90% BS – Sales eXchange 1950

By Tibor Shantotibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca


There was a good post this week at Funnelholic blog, looking at “Best practices for getting in the door”.  In the piece there was a statistic attributed to the Harvard Business Review that stated:

“Harvard Business Review: 90% of C-level executives say that they never respond to cold calls or email blasts”

Now I can’t speak for the e-mail blast part, but as for the responding to cold calls part – “Horse manure! That’s for sure!”

I can tell you from personal experience, mine that of my clients, and other sellers, that the percentage of executives who respond is much greater than 10%, and even if they wanted to reframe the statistics and limit it to those who have made a purchase from a cold call, the number is still much higher than 10%.

There could be a number of explanations for this misrepresentation of the facts.  One can be the way the question was asked, because it is true that in the wrong hands, cold calls can be painful for both parties; maybe they specifically asked executives predisposed to not taking cold calls or want to be politically correct in a social age; or they relied on data from the “never cold call” crowd, whose bias would taint the survey, after all it is hard to sell DVD’s, books, and ab machines if cold calling was shown to be working.

I suspect that this is the sales world version of the Bradley Effect, where voters told pollsters one thing about how they will vote, while doing opposite when they actually went to cast their vote.

As I have stated here before, there are no absolutes in selling, if your job is to engage with potential buyers, you will need to try all resources available to you, including cold calling.  The post on Funnelholic highlights this in a clear way.  While in certain markets you can get away with little cold calling, in other segments, you will never hit quota without picking up the phone and making some well-placed cold calls.

Another cause is the fact that many organizations spend a lot of money training their people on “selling” or managing accounts or relationships, but very little on proper prospecting.  While lately there have been some programs focus on the use of social media or LinkedIn, again they ignore cold calling, after all, if you don’t do it, you can’t teach it.

Some of the referral based programs overlook the fact that while someone may give you a great referral, but unless the person making the referral calls in advance or introduces you, not always the case, and your call to the target is unscheduled, guess what, it’s a cold call, doesn’t matter what you want to call it to make you feel better.  Unless you have mapped out the call, how you manage the likely objection, and turn it into engagement, you’re beat, and will become a statistic.  Maybe the statistic was that 90% of cold calls are so bad that they would not buy from those callers.  Which is reasonable given the fact that they have only been trained on the latter half the process.

What is interesting is that I have met executives leading sales force espousing alternate means to cold calling at conferences or webinars, who in a different setting lament their teams’ overdependence on their existing base, and the inability of their teams to prospect, including cold calling.

In the end, either both I and my clients are the luckiest sellers on the planet, or the 90% statistic is 90% politically correct BS.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto


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