Sales and Sales Management Blog

May 24, 2007

Does Cold Calling Work?

Filed under: prospecting,Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 12:17 pm

I’ve recently received a number of emails asking my opinion of cold calling as a prospecting tool.  The current debate over the value–or lack of value–of cold calling is interesting, but in the end, meaningless.  That isn’t to say that debate doesn’t have value.  Rather, it is to say that in the end, the only rational conclusion is that cold calling does work–but there are better, more efficient ways of prospecting. 

 For most new salespeople who need immediate sales, no matter how small, cold calling is virtually a necessity.  It is the quickest way, other than hitting up family and friends, to generate immediate sales for most new salespeople.  Most other forms of prospecting are either less efficient or take a longer time to establish and produce results. 

In addition, there are a few people who either through a great deal of practice or via natural ability, just seem to be good at cold calling.  Certainly for those people, if they are good at it and enjoy it, I wouldn’t discourage them from using it. 

However, for most salespeople, no matter their experience level–or their skill at cold calling–learning and implementing more time effective prospecting methods should be a priority.  Many who oppose cold calling oppose it not because it doesn’t work, but because there are more effective ways to generate prospects and clients that don’t waste as much time. 

For most salespeople, marketing and sales is a numbers game, not a skill game.  For many, participating in a marketing format that can be effective without a great deal of skill, but with a great deal of time invested is their primary focus.  Of course, if you have real cold calling skills, that increases the likelihood that your cold calling will be effective.  But even if you don’t have real skill, if you make enough dials, you’re eventually going to make sales.  Same with many other methods–stick enough fliers in windshields, you’ll eventually make a sale.  Blast enough emails, you’ll eventually make a sale.  The more skillful you are, the more effective those methods will be, but they can keep a salesperson afloat without much skill.  And even if you are highly skilled, the time investment never goes away–you still have to make the dials, you still have to stick the fliers on the windshield or hang the door hangers on the doors. 

Other prospecting methods take real skill to generate anything.  Direct mail, referral generation, creating an expert reputation and image, writing articles, public speaking, networking through organizations and other methods take skill in order to be effective.  These skills must be developed over time and with a great deal of practice.  Like the methods above, do them enough, you’ll get a sale or two.  But to be effective, they take much more practice and study to develop, but much less time and generate much higher returns once the skills have been developed. 

Of course cold calling works.  Human nature hasn’t changed.  There are and always will be people who will respond to a cold call.  So, the question isn’t does it work.  The question is how is one going to spend their time to generate clients.  Those heavily time consuming methods limit how much a salesperson can make simply because there are only so many hours in a year–so you can only contact so many people–period. 

If you cold call and it works for you–keep doing it, but consider learning and implementing some more sophisticated prospecting methods at the same time.  If you have to cold call and it isn’t working very well, consider getting professional help from someone like Wendy Weiss, the Queen of Cold Calling.  And then begin to implement others methods to eventually get you out of cold calling. 

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