Cold calling has the dubious distinction of being the least-favorite activity of most sales professionals. And no wonder! Cold calling consists of forcing yourself upon people who may not want to speak with you, and who may very well see your call as an excuse to vent their job frustrations. More importantly, it's not unusual for even seasoned professionals to experience conversion rates as low as 1 qualified prospect out of 30 are not unusual. That's a LOT of of work, without much to show for it.
Obviously, if you're involved in cold-calling, it's important to make sure that you do it effectively. With that in mind, you need to know why most cold calling campaigns are ineffective. Here's a poll that gives the common reasons why cold-calling falls flat. Vote for the one that you think is the worst culprit, then click on the link below to get an expert opinion, based on inputs from top sales expert Keith Rosen.
The correct answer is Wrong Attitude.
According to cold-calling uber-guru Keith Rosen, author of Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions, most sales reps (and indeed most sales managers) think about cold calling as a goal-oriented activity.
The goal, of course, is to fill the pipeline with "X" number of prospects, in the hopes of creating as many customers as possible. As a result, sales reps naturally see each conversion of lead to prospect as a "win" and each cold call that ends otherwise as a "loss."
According to Keith, this is a classic case of setting yourself up for failure. The nature of cold calling is that only a small percentage of the people you contact will be potential customers. The majority will be people who simply aren't interested or are not a fit for a variety of reasons.
However, the "win/loss" way of thinking treats that lack of interest as if it were a lack of skill on the part of the sales rep. The sales rep feels as if he or she "lost" even if that lead had absolutely no use whatsoever for the product being sold.
As a consequence, cold-calling becomes an onerous task where the sales rep is almost always "losing." Not surprisingly, reps begin dreading it, avoiding it, and become increasingly less effective when they actually get around to doing it.
The root cause of this deeply flawed "win/loss" thinking is focusing on the goal of converting a lead into a prospect. That focus also makes cold-calling more difficult and ineffective in another important way.
If the sales rep is focused on the result, he or she is, in a sense, "living in the future." The sales rep can't really listen to the potential prospect, because the rep's attention is on an event that may or may not happen in a future-yet-to-be. That makes it extraordinarily difficult to be creative and flexible in responding to what the potential prospect actually says. That requires being "present" in the moment.
Because of this, cold-calling MUST be redefined not as a goal-oriented activity, but as a process. Rather than focusing on the result, the sales rep needs to focus on the potential prospect and on the process of communicating with that prospect to determine if in fact, there's truly a fit.
This shift in thinking immediately makes sales reps more effective because it removes the "sting" of contacting a lead that turns out, for whatever reason, not to be a real prospect. That fact, rather than being a "loss" simply becomes something that the sales rep discovers during the process of cold-calling.
More importantly, treating cold-calling as a process keeps the sales rep focused on finding ways to help potential prospects and customers - and on not wasting the time of those who don't need the help. Paradoxically, focusing on process rather than goals increases the chances that the cold-calling process will uncover true prospects, thereby fulfilling the goals.
An analogy can thus be drawn between cold-calling and athletic events. Top athletes visualize "winning" (the goal) before competing, but when they're actually performing they focus on what's happening right then and there.