Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Reports of Cold Calling's Death are Greatly Exaggerated

What is the future for cold calling? It seems to me that most of you think it is a dying art. Most modular home sales reps started their careers with a list of prospective builders to reach, and bashing the phones was the origin of most early sales cycles. It was virtually unheard of for a customer to contact you back if you left a message or proactively contact you. That is where the sales cycle is really changing. Social media advertising has become the message left by the cold caller of old. Customers are more likely to now proactively return messages and make that call – albeit behind the comfort wall of email or digital engagement as opposed to over the phone.

Interestingly the advent of many social networks, within which we choose to selectively follow in return for a stream of messages seem to be providing a more targeted means for companies to continue to exert outbound messaging than cold calling. I guess the question is how do these modern means of communication compare to cold calling when it comes to conversion and ROI?

So how many sales reps are still wasting large amounts of time and resources trying to cold call customers?  What is the real ROI of most businesses lead generation activity? Is this something that enough businesses are measuring. Granted just one sale from one of those expressions in some of those industries could have produced enough profit to justify the investment – every industry is different – but it just doesn’t seem a solid long term strategy.

If you are a factory sales rep, you have to ask just how effective is your social media in capturing the attention of a new builder looking into modular home construction. Aren’t all Facebook, Pinterest and other social media campaigns run by a factory aimed almost solely at the end user, the new home buyer?

And what happens if someone “Likes” your factory’s FB page. Do the reps go after that “Like” or does the factory have someone that begins an email program with them? Are the factory’s builders alerted that someone living in their area has “Liked” the factory FB page? Of course not, nothing is done. There is no follow up done by the factory folks, the sales reps or the builders. If one of the primary goals for the factory sales rep is to find and recruit new home builders, then all the social media in the world won’t help because there is no “next step” when someone “Likes” your social media page.

On the flip side, there is still a place for a sales person learning from the ground up. Why? Because I’ve seen several waves of new modular home sales reps in recent years enter modular construction industry, assuming that sitting and emailing contacts or pinging them on Facebook and LinkedIn will deliver sufficient inbound opportunity. This might work for some – but the real art in cold calling over the phone is being able to communicate with a prospect in a manner that will lead you further down the sales cycle AND build a mutually beneficial relationship. It also means you learn more about how to present yourself the next time you have to sit in front of a potential new builder – something that isn’t taught at an MBA university.

The bottom line is that cold calling by phone is not dead or dying. It’s very much alive but instead of just picking up the phone and dialing the builder’s number, you first have to look and see if they have had any activity on your company’s social media sites. You also have to look at their websites and social media presence and finally do some in-depth research before picking up the phone.

The art of cold calling is alive but it looks a lot different than just 5 short years ago.

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