MYTH: Cold calling is a good idea

When I first started in business, cold calling was de-rigueur. These days require a warmer approach.


In the “olden days” when I first started my business, over 95% of my sales came about through cold calling, which I had learnt to do really well when I worked as a sales recruitment specialist with Morgan & Banks.


At M&B – and in my business – it was very clear that if I didn’t bill anything I didn’t earn anything. So I got on the phones and I prospected to people I didn’t know – that is, cold calling.


This was well and truly before the internet was in mainstream use and I had the privilege of learning how to cold call really well.


But it is a FACT that in an essentially crowded market place of the 21st century, businesses require a series of “push” and “pull” prospecting strategies rather than one simplistic “push” approach to selling such as cold calling.


Cold calling is simply calling on someone who fits into your target market that you do not know and do not have a warm referral to give you an introduction.


However in today’s market, as I and others have found, focusing all your sales efforts on a cold calling campaign puts you at risk of missing many other prospecting opportunities.


I have had to adapt to all the other prospecting methods now available to us. I am not advocating the abolishment of cold calling from your repertoire, not at all. If done effectively cold calling can work, but it is only a small part of a now much wider prospecting strategy available to us.


The very act of prospecting is tactical marketing. In this networked society there are a number of avenues you can call upon to build up your list of referrals and leads to give you access to viable business opportunities.


The average person in the street knows about 800 other people in their network, and for those of us in sales jobs we should have 1000s of people in our network. How big and how warm is your network? Remember six degrees of separation?


Let’s just take banks and other financial businesses for instance. In reality they should hardly ever need to make a cold call. Just look at all the referrals, networking and sponsorship opportunities they already have available to them.


However the question is, are they using them effectively?


Whether you are a small niche player or a large corporate, businesses now need to have a far more integrated approach to generate and build sales leads for their businesses and their sales teams – “Push” and “Pull” prospecting strategies.


This is even more important for SMEs who do not have the big marketing and advertising spend many larger businesses can rely upon. Thanks to the internet, SMEs can really start to build a presence without the big price tag. However it still takes effort.


But first you need to know the answer to the following questions:

  • WHO is my target market?
  • HOW do I need to make contact with them?


Once you have identified who your target market is, think about all the ways you can reach them and how you can help them reach you. However, make sure all your prospecting efforts have a consistent message, because precisely how sales people position themselves needs to match the positioning of the business and how it chooses to position its solutions.

You could even position your sales people as advocates, business experts, industry supports or niche industry gurus to whom interested parties turn for solutions or sources.


So what push and pull prospecting strategies are available to you?

Let’s define “push” and “pull” first. Pull prospecting strategies are ways your business pulls people (ideally your target market) to your business for your sales people to then follow up on to identify viable sales deals. Push prospecting strategies are ways your sales people go out into the market and make contact with prospective customers — cold calling


Examples of push and pull lead generation modes are:

  • Branding and public relations.
  • Website and e-mail.
  • Events.
  • Phone calls and face-to-face meetings.
  • Referrals.
  • Direct mail.
  • Online marketing.
  • Blogging.
  • Public speaking.


Your pull and push prospecting strategies should ensure that your sales people invest valuable face-to-face or phone selling time with the right people on a consistent daily basis. Going out willy-nilly calling on anyone hoping for the best won’t cut it any more.


You need a clear strategy supported by some market research that gives you the necessary information you need to make informed decisions about how you invest your time and money in positioning yourself with prospective customers, especially if you do not have a big marketing budget.


So now you can also see why I am such a big advocate for an integrated team based approach with marketing, sales and service.




Author: Sue Barrett is Founder & Managing Director of BARRETT Pty Ltd, an Australian based Sales Fitness Firm that helps businesses Build High Performing Sales Teams and is Author of soon to be released book ‘Sell Like a Woman’.



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