The Cold Call

The cold call is only one small aspect of selling but it is an area, which keeps many salespeople, especially the self-employed business owner, from even getting started. Lots of people seem to think that calling is dead and that networking, social media, marketing and referrals have replaced the cold call!

This simply is not true!

Successful cold calling happens everyday and is a fundamental part of the sales process in every industry. When cold calling is done right it is a powerful tool in the successful salesperson’s strategy to connect with prospects and get business.

Poorly done cold calling is probably one of the most miserable and demoralizing activities on the face of the earth! Cold calling done poorly gives businesses and salespeople a bad name and wastes everyone’s time involved – a sad thing!

I am not sure who invented the classic cold call but it could not have been invented by a salesperson. There is a category of sales manager who feel it is their job to manage activity rather than develop salespeople and so they demand the maximum amount of activity. Organizing a team of salespeople to sit and call, virtually random lists of telephone numbers, pitching a poorly written script, makes an office look busy but this is not selling and it is not cold calling either.

The business people who advocate the ‘numbers’ approach to selling know absolutely nothing about selling.

The ‘numbers’ approach to selling suggests that selling is not a skill but is simply a result of pitching to enough people. The strategy suggests that if you call enough people and pitch them then the business will follow. It is basically a hunt for those ready to buy. Anyone who advocates this approach knows nothing about selling and should get out of the selling business! The problem with this approach is that it sounds reasonable to those who know nothing about selling and so it is a practice that continues. Thankfully, numbers calling is dying and rightly so – most of the time it is nothing less than harassment!

Activity is NOT strategy!

I have made thousands of cold calls in my life and the vast majority of them have been successful, leading to orders and long-term business relationships. A successful sales strategy absolutely requires us to contact people with whom we have never spoken and initiate a business relationship – this is selling!

A lot has been written in recent years that suggests the only viable approach to selling is through networking, introductions and referrals. These tools are important but to depend on them alone is as foolish as selling by the ‘numbers’. When I read opinions like this I know instantly that these people do not have a background in selling because a salesperson with real sales experience would never suggest that Cold Calling can be avoided – this is part of the work and enjoyable if done correctly.

Unfortunately, the huge growth in the self-employed has meant that many people are starting businesses with no sales experience. The prospect of contacting strangers to pitch business is daunting and so they avoid selling. Instead they spend time attending a wide range of networking groups hoping to find a customer or get a referral. Usually, they find just enough business to keep them going – many of these organized, paid membership networking groups provide just enough results to stay in business – like casinos. Just like casinos in the end you will leave with empty pockets.

Networking is not selling, social media is not selling, marketing is not selling and advertising is not selling! Finally, making a hundred telephone calls a day to virtual strangers, reciting a bad script, is not selling! Period!

Cold calling by the numbers is dead and it has not really worked for a long time. It is a strategy promoted by people who don’t understand the sales process. Unfortunately, many salespeople start their sales career with a company that uses this strategy. The approach many businesses take is to throw as many salespeople at the problem as possible getting them all on the telephone for eight hours a day pitching a bad telephone script with the hope of getting lucky!

I have seen lots of these companies and the approach is always the same. They hire inexperienced salespeople to call so-called leads, usually the phone book, and pitch a poorly written script. The salespeople call fifty to a hundred people (or more) a day hoping to get lucky. Most new hires last a week or two, a few will last for a month or so and one out of fifty will figure out a cold call strategy that works and stay.  Most of these ‘winners’ are really broken people who have the ability to completely detach themselves from the cold call experience. The managers look at these survivors as an indication that the ‘system’ works and so keep throwing warm bodies at the process. Every year this ‘system’ is becoming less and less effective. The process ruins salespeople with the bad experience and frustrates the market, turning people off any message that sounds like a ‘pitch.’

This is not a sound approach to selling and quality salespeople and businesses have never used it.

The problem is this is the side of selling that most people experience and so when starting their own business believe that they should do the same – wrong!

The numbers approach to cold calling is not selling!

I have been “carrying a bag” as a salesperson, almost since I started working. Like a lot of people I pretty much fell into sales because I was friendly, had a good smile and liked to please people.  The sales process was somewhat natural for me but I often struggled with the results.  The courses I took at university had not prepared me for sales and nobody in my family had been in sales or even in business.  In fact, like many people, selling was a bit of a dirty word to me. I did not like to identify myself as a salesperson and would use phrases such as “marketing” and “customer relations” to avoid calling myself a “salesperson”. In fact, it took a six-figure income and me more than ten years of selling before I felt comfortable and even proud to call myself a salesperson.

I have learned that this is very common.  I am certain that many who read these words will be thinking of the classic used car salesman, the door-to-door canvasser or the pushy, commissioned, retail salesperson.  The reality is that every profession has its quacks and charlatans and selling is no different. Businesses who don’t understand selling or the sales process, push so many poorly trained salespeople with little or no support onto the public. It is no wonder we all cringe at the thought of having to deal with a salesperson. I too get frustrated when forced to deal with many commissioned sales people who are still being trained in old school selling techniques.

Luckily, I have had the opportunity to work for some good people early in my career who taught me how to sell professionally. What I learned from these early mentors was that success in selling is about discipline and routine.

Do the right things and do them everyday.

Have a plan and work your plan.

Work hard but take time to refresh yourself.

Respect your customers and always respect yourself.

Always, always, always be completely prepared.

Dress and act professionally at all times.

Creativity is a powerful tool.

Dig your well before you’re thirsty – build contacts!

Develop a truly compelling message.

Connect and present to every qualified prospect.

Always, always, always ask for the order.

I also learned the value of working for a great company.  A great company provides all the support that a salesperson needs.  With a solid company behind me, I didn’t need to lie or deceive to get business. With the right support, I was confident in my selling, and that confidence drives results. I feel I was lucky to work for a company that:

Cared about its employees and customers

Always delivered on promises

Had clear policies and procedures

Stood behind its products and its staff

I learned from my personal selling experiences that competent salespeople can thrive in a good environment and the best sales people can fail in a poor environment.

I also learned that many businesses don’t understand what salespeople do. Many managers and owners think that all salespeople are “rainmakers” and that salespeople just go out and generate sales out of nothing. Many believe that all the support salespeople need is a desk in the corner and a telephone.  These businesses churn through salespeople damaging their own businesses, and the careers of struggling salespeople.  Of course, there are salespeople who will find an oasis in the desert and create a territory in the worst of conditions but doesn’t your business deserve better?

I have sold millions of dollars worth of goods and services for some great companies and have earned a large six-figure commissioned income year after year. I have also experienced the worst in sales where every sales call and every order was a painful struggle. With luck, I never had to endure the latter for long, as I always believed that if I was going to achieve the best for myself, I needed to associate myself with the best companies. This is of key importance because the best salespeople will not work with companies that do not provide them with the tools they need to succeed.

Winners will be attracted to winners and if you are not providing an environment where salespeople can win, over time, you will attract a team of losers. This has become my passion in life!  I hate to see businesses fail because they lack the understanding of what it takes to create a winning sales system and I hate to see salespeople struggle because they haven’t had the benefit of a strong sales system to support their efforts and ensure their success.

My philosophy is that selling should be a great opportunity for salespeople as well as businesses. Customers should have the opportunity to be serviced by companies and salespeople that care about their needs and about delivering great products and services. Salespeople should have the opportunity to service their customers with strength and integrity and have the opportunity to grow and succeed in their sales careers.

Businesses should have the opportunity to serve their customers and their employees and to prosper in doing so.

Is this a pipe dream?  No it is not! Great companies thrive every day working just this way and your company can too! Great companies and great salespeople don’t participate in Cold calling 1.0 – that ‘numbers’ game – because it doesn’t work. Cold Calling done properly does work but not when executed within a ‘numbers’ strategy.

Cold Calling 3.0 is pitching to prospects that are qualified leads. Cold Calling 3.0 is pitching with a compelling message that connects directly to the needs of the prospect. You know this because you understand the market, the needs of the buyer and have done the research to support every single statement made.

All business people are looking for opportunities and if your pitch is presented as an intelligent opportunity that addresses the needs of the business then your calls will be welcomed. If you call with authority and make intelligent statements to gatekeepers your calls will be put through.

Cold Calling 3.0 also means that you look for every opportunity to warm your Cold Call pitches by using networking, connections, referrals and social media networks such as LinkedIn.  You might also join the right clubs and community and charity connections – these are all important sales tools.

At the end of the day, however, you will pick up the telephone and connect with your powerful and carefully crafted and compelling messages.  You know that your messages are powerful because the prospect writes the pitch!  The prospect writes the pitch because you look for responses on every pitch and evolve your pitch based on the positive and negative responses you get. You get better and stronger on every pitch. Cold calling 3.0 is about making an investment in your knowledge and presentation skills so that you are able to present truly powerful presentations! Your close rate will soar!

Take Away! – Selling by ‘numbers’ has given cold calling a bad name. Cold Calling can be used as an effective tool when used professionally. When done right is a positive experience for everyone. Take the time to develop your message and skills to present powerfully!