UnCommon Sense Cold Calling Strategy.

One of the ongoing “raging debates” amongst sales strategists is the practice of cold calling.

Is it still a valid form of prospecting?  Does it work?  Do people even answer their phone?

The idea of calling strangers and dazzling them with scripted sales communication call-after-call is more than a little controversial.

It’s a debate that goes back to July 1, 1875 when Alexander Bell and his assistant, Watson, strung a wire between their Boston laboratory and the cellar below them.  Holding his prototype speaker up to his mouth and the receiver to his ear, Bell made the first call in telephone history.

“Do you understand what I am saying?” asked Bell to Watson.

And that same questions is still being asked by millions of sales reps every minute of the selling day.

It feels awkward to some. It's a pain-in-the-ass to others.

And despite 136 years of dialog about the tactic, there seems to be more confusion than ever about idea of cold calling.

Discussion about inbound marketing tactics and demand generation strategies consistently position cold calling as inefficient and ineffective.  Still others who focus on outbound marketing claim that cold calling is one of the most reliable methodologies for business development.

But both groups seem to be conveniently missing the point:

1. You have to communicate somehow.

Whether you call it a "new call" or a "cold call", it's pretty much the first time that you are reaching out to connect with a semi-stranger.  We don’t have silly labels like “cold email” or “cold marketing”.  For some reason, we think it’s acceptable to blindly communicate with people as long as it doesn’t require us to use our mouth.

The reality is that you have start the conversation somehow.  There is no one right channel to begin every conversation.  Sometimes a random email works.  Other times a phone call works.  Tweets, comments, instant messages – they can all be key ways to initiate dialog.  Cold, warm, or blazing hot – it doesn’t really matter how you have the conversation as long as you having it.

2. You have to begin the conversation sometime.

Whether you reach out to anyone within earshot and or only call people who were referred to you, you have to begin the conversation some time.  That first call is pretty darn "cold" no matter how delightfully bad-ass your pitch might be.  They are new to you and you are new to them.

It doesn't matter whether the Pope or the President of the United States is your referrer, you have to make an opening gesture and begin a journey that might actually end in failure.  It seems kind of silly to prolong that process in the hopes that someone else might help you shortcut that process.

When if comes down to that first conversation, you need to know what to say.

You need to know how to make the most of it.

And everything you need to know about that comes down to two simple ideas:

  1. Be interesting. -- Be memorable and different.  While everyone else is using industry jargon and talking about why their product is “the leading choice”, you need to be personable and helpful.  Stop automatically adopting industry insights and create your own logic.
  2. Be interested. -- Be kind and empathetic.  While everyone else is counting dollar bill in their head, stop and care.  Listen to the words and sounds that the other person is sharing.  Listen to what they aren’t saying.

You’ll be a better sales person regardless of how you have conversations.

Cold calling can be a needlessly dramatic debate.

Perhaps a little uncommon sense is what’s needed to make this a little clearer.