Lessons I learned from cold-calling & why you need to find an alternative

byKaran Sharma

The rules for outbound sales used to be quite simple: the more calls you made, the more opportunities you generated and the more deals you closed. This worked for a while until cold-calling became the norm and synonymous with prospects feeling pressured, stressed and in need of finding excuses to end the call before the salesperson could even say what it was all about.

The aim of this article is to reveal the key problems related to cold-calling and explain why this sales method is not working anymore and why finding an alternative might just be what your sales team needs.

The key problems with cold-calling

It is annoying for both parties

Cold-calling is very much annoying for both sides – the caller and the person he or she is cold-calling – because it is something that happens without permission. It is intrusive, it needs to happen at that time and the person needs to be ready to speak to you and have the interest at that time.

Cold-calling is sequential

Cold-calling is something that you do 1 by 1 by 1 because you cannot cold-call several people at the same time, so you basically stack them. You do one cold-call at a time, then move to the next one and go through the whole process again. Therefore, the number of cold-calls that a sales staff can actually make is limited to the time that they have. There are autodial tools out there that dial different numbers and when one of them is picked up, the others are hung up so that the sales representative can talk to the person who picked up. However, the calling itself is not something that can be automated since you’re not able to do 100 calls at the same time and with the same amount of resources.

Cold-calling is sequential, it cannot be done in mass and it’s very manual.

Getting passed the doorkeeper

The person that you want to speak to won’t always be available when you cold-call them. Before you speak to the right person, you may have to cold-call them 4-5 times. The funnel usually goes like this: you first speak to the doorkeeper (secretary, receptionist, etc). They are trained to give objections to people who he/she thinks are cold-callers by asking: “What is this in reference to?” At that point, you need to qualify and get through the doorkeeper which you most probably won’t. So that’s the point when your whole process gets broken.

Cold-calling is intrusive

In the sense that the person you’re cold-calling needs to be willing to talk to you when you want him/her to as opposed to when they feel like doing so or when they’re ready. Even if he/she is available and the receptionist does put you through, the person then needs to say that he’s interested in learning more about your offer. They will mostly say “send me more info” and that info will never be looked at. Furthermore, in order to send them the right info after cold-calling, you need to know what they’re interested in. But they almost never give you that chance because of the intrusive nature of cold calling. They feel forced into doing something without understanding the value that they could get out of it. As a result, you lose the first contact chance with cold-calling.

Demoralized sales staff

Over a long period of cold-calling, staff will become demoralized because it is predominantly failure-based, as most cold-calls end in a fail. Therefore, sales representatives will eventually become tired of cold-calling and will feel demoralized. Consequently, the quality of their work will decrease and that will affect your overall sales performance.

Not to mention that it takes a long time for a new sales staff to become an experienced cold-caller. Most of them will give up and this is an unfair barrier because cold-calling is not really the right metric to see whether somebody can sell or not. Account management and objection handling are the main criteria, the main qualifiers to see whether or not a salesperson can sell. Cold-calling is a very old business tactic which is no longer relevant in our time.

Very low scalability

Let’s imagine you have a team that is cold-calling 100-200 people/ day but you want to make it to 1000 per day. Scaling that will require you to hire 5 times more salespeople and training them will require you to have team leads and pay salaries of 10 times more sales people for 3-4 months before they are fully trained and are getting the money (your investment) back.
Very little flexibility

Now, let’s imagine that a market that you are targeting is not a good market to target. You’ve just hired a bunch of people to target a market that’s not really fitting your product. With cold-calling, there’s very little flexibility. For example, if you want to target Spain, you need to hire Spanish speaking sales staff. If, however, that market is not the right one, what do you do with those people? You’ll need to fire them. This is a major disadvantage of doing outbound sales based only on humans.

The key learnings

Find a less intrusive way of contacting prospects so that they don’t feel chased or forced into making a decision.

  • Always inform. Don’t be salesy, pushy or manipulative.
  • Automate as much as possible so that you don’t need to scale your team every time you want to contact more prospects.
  • Don’t kill the drive of your sales staff by asking them to perform tasks that could easily be done by an automated tool.
  • Find alternative ways of getting passed the doorkeeper so that you reach the right person at the right time.

The alternative

Outbound mailing. Deploy an automation where you are automating emails, copy, lead generation and prospecting. The scale happens by increasing the volume that you want to target and it is targeted. One person can manage the whole thing but you don’t need the human resources at the level that you would with cold-calling. Scalability with an automated system is 5-10 times higher than without an automated system.

How do you imitate the customizability of sales calls with emails?

You do that with outbound lead generation tools like hubsell where customizability is very much dependent on the variables of the prospect. If the latter is working in X industry in a role that is Y and seniority level 10, then this info can be used to draft an email that automatically conforms to that person’s attributes. Then you circumvent the need for cold-calling because you need to have customizability.

Furthermore, emails are much less intrusive than cold-calls. An email written in a way that is informative, not pushy or salesy, is more intended to inform the other party. An email they can read whenever they have time instead of when the other person is mailing. They read the email when they have time and they reply to it when they have time.

When drafting emails, it is important to provide enough relevancy in your subject so that the prospects want to read it. In the opening sentence, you need to show them some relevance to get them to read the rest. The email needs to be written in such a way that the reader quickly understands if it’s of interest to him/her or not and decide if he/she wants to reply. Then you follow-up with them and, even if they are not interested, they will tell you why they don’t like your offer or don’t need your product.

Final thoughts

Even if you cold-call them with a great message, it will not outweigh all the negatives. The improvisational ability of your sales staff will not result in an overall positive because of all the negatives. The time it takes for you to train a sales representative means investing a lot of money and the ROI on that investment will take a lot of time because the failure rate of cold-calls is just too high.

For companies doing outbound sales, the key learning would be to do outbound sales in a more scalable, less intrusive and more flexible way which is done through highly customized outbound mailings to very relevant and highly targeted prospects with messages that are conforming to who they are, what their needs are and so forth.

Over to you – what have been your key learning experiences when it comes to cold-calling?

Thanks for reading and feel free to leave comments and questions in the dedicated section below.

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