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Stop Telling Me That Cold Calling is Dead

  
  
  
  

What ever happened to just picking up the phone and dialing?  Every day, we are inundated with the message, "INBOUND, INBOUND, and INBOUND!"  While I am a firm believer in the benefit of driving inbound traffic to your site and then to your teleprospecting reps, there is still (and always will be) a huge need for cold calling.  Over our eight years in business we have amassed thousands of statistics on the success of our programs.  There have been only two of those stats that have never changed.  We pass more "qualified leads" from the inbound opportunities than we do cold calling, but our clients close leads that have been passed via cold calling at a higher rate than those that have been generated via inbound efforts.

We've had meetings devoted to this, we've surveyed clients, we've polled astrologists, and it all leads to one very consistent conclusion:

Sales reps win more when working a cold call generated opportunity as opposed to an inbound generated one.

We believe the reason for this is simple.  Think of the nature of each prospect; the inbound lead, while having most likely received communication from you at some point, is seeking you out.  Before you've had the chance to talk to them they have had the opportunity to check you out, check out your competition, and formulate their own opinions on your offering before you've ever spoken to them live.  In addition to that, you can assume in many cases that because they have sought you out, they are farther along in their process and have also sought out your competitors.  This is all great stuff (and I love inbound opportunities for the simple fact that they give us a chance to compete), but we close more cold call opportunities because we are the first ones in.  We set the direction of the prospects evaluation process, and we set the initial expectations of what an outsourced partner should provide.  The perceived credibility gained by being the first one in the door is the main driver, as we see it, behind more cold calling opportunities closing in relation to their inbound brethren.

I'll reiterate, I love my inbound opportunities, but without my teleprospectors devoting half of their time cold calling, my company would be a third of its current revenue size.  When push comes to shove, when you are selling to a cold calling opportunity you are flying the plane whereas selling to an inbound opportunity, you can at best hope to be the co-pilot.
 
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Thanks,

Pete

Comments

Pete; 
A cogent argument and one can't argue with stats. But I'm guessing you're working in the B2C space, rather than B2B. Maybe I'm wrong, but with a complex sales cycle such as that experienced by B2B companies, having the cold caller waste his or her time educating early-stage prospectors is not as efficient as focusing those same sales efforts on people who have educated themselves and are now ready to buy. 
We're Process Bigots, and as such have defined a rigid sales and marketing approach which uses whatever technique is appropriate to the current opportunity. If that's a cold call - go ahead, but only if the next step in our process description dictates contacting the person right now and that's the only way to make the attempt. Given how ineffective most cold calls are (don't get the person on the phone, leave a message which gets ignored being the most common outcome), you can bet our process description says, "Call this same prospect 3 times and leave a message with your phone number. The 4th time, leave a message which says "If I don't hear back from you by x date (a few days away), I'm going to close the file." 
This does seem to spur some action!
Posted @ Thursday, March 04, 2010 8:07 PM by Eric Goldman
Love it Peter! Human beings will always create demand; computers will always be one of the tools that people use to create that demand (as well as the phone). 
 
 
 
I read an article in Inc. Magazine on the flight back from Raleigh to DC yesterday (was leading sales training there) by Joel Spolsky, the CEO of Fog Creek Software. At the end Joel says,  
 
 
 
"The bottom line is, we just don't do enough selling. I've been working on the assumption that a product naturally creates demand for itself and the sales team just helps fulfill that demand. But I've realized that I have things backward. I've come to understand that a sales team drives demand. My problem is that I've never been able to figure out how to hire good salespeople. For a guy who wrote a book on how to hire great programmers, it's mortifying how incompetent I've been at enlarging the sales team, which, right now, consists of one terrific account executive and a dog. (I'm just kidding. There's no dog.)" 
 
 
 
http://www.inc.com/magazine/20091101/does-slow-growth-equal-slow-death.html
Posted @ Friday, March 05, 2010 10:09 AM by Steve Richard
Great comments Pete, I think in todays world however there really is no need to cold call. Prior to calling you can do all the homework upfront so at minimum your warm calling. The prospect could be very well researched prior to ever picking up the phone.  
 
I do agree there will always a place for outbound calling but not just going off a list or bingo cards.
Posted @ Friday, March 05, 2010 1:07 PM by Al
Hello Pete, 
 
Just saw the Demandbase webinar this week, reported only 10% of B2B buyers said they chose their supplier based on the supplier contacting them first. Is this true? Seems too low. I agree with Pete, BUT the yields from telemarketing seem to be dropping. 
 
What is best way to reach the B2B buyer early enough in his "problem identification cycle" to assure your solution gets evaluated and is placed on the final choice supplier list (assume 3)= your chance of getting a sale to a MIN. of 33% AND IF the REAL sales person can add more value (Steve?), this may rise to 40-50% chance of closing.  
 
Passive, active Inbound and/OR outbound, peer recommendation (ie an existing client REFERRAL (ie Netpromoter), in his ecosystem, etc. ALL of the above are needed to-day. 
 
How large a sample do you require for a particular B2B solution you are selling to yield a decent number of "prospects" in the ICP- ideal customer profile. 100, 500, 1000? (ie a commodity product in a saturated market). 
 
Having done large programs at CAS (now part of Rainmaker), there's no question that 500 hrs of well targeted, VALUE messaging to decision makers (LIST quality), will allow you to reach 800 people (thats like an AD) and generate 2-5% leads. OR about 10-15/hrs per A lead. + all the DATA collected for B, C lead nurturing. AND the numbers are predictable for each segment. (ie I worked on programs of 1,000+ hrs). 
 
+ IF you have a solid inbound "collector", these go into the outbound LIST and the results are even better.  
 
BUT, there are a growing number of  
BUYERS who are in the 25-35 group who are TIRED of being sold to and will judge YOUR company on ITS ability to create PULL demand, awareness and through leadership via a "social interaction".  
 
COST for 500 hrs of quality telesales approx. $25,000. 
Time to get results 4-5 weeks with 3 reps on program. 
 
Inbound Hubspot/Blog social media programs - $2,500 setup + $250/mth for 3-6montsh to create some pull. 
 
my 2 cts from Canada. 
 
Stuart
Posted @ Friday, March 05, 2010 1:29 PM by Stuart Armstrong
Hi Guys, 
 
Thanks so much for commenting! I really appreciate it! I'm just getting in from a business trip and will get back to each of you this weekend. 
 
Again, thanks so much for reading and for your comments! 
 
Pete
Posted @ Friday, March 05, 2010 3:26 PM by Peter Gracey
Stuart - You can't argue with empirical analysis. Fundamentally the best sales and marketing efforts are using all of the pieces in conjunction with each other like a symphony. This week I was on a sales call with a prospect that was convinced that they found us even though we cold called them. It was hilarious - we had a mini argument over this. Fundamentally people can't remember where they met many of their current vendors. I can't recall who cold called me or who lead nurtured me and I'm in this business!
Posted @ Friday, March 05, 2010 7:14 PM by Steve Richard
Great comments by all of you. I truly appreciate it. It is clear we are all very passionate about this topic as we very well should be. It's important for everyone to understand that Sales 2.0 technologies and the overall explosion of inbound tools and services is something I'm incredibly thankful for. However, I agree with @steve's statement "Fundamentally the best sales and marketing efforts are using all of the pieces in conjunction with each other like a symphony". You need the whole package working together, inbound and cold calling, in order to own your market.  
 
 
 
Our clients have closed millions of dollars of business from leads resulting from inbound prospects, but the fact remains that the cold call leads we've passed have resulted in millions more than that. Great feedback everyone, please keep it coming. 
 
 
 
Thanks, 
 
 
 
Pete
Posted @ Saturday, March 06, 2010 10:18 AM by Pete Gracey
Hey Pete, 
 
Looks like you have started some excellent conversation here on the blog. Thinking about your post and the comments, it seems that approach is much more important than method.  
 
Doing research, getting to know your prospects' needs, and having a goal works across all genres. Those who do cold calling just to throw stuff at the wall and hope it sticks won't get results. It's just like job hunting that way - job hunters can't expect results from blasting their resumes out into the world. It's much better to tailor them and have a target, knowing who will receive them and what their needs are.  
 
I wonder what you think about the combo of cold calling and sharing whitepapers with them rather than jumping into the sales process?
Posted @ Sunday, March 07, 2010 9:41 AM by Jeff Machado
Great question and comments Jeff. It is important for you all to know that we don't just pick up the phone book and start making dials. We research every company and individual as much as we can prior to our first call.  
 
Our cold calls are only cold to our prospects. What I mean by that is that we know as much about their company and their needs (as they pertain to our client) as possible prior to dialing. Just a disclaimer as I got the feeling that you all were under the impression we don't do proper due diligence prior to dialing... 
 
As far as the sharing of white papers go Jeff, I'm indifferent as to whether or not they should be used in conjunction with cold calling. We typically keep our early communications very simple until we've talked live with a prospect. Once we've gotten them live and dispositioned their interest level to some degree we will then typically share information with them. If it is sent earlier we find that it is typically disregarded or simply not read.  
 
Just our take on it...thanks again for the comment. 
 
Posted @ Monday, March 08, 2010 1:27 PM by Peter Gracey
People that say cold calling is dead are the same one's I'd fire. Thoughs are the people scared to pick up a phone and call. I work for a big company and my job is to cold call thats 80% of my work load. I set appointemnt for 5 salesmen in are division and average 5 a day. That is 5 appointments each day my salesman can walk in the door and sit face to face with a prospect and already know there name and how many people there company employes, That's a huge advantige to are sales team.
Posted @ Monday, October 18, 2010 2:12 PM by Jmoney
Pete, 
 
I ran into this post (several months after you posted) and am very glad I did. Six years ago I would have argued with your concept but I've noticed quite a shift influenced by increased Internet usage. I've seen a change in the closing percentage from inbound leads in that time. I agree 100% that the decrease for us has been that we don't get in early enough. Potential customers have decided that we are apples no matter regardless of the fact that we are oranges. It's too late in many cases to change their minds.
Posted @ Friday, July 01, 2011 11:20 AM by Denise Brinkmeyer
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