Cold calling as a sales technique continues to elicit much debate. You have likely come across phrases like ‘cold calling is dead’ or ‘cold calling is a thing of the past,’ particularly among its opponents. These sentiments are backed by statistics showing that only 2% of cold calls are successful.
Let’s face it, most people do not like to receive cold calls from strangers, and research shows that salespeople do not want to make them either. Furthermore, there are numerous ways of soliciting customers in the digital era that are far less intrusive and more successful. So why would businesses continue using cold calling as a sales strategy? Can we say that cold calling is a thing of the past, or is this strategy far from done?
What is cold calling?
Cold calling as a sales technique refers to calling a prospect with whom you have had no previous communication in the hope of interesting them in a product or service. This sales method is viewed as intrusive because the prospect was not expecting your call, does not know who you are, and may not be interested in what you are selling. It is also impossible to time the call to a ‘good time’ when the prospect will actually be happy to chat.
Cold calling was quite successful in the 1980s and 1990s when the telephone was the only means of communicating with prospective customers. People were also more amenable to taking unknown calls. With time, conmen infiltrated the market, causing people to become wary of unsolicited calls. It is the arrival of the internet, however, that completely turned the tables on cold calling.
Cold calling in the digital era
The digital era has brought about many new ways of getting in front of a prospective customer. Examples include social media, websites, blogs, and email marketing. On the flip side, consumers have many avenues of getting the information they need on a product or service. Research shows that over 80% of customers research online before going to a store to make a purchase. This means that things have changed drastically from the past when customers made their buying decisions based on a salesman’s random call. It also means that businesses have to rethink their sales techniques to go with the changing times. But where does this leave cold calling, or has it become a thing of the past?
Is cold calling a thing of the past?
Contrary to popular opinion, cold calling is not a thing of the past. When done right, it is still a viable sales technique. In fact, 41% of salespeople confirm that phone calls are their most effective sales tool. One of the most significant advantages of cold calling over other methods such as email is that it puts you in direct contact with a prospect. This means that once you are speaking to someone on the other end, you can get immediate feedback on your product/service, inquire about their pain points, and get permission to make a follow-up.
Businesses that rely on cold calling as a sales technique can take advantage of digital advances to increase their lead generation. Some of the ways to do this include:
Research the prospect- In the digital era, almost all your sales prospects will be online somewhere. It is therefore unwarranted to make cold calls similar to those you made in 1995. If you are looking to sell to a company, take time to learn more about it on its website, blogs, or social media accounts. This will give you an idea of what it’s struggling with and what solutions it’s looking for. You will then be able to tailor your sales pitch to these points.
Use an optimized script– Relying on a sales script is still as important today as it was in the past. A cold calling script, however, should only be used as a guide to keeping you on point with what you want to say. As such, it should not sound robotic or rehearsed. Most importantly, it should be optimized with learnings from each phone call to ensure that it is the very best version that will get a positive response from the prospect.
Do not try to sell on the first call– There is nothing that can be as off-putting as picking the phone to hear someone trying to sell you something. Worse if you don’t know who they are and don’t need what they are selling. One way of going around this is by researching the prospect and understanding their pain points. This will allow you to use the call to find out more about their challenges and give you a way to introduce a solution.
Use automation– The digital era has not only revolutionized cold calling, but the tools used as well. Today, you can track which leads have interacted with your blog article or opened your email. Other than analytics, customer relationship management (CRM) tools can make your sales process seamless. These tools can help with contact management, call recordings, voicemail management, customer history, etc. Having all your customer data in one place makes sales efficient and saves money.
Cold calling as a sales technique is not a thing of the past, and when done right, it is still a viable sales technique. However, things have changed drastically with technological advances, particularly in the way consumers buy. In this regard, sales teams must also change tact to keep up. Some of the ways this can be done is by conducting customer research before calling and optimizing scripts based on customer responses. Using automation also saves time, money and makes the process seamless and efficient.
All businesses are looking to make sales and to stay relevant in the market. One strategy of ensuring this is by incorporating other sales strategies alongside cold calling. These include email marketing, direct sales, social media marketing, and direct mail. While these can be done in-house, for an effective and well-coordinated sales strategy, it may be useful to employ the services of a B2B lead generation agency. A lead generation agency utilizes various sales strategies to generate quality leads and grow business, putting you ahead of the competition.