Apparently, I stuck my foot into my mouth, but I’m getting use to the taste of shoe leather. It’s Friday, it’s been a busy week. I was reading a LinkedIn article on “Cold Calling….”
I’m beginning to think articles or surveys about cold calling happen when you don’t have anything else to talk about. The topic of cold calling will always raise opinions — however well or poorly informed those might be.
This survey was seeking opinions about the timing of the demise of cold calling. The author’s premise was that “cold calling” would decline as use of the telephone declined. It went further to suggest that older generations are more comfortable with the telephone, while younger generations used other communications channels. As a result, as the older generation retires and leaves the workforce, the use of the telephone for prospecting outreach–or cold calls–would decline.
There are a bunch of interesting assumptions in this premise. First that the telephone is the primary communication channel for “older folks.” My mom is an amazingly high energy 91 years old (sorry to make that public, mom). She is incessantly texting on her “I-device.” (I suppose both I and Apple have to stop calling them IPhones because younger generations don’t use phones but we use these I-devices). She Facetimes, Zooms, Instagram’s, emails, and does old fashioned things like meeting people for lunch or even the occasional phone call. And she also leverages social channels. A granddaughter is teaching her Tik Tok….
I suppose, I have to own up to it, I suspect I might fall into that, “older generation.” As I look at my own utilization of communications channels, both personally and professionally, is biased away from the phone. It is so misused by cold callers (oops) that I never answer a call from a number I don’t recognize. Most of my prospecting and cold calling is leveraging multiple channels.
Now the big assumption promoted through this LinkedIn Survey, Cold Calling is only done through the phone?????
I don’t understand how one, particularly an expert, could leap to that conclusion. I guess it’s the literal interpretation of the word, “Calling.” The other day I thought I was calling out to my next door neighbor, he was in his back yard. I guess since I wasn’t using the phone, it couldn’t be called “Calling out.” I wouldn’t use the word shouting, because that has a different connotation, I was talking–but loudly. I suppose, since “calling” is associated with phone conversations, I was talking loudly to my neighbor.
I left a comment on the post:
ROFL!!! I needed a great laugh, thank you. To think that cold calling is a function of the medium–a telephone—is just hilarious! Thanks again, I’m still chuckling.
Yeah, I suppose I was a jerk–but all of you already know that. It just seemed a bunch of people taking themselves seriously about ageism, telephones, and what cold calling is, how bad it is, and so forth. I thought a little Friday levity would lighten things up and people would stop taking themselves so seriously.
The author was upset, I was challenged for my definition of Cold Calling. While this ground has been plowed too many times, I guess I have to respond. Here are some thoughts:
- Cold calling is the process of engaging someone in a “conversation,” about something that may be new and different for them. It doesn’t necessarily need to be “new-new,” but new to them.
- That “conversation” can and usually does manifest itself in many forms. It could be an article or something we read, it could be an actual conversation–whether F2F, via something like Zoom, a telephone call (that’s so old fashioned), or even through correspondence. It could leverage social channels, and others channels.
- These cold calling conversations are usually with people we may have never spoken to before. But it could be a conversation about something that’s completely new, unrequested or unanticipated with people that we have some level of relationship with.
- There has been a lot of mythology about the “cold” aspect of cold calls. The way too many define and execute “cold calls,” is aimlessly, unresearched, ill-prepared, unfocused, and usually unappreciated by the victim of the call. And these calls can be executed across any channel, phone, social, email, direct mail, text. These are usually unsolicited pitches where the cold caller is focused only on their self interest, not the victim’s interest. To get good examples of these, look at your spam box, many of your texts, and voicemails. If this is the definition of cold calls, then they should not die, they should be killed off.
- The issue isn’t really about the cold call, but the piss poor way too many execute cold calls. Likewise, customers don’t like poorly executed, self focused scheduled calls! It doesn’t matter if the call is cold or scheduled, calls that are poorly planned, poorly executed, and focused on our objectives, not the customers,’ waste their time. That’s what they don’t like!
- Most high impact sellers think of modern cold calls as targeted, researched, purposeful, focused, two way conversations. We use these to help customers learn, help them rethink some of their strategies, priorities, to learn from them, and perhaps to incite them to change.
- Most research shows effective cold calling leverages multiple channels of engagement simultaneously. So effective cold calling would never be focused on the telephone only. It would leverage voice, social email, visual and other channels. People have different preferences of communication channels, people may see things on one and miss the same thing on a number. So we are more effective when we leverage multiple channels.
- Many sales people make excuses about cold calling because it is an interruption and interruptions aren’t appreciated! Wasting someone’s time is never appreciated and never creates value. Too much cold calling falls into category 4 above. But when you think about it, the reality is we are all interrupt driven. Most of the time we interrupt ourselves, jumping from task to task, being distracted by our social feeds, emails, etc. So suck it up and don’t hesitate interrupting someone–but make sure you create value for that interruption. Perhaps we should think of value based interruptions, with the assessment being, “Does the victim think it was a great investment of their time?”
- If we don’t interrupt people, if we don’t create value based conversations to learn from each other, to consider new ideas, or even validate our present thinking. If we don’t incite people to change, we all settle into the status quo. And that is the death knell for any personal, business, or societal growth. So one might think, properly executed, Cold Calls are our moral responsibility! We have an obligation, if we want to create value for our customers, to help them learn, grow, and change. If we aren’t bringing new ideas (at least for them), how will they realize they can and should change.
- It is our responsibility to our peers and organizations to generate new business. Whether it’s to get our current customers to think differently and change, or to acquire new customers. We are irresponsible to our customers and our companies, to wait for the customers to discover and come to us, we need to go out to them, so that requires cold calling, interruption, and creating high impact conversations to help them consider change.
- There is much confusion about the new digital buying journey. Too many sales people are relieved–they don’t have to prospect. The digital buying journey becomes “inbound on steroids.” And I suspect many will use this as the excuse to declare “Cold Calling Is Dead.” But there’s a problem with this, it’s dependent on the customer initiating a search. But if they aren’t looking for something new, if they aren’t looking to learn or change, they will never search. The status quo will persist.
- In reality, the digital buying journey will create a much greater need for Cold Calling. And the focus of that Cold Calling will be to incite people to search, hence beginning their digital buying journey. So Cold Calling is far from dead. In fact it will likely become one of the most important things sales people can do.
Sorry for such a long winded response to this topic. Reaching out to people we may not know, helping them to think differently, inciting them to search, inciting them to change, inciting them to learn is a key part of our responsibility to our prospects, customers, and our own companies. Interrupting people with value based conversations, measured by, “the customer found it to be a good use of their time,” will be an increasing part of sales people’s role. As much of what we now do can be fulfilled digitally, we will shift much of our activity to Cold Calling and inciting search.
No amount of wishful thinking will change this. Cold calling is here to stay! If you can’t be comfortable with it, if you can’t get good at it, stop selling.
Now if we could only stop these mindless conversations…………
Afterword: Yeah, yeah, I know this post just perpetuates these conversations, I’m sorry, but I had to get this off my chest.