There has been an ongoing debate over the value of cold calling as a viable business development tactic in this day and age. I even read a heated conversation in a LinkedIn group that probably would have turned into something resembling a bar-room brawl if it had been in person. Rather than argue the point, here are a few questions business owners may want to ask before including cold calling as a tactic within their marketing plans:
Do You Want Your Business Associated with the Perception of Cold Calling?
Like it or not, cold calls have a very negative perception among most businesses and individuals. As Frank Rumbauskas mentions in his article Cold Calling SCAMMERS!, one dictionary actually defines cold calling as an “ethically questionable practice.”
One of the primary drivers of any brand are associations. Given that associations are very powerful in branding, many large companies use celebrity spokespeople like Lebron James, Matthew McConaughey, and Angelina Jolie.
However, think about instances when those associations turn negative. Case in point, Accenture, and a number of other brands, dropped Tiger Woods like a bad habit once his escapades became public. These businesses no longer wanted to have their brand associated with the image of Tiger Woods. And don’t even get my started on Bill Cosby. Similarly, is it acceptable in your industry to have the brand of your business associated with an “ethically questionable practice?”
Is there a way to turn the cold call into a warm call, or at least a lukewarm call?
In the B2B world, it’s relatively easy to learn something about the business you are calling. Look at their website. Look at their Facebook page. Look them up on Manta. Learn something about them! It’s always better to begin a conversation with “I noticed that your business does…” rather than “Hi, my name is Zip and we sell industrial strength toilet paper to businesses that…” The best brand conveyors deliver a message that is first about the prospect.
If you truly can turn the cold call into a warm call, is a phone call the best medium to deliver the information?
Even when your information is useful and sincere, some people will shut down or even simply hang up the phone within seconds simply because of how they feel about sales calls. If the prospect immediately thinks negatively of your call, you’re already working with an overdrawn emotional bank account. As a business professional, you never want to begin a relationship by having to dig yourself out of a hole if you can help it. In most industries, there is usually a less obtrusive way to get your message across. In my business of providing consulting and small business services I have found success in dropping off a personalized letter. People get plenty of junk mail but a hand delivered letter gets noticed.
I have also found in my industry that small businesses loath cold callers. As a small business expert, as soon as I make a cold call on a prospect my professional image is diminished in their eyes. That makes it very difficult for them to take my guidance seriously. However, when I offer low cost lunch-and-learn seminars I always come away with valuable leads and contacts. While I am not necessarily a pure cold-call detractor, I have found it to be one of the least efficient tactics in obtaining leads and building quality relationships. Therefore, I chose to not have it be one of my company’s brand associations.
However, it’s possible that in certain industries cold calling is not seen as a negative and remains a viable tactic. I would like to hear from you. Is cold calling still a practical tool in your marketing mix? If so, tell us about your success. If not, which business development tactic has been the most successful for your company?