Cold callers seem to have a superhero ability to call at the most inopportune time.
While you’re preparing for a big presentation or in the middle of ushering a huge client into a meeting room.
“This is Slick Rick from Amazing IT Services. Do you have a minute to talk about your IT strategy?”
That caller probably ends up on your blocked list.
I've done it, and you've probably done it, too.
There are two camps in the cold calling argument — those who think cold calling is dead and buried and those who swear it's the most effective way to bring in new customers.
And then there's the age-old debate of cold calling vs. email.
So, what is the truth? Is cold calling dead, or can it be revived?
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What is cold calling, exactly?
Cold calling refers to sales teams (or business owners) making unsolicited phone calls to a person or business in an effort to make a sale.
Cold-calling is a time-honored sales tradition — but is it still effective in today's hyper-digital, post-COVID world?
Let’s admit it; most of us hate when a stranger tries to pressure us into buying something — often without finding out if we actually need what they have to offer.
And most of us hate doing cold calls ourselves. It's awkward, and you're more likely to get hung up on than make a sale.
So is cold calling dead? Or are you just doing it wrong?
Cold calling success rates are low, low, low
A study from Kenan-Flagler Business School found that “cold calling has only a 2.5 percent success rate.”
This 2.5 percent success rate means an experienced salesperson will make one appointment or another valid follow-up per working day. (Though let's be honest, pretty much no one is doing in-person meetings currently.)
I’m not seeing ROI there, are you?
Consider the effort this takes: first hire someone, train them, and gather a contact list. Only then can they start making calls and try to land — at best — one Zoom follow-up a day.
This rate also assumes they make 50 calls a day and spend an average of 9.6 minutes per call.
I recently interviewed experienced “sales whisperer” Pasi Rautio from tuplaamo.fi, who has coached tens of thousands B2B and B2C sales individuals. I asked him how he finds cold calling in today’s sales environment.
Here's what he shared:
“Doing cold calls is like taking your suitcase and going door to door trying to sell something. There’s always someone crazy enough to buy, but most of the doors are not opened.”
True cold calling is a waste of time and can give you a bad name — no one wants to be remembered as the annoying person that won't take no for an answer.
Phone calls, however, are an effective way to communicate with prospects. So how can cold calling be turned into something beneficial?
The key to cold calling success: preheat before you call
If you think cold calling is dead, there's a good chance you are doing it wrong.
The key to cold calling isn't to make more calls — it's to take the time to preheat your approach before diving in.
Use more efficient sales techniques to gain prospects' attention or determine if they are really in your target audience before reaching out.
This reduces the importance of calling. If calling needs to be done, do it as a last resort — even better if you can proceed to the next phase of the sales process without making a call.
Calling should be integrated with your entire marketing plan. Approach potential clients with targeted marketing and validate leads before you approach potential clients.
This way, you're approaching prospects, not cold leads who have no clue who you are.
How to improve your cold calling success rates
So cold calling isn't dead — at least not entirely. Plenty of industries, especially in B2B, leverage cold calling to attract prospects and close deals.
Before you give up on cold calling, try these tips to improve your cold calling success rate:
Narrow down your targets
If the decision-maker is the CFO of an SME, don’t bother calling anyone else in the company. You might make fewer calls — but the pitches will be far more effective.
Does it make more sense to call ten people who might be able to make a decision or two who definitely can make the decision to buy?
Research before you call
Before you call, check your contact’s LinkedIn profile and try to appeal to their interests.
You might see they are into a specific type of tech or have mentioned a challenge they're facing. You might find out you love the same sci-fi franchise or attended the same conference.
You can use that sales prospecting information to tailor your call and grab their attention.
Here are a few more tips on how cold call like a pro:
Sharpen up your sales pitch
Within 10 seconds of calling someone, you need to win their attention. Use empathy and emotional intelligence to show you understand the challenges they face.
Remember they’re more interested in the benefits you can offer than who you are as a person.
Propose a benefit so compelling the client can’t say no. For example, you might try this one:
“This is Driller O’Rocket from Amazing Service. We’ve done cooperation with “name client’s worst competitor” (or name two to three other relevant companies from your industry.) "With our help, they were able to boost revenue by 30.000 USD and increase revenue by 30 percent. Would you be interested in meeting up to talk about working together?”
Track your efforts
Measure what works — and what doesn't. See what approaches help you actually land a meeting and then go through the previous bullet points all over again.
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Basically, don't sleep on cold calling
The old adage that cold calling is dead isn't going away.
Is bad B2B sales dead? Absolutely.
But is cold calling itself dead? Not even a little.
Your approach, however, might need to be tweaked. Prospects expect more than a cold sales pitch with no personalization or research.
But if sales reps put the effort in before picking up the phone—and really understand their prospects’ pain points—they can strike up a real relationship, provide genuine value, and improve their chances of making a sale.
Note: Use sales prospecting tools like Leadfeeder to see what companies visit your website — and what actions they take. You'll understand their problems and goals while they’re still “cold” — allowing you to make a real connection the first time you reach out.
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