After last week’s post, I got quite a bit of feedback about cold calls. Most of it boiled down to one question.

“Why even make cold calls? Isn’t there a better way?”

Almost every sales person hates cold calling, and with good reason. Cold calls are hard, involve a lot of rejection and will never yield the closing percentage like referral calls, warm calls, or a personal introduction.  Additionally, cold calling usually involves some instances of emotionally harsh rejection or rude behavior by prospects. I still believe it is essential to always have your sales force (and yourself) doing some volume of cold calls on a regular basis.  Even if that cold calling is restricted to a specific and targeted list, it still needs to be done.

There are two reasons I believe that.

1 – Cold calls tend to give you the unedited feedback necessary to make the approach, product info and “elevator speech” more refined and effective.  It lets you know, usually very quickly, if your value proposition has merit, and is reduced to the essential enough to be easily understood.  That in itself is worth its weight in gold.  It is like thousands of dollars of market research, in terms of the information it provides to you as a sales person, on what to say and how to say it to get your prospect’s attention.

For that information to be valid, it has to be collected and analyzed. This can be done by using honest debriefing sessions with the sales reps, or even better, by participating directly in cold calls with your team (if you are a manager).  In hundreds of studies done by a variety of organizations, prospects usually reject initial pitches for one of three reasons;

  • Too complex (didn’t get it)
  • Too long-winded (didn’t have the patience to listen long enough to get it).
  • Not Relevant (it didn’t solve any of my problems).

A minimum amount of cold calling will help you fix all of that, because it gives you the feedback to edit your message to be simple, short, and to the point.  Sometimes, you can get all three of those right, but you have misdiagnosed the market and are attempting to fix a problem that is not forefront in the mind of your target customer.  The problem might be there, but it isn’t a priority for your prospects. You hence need to edit your cold call pitch to match an existing pain in the marketplace.

2 – From a managing perspective cold calls help you identify the sales people on your team that are going to be successful.  While it is often believed that the sales people you want are the ones that can close the hard deals, it is more often the salesman with the comfort level to approach and develop a friendly but honest relationship that will succeed in the long run.

Anyone might be able to look good doing that in a warm lead meeting.  However, if someone can’t handle the rejection tied with cold calling, one has to wonder if they will be a good asset in a tough price negotiation, or in a negotiation with difficult people or challenging circumstances.

Yes, cold calls are unpleasant, and as I mentioned last week you or your sales team will rarely wake up in the morning and tell yourself “I can’t wait to cold call today”.  That goes without saying. Remember though, “unpleasant” doesn’t mean not effective or not worthwhile. Brushing your teeth isn’t really pleasant (unless you are a huge fan of minty flavor) but it is well established that doing it on a regular basis is good for you.