Should you stop cold calling?

Since digital tools became more available (which seems to increase every year), there’s been a constant debate around sales methodology for first approach and nurturing. In short: is cold calling dead? Should you stop cold calling? Should you replace cold calling with e-mailing, or should it be a mix?

Bryan Kreuzberger of Breakthrough EMail sent a graphic in his email marketing recently that got me thinking about this. In 2005, his sales team had this breakdown:

  • 95% of the time was cold calling
  • 5% of the time was e-mailing

In 2016, what do you think the numbers are?

  • 95% of the time is e-mailing
  • 5% of the time is cold calling

So far this is pretty logical. E-mail was common in 2005 (GMail debuted on April 1, 2004, for example), but it was still way newer than the telephone. Sales reps had been cold calling for generations. Change is hard, and it wasn’t going to change overnight.

But 11 years later, the numbers for cold calling and email are flipped. What’s happening there and what does it mean for cold calling?

Stop cold calling: Ease and popularity of e-mailing

First, let’s talk about the numbers. By the end of 2016, an average of 116.4 billion business emails will be sent per day globally. By 2019, that’s expected to be almost 130B per day — but in late 2012, it was only about 89B per day. As terrifying as this may be to admit, business email is growing rapidly. That’s only logical: most of the western business world uses it, and it’s often the fastest way to reach a colleague or contact, especially in another geographic area.

Stop cold calling: Some of the main benefits of e-mailing prospects

Here are a few that I’ve found:

  • Testing and iteration: You can test e-mails over and over in different ways. It’s nearly impossible to do that with calls, even if you have a cold calling script.
  • Scale: Hundreds of calls takes forever. It can be depressing to do cold calling for 10 hours a day. With e-mail, you can send hundreds in a second.
  • Your day: If you’re sick or tired or busy with logistics/payroll/close-out, your cold calling quality goes way down (or you don’t do it). Again, you can send 100s of emails with one click. It’s not time-consuming.
  • Data: Every major email service or CRM has analytics and data built in. You can know exactly what e-mails work, when to send them, who is opening them, etc. It’s real data. A lot of the “data” associated with cold calling is mostly just the salesperson’s hunch.
  • One voice: With email templates you can outsource or spread email prospecting among several people and still speak with one voice (same message). You can’t do that with cold calling.

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So should you stop cold calling?

This is a tricky question. The main answer is “no.” You need cold calling in your arsenal because sometimes it does work and is effective. But the overall picture is more nuanced now.

This is I would recommend:

  • Spend 10% of your prospecting time on cold calling (especially your VIP leads where you cannot risk an uninformed NO by email)
  • The other 90% should be e-mailing or other sales functions/tasks
  • Before cold calling, do the research you would normally do on a lead/prospect
  • And before you e-mail, consider segmenting your contacts into their positions or industries so that you can try different e-mail types on them (again based on research)
  • When you get a lead/interest from e-mail, move it over to phone — schedule a time to talk or meet to discuss more about your solution
  • With the support of email you get your phone powerful again

The big intersection point for email, social media, and digital tools is this: it’s easier than ever to find out who your targets are, but it can feel harder than ever to reach them. E-mail beats algorithms. If you post something on LinkedIn and have 1,000 contacts, maybe 50 people see it. But if you send an e-mail to 1,000 people, you know all 1,000 will at least receive it in their inbox. Right there is an advantage over cold calling and social media.

But relationships aren’t built just through e-mail, and sales is about relationships. You will need a mix of calling (cold calling and relationship-building) and e-mail (and other digital tools).

What do you think? Have you stopped cold calling?

 

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