Is cold calling dead?
There are many common misbeliefs about cold calling that include it is a waste of time, it is for losers, it makes you depressed, it is hard, to name just a few. Common myths about cold calling include calls are for whoever picks up the phone, cold calls do not result in meetings, and they are best done with manual dialing. More misconceptions include when making cold calls it is best to avoid gatekeepers, it is a numbers game where more dials equals more appointments, it takes no skill to make a cold call, and no one likes to cold call. Misbeliefs, myths, and misconceptions aside, cold calling is far from dead.
It was not too long ago that salespeople cold called prospects using a printed telephone directory. They would start from the beginning, dialed each company or person listed in the directory in order of appearance – A to Z – and when they got to the end, they went back to the beginning and started over. It was tedious and fruitful calls were often spaced far apart. There were lots of slow busy, fast busy, disconnected number messages, the slow ring, the fast ring, or no ring at all – just dead air. And if they did reach someone, before they even got through the first line of their pitch, they would hear the dreaded click of the party on the other end terminating the call. It is no wonder that it took a special kind of person to be a successful salesperson.
Cold calling is often equated with high-pressure sales tactics used in boiler room schemes to sell everything from speculative investments to dubious products. Cold calling and call centers are now lumped together under the more politically correct terminology of inside sales. Field sales teams use face-to-face selling tactics to overcome the perceived impersonal limitations of inside sales. But when it comes to scaling, companies wanting to expand only using field sales require ever increasingly larger field sales teams to cover expanding territories. The cost of sales goes up with field sales while inside sales offers many efficiencies and cost savings over a large field sales team. Inside sales teams are often small focused productive counterparts to their field sales colleagues when it comes to short-cycle and less complex sales. Therein lies the dilemma companies face when growing, calling is faster than walking.
Cold calling is an essential business tool for growth. Cold calling involves calling people with whom the salesperson has no existing relationship. Salespeople would “dial and smile” using the Yellow Pages to prospect for customers. Working from the telephone book a business-to-business salesperson had only company name, industry, address, and telephone number. When it came to consumers, salespeople would routinely dial from the White Pages to prospect from customers. A business-to-consumer salesperson had only a person’s name, address, and telephone number. In either case, for business or consumer sales, not much information to go on.
When was the last time you saw a telephone directory?
Telephone books – for those of you who have never seen one – were inch-plus thick super thin pages upon pages of names and numbers. Telephone books were the place to go to search for anything and everything, from a persons address and phone number to a business or provider for a specific product or service. If you needed to know where John Smith lived and his phone number, you used the White Pages. If you needed to know where the nearest business was that sold tires for your car, you used the Yellow Pages. There were even reverse lookup directories so if you had a phone number you could determine who or what business the number was associated with.
The exact date that production of telephone books ceased depends in part upon where you are were located. Sources put it as early as 2009 with the bankruptcy of R.H. Donnelley in the United States to 2019 when Yell stopped physical distribution in the United Kingdom. The decline of the telephone directory has been inversely proportional to the rise in use of the internet. Attempts to migrate to a digital experience have been met with some success as evidenced by Yell’s collaboration with Google.
Physical telephone books no longer exist now that search engines like Google return comprehensive results without having to “let your fingers do the walking” through the Yellow Pages (the 60’s slogan). In tandem with the decline of the Yellow Pages, so too was the disappearance of the White Pages. The Yellow Pages printed business listings while the White Pages printed residential phone numbers that included the name and address of the party. Around 2013 the Utilities Technology Council (UTC) eliminated the requirement that telephone companies must provide a printed White Pages directory.
Long gone are the days when strong men headlined wrestling events ripping 1,000-plus page telephone books in half during the run up to the main match. Spoiler, it is easier to accomplish than you think. Now that we have the internet, it has been estimated that we save 650,000 tons of paper and save two million cubic yards of landfill each year.
The decline of the landline telephone
Landline telephones have been on the decline since the mid-2000s. At that time 9 out of 10 households in the United States had a landline phone. And every business had at least one telephone number and dozens to thousands of physical telephone devices that included old rotary dial phones, multiline push button phones, and cordless phones. Telephones were associated with direct dial phone numbers as well as private branch exchanges (the PBX phone system with its operators) used to distribute incoming calls among company extensions.
The growth of cellphones which are not tethered to the wall by copper wire has usurped the relevance of having a physical hardwired phone in people’s offices. As far as businesses are concerned, physical phones are on the way out. Even IP desktop telephones connected to computer networks are now out of fashion. Today’s computers equipped with a headset and a soft phone (with Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) software) allows people to make calls using their computer and internet connections instead of using a telephone with an analog phone line.
Cold calling has been transformed into informed calling
Cold calling has undergone a fundamental transformation which has barely been noticed. Cold calling has evolved into informed calling. This is a data driven approach to outbound sales lead generation. Sales teams now have access to a plethora of information about the companies and people they are going to call before they even dial. Using technologies that include click-to-dial, predictive dialers, and power dialers, today’s salesperson can make hundreds of targeted, sequenced and calls where they are well informed about the prospect before the call is even placed, let alone answered.
Customer relationship management (CRM) systems, sales enablement platforms (SEP), and their add-ons can present a salesperson with a snapshot of the prospect that includes activity on the company website, what white papers they have downloaded, what self-guided demos they have engaged with, what emails they were sent and which ones they viewed, along with what calls to action they have responded to. There is software that scrapes the prospect’s company’s website and can detect what technologies they might be using on customer facing points of engagement. There are all types of data aggregators that bring together information about prospects, their activities, interests, and passions.
Informed calling means salespeople can call with a reason when they want to connect with a specific prospect. It will take a few minutes to review the information and insights about the prospect before placing a call. Armed with all this knowledge does not mean that the call will go through, but if it does the salesperson has a starting point for an engaging conversation rather than a sales pitch. Instead of a badly timed call that is unexpected and for no apparent reason, algorithms can sequence calls leveraging this information for better timed outreach. Software can now predict which prospects that match the company’s ideal customer profile who have engaged with the company’s website are most likely to buy now. This eliminates poorly timed bad pitches that happened too early in the sales process. Therefore, when prospects are in the buying zone, the sales teams can be ready to act at the right time with the right messaging because they already have awareness of where the prospect is in their buying cycle. The sales teams time can be spent on productive prospects, those ready to buy. And unproductive prospects can be deprioritized for automated outreach and engagement until they threshold and achieve active buying status having moved into the buying zone.
Prospects should appreciate informed calling. Simply put, it is more respectful than a poorly timed cold call. Salespeople should seek to first understand the prospect’s situation before they suggest product and/or service solutions. Informed calling aligns outbound calling with prospect needs. Informed calling is about having conversations with prospects that will lead to more close sales. In conclusion, cold calling is not dead, it has been upstaged by informed calling.
About the Author
Stephen Howell is a multifaceted expert with a wealth of experience in technology, business management, and development. He is the innovative mind behind the cutting-edge Chatbot ChatGPT plugin for WordPress. Utilizing the robust capabilities of OpenAI's API, this conversational chatbot can dramatically enhance your website's user engagement. Visit Chatbot ChatGPT to explore how to elevate your visitors' experience, and stay connected with his latest advancements and offerings in the WordPress community.