Is Cold Calling Really Dead? (Part 2)

In my last post, I took issue with a particular sales consultant on what I considered to be blanket statements he made regarding the so-called ineffectiveness of cold calling.

In all fairness to his expertise, the author did outline an effective alternative to cold calling:

Once I’ve identified a company to approach about any of my services, I do my homework. I call three or four of the company’s salespeople. My hope is to speak to a salesperson that has been with the company for only a short time, to another who is an old hand with the company, and one who is a top producer.

When I speak to these individuals, I am upfront with the purpose of my call. I let them know who I am, why I’m calling them, what my intentions are regarding calling the company about my services, and request their permission to ask them some questions about the company and their experience with the company.

After asking a series of questions, he gains permission to mention their name. Typically, he says, the individuals not only give permission but will encourage him to call, turning it from a cold call to a warm call to a referral. He goes on to say:

When I do call the company, I use the introductions provided by the salespeople to break the ice and gain credibility. Those introductions turn the call into a conversation about their needs and observations rather than a sales pitch.

This approach works well for him because he is selling a relatively high-dollar service (sales training) to large companies. But what if you are selling a lower-cost item to smaller companies that don’t even have a single sales person, much less three or four, to contact? What works for the author cannot be applied across-the-board to every industry. Having only a hammer doesn’t automatically make every problem a nail.

To illustrate, the company I work for is a small, independent Yellow Page publisher. Our average sale is less than $1,200 and our typical customer is a mom-and-pop shop. Besides selling new business, our sales reps are expected to call on several hundred existing customers to renew their advertising. Our sales cycle is short (about a week-and-a-half from appointment to signed contract). It would be too time-consuming and not cost-effective enough to spend time researching every potential company that we call on. Incorporating the author’s method into our sales process would be sales suicide.

For companies such as ours (and maybe yours), cold-calling and cold-canvassing are the only available options our reps have for prospecting new business. Our short sales cycle doesn’t afford time for networking and relationship building. Even for businesses that can afford to try other methods, cold calling is still an effective tool to include in your marketing arsenal.

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