I see lots of articles and posts suggesting that cold calling is dead…. But is it really?
Has it joined the techniques of sending faxes and advertising in printed trade directories in the graveyard of long expired marketing techniques?
When the vast majority of marketing spend goes on content marketing, email outreach, social outreach, ad retargeting, PPC campaigns, and on-site sales chatbots, it’s no surprise that the view that cold calling is in terminal decline is growing.
Except that that’s not the whole picture.
I’d agree that consumer telemarketing is pretty near death. It’s been killed off primarily due to the existence of “do-not-call” registers like the Telephone Preference Service in the UK and by the shift from landline to mobile.
How many of us now answer calls on our mobile phones when the incoming number is not recognised? And millions of people have now downloaded apps onto their mobile phones alerting them to whether an unknown incoming number is likely to be a sales call or not.
The B2B cold calling landscape though is very different.
B2B deals are rarely completed without personal interaction. When businesses purchase goods and services from other businesses, most deals are still done with both parties speaking on the phone – often multiple times. One person in this series of conversations is an expert in the products and services they sell – that’s you or your sales person. The other party is a buyer seeking a specific product or service they believe will help them to make more money or save them money, your potential customer.
The more important a product or service is to the running of a company; the more time and deliberation will be taken by the decision makers involved. Making the wrong purchasing decision may threaten the viability of a company if it sufficiently impedes that firm’s quality of output or fulfilment. Due diligence is vital in B2B procurement and one important factor in that due diligence is the quality of the personal interaction your company’s personnel have with a potential customer.
Personal interaction is still therefore of key importance in selling to other businesses. But all of this happens at the very end of the process. So, the question is how do you get your sales people involved in these types of conversations in the first place?
Understand the difference between marketing and sales
Marketing describes the specific forms of activity you undertake to locate potential purchasers of your products and services and establish communication with them. Once your marketing team has found a potential purchaser and they have engaged with them enough to establish a high level of interest, the lead is then passed to the sales team. The sales team’s job is then to convert that interest into a sale by:
persuading the prospective customer of the suitability of your product and service for the required task demonstrating that the product or service you sell (especially if tailored for each client) is good value for money and capable of producing a return on investment, and explaining how you continue to work with clients after the deal is done to ensure that they receive the highest quality of effective after-sales service.
What is cold calling?
Cold calling is a form of direct marketing. With direct marketing, you select a list of potential clients to contact based upon a belief that they would be interested in your product or service.
Your cold caller then phones each contact on the list to introduce your company, with the aim of securing an appointment and at least partially qualify an sales opportunity they uncover. The contact from the call list has now become a prospect and s/he is now ready for cultivation by the sales team.
Other forms of direct marketing include email marketing, telemarketing, and, to an extent, pay per click campaigns on search engines and on social media platforms.
Modern marketing theory posits that up to 13 points of contact are required between someone becoming exposed to your company and turning into a sales lead. It argues that a potential customer is at the “top of the funnel” when they use the internet to search for answers on a product or a service, they have recently realised they need or might need. They move to the “middle of the funnel” when they have searched for far more detailed information on your product or service and that they are beginning to research potential suppliers. Finally, they reach the “bottom of the funnel” when a decision is imminent and due diligence is being carried out both of the product or service itself and the potential supplier.
These theories work and they work well. They produce a high volume of incoming leads where customer interest is high and conversion from enquirer to customer is often reasonably straight-forward.
But, for many company owners, the problem is that it’s all a bit too passive and the potential customer is a little bit too much in charge of the process and the interactions.
The advantages of cold calling
Cold calling circumvents these marketing rules; they allow you to jump to the head of the queue in the decision-maker’s mind. Contact via a cold call may increase the speed with which someone travels from the top of the funnel to the bottom of the funnel.
The phone calls, the meetings, and the email exchanges may push them through the process much more quickly. This may also result in a decision to bring their purchasing decision forward. Consequently, the sale prices achieved on deals where the initial approach was cold are often higher. This is because the potential customer is being handled by your sales team who are incentivised through commission and targets to shorten the process as much as possible.
One way to shorten the process is to avoid giving decision-makers enough time to approach competitors as they might do if they were fully controlling the pace of the project.
To take back more control over revenue generation, many B2B companies use cold calling to generate excess appointments and sales opportunities over and above what their more passive marketing channels produce.
Often what separates a smaller company from a larger company in the same field is the presence of a cold calling operation. And that’s even if the smaller company offers better products, services, and after-sales support than their larger rival.
Successful cold callers use product/service knowledge, knowledge of your potential clients’ motivations and pain points, quick thinking, and a friendly assertiveness to get into conversations, answer questions, and elicit important details for the sales team.
The best cold callers are hard to come by and they can be expensive, but they are worth the investment.
And they can be trained. Maybe we can help.
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