S. Anthony Iannarino wrote in a blog that “All generalizations are lies.” One of the biggest and most damaging is that cold calling is dead.
One article espousing the theory that cold calling doesn’t work anymore states that making cold calls creates the perception that you have nothing better to do; or worse that you are desperate and needy. This blather borders on criminal. I think this quote from Friedrich Nietzsche says it best: “The visionary lies to himself, the liar only to others.”
It appears that most of the pundits on this topic have a problem with outbound cold calling or what is sometimes called “interruption marketing” because when they think of cold calling they only think of the mindless smiling and dialing that far too many companies still do today. The reality is that cold calling is alive and well.
Trish Bertuzzi states,“It is the cold that is dead, not the calling.”
My friend Matt Heinz says, “If you think cold calling is dead, you’re doing it wrong.”
Finally, Jill Konrath advises, “Cold calling is alive and well for smart, savvy people!” She goes on to site that doing homework, crafting targeted messages and planning a series of 10 to 12 touches over time is necessary because you will “never get in the door with just one call.”
In the 1980s, I made a living running direct mail marketing companies, or catalog companies as they were known. The lie then was that catalogers would go out of business because it was inefficient to send catalogs to people who did not want them. People just did not understand how analytical and smart catalogers were (and continue to be).
When the Internet came to be, people said that catalogs would go out of business because people would buy online. Post the introduction of the Internet, some opined that retail was dead. In reality, all three channels work together to help each other and I get more catalogs in the mail today than I did in the ’80s.
Thirty years from now there will still be cold calling. We will be using different technology, but there will still be individuals reaching out to other individuals to solve problems that companies will inevitably have by introducing solutions to those problems that will inevitably be invented.
Among the many arguments used to relegate cold calling to the duckpins of history is that educated buyers have access to more information than ever and that 70 percent of the buying process is completed before a sales rep needs to get involved in a sale. This does sound logical, but it is only true for commoditized services solutions or products or for relatively low-ticket offerings. In fact, according to a recent ITSMA study 71 percent of technology buyers want sales involved in early stages of the sales cycle.
Another study by the Corporate Executive Board states that while average-performing reps flock to inbound leads, high-performing reps deprioritize inbound leads, choosing instead to focus on larger, more strategic and earlier stage deals.
Cold vs. Gold
This brings me to “Gold Calling.” You could think of Gold Calling as cold calling 2.0. Whether you call it Gold Calling or cold calling 2.0, there are four significant differences between quality outbound (Gold Calling) and so-called “interruption marketing” or old-fashioned cold calling:
Gold Calling requires a strategic approach to planning including a detailed playbook, market identification and segmentation, lead qualification criteria, development of detailed reporting, effective training and weekly contact between the Gold callers and the field staff (or channel) receiving the leads.
Cold calling is all about generating a list, a script and spending some money and hoping a bunch of leads are produced.
Gold Calling requires that leads be put through a quality control process to ensure that each lead passed to the field is solid gold. Progress is monitored so that leads do not stagnate in the pipeline.
Cold calling is about quantity, not quality. Theoretical calculations of return on investment (ROI) or return on marketing investment (ROMI) are used to judge the success of the program without regard to actual results.
A Gold Calling program requires that sales quickly reviews leads provided to them and either accept or reject a lead within 24 to 48 hours. What I call a judicial branch of cross-departmental judges assess whether or not the lead met the criteria and ensures that the lead either goes back to sales or is put in a nurturing program.
A large percentage of cold calling leads are ignored by sales and end up in a black hole.
A Gold Calling program requires that sales-accepted leads move to sales-qualified within a reasonable period of time (no more than 10 to 15 days). Those that do not move are reviewed by the judicial branch. No lead is ever left behind. It is either moving forward in the sales process or it is being nurtured. Marketing is evaluated on the quality of the leads delivered to sales and the sales reps are evaluated on their efficient use of company assets, in this case, leads.
In the cold calling scenario this is another black hole, but not for the reasons you might expect. Ask any sales rep the percent of leads they close and they will tell you they close 60 to 80 percent of qualified leads. What they are really saying is that they will close 60 to 80 percent of what they thought they would close. The average sales force closes about 20 percent of sales-accepted leads while best-in-class organizations close closer to 30 percent. That means an average rep following directions is signing up for losing four out of five times. While that might actually be acceptable, few reps are going to allow that level of visibility (not to mention the perception of failure four out of five times) because they don’t have to.
Call it what you want. Gold Calling, Cold Calling 2.0 or cold calling. It is definitely not dead, but your company might be if you buy into the hype.
Dan McDade is President and CEO of PointClear, LLC, a prospect development firm that helps B2B companies drive revenue by nurturing leads, engaging contacts and developing prospects until they're ready to purchase. He blogs at ViewPoint l The Truth About Lead Generation. You can reach Dan via email at firstname.lastname@example.org