We all know or think we know what cold calling is. Yes, it means reaching out with a business presentation/offer towards new potential customers. The salesperson is at the first contact with the customer, and the customer usually has no idea about the product or offer to be presented to him. When employed in business, cold calling is the first step, that can generate further interaction with future clients.
Currently governed by specific rules in the U.S., European Union and other regions, cold calling, generally an over-the-phone procedure, starts from potential customers lists and follows specific guidelines in the attempt of gaining interest and ultimately bringing in sales.
Cold calling in the past
Well, 1873 is definitely in the past. It is the year cold calling was first documented – by John Henry Patterson, NCR Corporation’s founder. The former National Cash Register Company developed into one of the first modern business models, and had its own sales training school by 1893. It employed various selling techniques and cold calling was one of them.
Reading Patterson’s sales training manual proves how little things have changed in the sales approach nowadays, according to this article on cold calling. It is however a critical statement, and when following this link one should bare in mind that the author compares the past and the present and does not perceive cold calling as still being efficient.
It is useful to acknowledge documented critical opinions, too, for they might guide someone at least halfway through the needed changes when looking for inspiration in reshaping the cold calling process. We are contemplating a traditional sales technique which shares its core principles with its past ancestor, yet it also needs synchronization with the present and anticipation of the future.
Where does cold calling stand now
The business environment is suffering tremendous changes, while striving to adapt to the digital revolution. And it’s just the beginning. It’s hard to tell who has the potential to shift things in the right direction, who are the visionaries and which of them also have the power to imprint ample movements in the interconnected global community.
A debate is ongoing in what concerns cold calling – some deem it as overrated, while others reinforce its importance in making one’s business count.
Depending on the size of your business, other marketing techniques might prove more expensive than the simple straightforward cold calling. Reaching out to potential customers via this method allows scaling to the suitable business size, and taking it one step at a time. Depending on the number of clients set as a goal, one or just a few salespersons can open the way using this traditional sales technique – and applying themselves.
But yet again, cold calling faces criticism on the financial matter too. There are that voices claim that, due to its low rate of conversion, this technique isn’t worth. Its ROI just doesn’t pay off. Enters outsourcing, a method that brought down the sums invested in this operational direction. Without too much of a financial effort, companies could benefit from the backup of perseverance via cold calling – alongside other main marketing and sales techniques.
The negative perception usually takes into consideration cold calling as being just a numbers’ game
The salespersons’ activity is considered canvassing, and the rate of positive responses (or of plain responses) predicted is very low. In other words, this procedure would supposedly bring the lowest percentage of sales.
Somewhere in the middle we find a wiser opinion that redeems cold calling, as long as it changes, adapting to the modern requests. Social selling as a viable alternative to common cold calling – this works better. Brand and reputation building (prior to phone approach), listening to what the customer has to say, addressing questions to the potential customers via social media beforehand, and making an effort to know (online) your interlocutor are all part of social selling. All these fit the personalization trend in marketing and transform the initial technique into a warmer approach.
There still are those who view cold calling as empowering and having an enormous potential. The positives of this technique start with its definition – the potential customers are fresh and might bring surprising opportunities.
Because it has been done for such a long time, the sales professionals have started to lose perspective and their trust in cold calling (or at least some of them)
Others have discovered that there is a way to do cold calling right in our day and time, and that it gives good results. There are many articles trying to build the energy back into this activity – advice, tips, and efficiency techniques. Let’s see some of the recommendations:
- Use a sales script (to avoid inspiration blockages and poor representation of your brand/product);
- Learn to stay in control no matter what type of objections the potential customer raises;
- Time your pitching efficiently, as well as the information given to the person you are addressing – providing certain details too early or too late might fail to produce the wanted results;
- Do not be afraid of the entire process: make a lot of calls, record and study them – and even get some external feedback to be able to see what you may have been missing;
- Make a recovery plan in order to get over the bad calls without affecting the rest of your conversations;
- Improve your way of speaking – so that people will actually listen; this is a gained ability once you train for it, and it will be useful throughout your life.
Some B2B-tailored cold calling tips look like this:
- Prior to the call, clearly define your objectives;
- Prepare an wide array of product stories, details, comparisons and connections – just like in real life conversations; being able to provide such insights when needed might just make the difference;
- Research your potential customers, get informed about their activities, interests, history, company dimensions, changes, interlocutor’s functions – are so we evolve into social calling (see above); customer profiling strengthens the communication, even though you might not be aware of it;
- Believe in the value of your offer yourself – this helps building confidence and getting the right message through.
Regaining inspiration and reshaping the cold calling activity is a positive, pro-active endeavor. Social media helps in getting informed about the persons or companies you will contact, training your empathy allows you to try and think like they do. Moreover, the professional dedication and fondness for product/services quality acts as a binding factor between the salesperson and the potential clients.
Future of cold calling
There’s no telling yet of exactly how selling techniques will change – IoT, wearables and all future tech developments. Some favor automation and minimize the human factor; others feel that old habits would have to come back, adapted to a new age to come.
However, when something is done right – it is here to stay. Or to come back at some point.
As long as cold calling regains its vibe and counts for something no automated system can provide – a person-to-person relationship, be it intermediated by technology and short – it might know a revival phase.
The old schemes may remain valid, yet the shape should change according to the customers. A different type of professionals is on the verge of dominating the business environment – different generations, maybe different thinking altogether.
Understanding and adapting are the key – flexibility saves the day in cold calling. Well, the future day.
Perspective – how to regain inspiration
An inspiring article on Inc.com talks about the fun of cold calling. Yes, you read this right. A sales person who enjoys his/her tasks and transmits well-being is a plus to begin with. What does this article refer to?
- Good equipment – hardware and software (high comfort, smooth activity, no collateral stress);
- Good script – well-conceived, down-to-earth, avoiding clichés and formulas that actually transmit nothing much, but undermine the caller’s trust and annoy the potential client;
- Good physical habits – well-timed breaks, good posture, energized overall presence, focus – all these go into the attitude, the voice and ultimately into the conversation;
- Psychical readiness – once the caller has rehearsed its script, and is comfortable both physically and mentally – the right state of mind for each personality ensures better chances of success.
Keeping these in mind – you might just give another chance to the good old cold calling.