Most practitioners of new media have an utter disdain for cold calling. Recently, I read Unmarketing by Scott Stratten in which the author–a social media consultant well-known for his influential Twitter presence–infers that cold calls makes him want to throw up. I think most business people on the cutting-edge of marketing trends feel the same way. A relationship must be established before a pitch can be made.
On the other hand, according to many sales authorities, cold calling is still a valid tool in the prospecting tool kit. Anthony Iannarino offers a fantastic (and free) eBook called, “How to Crush It,Kill It,and Master Cold Calling Now!” Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, authors of The Challenger Sale, argue that relationships don’t even matter at all; what makes the highest earning salespeople successful is their ability to proactively push creative solutions to customer problems.
TO COLD CALL OR NOT TO COLD CALL; THAT ISN’T THE QUESTION!
So, my take on the cold call issue is that pundits are hung up on the wrong issue.
It isn’t about HOW you’re reaching out; it’s about WHO you’re reaching out to.
In other words, cold calling isn’t bad because you don’t know the person you are calling; it’s bad because they are more often than not irrelevant to what you are selling. Most people who engage in cold calls are doing it in a rapid-fire, spaghetti-against-the-wall manner and really have no idea whether or not the person on the other end of the line could benefit from what they’re selling. They just take the random list they’ve been assigned and start dialing for dollars.
I define cold calling the same way I think most people do: calling people you don’t know. That in and of itself isn’t offensive. It’s offensive when you waste their time. Think about it. Why do we hate to receive cold calls? It isn’t because we don’t know the person. Most of us talk to people we don’t know on a daily basis. But the real reason I suspect we hate cold callers is that we believe they are wasting our time. They are interrupting us with a pitch for something that we don’t want.
MAKE COLD CALLS THE RIGHT WAY
It’s perfectly fine to call someone you don’t know in order to start a conversation about how you might work together. But make sure every call that you make is pre-qualified. Never work from a random list. You’re wasting your prospect’s time, and you’re wasting your time. The person you are calling may not know you, but you better know them…and know them well. Otherwise, the spaghetti isn’t going to stick.
Also, when you do call someone you don’t know–even if you’ve done your research on them–don’t launch into your pitch. Depending on how the conversation goes, you probably will not even make a pitch on the first call. The cold call, I believe, is about opening a relationship. It’s really no different than following someone on Twitter or friending them on Facebook; it’s just using a different tool–the telephone.
The point is this: don’t be afraid of reaching out to people; be afraid of reaching out to the wrong people. Relevance is everything. Guard your time. Guard your prospect’s time. Reach out to those who could actually benefit from having a conversation with you. That’s the spaghetti that sticks.