3 Things Some Pundits Won’t Tell you about Cold Calling – Part 20

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Old Phone

On Monday, in the first post of this series, we defined “cold calling”, and looked at overlooked real opportunities for sales and revenues one misses when not including cold calling in their biz dev routine.

Whether by fate or chance, the following definition was contained in a marketing piece I received in my inbox yesterday:

“By definition, “Cold Calling” is the marketing process of approaching prospective customers or clients, typically via telephone, who were not expecting such an interaction. The word “cold” is used because the person receiving the call is not expecting a call or has not specifically asked to be contacted by a sales person.”

I guess I am not alone.

On to number two!

2.   They may not do it now, but they used to!

I’ll start by asking a variation on the question about the tree falling in the forest:

If one outsources their cold calling or delegates it to someone else in his/her company, are they still cold calling or could they claim to be pure?

In all the years I’ve been selling, I have only met one person who claims never to have made a cold call during their career (let’s qualify that, successful career), and while I believe that the captain of commerce in question, I also suspect that he is the exception that proves the rule. The rule being that cold calling is a key and necessary (evil) part of successful B2B selling.

I usually start my Proactive Prospecting workshops by asking “Who here can make quota strictly from their base and referrals from that base?” On average less than a third put up their hands; usually not the top third, and I am usually distracted by their manager’s shaking head.

At the start of their career or new job, most sellers make cold calls. Then we change, more accurately, the market and success changes us. We build a base of clients, service and support them, do all the things we are supposed to. In the process of doing that, our work habits and attitudes change. That change usually involves a slow shift from being primarily a hunter, we slowly morph to being hybrid hunter/maintainer. Our work continues to bear fruit, we stop sharpening our cold calling skills and sharpen our referral skills, and completely stop exercising our cold calling muscles, and let’s face we are all happy not having to do the dreaded task.

Some can sustain their career from harvesting their base, even as their companies are starving for new customers. Pundits can live off their reputation, and declare cold calling dead.

But then reality comes to call, in the form of a lost client, or the economic climate of 2009 – 2011, the base no longer spins the rewards it used to, no choice but to find some new streams of revenue. I see this pattern play itself out at my gym, some keener who was on the high school football team but has not picked up the ball, weights or ran in the last 12 years. He now decides it’s time to shed some pounds by hitting the gym, sweat band and all. After five minutes on the elliptical, they are breathless, soaked and declare “this doesn’t work”; they dash off to the nearest pharmacy for a bottle of Hydroxycut Special, because it really works.

As with fitness, what really works is a balanced approach, I worked with a successful banker, loans to small and medium businesses, he had a great book after 17 years in the business, easily leave off it for the remainder of his career. But he would cold call several times a week, when I asked why, he said:

“First, if I bring on one new client a month, I will generate five more in the form of referrals from that one over the next year, and more off those in the coming years. Second, like it or not, I will lose some clients, retirement, acquisition, failure, or what have you. Adding new companies to my book, allows me to continue to grow it.”

Ask yourself what your attrition rate is, and more importantly, how much upside is there in replacing them with new networks of revenue.

I often ask the cold calling is dead crowd, what advice they would give a young and/or new territory rep, new to a copier, transport, wireless, telco, MRO, or other similar company, not the 10 years veteran, but brand new rep: cold call or not? I don’t often hear back, mostly because a balanced, well thought-out action plan has to include cold calls, referrals, LinkedIn, and every available and effective tool. To exclude one, is to limit your success. Just like they used to.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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