Can't Cold Call? You're No Sales Pro!

Last Updated Jul 30, 2009 5:27 PM EDT

Every time I post something about cold calling, somebody gets on my case for encouraging readers to cold call, when there are "better" ways of building a pipeline. However, when you deconstruct these "better" ways, they're virtually identical to cold-calling except (maybe) for the first sentence that comes out of your mouth.

These "cold calling sucks" theories all tout some form of demand creation, like advertising, branding, websites, word-of-mouth, referrals, web sites, direct mail, email, etc., etc., etc. The idea is that if you create enough demand, the prospect will call you, thereby making it unnecessary to cold call. And because the prospect is already interested, so everything is enormously easier.


Just because a prospect has shown interest doesn't mean you don't have to sell. Look, either they need to be sold or they're just calling to make an order. If it's the former, you've still got selling to do. If it's the latter, then why are you getting a commission?

I think the reason that people come up with these "no more cold calling" theories is that they are really, really bad at cold calling. They think that when you cold call, you're supposed to be pitching, but when you're receiving a call from a customer you're doing something else.

But anyone who's ever cold called knows that the second you start pitching, the call is over. People just hang up on you. To win at cold calling, your attitude, and even the words that you say, needs to be pretty much the same as when somebody is calling you.

The only thing difference is that, if the demand creation method was a referral, you might not have to introduce yourself. Might not.

In any case, chances are that even if the prospect calls you as the result of a referral, they're probably going to get your voice mail anyway, in which case you're going to have to call them back. So it's pretty much a cold call again, albeit with some demand creation to grease the wheels.

And even if the customer calls you and gets through the first time, you'll still need to articulate your value proposition and move the sale forward. Just like when you call them out of the blue.

Here's what I think. If you're not willing to pick up the phone and put yourself on the line to sell to a complete stranger, you don't have the right to call yourself a sales professional.

Let me use an analogy to explain why I think that's true.

Imagine an intelligent, beautiful woman. A girlfriend introduces her to some guy. Do you think that intelligent, beautiful woman going to be interested if he's the kind of guy who'd be afraid to approach her on his own? I don't think so. And if he's that kind of guy, what are the chances, when she starts talking to him, that he'll start babbling? Pretty high, I'd guess.

Same thing is true in sales.

If you don't have the guts to cold call, you don't have the chops to field a referral.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for networking, social networks, word-of-mouth, referrals and even (gasp!) some advertising now and then. Demand creation is fine by me.

In fact, your lead generation efforts should definitely reflect the most effective way for you to spend your time. Heck, if your situation is such that your "pipeline building time" is best spent screwing around with Twitter or calling your cousin to ask if he knows any CEOs, so be it.

But don't try to tell me that cold calling is a useless skill or will ever be obsolete.

Because that's total BS.