Why cold calling is the worst form of business development

There’s a reason that nearly everyone hates cold calling – it is the fastest way to alienate people against your business.

  • 18 July 2019
  • Dave Holloway
  • Insight

Let’s be totally honest, cold calling sucks. I mean, it really sucks. I can’t think of a single normal person that doesn’t hate doing it, I know I certainly do (if I can be classed as normal). Even the thought of picking up that phone makes me want to find something else to do. Literally, anything else.

You could probably tell when it was a cold calling day (back when we still used to believe it could work), because my desk would be immaculate.

I know I’m not alone in adopting those kinds of diversion tactics. There’s a reason we procrastinate about it and it’s not just to do with a lack of skill in handling a sales conversation. In fact, after more than 13 years running a business I’d like to think I am a pretty capable salesperson and I’m sure most others are the same. No, the reason we hate making cold calls is that we know that the person we are about to ring hates getting them. Why? Because we all hate getting them.

Yes, the cold calling die-hards will argue that it’s just a numbers game. Dial enough numbers with a good enough prospect list and those leads will start flowing like Prosecco on a hen-do. That may well be true, but what about stopping to think about the damage such an approach is making to the reputation of your business.

Evidence shows it can take up to 17 calls just to connect with the target person at an organisation. Seventeen! Not only is that a staggering amount of wasted call time, but what is the impact of the 16 unsuccessful calls you had to make before getting through?

16 times you’ve probably had to speak to a colleague or gatekeeper of the prospect and 16 times the person you spoke too has probably moaned to everyone in the vicinity about being pestered by Company XYZ again! Is that really the type of conversation that you want other people to be having about your business? It is certainly not the one I want them to be having about mine.

But what other methods are available to strike up a proper conversation with someone who doesn’t know you? The supposed power of cold calling over other outbound methods like e-marketing and direct mail is the fact that you get to have human-to-human contact. Well, that is all well and good, if you live in an imaginary world where no-one has any real work to do and prospects are all too willing to chew the fat with any salesperson who happens to pick up the phone.

But for people who prefer to deal with reality, the human-to-human side of cold-calling is not good quality. Even when you do get through and manage to have a conversation with a prospect they generally want to get you off the phone as quickly as possible. They may even agree to a meeting, but you can be pretty sure that more often than not they will be regretting it and dreaming up reasons to cancel as soon as you put the phone down.

Interrupting someone is decidedly not the way to build a positive relationship with a cold prospect. That requires time, effort and most importantly – genuine respect.

That’s why for a long-time, I had no idea about how to successfully contact a cold prospect. I knew cold-calling didn’t feel right and email marketing was becoming increasingly ineffective (and thanks to GDPR, contacting an actual person cold is technically illegal).

I am still a firm believer that great quality, highly targeted direct mail can be an excellent way to approach a prospect. However, it is expensive and incredibly hard to measure. You never knew for sure whether it had reached the right person, or had been binned by the receptionist within seconds of arrival. Because of that, there was always a nagging hesitation to push the button on mail campaigns.

Social media always promised big things, but there is so much noise and such a scarcity of quality content. Increasingly it has become the domain of spammers looking for a quick win by firing out generic messages to anyone they connect with. I’m sure we would all welcome an influx of leads without having to put in any real effort, but sadly all that does is push people further away from your business. It was always going to take something special to get the best out of social.

So, that left options dry. Until we discovered the techniques that are now documented in Wonder Leads. Not only have we solved the problem of interrupting prospects when they aren’t ready and building a positive relationship, but we’ve seen reach, response, and B2B lead generation results that are simply unheard of. With a lead generation rate 18x more effective than cold-calling, it’s first and foremost a business development approach that actually works. But a pretty big second, it means I will never have to make another cold call again. Amen to that.