An Open Letter To Cold Callers

The other day, we were asked on Twitter whether we thought social media was a more productive way to build sales than cold calling. Aside from being a completely vague and open-ended question, it was also a pretty overt invite to a debate. One we gladly accepted. All that being said, we went into the discussion knowing this: there’s no such thing as winning a Twitter debate. The best you can hope for is an amicable parting. Mission accomplished, but there was a lot left unsaid. So I thought I would use this blog post to fully communicate just how ineffective we believe cold calling is as a sales strategy and leave no doubt.

Dear Cold Callers,

I hope that you’re able to take time out from your busy day of phone calling, and little else (I mean, who has the time when you have to make 100  or more calls to get one sale, right?) to read this. It’s important.

I want you to put down the phone and back away from it. Slowly. Slooooooowly. That’s it.

Now…take a deep breath and prepare to read something that will upset you.

You’re doing it wrong.

You’re wasting your time. You’re killing your brand. You’re destroying good will.

It doesn’t have to be like this. You can spend the same amount of time (or less) that you already spend working on your contact list, but rather than making one sale, you can start building profitable relationships that lead to multiple sales and long term customers.

Speaking from the perspective of someone who’s been coerced into cold calling in the past, and has also received more than his fair share of cold calls, I can tell you this: cold calling is a dead giveaway that you are out of better options. I don’t care if you’re the best cold caller in the business, 95-98% of the people you speak to will think bad thoughts about you and your business. In today’s business world, can you really afford to make that many enemies on a daily basis?

John Jantsch from the ducttape marketing blog puts it simply: “Cold calling results in about a 1-3% success rate for getting an initial appointment and it’s generally abusive to both parties. When that same call is made with a referral, the rate jumps up to 40% and even much higher when that referral comes from within the company."

Our very own Jeffrey Gitomer sheds additional light on the subject with a few statistics in this Business Record piece:

  • 98 percent or more rejection rate.
  • 100 percent interruption of the prospect.
  • 100 percent already know what you’re selling.
  • 100 percent lack of personal preparation about the customer.

Finally, when was the last time you immediately got someone on the phone who could say yes to you with authority? More often than not, the people who can say yes aren’t the ones answering the phone. In fact, the people answering the phones are usually trained in how to screen out cold callers, and their job security is based much more on keeping you off the boss’ phone than yours is based on getting connected. That’s a hurdle.

So with this many obstacles in your way, why not at least try something different? Cold calling used to have it’s place. Now it’s been replaced.

Say you’ve got a list of 500 names you plan to call. The best cold caller in the business will expect to get about 15 appointments or follow up conversations from a list that size. That’s 3%.

But what if you took the time to do a little research on the names you’ve got in front of you before calling them? Look them up on Twitter, and follow the ones who are talking about and posting about topics that are of interest to you.  Retweet a couple of their tweets that particularly resonate with you. Reply to them with a question or insightful comment. Start a conversation.

Look them up on LinkedIn and check out the groups they belong to there. Scan the recent discussions in those groups for comments or questions from those folks and then respond with a quality message of your own. Check out who you may know that they also know, and ask that mutual friend for an introduction or a referral.

Does it take longer? Sure it does. But then, maybe not.

You may be able to disqualify some of the people on your list even faster than you would on the phone while others will take some investigation. The point is that by the time you actually talk to them on the phone, they will have probably either invited you to call or agreed to your request to do so. And that can make all the difference in the world.

So cold callers of the world, I’m calling on you to quit. Cold turkey.

Please feel free to let me know how you feel about all this in the comments below. No calls please.