One of my recent posts attracted a lot of comment; the all new Marketing and sales funnel got a lot of interest and helped contributed to a fascinating and lengthy debate in a LinkedIn group I am a member of; Business Development –The Missing Link Between Marketing and Sales
To read The All New Marketing-Sales Funnel click here.
Is the Cold Call Dead?
The discussion picked up a recurring theme; Is the Cold Call dead as a sales tool?
On one side of the argument are the protagonists who insist that “Cold calling is ineffective, inefficient, and unpleasant for those on both ends of the phone” and that new techniques and approaches must replace it.
On the other is the stereotypical, dyed in the wool, sales- person who has always made cold calls and always will!
However unless the debate is listened to carefully, we court the danger of getting hung up on the words “cold calling”.
What’s Appropriate for Your Business?
The reality is that there are many ways to reach your target audience and the right one for you will be determined by your unique circumstances. The All New Marketing – Sales Funnel outlined an approach often referred to as inbound marketing. The goal is to have your target audience self-select and ask for a sales intervention.
However not every person is digital savvy. There are many industries that still respond to more traditional techniques. There are also cycles of effectiveness. It is not that long ago that direct mail was pronounced dead and email marketing the new hero. But with the profusion of email, intelligent direct mail is making a comeback. In the words of Mark Twain “The reports of [direct mail’s] death have been greatly exaggerated”
Facing up to the Challenge of Cold Calling
So back to the cold call. The reality is that there is a time and a place for an intelligently placed “cold call”. Top of their game sales professionals have always known how to increase the chances of getting a hearing from a cold call. Pre-call research and mutual connections can greatly increase your prospecting success.
In today’s digital world, there are a profusion of tools that will give you the best possible chance of success. For example, leverage LinkedIn to uncover insights and reveal connection paths to your prospects. For a great eBook on the subject download “The Cold Call is dead – Thanks to LinkedIn”
Summarising the eBook, LinkedIn can help you:
- Increase your appointment-setting rate by 16.7 percent using LinkedIn for pre-call research
- Leverage your 2nd tier connections and set up “warm” introductions to new prospects
- Form connections with and gain insight into new prospects through participation in relevant groups
The same eBook describes a method of research pithily entitled “3 x 3”; find 3 engaging facts in 3 minutes to engage your new prospect with!
Is Research and Insight Enough?
Research and insight, even referral are only the start. You still need to make that call. You still need to interrupt someone. You’ll need to arrest their attention. Then start a conversation and gain engagement.
And thereby lays the rub. Many people will do almost anything to avoid that uncomfortable feeling that accompanies picking up the phone. Even sometimes to someone they do know!
No matter how informed and ready you are, unless you are in the diary, you are an interruption and that brings the risk of rejection. This can be true even when you are referred. With the increased demands on everyone’s time. No-one can afford distractions. The result is often a rejection of the call … and by implication the caller. Rejection is a powerful motivation for many to find an alternative approach and … proclaim the death of cold calling.
Great salespeople have always enjoyed good networks, great insights and the ability to engage around an issue. They also know the first hurdle for a successful cold call is managing those initial few words to get the right outcome.
The reality is that business development demands effective prospecting and prospect engagement should never come down to one approach. The greatest success comes from leveraging an integrated multi-channel / multi-touchpoint approach. This will vary market by market and industry by industry and a thoughtful analysis (and some testing) is required to find the right approach for your business. The “one versus the other” argument is usually advocated by those with a stake in the outcome!
One final thought: Returning to the marketing – sales funnel, it is vital that you know where your intervention is within the funnel and that you customise your messaging and call to action to be appropriate and relevant. This applies to every touchpoint, whether digital, direct mail or the cold call.
For example, if you are at the top of the funnel it may be you are seeking to make someone more aware of your company, product or service and that an appropriate next step is simply to send an email or mail a brochure and ask to follow up in a couple of weeks!
About the author: Simon Tempest is a director of the Pro-actions group of companies.