Cold Calling: Cornerstone of Sales

Reply.io interviewed a diverse group of sales leaders and asked, “Should B2B cold calling be part of the modern tech sales playbook?”

Every respondent acknowledged cold calling has not been replaced. There are just more options and more research that need to be done before the call.

The most emphatic answers included,

  1. “100% — You need to use every vehicle possible.” – Grant Cardone, Founder of GCTV, Grant Cardone Sales University, Cardone Training Technologies.
  2. “It absolutely has to be included. Demand generation is critical and the phone is the most efficient path to connecting with prospects.” – Mike Scher, CEO of FRONTLINE Selling.
  3. “Yes. Cold calls are not dead, there are just more options. The magic happens when a balance is struck between email, cold calls and other avenues to formulate an equation for outbound success.” – Heidi Fortes, CEO of Sales Accelerator.
The days of “Boiler Rooms” may be nearly over, but the highs of a successful cold call are not.

Why Inbound Won’t Replace Cold Calling.

The main argument against cold calling is that inbound marketing is the better technique for today’s internet age. Here are the principles of inbound and why it hasn’t replaced the mighty dial.

Internal Content Marketing 

Create and share interesting content with blog posts and across social media channels. Content isn’t limited to blog posts – videos, graphics, webinars, etc.

What it does: This builds awareness and credibility as a brand. It makes phone conversations and pipeline management easier (sales reps have content to share for different stages of the funnel).

What it doesn’t do: A hard-hitting piece of content with a strong CTA can lead to an increase in trial signups or demo requests, but human interaction will be required at some point in the buying the process.

External Content Marketing 

Join LinkedIn groups, answer Quora questions, etc. Earn media coverage through PR outreach or paid services.

What it does: This builds a following for sales reps and the company. The network effect provides a higher likelihood of being recognized.  

What it doesn’t do: There’s not a way to directly convert through these channels. Being overly salesy will result in a negative reaction.

Intent Analytics and Tracking

Track your prospects through marketing automation analytics and a CRM to better identify intent and timeliness.

What it does: In addition to customer insights, parameters are created to identify purchase intent. A step above assuming every person that downloads a white paper is looking to buy.

What it doesn’t do: The AI and machine learning capabilities of today are making CRMs and analytics more effective, but it’s never 100 percent accurate. Sales reps need to read between the lines and act on the information.

Referral Program

What it does: This is popular amongst cold calling detractors. Earn sales through referral programs and focus on account-based relationship building.

What it doesn’t do: A chicken and egg scenario, startups who are still building awareness probably won’t get many referrals in the beta days. Furthermore, a referral lead still needs the guidance of a sales rep for lasting sale. 

Social Selling is a Tool, Not a Replacement.

The other main argument against cold calling is the importance of social selling. This means using LinkedIn to join relevant groups and warm prospects up with discussions. Or using Twitter to follow prospects and get a feel for their needs and send timely tweets. These are great low-cost tips that should be used, but they don’t replace the sales call and can’t be 100 percent of the playbook.

Cold calling is not replaced by social selling, but it's complemented by it.
Cold calling is not replaced by social selling, but it’s complemented by it.

Cold calling and social selling are often pitted against each other in blog posts and infographics, which is not the right discussion to have. Social tools are great but to avoid the phone all together is a bad strategy.

No one is “Cold Calling” anymore.

The final reason cold calling has become negative is the concept evolved without getting renamed. The idea of “cold calling” as buying a random lead list and hammering out dials with a script is dead. The term “smart calling” or variations aren’t catchy enough to stick.

The real definition of cold calling is making unsolicited sales calls i.e. a call to someone who hasn’t explicitly shown interest. But that doesn’t mean they’re not interested. The sales tech stack has been developed to enhance the ability to cold call, not replace it. For instance, Prospectify provides data enrichment around a prospect so you know key indicators like the number of employees, finance round and tech stack. This paired with LinkedIn and social media help sales teams start conversations.

Prospectify also provides real-time phone and email verification, another negative aspect of traditional cold calling is sales reps too often spend time dialing wrong numbers and getting rejected by gatekeepers. Data accuracy is achievable now so sales team can spend time crafting a customized strategy for each lead.  

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