By Alyssa Gregory

Is Cold Calling a Dead Marketing Method?

By Alyssa Gregory

Cold CallsAsk me that question, and my knee-jerk reaction is to say, “Yes, definitely.” With busy schedules and the likelihood of getting voicemail, the Do-Not-Call Registry, and the simple fact that I am not a phone person, I can’t see myself ever using cold calling as a way to find potential clients.

But, having said that, I will admit there may be value in cold calling, if:

  • You can identify a very specific target audience and can reach them via phone (after verifying they are not listed on the Do-Not-Call Registry).
  • You have time and interest in making a lot of calls.
  • You have a plan for before, during and after making the calls.
  • You’re confident, friendly and conversational.
  • You’re ready to deal with rejection.
  • It’s not your only means of marketing but a part of a larger plan.

If you’re one of the rare people on the planet who enjoy calling strangers to pitch a product or service, and generally fit the criteria listed above, then cold calling may be a beneficial marketing tool for you.

Cold Calling Tips

Here are some cold calling tips to get you started:

  • Identify Clear Goals – Before you make any calls, you need to pinpoint exactly what your aim is so you can get your message out quickly before you lose the interest of the other person.
  • Have a Script – While you will want to avoid sounding like a recording and inject some spontaneity in the call, you should have an outline of what you want to say to be sure to hit all of the main points during the call.
  • Start with Existing Relationships – Yes, cold calling usually means calling strangers, but you can also use the same technique to check-in with people you have networked with in the past.
  • Do Your Research – It’s not enough to have a list of phone numbers. Take the time to research each company you plan to call and personalize your script accordingly.
  • Smile – Your entire voice and tone changes when you smile, so take a minute to get yourself in the right frame of mind before dialing.
  • Create a Follow-Up Plan – During the call, aim to set up a time for another meeting, tell the potential client you will be sending them more information or ask if it’s okay for you to call back later in the week. Don’t wait for them to make the next move; be proactive.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice – Just like with public speaking, the more you practice the more comfortable you will be and the more success you will have. Do a few test runs, record yourself and critique your presentation.

Do you ever use cold calling to drum up new business? Have you been successful?

Image credit: Ivan Prole

  • The Do Not Call registry only applies to business-to-consumer calls, business-to-business callers don’t have to worry about it.

  • And if you are calling consumers, simply checking the national DNC registry is not nearly enough. Basically, don’t do it yourself, because you’ll never be able to manage all the regulations.

    At least 40 of the 50 US states have their own separate telemarketing regulation and own separate state do-not-call registries, which have to be separately checked.

    You are also required to maintain your own company do-not-call registry, and there’s a whole slew of national and state-specific regulations about how that has to be maintained and made available to consumers and to the governments.

    Business-to-consumer telemarketing has been regulated to near non-existance; the only companies still doing it are fundraisers, political calls (since the federal regulations exclude them from the rules), and businesses calling consumers they have a relationship with, like your cable company calling you to sell you new services. Existing business relationships are excluded from the rules as well.

  • From reading, “I can’t see myself ever using cold calling”, I take it that the author might not have proper experience to give advice on the matter of cold calling. It would have been better for someone who worked as a telemarketer to write this post.

    Cold calling can be exciting and works great if you have good news to bring. When I worked in the domain name industry, I used to call people to try to buy their domain names on behalf of other people. That was pretty much bearing good news and it was exciting.

    I’ve also called organizations to collect info for an online directory, and those calls were fairly well received.

    A long time ago, I worked briefly as a telemarketer, setting up appointments. That was an uncomfortable job. The leads I was handed to work were pretty bad in my opinion.

    If I was going to write this post, I would say the most important thing is to have a really good list of phone numbers to call (along with names if possible). Good quality leads are what you need. Then, I agree that having a script well rehearsed can be helpful. Next, try to laugh and brush it off after ending a call that hurt your feelings. It can be an emotional game and a numbers game.

  • scollins77

    I would never cold call to drum up business, as I hate it when it is done to me. Advertising and SEO agencies are the worst offenders, though I do get letters, email and phone calls from other web design companies, who generally haven’t bothered to check whether or not I do have a website!
    One web design company who recently called me were so obviously following a script – they weren’t paying the slightest attention to my answers. Did I have a web site? Well, yes I do – I’m a web developer myself. Great. Has it recently been redesigned? Yes it had, just in the past month. Great. They had a fantastic deal for me, to redesign it again! Err… hello? I agreed to receive the email outlining their special deal, curious to see what they would try to offer me since they didn’t seem inclined to pay attention to my answers. The deal was really aimed at people who didn’t have a web presence at all – registration of a domain name, hosting and a 5 page templated site.

  • Finding a good job can be pretty troublesome. Especially when you have high expectations.

    Here are some tips that helped me land the job of my dreams:

    * Plan out your CV, if you’ve never done a CV before, this is the time to learn.
    * Think about all the jobs you are qualified for. This may lead to discovering additional jobs you could land.
    * Look for jobs in every possible source : internet, newspaper, radio and other media. Ask your friends that have similar jobs if there may be an opening in their company.
    * Don’t just send the resume by email and wait for an answer. You need to call them and have them confirm the job opening and receiving your resume.

    Finding a job is pretty much a job in itself and it’s all about how well can you market your abilities.

  • PCSpectra

    Interesting article. Cold calling scares the hell out of me. LOL

    I have always relied on my signature in message forums to drive potential clients to me. Needless to say, it’s rarely enough, and this approach typically attracts low budget, but lots of requirements type projects.

    Just curious, but what other marketing methods are there for individuals or small agencies on a show string budget?

  • I’ve been out of the cold calling loop for a few years, however prior to that I was heavily involved in both large telemarketing and door-to-do sales operations. Once you’ve covered yourself on all the regulations that been commented on by Dan, this sort of promotional activity can still be quite valuable. To quantify this, results my teams were achieving where: for every 100 leads, we’d manage to speak with around 70 people, for those 70, 10 would result in a sale. I’m yet to determine many prospecting channels that yield a 10%-15% conversion rate. That said, telemarketing still has one of the highest cost per acquisition rates in the direct marketing industry. In terms of what they were selling, for the most part, it was power and natural gas, and banking products. Quality and relevance of the phone numbers your calling, having something to offer, and people making calls who know what they are doing is paramount to this. If you called random numbers, by people who are not sales focused, you’ll get nowhere.

  • Roadrunner27

    I personally think Cold Calling is invasive and the least personable of a sale. A true sale is where a company finds a customer looking for a service/product and can provide that service/product. For instance, I used Qoptimize.com for Web Design and SEO services (which I had great results from). Had Qoptimize.com cold called me at a point when I wasn’t “searching”, I would have felt pressured. So, yes Cold Calling is a dead method.

  • sbpickering

    Yep, cold-calling consumers is a complex game these days, and to be avoided until you understand the rules.

    Calling businesses, on the other hand, is less regulated and easier to accomplish during business hours.

    The key to cold-calling is to offer the recipient something of value to them so that you can start a business relationship. A quality free e-book/report, 30 minutes of consulting, a free link from your web site to theirs, an SEO analysis, etc. are easy things to offer and provide. Use the offer to break the ice with a potential client and plan for a series of follow-ups if the business is qualified for your product/service.

    If you forget about using the telephone to sell, and use it to connect with people, cold-calling becomes much more productive. Offer people a “purple cow” (apologies to Seth Godin), and people will always be interested in speaking to you.

  • Laszlow

    There are hunters. And there are farmers.

    Farmers will never understand hunting. Period.

  • Cold calling isnt dead but it sucks. Ive been a hunter & ive been a farmer. Hunting (cold-calling, etc.) can get you a new deal quickly if you know what you are doing but its a much harder sale. The lead doesnt know you , doesnt trust you and by default will be resistant. unless youre a sales Jedi this is a difficult path. I started my career as a hunter and am now a dedicated farmer. Other than the occasional direct mail piece my business is completely generated by referrals and past customers. you have to do whatever it takes to build your business but once youve got a client base, nurturing those people will have a greater return than always looking for new business.

  • Cold Calling

    The greater issue here is the horrible inefficiency of cold calling. Even if it works for you – or, more accurately, you *think* it works for you, it takes up tremendous amounts of time that would be far better spent in front of qualified prospects who are ready to buy. Therefore it’s more efficient to generate leads by other methods than cold calling.

Get the latest in Entrepreneur, once a week, for free.