Get Smart: Cold Calling Is Dead
POSTED : February 2, 2010

Whether you are the dialer or recipient of the dreaded cold call, both parties would agree: few things in life are as unwanted and painful to endure as “the cold call.” In a study of B2B marketers that use cold calls to build their business, researcher Barbara Johnston of Texas A&M comments that “the cold call [is] one of the most egregious of interactional impositions.” Citing the woeful inefficiencies inherent in cold calling metrics, Jeremy Miller, in his excellent article “Sales People Don’t Cold Call”, unequivocally states, “Cold calling is an act of frivolity.”

Yet in spite of the pain and inefficiencies, how many companies/colleagues do you know that are still relying on cold calls to generate sales?  While businesses try to slug their way out of a tough economy, it may be easy to justify the rationale for this brute force tactic. However, we might suggest that sales managers rethink their approach to cold calling and adopt some 21st-century techniques that transform the dreaded cold call into the art of the smart call.

What is a smart call?

In the age of social media, online databases and Web x.0, there is never a reason to make a cold call again. Monte Levinson, President of Aerie Canal Consulting, sums up both the problem—and the opportunity—with the common cold call: “In my experience, most cold callers don’t take the time to learn anything about my business, they’re only focused on what they can get out of the exchange.”

To conduct smart calls you and your sales teams will need to invest a little bit of time to first get smart about your prospects both personally and professionally. Some suggestions:

Leverage Social Media

Given the transparency with which business professionals post their credentials to social media sites like LinkedIn (and increasingly Facebook), smart callers can glean relevant personal information about many prospects they wish to engage.

Tip: Selling IT solutions? Use LinkedIn to investigate where your prospect has previously worked. Perhaps you or company sold products to him/her at their last company where hopefully your products were easily deployed and added value to your prospects’ former employer.  E.g.: “I noticed from your Linkedin profile that you were previously employed at ACME. Did you know that AlphaTech implemented the CRM analytics engine for ACME?  Based on our successful implementation we were invited to do two additional engagements.”

Online Databases

Nearly every industry has two or three respected reference and research databases sales leaders can tap to help sales teams gain even deeper insight into their prospects.  EBSCOHooversFactiva, and Lexis Nexis all provide good general business reference information for sales teams to glean insights about prospects.

Tip: Selling media? Your lifeline for prospecting gold is Redbook Advertisers where you can quickly match brands to their agency of record. This way when you call your prospects you come armed with insights about the business relationships they are already using to market their brands.  Selling to manufacturers? IBIS World identifies industries using their North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes and provides data on market size, key players, and economic outlook. Let your prospects know that you’ve taken the time to gain insight into the competitive landscape and current trends. Use these key findings to help position your offer in a highly relevant manner to your prospect.

Web x.0

Whatever era of the internet you find yourself in, smart callers use the web to their advantage. Always check your prospects’ website before calling and get smart about the latest products and services being promoted by your prospect. Position your product to help them achieve success and let them know you’ve taken the time to get smart about their business. Use search engines to be sure you are up to date on the latest news and information about the prospect company.

Tip: Be sure to read the company blog: usually crafted by a senior executive within the organization, corporate blogs are probably the surest way to get insight on the “hot button” topic for your prospect.

Cold calling is dead. Take the time to get engaged with your prospect BEFORE you pick up the phone. Start smart calling today.


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