Once upon a time, before laptops, tablets and smartphones atomized our desks, file cabinets and conference rooms, an enterprising salesperson could simply walk into a corporate office, ask for, say, the marketing director—and actually be led back to meet them.
With today’s “offices” often being carried in pockets and purses, the days of the cold call, both in person and on the phone, seem to be over. An infographic created by Sales for Life lists reasons like poor conversion, where only 1% of cold calls actually convert into appointments; the upcoming obsolescence of close to one million sales professionals who will lose their jobs to self-service e-commerce; and a dismal response rate: 9 out of 10 top-level B2B decision makers simply do not respond to cold outreach anymore.
What will replace cold calling? As one of the characters in Deadpool bragged, “Yo, I’m like a boss in the world of guerrilla journalism, and I got mad connects with the peeps behind the curtains!”
Translation for those over 40: Networking pays off—but it’s a lot more personal today, almost like “networking without networking.” And, as Ken Cook noted in the Philadelphia Business Journal, “Think about the successful people you know. They don’t network. They don’t sell. They have relationships—genuine connections with people.”
“Traditional networking misses the most important element in the equation—the person to whom we are connecting,” Cook continues. “Individuals are not numbers in a sales equation. People know the difference between a genuine connection with someone, and individuals who are trying to connect for their own benefit. Get to know the person, his or her interests,, dreams, challenges and vulnerabilities. As you get to know these things about someone, you build trust. From trust comes opportunity.”
Ben Firman, co-founder and managing director at 80-20 Growth Corporation, isn’t ready to hang up on cold calling just yet. In a recent article in the Globe and Mail, Firman writes, “If cold calling is the act of picking up a telephone and asking for a nameless person that holds a generic job title, in order to deliver a canned product pitch, then I would argue that cold calling was not alive in the first place.”
“Skilled cold callers immediately acknowledge that their call wasn’t expected and respectfully deliver a line that catches their prospect’s attention.,” Firman writes. “This invariably earns them another 60 seconds to deliver a succinct and carefully crafted pitch that provides a new perspective on a relevant problem. They are immediately delivering insight, and therefore value. The best salespeople understand the value of every minute of their work day, and they focus on connecting with prospects that meet a predetermined ideal profile.”