Is cold calling still useful?

Posted in Sales techniques and processes.

Cold calling is a sales technique whereby a salesperson will contact a potential customer who may have little to no prior information about their business. In its technical definition, it can include a range of activities including cold emails and door-to-door sales. However, in its most common definition, cold calling is often referred to as “solicitation by phone” or “telemarketing”.

There is often debate about whether cold calling is still a useful tactic in this day and age. There is also the ever so present debate about cold calling versus emailing. What is it that makes cold calling seem like a bad tactic today?

The problems with cold calling

Unsolicited phone calls from random strangers can interrupt everyday activities and annoy people. There is also a general stigma against telemarketing within the general public. With modern technology such as caller ID and call blocking software, it is much harder to establish contact. After a couple of leads decide to report your call as spam, your number is then tagged as such so that others can also see it. This can make establishing that initial contact very difficult.

After potential customers pick up the phone, making an effective cold call is still difficult due to the variety of responses they may have. Responses can range from hanging up to a rude and verbose complaint. The amount of time spent also does not seem to line up with the possible benefits of the interactions. Various studies show a poor success rate for cold calls – around 2%. Couple that with the amount of time it takes to cold call and then follow up to close the sale, you can see why it might not seem as attractive a technique comparatively.

In a world where prospects can just research company information at the tap of a button, cold calling just seems like an unnecessary nuisance.

Is there anything that can be done about it?

Cold calling by itself may seem like a very bad sales tactic. But that’s in a vacuum. The problem with calling prospects at random is that most of that time is wasted either on people who have no interest in what you can bring or people who can’t make the decision to buy anything. In a B2B setting, this is very important. Filter out anyone who isn’t a key decision maker. Then, do further research so that those you do end up calling are those who are most likely to listen and accept your offers.

Additionally, cold calling should be integrated with the rest of your marketing plan. Keep in it a vacuum and it quickly loses its power. In essence, cold calling is best when it is targeted. Is there a specific need that they need fulfilled that you can fulfill? Do they have specific interests or history that can be used in conversation to connect with them?

A big problem with cold calling is that “cold” has been associated with how salespersons conduct themselves in these calls. Overly scripted calls where it is very obvious that someone is trying hard to sell something can put a lot of people off. Add a bit of emotion and personality to it. Don’t make it boring.

When to call is also important. Disrupting someone’s workflow is bound to give them negative expectations even if you did not mean to do so. Studies have found that Wednesday is the best day to call – not too close to the relatively stressful start of the week and not too close to the relaxing end of the week.

Is cold calling worthwhile?

While many may agree that cold calling does not have a great ROI in the B2C sphere, requiring more resources than emailing while providing less benefit, cold calling may still have a chance in the B2B world.

51% of company owners prefer receiving calls over emails, faxes, or in-person visits. Furthermore, it is much easier to conduct research into a business as a B2B than to B2C consumers. After all, you are attempting to solve a business-related issue and not a personal one. Rationality wins over here.

Cold calling can double as a marketing research technique. Feedback is generally immediate and will allow further ventures to be refined. A quick chat can also reveal whether a prospect is worth pursuing or not. In this way, cold calling is relatively cost-effective.

Cold calling also garners more attention than some forms of communication. Emailing is often easily ignored, and many people may find them to be irrelevant. Calling generates an immediate notification that you are trying to contact someone. Keep in mind that older individuals may prefer this way of doing things as this is what they are familiar with.

In short, B2B businesses might benefit more from cold calling than B2C businesses. Even then, bad cold calling still ends up being a bad sales tactic. Know how to cold call. Know who to cold call.