From the 1950s onward, media pundits have predicted the death of radio. Broadcast television soon followed as a medium about to enter obsolescence. The hard copy book was supposed to be extinct by now. What the future may hold is open for debate but these forms of communication are still hanging on. The business world is likewise confronted with new modes of sales and marketing. Will they supplant current methods or simply complement them? In no area of exchange is this question more significant than it is with the practice of cold calling. Is it still an effective tool of salesmanship?
Neither Loved Nor Mourned
The truth is that few sales professionals would weep over the passing of cold calling. Even the most extroverted and successful would rather gather prospects by other means. It is what many managers would consider a necessary evil, a talent for which they look when assembling a sales and marketing team. Should this tried-and-true practice give way to the technological superiority of e-commerce, the profile of a sales force could change substantially.
That forecast may indeed come to fruition. For years, cold calling was the only game in town, the single best way to find new customers. In a sense, the advent of the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system renders cold calling superfluous. In the CRM model, the company has multiple ways in which to familiarize a prospective consumer with the product or service offered. By integrating individual prospect data with that of current customers, along with analytics and business forecasts, CRM systems convey optimal strategies for attracting and retaining new clients. Much of the interaction is online.
CRM systems get prospects comfortable with a business before any personal contact is initiated. By contrast, a cold call is often the first impression a prospect will have about a given enterprise. While the best callers can put their subjects at ease, even they understand that the sales pressure is at its most naked over the phone. At the same time, a large number of prospective purchasers appreciate talking to a live person about their product as opposed to emailing questions or filling out contact forms. These facts beg the question: should cold calling continue with certain modifications?
Under a CRM regime, cold calling can conceivably find a place. In prior decades, the wide-net strategy was employed with some success, e.g. call 100 people to get to the one who says yes. This is no longer profitable: it consumes valuable time and that yes is not inevitable anymore. Futhermore, caller ID filters out unwanted (or, at least, unanticipated) incoming calls. Adopting CRM information to target only the most likely customers provides greater efficiency and less discouragement to sales callers.
The great length information technology professionals will go to eliminate “bots” from their contact lists demonstrates the desire for authentic human interaction. This indicates the long-term viability of cold calling as a sales and marketing channel. That said, those utilizing this measure do well to adapt to new technologies and cultural expectations.
Writer, reader, husband, father, triathlete, and clearly I drink too much coffee.