I’d Rather Staple Bacon to My Face than Make a Cold-Call

John Tabita

In 2008, Eyes on Sales featured an article entitled, “Why Decision Makers Hate Cold Calls.” If you want to be convinced that cold-calling doesn’t work, that it’s a colossal waste of time, and that it’s the most “ineffective and costly” way to find prospects, then go ahead and skip what I’m about to say and go directly to that article. (Just be sure to read the numerous comments from people who vehemently disagree with the author.)

On the other hand, if you’d like to explore how cold-calling can be a great way to find new clients, then stick around, because that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

Let me share some of my glorious first experiences with cold-calling. When my partners and I began our web development business in the beginning of 2001, cold-calling was one of the things we tried early on. Without much of a script and absolutely no plan, we opened the phone book and started making calls.

In spite of that, we actually landed two clients! Quite pleased with ourselves, we imagined we were on the road to success. But when reality set in, we realized that they were very small projects. A few weeks into one of them, the client (who had yet to provide us with written copy), began complaining that we were taking too long. After supplying the copy, she proceeded to demand that we get her site up immediately. We refunded her deposit instead.

After much reflection (actually, not that much), we decided cold-calling wasn’t the way to go.

Today, I am the sales manager of a telemarketing department, so I know a thing or two about cold-calling. But ten years ago, our ignorance and subsequent failure caused us to conclude that we were “doing the wrong thing,” when in reality, we were “doing the thing wrong.”

How do I know that, under the right circumstances, cold-calling is the “right thing” to do? Because of the results my department gets. Here’s a sampling of what three telemarketers did one particularly good month:

1,618 dials
203 conversations
86 appointments scheduled
27 closed sales

Let’s look at some of those numbers. Out of 1,618 calls, we talked to one decision-maker approximately every eight dials, and we set one appointment for every 2.4 decision-makers we spoke with. And those 27 sales? Well, they represented a dollar-value revenue of five figures. How’s that for an “ineffective and costly” way to find prospects?

You see, for companies like ours, cold-calling and cold-canvassing are the best prospecting options available. Our sales cycle is short, so reps don’t have time for things like networking and relationship building. Even for businesses that can afford to try other methods, cold-calling is still a good thing to include in your marketing mix.

You may be wondering how the words “bacon,” “staple” and “face” ended up in the same sentence—much less what it has to do with cold-calling. You’ll just have to stick around for the next few posts to find that out. In part 2, I’ll talk about how you can determine if cold-calling is a fit for the web industry (hint: it is) and how to make it work for you.

Click here to go to the follow-up article

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  • Thom

    If I am ever part of a web design firm that cold calls to get business, just shoot me…

    • Alex

      hahahah agreed

    • Bob

      Bang!

  • Steve

    As a self-appointed spokesperson for people who hate telemarketers, I would like to invite you to stop calling people and come to my house where I will provide an ample supply of bacon and staples.

  • Alex

    “Your may be wondering how the words “bacon,” “staple” and “face””….

    I believe you meant to say “You” there…

    Good post, though a big of a cliff-hanger (which you obviously intended). I anticipate reading the future posts.

    • http://www.onsman.com Ricky Onsman

      @Alex, that typo is fixed.

      Nice catch on your own typo, too.

    • http://smallbusinessmarketingsucks.blogspot.com/ John Tabita

      Remind me to have you proof my future posts before I hit ‘publish.’ I only re-read it like, 3 dozen times…

  • Alex

    **a bit of a cliff-hanger

  • John Faulds

    I think the title of this post is fine except I’d substitute two words:

    ‘bacon’ for ‘salami’: I like bacon and I’m not going to waste it stapling it to my face; not so fussed about salami.

    ‘receive’ for ‘make’: There’s a reason I signed up to the no-call register.

  • John Faulds

    By the way, what happened to the gravatars on the Sitepoint blog?

    • http://www.onsman.com Ricky Onsman

      We’re in the process of moving to a new system of managing comments. In the meantime, there might be a few oddities in how gravatars appear. Bear with us.

  • kaf

    1,618 dials
    203 conversations
    86 appointments scheduled
    27 closed sales

    I read:

    1591 people rudely disturbed
    176 people very annoyed
    59 people who wish they could sue for wasted time

    Telemarketers are bottom feeders who take advantage of the basic necessity to have a phone line to try to “sell” to unsuspecting people who did not request such attention.
    No different to email spammers. Why is that illegal but cold calling isn’t? It’s the same thing right?…

    • http://smallbusinessmarketingsucks.blogspot.com/ John Tabita

      But you left out the part where I said 27 sales = five figures of revenue. As for the rest, I think they’ll get over being annoyed or disturbed for those 30 seconds.

      When I ran my web business, I had a “private label” hosting company that allowed me to offer that service to my clients. That relationship started with a cold-call. I had a need, so I didn’t mind … in fact, I was grateful to receive the call.

      Actually, telemarketers are under-paid, hard-working individuals trying to make a living in tough economic times. The “bottom feeders” on my team include a single mom with 3 young children, a working mom who loves the flexible hours because it allows her more time with her kids, a retiree who can’t make it on social security, and 3 young men working their way through college.

      • kira8080

        Wow, I almost shed a tear.

        That only people in a tough financial situation are willing to do it only makes it more clear that it’s a morally unacceptable job. You could be hiring people with cancer to help them pay for their therapy, and it still wouldn’t make it an any less despicable practice.

        Stop making excuses. The truth is, you don’t care about annoying people as long as you can make money. Kaf is wrong, it isn’t like spam. It’s worse than spam.

      • John Faulds

        I notice you dodged the question about whether cold calling is equivalent to spam or not.

        And if people didn’t find cold calling objectionable, why do we have https://www.donotcall.gov.au/ in Australia?

    • Anonymous

      Telemarketers are people who are doing their job to provide for themselves or their family. Just like what you do. Don’t say they are bottom feeders, they are certainly not.

    • PhoneJockey

      Wow… that’s a lot of animosity against cold callers. In my experience, here is how it breaks down.
      Those who hate cold calling hate it because they can’t do it. Jealousy, plain and simple.
      Those who can cold call make a ton of money and are the most independent sales people you will ever meet. They love it because it gives them absolute freedom and the ability to follow their own path. If they are successful selling SEO or websites via the cold call, they know they can pick up the phone and sell ANYTHING for ANYONE. This is the ultimate freedom.
      Say what you will, however even in 2011, it is the cheapest method of biz development around with one of the highest ROI’s.

  • BenyP

    @kaf Your comment is very rude and inappropriate. Let me explain you a thing : in a company, there are Cost Centers, and Profit Centers. You obviously are part of the first one. Keep in mind your sorry little bottom gets paid because some people (marketer – tele or not) do what they got to do to keep the business running. Like or not, all B2B involves telemarketing at one point.

    • kaf

      How was my comment rude or inappropriate? I’m just expressing a very common view on the subject as the comments above indicate.
      It’s such a common view in fact that many nations have created laws to prohibit cold calling. Including the European Union in 2002.

      If you can’t run your business without invading people homes and workplaces then you should be looking at how you market yourself. Not resort to telemarketing. Because telemarketing IS invasive. Thats why people hate it. We can ignore tv ads and billboards, but when someone ambushes us and talks at us without our prior consent its invasive and rude.

      BenyP I find your overly simplistic segmentation of companies into Cost Centres and Profit Centres as disturbingly narrow minded. For a start if something generates Profit it’s not necessarily right. And besides, in a successful company all centres are profit centres and everyone is working together to achieve the same goal. If you truly view the the people who actually create the product your company sells as some sort of ball and chain which is constantly costing you money then you will soon lose any valuable staff you have and find it hard to replace them as they migrate to other companies where they are better valued.

      • Matt

        I think you are correct mate, I currently work in warm calling which is such a nice treat after spending a few months cold calling. I couldn’t stand it, just the thought of doing it.. The people that do It must have such a high tolerance to verbal abuse.

      • Colin

        @kaf…looking up from the factory floor to the sales office making you feel bad? Do not worry, we do not judge you even though you judge us.

        What if you came up with a unique product that alleviated a common business problem but no-one knew of you or your company / product? Lets also say that you were not able to spend thousands on marketing, what would you do? Hint: hope is not a strategy. Goodness forbid that you have to actually call someone to tell them that you can alleviate a problem that challenges them daily. No, lets rather hope that through divine intervention something falls in your lap.

        You’re obvioulsy not a business leader otherwise your opinion would be different.

      • Anonymous

        Hey, when they answer the phone, they have every right to say not interested and hang up, no one is forcing them to stay on the line. :]

  • Stormrider

    What’s the good in making 5 figure sums if you have also made 1,500 annoyed clients who will likely not work with you in the future?

    • Jason

      I doubt they made 1,500 annoyed clients. When is the last time you received a call, declined the offer then immediately said to yourself “I’m NEVER working with XYZ Agency in the future! How DARE they call me?!”

      In general, I was against cold calling for years until I worked at an agency that had a call center of 8 sales people. After watching that team hit quotas of $25,000/rep month after month, without ever a hard sell I saw the value in outbound calling with a consultative approach. The first month or two might be tough as you “build your funnel” but so is social media, right? When’s the last time you heard of someone landing 5 new contracts because they started tweeting 3 weeks ago? Look, I’m not saying one is wrong or right, or even better than the other, I’m just saying that cold calling can work if done right.

  • James

    While my first reaction is to think cold-calling / telemarketing doesn’t work and definitely wouldn’t work for my business I also have to honestly admit that I know nothing about the business of telemarketing. If the 5 figure income from 27 customers equals $10,000 I would probably say that’s not really worth it for me but if it equaled $80,000 then I’m interested enough at least listen and maybe learning something knew about something I really don’t know about.

    • http://smallbusinessmarketingsucks.blogspot.com/ John Tabita

      Without divulging private information, I’ll leave at this: wasn’t $80,000 but it was significantly more than $10,000.

      Those figures were the results of three telemarketers working an 8-hour day, setting appointments for a 40-man/women sales team selling a non-Internet related product. Your actual mileage may vary.

      But let’s look at averages. A good lead generator can set about one appointment every 50-60 calls; and the average close ratio is about 1 in 4.

      So let’s say you spend three days a week, six hours a day, making cold-calls. If you make 15 calls an hour (and that’s a conservative number), that’s 270 calls over a three-day period. If you’re good and you hit the averages, you will have set about five appointments.

      If you close 1 in 4, then those five appointments equal one sale. Do that each week and you have four new clients a month. If your average project is $1,000, you just made $4,000. Not a bad income if you’re a one-man shop with little overhead.

      The challenge is, how do you cold-call three days a week, yet have time to develop sites? It’s all about return on investment for your time. If I could gain four new clients a month by attending a 1-hour networking meeting each week, I’d never cold-call.

      Maybe you only need two new clients a month. That cuts your time investment in half. And I haven’t even talked about targeting calling, which greatly improves your effectiveness. But that’s a whole ‘nother topic.

  • Edgeliver

    For years now, because of telemarketing calls, I don’t answer my phone unless I know who it is. I let the person leave a message first.

  • typo

    I don’t think you can really claim that cold calling “doesn’t work”, as if you call enough people then the chances are that you’ll get some sales. The real issue is working out whether you’re the kind of person who doesn’t mind annoying large numbers of said people in order to get ahead.

  • Colin

    Just remember Sales People are the Elite Athletes of the business world, without that cold call nothing gets sold and without anything being sold none of the slackers here complaining about cold callers have a job.

    So…take your sales people in your office out to lunch, you owe them that much!

    Without us Elite Athletes nothing happens in the business world, so instead of complaining BE GRATEFUL we are prepared to call in spite of the nay sayers like you that complain about interuptions.

    If you cannot stand cold calling then stop doing it, you clearly are doing it wrong. Let the pro’s handle it. If you research your prospect, understand their environment and the company culture and their current goals and objectives. Tie this in to your product offering and help them solve a problem they will always be happy to talk to you. It is about creating value. If you cannot understand that; we understand, it takes brains to work in sales. If you cannot cut it find something else to do….it is people like you that give us a bad name and we would rather not have you in our ranks…go to MacDonalds, they can give you a job where the customers come to you.

    ’nuff said…..

    • John Faulds

      Sounds like someone’s been reading too much Bonfire of the Vanities.

      • Colin

        Actually never heard of Bonfire of the Vanities, I will look it up though, sounds interesting. Thanks!

    • kaf

      ” it takes brains to work in sales”

      In my experience it takes a personality disorder to work in sales. A very common one is narcissism.

      • Colin

        I think here you are confusing narcissism with self belief and a winning attitude. Yes, you do need those to succeed in sales.

        Name calling…LOL, is that the best you can do?

    • BenyP

      Collin, seems like everyone has a strong point of view on this subject. Unfortunately, most people here will never understand what it takes to run a full blown business. Before I started my business, I would have never understand the importance of having elite sales people. Reality caught up when I realised that having the best product (or price) won’t make it sell on its own. The formula goes like this :

      Best Product + Bad sales people = no sales
      worst product + best sales people = good sales
      best product + best sales people = greater sales (long term)

      It’s kinda hard to explain this to someone who works in a cost center.

      • Colin

        Yip, I’m with you on that one.

  • Ciaran Ryan

    I served 2 and half years of time cold calling. I worked in recruitment and head-hunting and it was part and parcel of the job. A combo of cold calling and working in recruitment meant I was utterly loathed by anyone unfortunate enough to pick up the phone. But the second call was never as bad. Once people understood that you were doing what was necessary to help your business grow they became more sympathetic. Thick skin is required and the ability to never let anyone’s comments get to you. At the end of the day, all you’re doing is introducing your company’s service, you’re not ramming anything down anyone’s throat. There’s my two cents. Nice article.

  • http://smallbusinessmarketingsucks.blogspot.com/ John Tabita

    Of course people find cold-calling objectionable. But if the litmus test to decide whether or not one should cold-call is “How much does it bother and annoy people?” instead of “Is it a viable method to obtain new customers?” – then you’ve made irrational emotional decision, rather than one based on what’s best for your business.

    The main reason I consider B2B cold-calling different from spam is that a business phone number is not inherently private; whereas, the email of a private individual is.

    Likewise a resident should have the option of keeping their phone number private. But a business deliberately publishes their phone number, which means anyone is free to call … yes, even annoying telemarketers. (Which is the reason DNC does not apply to B2B calls, at least not in the U.S.)

    One of my lead generators recently told me that he sets a fair amount of appointments with people who are initially annoyed when they first realize they are being solicited. But once they recognize that we can help their business generate more sales, increase revenue, and improve cash flow, their annoyance disappears and they book an appointment.

    So there are two ways you can look at this. One is that cold-calling is annoying and intrusive, or worse – morally reprehensible, akin to clubbing baby seals for a living. If that’s how you feel, then don’t cold-call.

    The other is: “I have a product or service that companies find valuable because it fulfills a need, solves a problem, or enhances their well-being. It’s the most normal, natural thing in the world to call companies that would benefit from my product or service and ask for a meeting. It would be normal and natural for the decision-makers at those companies who do have a need to agree to meet with me and do business with me.”

    • kira8080

      “Of course people find cold-calling objectionable. But if the litmus test to decide whether or not one should cold-call is “How much does it bother and annoy people?” instead of “Is it a viable method to obtain new customers?” – then you’ve made irrational emotional decision, rather than one based on what’s best for your business.”

      Ah, an “irrational emotional decision”.

      A bit like avoiding to dig for petrol under a sensible natural park. Or not be willing to use political corruption in countries where this is common practice. Or refusing to build a chemical factory in a underdeveloped country if you know it will poison water and give cancer to local populations. In any case, the people at BP who built and maintained the Deepwater Horizon certainly didn’t make an irrational emotional decision.

      Thanks god there are still people who can make irrational emotional decisions.

  • Phil

    Yeah, nice point of view. It is like how I meet women, I just walk around feeling their breasts. These are the results

    1,618 inappropriate gropings
    203 conversations
    86 appointments scheduled
    27 “closed sales”

    Some people think it is annoying and intrusive, so I say “If that’s how you feel, then don’t do it”

    I used to ask myself “How much does it bother and annoy people?” but after reading your comments here I realise that point of view is irrational and emotional.

    • Chris

      Funniest comment on Sitepoint ever.

    • http://smallbusinessmarketingsucks.blogspot.com/ John Tabita

      What a near-perfect analogy! I’ve always said that sales is a lot like dating.

      But here’s where you got it wrong:

      A cold-call is not like groping a woman. That would be more akin to forcing your way into a prospect’s office, tackling him to the ground, and shoving a contract in his face to sign. Both are a form of assault … immoral and illegal in most countries.

      A cold-call is more like approaching a member of the opposite sex you’d like to meet. (One requires a script; the other, a pick-up line.) Both are an attempt to initiate a relationship – nothing more, nothing less.

      Of course, there’s a proper and respectful way to approach a women, and there are disrespectful and inappropriate ways. The same is true of cold-calling.

      I’m sure there are plenty of women who’ve been approached in the supermarket or the gym who were annoyed and bothered by being “hit” on. Even in a bar, where it’s expected, I imagine that some women don’t like it when the “wrong” guy approaches them. Yet that doesn’t stop millions of men from trying. And no one is crying about how abusive or intrusive that is.

      Like Lyndon posted below, I, too, am genuinely surprised at the mentality that cold-calling is somehow “evil” and “despicable.” Really? We’re talking about a 30 to 45 second phone call:

      Hi, this is John from ABC Marketing Solutions.

      We work with companies that are looking for ways to acquire new customers without wasting money on advertising that doesn’t work.

      Is that something you want?

      They can say “yes” or they can say “no” or they can talk it over with you. When done right, cold-calling is not at all intrusive. You’re in; you’re out. You move on.

      • Phil

        You are right, it is not like groping. Fair point. But your corrected analogy of cold calling being like approaching someone with a pickup line is also not quite there. If we want to keep going with the dating/cold-calling comparison, then cold calling is like going door to door around town uninvited and informing the person opening the door that you have some sweet-lovin’ to offer. The “respectful” way would be “Hi I’m Phil, I’ve got something to offer you and I think we could really hit it off”, and the “disrespectful” way would be “hi I’m Phil, I’ve got something in my pants to offer and I think we could really get it on”. Either way, you can’t deny that if you had to open your door to that 12 times a day, even if it only took 30 seconds of your time up, you would find it a rather intrusive and annoying.

        The point of this article was not whether cold calling is acceptable, it was whether it works. Almost no-one has argued that it doesn’t work. It is only because it bugs so many people that most of the comments have focused about how annoying it is. And the other few comments have argued that it is a reality, albeit an evil one, of doing business (like, say, slavery was).

        So, if you want to go down the cold call telemarketing path, nobody has the power to stop you. But just know that 1591 people out of every 1618, including your friends, would secretly like to staple bacon to your face.

  • Anonymous

    “Likewise a resident should have the option of keeping their phone number private. But a business deliberately publishes their phone number, which means anyone is free to call … yes, even annoying telemarketers”

    This is the point everyone is doing here….only Colin failed to understand that.
    So people that makes the product are only a cost for the company and they deserve to be underpaid and eventually abused whereas people selling it are the real value. Fine.
    No wonder economy sucks these days and surely I will not feel bad at insulting the next telemarketer that calls my private number.

  • Lyndon Hulme

    I’m genuinely surprised at the amount of negative comments on here. It makes me wonder if people commenting realise the massive distinction between B2B cold calling and cold calling someone private home to hard sell them insurance etc.

    I have in the past, and plan to in the future continue to use B2B cold calling, I’ve found it has not been too effective for me so far, but that’s really down to my own lack of talent in this area. I’ve spoken to hundreds of business people on the phone, perhaps 400, and not one has ever been rude to me, nor would I expect them to be, professionals act professionally (most the time!).

    I entirely disagree that it’s intrusive when you are calling someone who wants your service, you’ll find the conversation basically goes like this:

    “Hello, do you currently need our services?” Yes/No. That’s pretty much it. A large number of businesses genuinely are wanting your service, they have just been too busy to do anything about it. So when you come to them instead, it makes it easier for them. If they don’t want your service the conversation is over in less than 20 seconds. There is no “hard sell” in proper B2B, you just sell to those who want to buy, or more specifically you are just asking for a meeting with those who want what you have, the selling comes later.

    • http://smallbusinessmarketingsucks.blogspot.com/ John Tabita

      That’s been my experience, as well. In the past 3 years, I can only recall maybe one or two instances when someone has been verbally abusive to one of the appointment setters on my team.

      One of my guys called someone who started singing “I’m a Little Teapot,” (thinking it would fluster him, I suppose); instead, he started singing along with him. After a few refrains, the person on the other end of the phone muttered that he “didn’t have time for this,” and hung up.

      You’re right when you say “A large number of businesses genuinely are wanting your service, they have just been too busy to do anything about it. So when you come to them instead, it makes it easier for them.” I’m going to touch on that in Part 2, so thanks for the lead-in.

      • Ansel Taft

        To both of you: amen.

        My bosses receive calls all the time, and make a bunch of outbound sales calls too. Their hard work keeps the lights on.

  • Dorsey

    Yes, cold-callers have to make a living, but there’s always pan-handling, working at a fast-food restaurant, or washing windshields as a viable alternative. Leave me alone.

    I, for one, DO swear to NOT do business with those who waste my time. If I’m interested in a service or product, I’ll find it on my own, thank you.

    I also subscribe to the U.S. do-not-call registry. Prior to that wonderful innovation (driven by consumer demand), I had a second phone line installed with an answering machine, and made that my primary number. What a relief it was to be able to finish dinner after that! Not one call on that number in 15 years was other than a solicitation to buy something or make a donation.

  • Anonymous

    Cold-calling has a bad name for very good reasons, the most obvious is the intrusion and disruption but also lack of relevance.
    Intrusion: The vast majority of cold-calls are for low value products which require a commitment (money, appointment, personal details) and which often saturate their target market with advertising anyway. I imagine the logic there being that they need to capitalise on the ‘message’ and capture as many deals as possible from the vast number of people who’ve seen said advertising.

    The vast majority of cold-callers are non-native speakers – in Australia that means the cold-callers are from call centres based in asian countries who are at best, difficult to understand.

    Cold-calls have been restricted by law in western nations (that I know of) to fairly reasonable hours but the things they call about but the products on offer are nearly always completely generic, low value, low opportunity for benefit items.

    Insurance, credit cards, phone contracts and other financial products sold by cold-calling can nearly always be shown to be dodgy – they’re casting a huge net to sell cleverly worded financial arrangements, chiefly to people who won’t know what they’re getting into.

    So, what you’ve got there is an intrusion into personal space, a disruption of activity, language issues, low value propositions, pressure to commit to something or provide personal information or to commit to more contact, frequently aggressive (predatory) contract terms or concealed contract terms all coated in a bad reputation.

    These are the things that you want to associate your company with?

    Having said that, there is definitely a place for cold-calling but it’s never easy.
    Done well, it’s essentially the diametric opposite of the industry standard but cold-calling businesses will never consider this as the ROI is so significant.
    It’s a slippery slope though.

    • http://smallbusinessmarketingsucks.blogspot.com/ John Tabita

      “These are the things that you want to associate your company with?”

      Of course not. And since all of these things do occur in the telemarketing industry, you have an opportunity to set yourself apart by not behaving in a like manner.

  • Ansel Taft

    After two years of sales, with the first six months as a cold caller, I can honestly say I’ve never found a more challenging role. It was right out of college, I was young and vulnerable. To get better at the new role, I had to read cold calling material, online tips and general sales books. Lo and behold, I discovered that I had to be an optimistic, positive-thinking, and thick-skinned individual to survive in the sales world. Frankly, I am a better man, and business person, thanks to time spent in the sales trenches.

    Since then, I moved on to be a corporate trainer and later retooled again to become a web designer. Personally, I like the dreamy creative world I get to play in now, but I can’t forget the lessons and growth I gained from being a salesman.

    So it’s easy to get on your high horse about the nuisance of the calls, or judge those that do what you will not. But nothing, other than online retail, moves without a sales force. So to all the designers, I can say from experience, you get to have your Mac and Wacom world because someone out there’s shaking hands and making the right connections. You don’t owe them, as someone suggested, but an appreciation for their craft would be appreciated.

    It’s not easy. And that’s coming from someone who was consistently in the top three of his sales team.

    Ansel

  • http://smallbusinessmarketingsucks.blogspot.com/ John Tabita

    @Phil

    You’ve made some good points that I’d like to respond to. And I’d like to explore the sales/dating analogy a bit further. But first I want to paint a picture, then ask a question that I would really like answered – by you and/or anyone else so inclined.

    Imagine a business (let’s call it Company X) who sells an advertising product perfectly suited to help small to mid- sized businesses. The problem is, the owners of these small to mid- sized businesses don’t typically wake up in the morning and think, “Gee, business is down. I think I need to advertise. I’ll call Company X and buy some advertising from them.”

    No, what they do is fret and worry hope things will pick up. Perhaps the thought “maybe I should advertise” crosses their mind, but they really have no clue where to start, so they just hang in there and do nothing.

    Since Company X’s potential customers are not searching for them, they need to make a decision. Close the doors, fire their employees and declare bankruptcy … or hire a telemarketing and a sales team to knock on doors and pound the phone.

    Now let me make it personal. Company X is you. You’re running your web business out of the spare bedroom converted into an office. Instead of 100 employees, it’s your wife and two children. You’ve eeked by with word-of-mouth and networking, but you really need five new clients a month on a consistent basis to make ends meet. You’ve thought about mailing sales letters or postcards, but that’s expensive, has a low response rate, and takes too long to convert into sales. What you really need is to be able to talk to a prospect today, meet with him on Tuesday, and close the sale in the next week or so.

    You’re faced with a choice – fall behind on the mortgage, close down your business and get a job … or **gasp** make cold-calls. Which will you choose?

    Will you worry about the 673 people you’ve annoyed by calling them because they “won’t ever do business with you” and would secretly like to staple bacon to your face? Or will you rejoice over the five new clients you landed that allowed you to stay in business, provide for your family, and pay the bills?

  • Chris

    This might be a relevant debate if the subject was cold calling individuals at home trying to sell a product or raise money for charity. However from what I have read the subject is about selling B2B using a telemarketing team.

    In business there are a number of ways to “prospect” for new clients, including direct mail, email and cold calling, either face to face or over the telephone. The telephone, used either for direct sales, or for making appointments is surely a time effective and valid part of the sales process in most businesses.

    From the recipient’s perspective it need not be intrusive or objectionable. A simple “thanks but not interested” or “we have an existing supplier” or “tell me more” is all that it required as the case may be.

    To the detractors (and though I’m not a telesales person, I do run a business where I need to speak to new customers and prospects) where would your company or business, and therefore your weekly paycheck, be without a sales department? Every business depends on SALES and REVENUE, and at some stage someone has had to put their fear of rejection behind them and either pick up the phone or knock on a closed door, and say “good morning, could please speak to the person responsible for ….”

    And surprise surprise, there are people in every business who actually rely on a salesperson calling on them, either to advise them of a new product or service, or provide a better service or price than offered by the current supplier, so they in turn can provide a better product or service to their customers.

    Of course normally they’ll need a sales department to sell it….

  • Richard

    A masterclass in how to get an audience for your blog series, I salute you :) Interesting reading the comments. As someone who has recently started a web design company I surveyed my clients (other businesses) on how they found web designers. For one particular industry is was ONLY cold calling, and they don’t mind at all. In their case it makes sense as they aren’t sat around in an office reading email or browsing the web. In fact my clients are smart enough to make sure they get some free advice from each cold-calling company as part of the process. I still haven’t tried it for my own company, but with some basic targeting and research on specific companies I don’t see why it wont work as long as I put in the effort to get it right. Looking forward to the rest of the blog series!

    • http://smallbusinessmarketingsucks.blogspot.com/ John Tabita

      “A masterclass in how to get an audience for your blog series, I salute you :) “

      In other words, controversy is the best form of SEO?

      “…I surveyed my clients (other businesses) on how they found web designers.”

      My experience was similar. During the interview phase, I would ask prospects if they were considering working with anyone else besides me. They typically responded with, “No, we really don’t know where to look for someone like you.”

      • Richard

        Exactly. And Gemma (comment below mine) puts it perfectly – if you’re new and on page 150-something of Google you might as well not exist as far as search goes. That leaves you with some options to consider:

        Networking/referrals – actually very effective but it can only go so far.

        PPC – I ran one, and it drained lots of money for 0 leads. Without a feedback loop on “why not?” it’s expensive trial and error. Something to try again though.

        Email marketing- if you don’t have a list yet you can rent one but that’s expensive, time consuming and prone to much trial and error.

        SEO/Blogging- is a long term, not short term strategy.

        Going through Yell.com (or equivalent) for similar businesses to the one you just built a website for, putting together a web page, email and call script then calling 10-20 of them: very little effort, immediate feedback loop, contacts to add to your customer database. You’re certainly going to learn how to improve your offer even if you get rejected. Plus, for my particular target market nobody minds at all, it’s normal.

  • Gemma

    This is possibly the most interesting post (including subsequent comments) I have ever read on this subject, and it comes at a time when I’m wondering what is the best way to generate more sales myself.

    I’m relatively new to the freelance web development world, and have done most of my work for and with people I already know. While this is great in some respects, I don’t want to be the person who is sitting around waiting for the work overflow from other people I’ve already worked for and doing work that I can’t add to my own portfolio because I’ve only been involved in certain areas nor do I want to be the person my friends, family and acquaintances stop inviting out as I’m bound to ask if anyone wants my services.

    Personally, the idea of cold calling scares the bejesus out of me – it’s something I did as a job to get me through sixth form college and was the first arbitrary job I had after I left college and before I went to uni. It. Was. Sh*t. Not to say I wasn’t successful at it, but as a career it most certainly wasn’t me. The idea that I may actually have to give this a go to stir up my sales does leave me feeling (hoping?) that there must be another way.

    Now, there’s so many arguments for and against the idea of cold calling, but can I ask what the people who choose NOT to cold call do to sell their products and services, especially in an over-saturated market like web design & development? There’s only so long I can sit around waiting for someone to click through 20-odd google search pages, discover my website and have an epiphany that I am clearly some sort of web development demi-god and employ me immediately to build their site…

    (P.S. What is UP with the styling on this page in Firefox?! I can’t click into the name field on the comment form, and I can only click into the comment box from about halfway across the page. Added to that, there’s a rogue avatar situated halfway up the page covering a few words in the content…)

    • http://smallbusinessmarketingsucks.blogspot.com/ John Tabita

      The idea that I may actually have to give this a go to stir up my sales does leave me feeling (hoping?) that there must be another way.”

      Much of the rhetoric against cold-calling comes from people who have their own agenda: “Cold-calling is dead. Cold-calling doesn’t work. You’ll never have to cold-call if you just buy my sales program…” That message certainly appeals to those who are, as you put it, “(hoping?) that there must be another way.”

      Cold-calling is not a magic bullet that will solve all your sales problems. But when combined with a couple other marketing methods, it becomes a powerful tool in your sales arsenal that helps bring in business.

      Getting clients through networking or from people you already know is wonderful, because such a person is most likely ready to buy and probably not looking at multiple vendors. But these sales take a long time to cultivate; whereas, cold-calling has the ability to land clients right now.

      “There’s only so long I can sit around waiting for someone to click through 20-odd google search pages, discover my website and have an epiphany that I am clearly some sort of web development demi-god and employ me immediately to build their site…”

      I couldn’t have said it any better…

      • Gemma

        Thanks John,

        It seems I may have to bite the bullet with this one and at least give it a go. If I never try, I guess I’ll never know. It just seems that many people are vehemently opposed to the idea which made me question what they find to work better. No responses to that so far, which suggests to me that a high percentage of commenters have been employed rather than self-employed.

        I’ll be honest, I refuse to answer withheld numbers on my phone because I know that 99% of the time I’ll end up trapped in hard-sell conversations with a conversion-happy, bonus-hungry goon, but I suppose what I can glean from that is a) Don’t withhold your number unless you want people to think you’re trying to sell them something you probably don’t want and b) Don’t be a goon.

        Thinking about it, it’s not too dissimilar to phoning up a company and asking if any jobs are available, and I’m sure most of us have done that before; I certainly did when I first started in web development.

        Do you have any tips for call scripts at all? Personally speaking, when I worked in call centres previously I tended to shy away from reading word for word, but I think some cliffnotes would certainly be helpful in case someone bites (in both the good and bad sense).

        Thanks again John, really interesting series. Looking forward to the next one.

  • http://smallbusinessmarketingsucks.blogspot.com/ John Tabita

    It just seems that many people are vehemently opposed to the idea which made me question what they find to work better. No responses to that so far …

    The main point of my post is that, if you’re self-employed and what you’re currently doing (if anything) is not bringing in enough business, then consider adding cold-calling to the mix. But, if you have enough business, don’t bother … because it can be brutal.

    … which suggests to me that a high percentage of commenters have been employed rather than self-employed.

    I would say you probably guessed right on that.

    … it’s not too dissimilar to phoning up a company and asking if any jobs are available …

    Yes, it is. In the book The Job Search Solution, he teaches job hunters how to cold-call businesses to get a face-to-face interview (including the scripts to do so).

    Do you have any tips for call scripts at all?

    If enough people are interested, I’ll write a post about the nuts-and-bolts of how to actually do it. But it will only be a brief overview. (Completely covering the topic is beyond the scope of a few blog posts.) I promise to share some training resources to point you in the right direction, either in an upcoming post or in a future comment.