This year I’ve seen sales reps in five different companies successfully talk their business owners out of the need for cold calling, only to miss their sales objectives abominably.
Invariably the owners call to share that their reps don’t believe cold calling is working. They’ve decided to stop calling and use networking, LinkedIn, or anything else that resembles sitting back and waiting for the leads to drop in their lap. The bosses agree because in many cases, they wouldn’t want to cold call either. They feel sorry for their sales reps having to make all those calls.
The sales reps have convinced their bosses that there’s been a prospecting paradigm shift. They’re looking for better alternatives to cold calling.
Prospecting Performance Expectations
Business owners are anxious to find leads. Clients we work with set challenging new account quotas for their sales people, then hold their reps accountable to specific, measurable performance expectations.
They expect their salespeople to:
- Make 30-70 cold calls a day.
- Set 1-2 appointments each week.
- Simultaneously, complete the activities that will move existing sales opportunities forward in the sales process.
The pressure is on to find new prospects and set appointments and their salespeople can’t talk these business owners out of the metrics.
The Impact of Cold Calling
But limiting your reps to pounding the phones, consistently calling new contacts, working down a new list every month, isn’t the way to make those numbers.
Without a relationship and recognition, your rep is just another transactional product salesperson trying to set an appointment to hawk your wares. You don’t care about the prospect, and they know it instantly when your salesperson starts talking. You didn’t look at their website, social channels or LinkedIn profile. You had your rep dialing for dollars to see who they could reach, then have a quick conversation to determine if you want to meet with them. There’s no thought as to if they want to meet with you.
This is how cold calling got its moniker. It really is cold calling, perhaps even callous calling.
A quick hello. A list of qualification questions. No relationship. No research. No fun in the rep’s voice. No interest in the prospect. Your sales rep has a script in mind and quickly runs through it. If the prospect isn’t a fit, on to the next one.
When your rep does happen onto a prospect who is looking for services like your own, guess what happens? You enter a highly competitive sales cycle with tremendous pricing and terms pressure. Sales activity is high, but win rates are low. Selling is tough. Overall company growth is slow.
Use our Recognition ROI infographic to evaluate how your company’s recognition in the market is affecting your sales reps’ ability to gain access to new prospects.
Can Reps Stop Cold Calling?
If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know that I tell business owners and sales reps that salespeople have to keep calling.
- 55% of leads should come marketing activities and events.
- 25% of leads should come from referrals.
- Reps should be uncovering the remaining 25% from calling, networking, emailing, and other prospecting activities.
But that calling shouldn’t be cold and callous.
Three Scenarios with Better Alternatives to Cold Calling
Prospects need to be nurtured. It can take as many of 9 attempts to reach a new prospect, so consider these three scenarios and better alternatives to cold calls.
1. You give up after two or three calls. Prospects haven’t noticed you and you didn’t reach them. Without some relationship nurturing, it’s a waste of your time. Keep reaching out until you’ve made at least 9 attempts, mixing in email, drop-by visits, LinkedIn engagement, event invitations, and sharing interesting content.
2. You reach a prospect, have a quality conversation, learn that they won’t be ready to do anything for 6 months. If you aren’t doing any relationship building, that was a wasted call as well. Savvy salespeople know to call back in 60 days to be top of mind when the time to make a change is right. Or, put that prospect into a marketing nurture campaign where the contact will receive consistent blog posts, invitations to your next lunch and learn, and notification about your latest video or infographic.
3. You aren’t able to connect with the prospect easily. You try once in a while, but the list is long and time is short. At best you call once a week. At worst, it’s once a month. Without consistent nurturing, you’re easily ignored and forgotten. Every call is like the first call. Add this contact to your marketing nurture campaign, too.
If you need some lead generation ideas, read parts 2, 3 and 4 in my book “The Sales Magnet.” You’ll get personal, collaborative and digital prospecting strategies you can combine with your sales reps’ prospecting.
The Cold Call Paradigm Shift
There has been a paradigm shift in cold calling.
Prospecting is not about making 100 calls a day. It’s about having quality conversations with prospects to learn more about them, then nurturing them until they’re ready to engage. Along the way you’ll find prospects who are ready right now, and others who’ll be ready in 60 or 90 days, six months, even next year.
If you’re nurturing prospects with lead generation strategies combined with sales reps’ check-in activities, you’ll build a prospecting funnel of warm relationships. Now as contacts engage, your salespeople can call based on value and knowledge from the relationship. Competition, price and term negotiations are dramatically reduced. Your win rates increase because prospects experienced the value you provided through your nurturing approach.
Sound like a shift you want in how your business sells?
There is a prospecting paradigm shift going on, but it isn’t about cutting the calling. It’s about combining it with nurturing lead generation activities and continuing to hold your salesperson accountable for doing their part.