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Should we Give Cold Calls the Cold Shoulder?

As a trainer and consultant, I often am asked to help sales forces hone their skills in prospecting, sales methods, sales call techniques, etc.  Among the clients or prospects that inquire about those services, some of them use a “cold-calling” model for interest generation among their potential markets to generate sales.  I often have to balance training on those skills with other considerations:

  1. How I personally feel about telephone solicitors or those that attempt to “sell me” on something I am not actively seeking at the moment of contact.
  2. Whether cold calls are even an effective method for selling at all.

As a Recipient

I, like nearly everyone, abhor being disrupted from a task I am engaged in (even if that task is wasting time) to have someone call me and try to sell a product or service that I am not in the market for, have not expressed an interest in, and don’t currently plan on purchasing.  I have NEVER agreed to have someone; vacuum my carpets, install siding, replace windows, provide an alarm system; nor have I purchased rare metals, or do any of the other tasks that are offered to me by a telephone solicitor.  I may not represent every prospect or customer; however, EVEN if I were in the market for those services, the chances of me using the company of the caller is far more remote than simple chance would have predicted.

I view it as a negative in such strong terms that I would actively seek to penalize a firm that approached me that way.  Given that I have such strong feelings about the experience, I clearly am not the best advocate for training others in how to do it effectively.  However, there are plenty of businesses and consultants that rely on this process of selling and believe there are approaches to be taught and applied.

One such advocate of this approach is, Wendy Weiss, the “Queen of Cold Calling.” (www.wendyweiss.com).  She subscribes to an approach that advocates creating a “selling script” of what to say, how to craft the message, who to direct it toward, etc.  Her lead generation strategies include reaching out to those that are unfamiliar with you/your company and introducing yourself to them via cold calling.

Never Cold Call Again

A contrary point of view is offered by Frank Rumbauskas, a sales consultant (www.nevercoldcall.com) who shares the opinion that cold calling is more often a poor use of the sales person’s time, energy, and effort.  In fact, he feels that it is more effective to work in a more targeted way with those that are already qualified leads and have expressed an interest THAN the general public.  His opinion is that far too many wasteful resources are used for little or no gain.  He maintains that keeping track of number of calls made, business cards collected, or doors knocked on is measuring the wrong thing.  It is the SALES volume that matters.

Is Cold Calling a productive approach to selling?

In his estimation; anyone who would consent to taking a cold call from a salesperson is likely a poor target contact.  They may be seeking to be educated for free, are not likely able to make a decision to buy (they are not too busy to take the call, and probably are not able to make things happen within their company), or cannot make a decsion because they are indecisive.

Cold Calling Should Stay or Go?

Admittedly, there are businesses (copiers, telephones, office supplies, etc.) that still feel that cold calling is the most effective way to develop leads and are very dedicated to maintaining that approach.  In many (most) other industries though, cold calling is a poor resource intensive approach that is far less productive than an integrated marketing and sales approach that generates interest and qualifies leads without relying on a random contact management approach like cold calling.

David Zahn