccessful, and you risk coming across as unprepared and unprofessional in the eyes of potential customers.
This is why it’s essential for a sales manager to carefully coach their reps in the art of cold calling, and ensure that they are equipped with high-quality, personalized cold calling scripts and templates. If your reps aren’t prepared to launch into a personalized sales conversation immediately following the first “How are you?” then they aren’t prepared to pick up the phone.
4. Don’t Spoof Your Phone Numbers
It’s become a common trend for companies to spoof their phone numbers when placing cold calls so that the number appears to be coming from an area code local to the prospect. So common, in fact, that many, many prospects are going to see right through it before they even pick up the phone. Perhaps there was a time when prospects would be more likely to answer a call from a local area code out of curiosity. But today, the vast majority of consumers are aware of this trick and very tired of it.
The only thing you are likely to accomplish by spoofing your phone number is coming across as shady and dishonest — which is certainly not a great start to a potential customer relationship..
5. Place Your Calls at the Best Time
Calling prospects at a bad time is something that can turn would-be successful cold calls into non-starters right out of the gate. Yesware analyzed over 25,000 sales calls and found that weekday afternoons are the best time to place a cold call. Yesware’s analysis also shows that the majority of sales calls lasting longer than five minutes (i.e., sales calls that have the highest chance of success) were placed on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons between 3:00 and 5:00 p.m. If you’d like to place your cold calls at the best possible time, using this data is a great place to start.
Of course, the best cold calling tip is to ensure that your sales professionals have the training they need to capture a prospect’s attention and convert them into a hot lead. Sales Assembly can help. Our exceptional sales training certification program provides your salespeople with the specialized training they need to excel at all aspects of their job — including lead prospecting, cold calling, and pitching.
Empower Your Sales Reps for Cold Calling Success With Help From Sales Assembly
Ultimately, the biggest thing that separates successful cold calls from unsuccessful calls is the skill and experience of the sales rep. If you’re ready to learn more about how Sales Assembly’s sales training certification program turns your reps into cold calling experts, be sure to contact us today.
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