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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistFri, Jun 22, 2018 15 min read

Is Cold Calling Dead?

Subsitutes for Cold Calling

I’m Not Sure Everyone Understands The Question

Subsitutes for Cold CallingEarlier in the week, David Cancel, CEO of Drift, posted a question on LinkedIn: “Is cold calling dead?” When was the last time you bought anything from an inbound cold call? The response was very interesting. It seemed like most of the sales pros who read it were almost insulted by the idea, while a few others seemed to agree in a weak and noncommittal kind of way.

While I love the conversation starter (nice job, David!), I’m not sure everyone else was answering his question. For all of those who stated how important the phone is to building relationships with prospects, yes, we get that.

But perhaps the question needs to be asked differently: “Who answers the phone, in their office, when you’re not expecting the call or don’t recognize the phone number?”

How effective, when compared to other tactics, is the cold call? I think that’s the question.

It’s not about who bought anything from a first-time caller, and it’s not about salespeople who have successfully called prospects and made a sale. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut some of the time.

The real challenge for people in marketing and sales is this technique is getting less and less effective at driving revenue growth. David doesn’t have a phone in his office. I don’t have a phone in my office. Many other CEOs don’t have phones, either. Everyone would have to admit that getting through to your target prospect with the phone is harder than it was five years ago, and it’s getting harder every day.

This technique isn’t getting more effective. It’s getting less effective, and we need some alternatives. Without any further ado, here are some better alternatives to straight-up cold calling.

Targeted Social Connects With Educational Content

OK, social media is also way more inefficient than it’s ever been, but there are still a few advantages associated with using social media to drive new connections (the same goal as the cold call).

First, finding your perfect prospect couldn’t be easier. You can search companies, titles and people’s names, and get 100% confirmation that the person you’re looking for is at that company and in the right role. You can even create a matrix of other contacts at that company who might be secondary or tertiary contact opportunities.

Second, you can get in touch with them via social media networks. There’s no question about whether they have an account or not, like there is with the phone.

While they might not be monitoring these accounts actively (I don’t always keep an eye on who is trying to connect with me via LinkedIn or Facebook Messenger), it’s still better than a phone call.

Third, if you do your homework, you can get to know these people pretty well via social networks and tailor your outreach accordingly.

Cold callers are going to argue you can do that homework and still make a call. Yes, you can. But at least you did the homework and tried to get to know your target prospect, and that is the lesson here. Any personal outreach is going to be more effective than non-personal outreach, which everyone seems intent on continuing.

With the right personalized and strategically designed message package, you can make many more connections in much less time using social media than you can banging the phones and dialing for dollars. But you need certain assets, scripts, tested messages and well-designed connect/outreach campaigns. We’ll discuss some of these in more detail in the next couple of sections.

You also need tight alignment with marketing and sales, which is something we’ve been writing about for the past few years.

Without an aligned sales and marketing team, this execution looks amateurish at best and completely silly at worst. You have marketing sending one message, while sales is attempting to reach out and connect with another message (or with nothing).

Make sure both sales and marketing are on the same page and have designed connect tactics for targeting, connecting and engaging with prospects on social media.

Disruptive Messaging Through Email

Email marketing might be as beaten up as cold calling. The open rates have dropped dramatically, and the click-through rates are even worse. We even decided years ago to stop trying to improve the open and click-through rates, as other tactics delivered better results for the effort invested.

But email marketing still services a purpose and provides a wonderfully efficient way to get in front of a large number of people with little effort. You just have to start doing it more strategically.

We’ve all received 100 crappy emails that get deleted in under a second, but we’ve also all received that one simple email that “spoke to you.” It included a message or subject line that cut through the clutter, got your attention and held it long enough for you to read the email, consider the offer and perhaps act on it.

That is the goal of email, and we can all do a much better job making sure all of our email marketing works and delivers like the one example I just described.

This is going to require that someone (in marketing) thinks through that initial outreach email message. What do you need to say to disrupt the target prospect’s status quo, to emotionally connect with them, to tell them a compelling story, and to drive connection and engagement?

Pay attention here, because this is important. This does not mean asking for five minutes of their time, asking for an appointment, asking them to schedule an appointment with you, asking if they need what youre selling or asking if they want to see your demo.

It means telling them a story. The best marketers and salespeople are storytellers. Tell a story in 10 seconds that gets your prospect’s attention and gets them to want to hear more. Do that and you’re in! New connection, new prospect (potentially) and maybe even a new sales opportunity. Do that well and you end up with a 30% engagement rate versus a sub-10% engagement rate on cold calls.

3D Or Lumpy Direct Mail Campaigns

Yes, direct mail is making a bit of a comeback, but we’re not talking about postcards or letters in this case. We’re talking about well-thought-out, disruptive package campaigns.

Again, I read a post on LinkedIn about a guy who sends expensive Darth Vader masks and gets a great response, but then he found out that some bigger prospects have a policy about accepting gifts over a certain value.

We send a $1.19 jar of Marshmallow Fluff to all of our prospects. There’s an entire collection of great ideas like this. Ideas that, for a minimal investment, do an excellent job of disrupting, connecting with and engaging people who don’t know you. Again, they do this at a much better rate and for less money than the cold call.

Targeted Ads Via Social Platforms

While using social media to generate leads has become more complicated, you can use targeted messaging via ads and sponsored updates to target highly specific individuals at specific company prospects.

Terminus does a wonderful job of servicing up targeted ads to key contacts at specific companies, so that when you do reach out via email or with social connect contacts, there’s some context. This recognition and awareness does improve overall program performance.

You can’t send packages or serve up ads and not expect to have to follow-up. Now your calling program isn’t cold but rather warm, and the connect and engagement metrics associated with calling programs are typically doubled. When the calling program is designed to engage (as opposed to sell) and to provide value, like a special content offer or exclusive invite, you can drive connect and engagement metrics even higher.

All you need is a little strategy, planning, creative thinking and messaging to wrap up a number of tactics into an orchestrated campaign.

Text Messaging

We still don’t see a lot of businesses using text messaging to connect with prospects, but if you look at your own purchase behavior, texting is quickly becoming one of the best ways to get in touch, move buying cycles and drive an accelerated revenue model.

Your prospects are connected to their smartphones, and texts are direct messages right to targeted prospects and right to their eyeballs. It’s likely the most direct and efficient way to connect with anyone.

Prospects are getting more and more comfortable using text to get answers to questions and to interact with potential partners.

This trend is going to continue. How happy are you when you get a text from the restaurant telling you your table is ready, or a text from your plumber telling you your hot water heater is fixed or a text from your landscaper telling you he’s cutting the grass today?

You don’t get texts like this? The you have the wrong service providers. This is how business is going to get done, and you’re going to love it. You can start working texts into your connect and engagement campaigns, too — you just have to do it thoughtfully.

Don’t buy numbers and cold text people. Instead, get your targets to opt-in and provide you their number for a good reason. Special offers and invitations to events are a perfect and appropriate reason to ask for a cell number. Another is a call or meeting confirmation. People are not always in front of their computer, but they’re always with their phone.

Once you have the number, you can drive additional value by including links to content, sharing interesting data, making an introduction based on a comment or simply keeping your prospect updated on progress you might be making on one of their requests. It all provides additional value-added touch points that are personal and highly efficient. 

These alternatives to cold calling all better align with the buyer journey your prospects are executing today.

If you stop to think, most of these suggestions are aligned with how people want to buy products and services today. Amazon, Zappos and other online retail experiences are starting to create expectations that need to be mirrored in the business experience, and you should be strategically building for them.

This isn’t going to slow down; it’s going to speed up. Start working today to create the buyer experience you want for tomorrow. The sooner you start, the better positioned you’ll be to outflank your competitors, steal their customers, and drive revenue up and to the right. 

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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.