I spend a decent amount of time on LinkedIn.
It’s a great place to network, learn, and increasingly for me – to generate new business.
But – along with all of the good that can be found on platforms like LinkedIn – there are some recurring, important topics of conversation that are very one dimensional, and in many ways harmful.
In the sales space – the one I am spending most of my time in – cold calling is one of those often toxic topics.
WHAT’S THE PROBLEM WITH THE COLD CALLING DISCUSSIONS?
In short, many highly controversial (and unfortunately, highly engaging) cold calling discussions revolve around the idea of whether or not it is useful as a prospecting method.
In the least useful conversations, the question is usually expressed in the absolute form. i.e.:
“Is cold calling dead.”
Is this a useful topic?
Prospecting? Yes. A fundamental element of sales success.
The potential effectiveness of cold calling? Absolutely! Getting better at things is one of the best reasons to read and engage in discussion.
But the binary, “is dead” meme? Mindless stupidity.
WHY IS THIS SUCH A PROBLEM?
Let’s get high-level for a minute – what is cold calling?
From the 10,000 meter/30,000 foot level, cold calling (or the written equivilent) is a way to reach out to someone you have not contacted before.
Way back in the 1990’s, when I started in sales, I wanted to give cold calling a try, but I didn’t know how, so I bought a book – “Cold Calling Techniques (That Really Work)” by Stephen Schiffman.
There was a lot of good stuff in that book, and by following the suggestions and modifying them to fit my own style and such, I got very good at cold calling, and quite successful in sales as a result.
But what was the reason for that success?
THE REASON IS THE KEY
One of the core concepts that I took away from the Schiffman book was that to be successful when cold calling, you have to have the right reason for contacting someone.
Over the years, I have broadened this “reason” concept to apply to all prospecting methods.
Deeply embracing this concept can fundamentally change the way to look at everything you do in sales, for example:
– Instead of going to a trade show to meet people, you are going to meet people AND to have a reason to contact them after the show.
– Instead of posting on LinkedIn, or presenting at a seminar or engaging in a conversation at a networking event to show how much you know about something, you do those things to have a reason to contact someone after those things happen (see below).
This focus on doing things to set up a reason for a prospecting outreach effort also isn’t new. Way back in the 1990’s, we had an expression for this kind of activity called “warming up a cold call.”
Thanks in large part to the book of the same name by Tony J. Hughes, these days this concept is called “Combo Prospecting,” and the concept is critical.
By combining the idea of 1) having a good reason for contacting someone while prospecting, and 2) warming up a cold call, we come to the crux – why the insipid “is cold calling dead” line of conversation is so off-base.
PUTTING IT INTO ACTION
So what should you actually be doing here?
I have not (yet) read the book “Combo Prospecting,” so that might be useful for you to try. But for now – I’ll use Schiffman’s concept of “the reason” to illustrate how to crush it with prospecting, and I think you’ll see immediately what we’re after here:
Imagine a prospecting outreach that starts like this:
The reason I am contacting you (or other similar words), is because:
– We met at the conference, and I’m following up as we agreed to continue our conversation
– I read your post on LinkedIn about…
– I see that you stopped by my profile and…
– I read on BBC that your company…
– You registered on our website and…
– I saw that you downloaded our white paper on…
Each of these examples is an example of a (semi-) cold call or email that has a reason baked into it.
Sometimes that reason involves some form of direct contact with the prospect (conference, website registration), sometimes not (saw your company in the news, read your post).
But the point is this.
Cold calling can work if you call someone out of the blue and give them a good reason for speaking with them.
Cold calling will work better if you do something before the call to set up the reason for the outreach.
CREATING THE REASON IS THE TRICK TO HELP YOU CRUSH PROSPECTING
Want to become really effective at prospecting? Make doing some activity like going to a conference, posting on LinkedIn or having a content marketing strategy – or even reading the news – a central part of your prospecting strategy. Use these activities to set up the reason for an outreach, and you will be MUCH more effective with these initial, warmed-up outreach efforts than if you don’t do something or think about some way to set up a good reason for that outreach.
To say that cold calling is dead or not is dumb. It’s not that binary. There are better and worse ways to do it. You need to think it through and execute skilfully to make cold calling or anything work.
Prospecting has always been about reaching out to someone you are not doing business with and trying to get into a dialogue that will lead to business.
What you can do to help make that likely to succeed is creating a reason. It can be something on social, something offline, or something from your imagination.
So if you want to crush prospecting, come to understand the concepts of “the reason” and “warming up a cold call,” and find what specific activities work best for you.
Oh – and be sure to ignore anything that includes the phrase “is dead.” That’s stuff is the only thing that should be.