Cold Calling is Dead. Long Live Cold Calling

Telephone 256px-Dialog_gr_1972When most folks think about cold calling, they think about the salesmen in Glengarry Glen Ross or those in the Boiler Room.  These guys are brash and abrasive; they don’t care about your needs, they just want to jam what they are selling down your throat with brutal efficiency.

Social media – social selling – was supposed to make cold calling unnecessary: you’d put out a few tweets, run some email marketing and – presto – warm qualified leads would be calling you.

Well, I’ve got news for you: cold calling isn’t going away anytime soon.  In fact, you and your sales team will be doing a lot of it as you sell your offering, particularly if you have something new that changes the way people do business.  I blogged about this a couple of years ago (Here, here and, even used the same post title, here); it is such a key component of your sales process that it is worth revisiting.

There is a way to make cold calling work – successful cold calling requires a system and a mix of discipline, serendipity and hard work.  The following details an effective process that I have developed over many (many) years of cold calling.

Develop a Focused List

Develop a prospect list of people with the roles you want to sell to in the verticals you are targeting.  Aim high, but be realistic – you are unlikely to get through the to the CEO of a large company and, even if you do, she will deflect you immediately to one of her underlings.   I like to research as I go, so that the people I am calling are fresh in my mind; LinkedIn is invaluable here.  If you do not have a clear handle on exactly what titles to target, identify 3 – 5 prospects at each of  the companies you are targeting: your calls to these folks will be probing, asking for direction about their organization.

Use a Crisp Email and Voicemail Message

Put together a short email – one sentence introduction, 2 – 3 bullet points, one sentence closing, and a voice mail that tracks the email content.  Practice leaving  the voice mail – speak clearly, repeating your phone number two times at the end of the message.  Using voice mail effectively is key to increasing your cold calling yields.  Keep your email and voice mail short – brevity is key; over the years I have shortened these items considerably.  If you’ve received a long, detailed and impassioned email from a salesperson about their product or service, you’ve likely deleted it without a moment’s thought:  your emails will be treated the same way.

Track Everything You Do

You should track everything you do in your CRM – every call and email you make, and the reasons for qualifying or disqualifying a prospect either when you connect with them of give up.  This is important for a number of reasons: 1. Documenting you activities will help  you understand what is working and what is not; 2. Cold calling is hard work and documenting your effort gives you evidence of that effort, like tracking your workout or miles you run; and 3. A lot of the goodness that cold calling generates will occur 3 – 6 months after you pound on a prospect – you’ll need documentation of your interaction with them then to respond intelligently.

Start Calling

You should treat your calling like a workout – plan on spending 1 – 3 hours every day making calls, day in day out and another 2 – 3 hours researching the prospects you will call.  Be relentless, disciplined and focused.  Start with 5 – 10 prospects, send each the email and call each one, leaving a clear, succinct voicemail.  It is much better to get voicemail the first couple of times you call as, when you finally do connect with the prospect, there is some probability that she will have heard one of your messages and read one of your emails.

The next day, add 5 – 10 names to your prospect list and treat them the way you did the set on the prior day.  Take the prior day’s set and call each one, not leaving a message if you get their voicemail.  If you get a prospect live, introduce yourself and ask if you could spend a few minutes of time with them by phone when convenient (i.e. not now) to learn more about their needs and tell them about your offering.

The third day, email and voicemail the set of prospects from the first day, call but do not voicemail the set from the second day and add 10 new prospects to the pool and treat them the way you have the others.  At this stage you will have maxed out the number of prospects you can chase at one time – you will lose focus and intensity if you try to cover more than 30 – 40 prospects at a time.

On the fourth day, repeat the process.  Do this every day, rain or shine day in, day out, every week of the month, all year.  Make 6 – 8 calls to a prospect and send 3 – 4 emails before disqualifying them.  When you do get through to a prospect, be polite, ask for permission tell them about your offering, and ask them if they or someone else of their team would be willing to dicuss this further.  Be brief and listen.

Amazing things will happen if you follow this process.  You will get through to 30 – 40% of the leads your are chasing every week and disqualify 20 – 30%.  You will connect with and qualify 10 – 20% of them and, in the process, you will begin to learn a lot about your target companies and verticals and, if your offering is at all compelling, you will begin to schedule meetings/webinars to explore potential business opportunities.

Cold calling is hard work – treating it like a workout, regarding it as a process, will help you keep at it through ups and downs of the sales cycle and reap its benefits.





  1. Robert Cassard says

    Love this, Hugh. I’d humbly like to add a suggestion that makes cold-calling much more productive. Use strategic email + video campaigns to pre-qualify your cold-calling targets. Presuming your subject line and click-through description are designed to measure the validity of interest in what you’ve sent, it will fine-tune your cold calling efforts and make them much more productive. Armed with a Voodoo system, you can know in real-time who is engaged with the campaign you sent. Why not make your next round of calls to the people who have already expressed interest and who have been informed about your product? Watch this video to see what this means in the real world experience of a sales rep:

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