Prospecting and The Myth of Mutual Exclusivity

Yesterday’s post, The Truth About Why Salespeople Don’t Like Cold Calling, generated all kinds of feedback, mainly falling into two camps. The first camp is the “cold calling is effective” camp, all of whom have had enormous success using cold calling to gain clients. The second camp is the “cold calling is a waste of time” camp (many of whom expressed how ineffective it is by describing how difficult it is).

This group made some comments which beg a response, requiring a much longer post which I will write this weekend.

The comments also brought up another myth that needs dispelled.

Prospecting and the Myth of Mutual Exclusivity

Mutual exclusivity means that I can have either A, or I can have B, but I cannot have both A and B. The myth of mutual exclusivity in prospecting goes like this: “If I use inbound marketing methods, then I can’t use cold calling methods.” Oddly enough, some comments made the opposite point: “I use cold calling, not inbound marketing.”

The problem with believing that any method is mutually exclusive is that it believes one choice is always the right choice. As I have written here before, there is no right or wrong way; there are effective choices and ineffective choices.

For some prospects, the best way in is through cold calling. For other prospects, a referral is the very best way in. Other prospects will be most easily engaged at a trade show. Some will attend a lot of networking events. Many will visit your website, and a few will fill out your contact form, expecting you to call.

Using a single method is to ignore the fact that are many ways to prospect and gain entry. I liken the choice of a single method to a weight lifter that only does bicep curls with their right arm. When asked about its effectiveness, they might say: “You don’t think this is getting results?! Look at this beast!” The results are very clear, but not what they might otherwise be.


There are many methods for prospecting and they are all simply tools. One will work best for some prospects, while another will work better for other prospects. A professional salesperson needs to have a full and complete array of tools, so that they can make the best choice as circumstances dictate. Cold calling is not the only tool.

If you have a referral who will make the call and introduce you to a prospect, by all means use that method to enter. It’s a lot easier and a lot warmer. But if you have no way in, then cold calling may be the most effective choice. Waiting for a prospect you want to visit your website and ask for your white paper is simply not a choice; waiting is simply not an effective sales activity. Use the following question to improve your prospecting in 2010.


1. What prospecting methods are you currently using? Are you using one to the exclusion of all others?

2. What percentage of the time do you use each method?

3. How effective is each method? Have you varied your approach with clients to determine whether or not you are approaching them in the best possible manner?

4. What other prospecting methods are available to you? What other prospecting methods are being used by your peer group? Your competitors?

5. Are you waiting for some prospects? How long will you wait before you act?

6. How can you be more effective by having more choices?

For more on increasing your sales effectiveness, subscribe to the RSS Feed for The Sales Blog and my Email Newsletter. Follow me on Twitter, connect to me on LinkedIn, or friend me on Facebook. If I can help you or your sales organization, check out my coaching and consulting firm, B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, email me, or call me at (614) 212-4279.



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  • Steven Woods

    it’s absolutely accurate that there is no need to use either one or the other. The combination of inbound with cold calling, however, doesn’t need to restrict who you call to just the people who submit the form. A good marketing team should provide a sales team with a lot of insights into which individuals and which companies are showing light interest (even if they have not yet raised their hand and said “call me”), and allow the sales team to do much more than focused (and therefore effective) cold calling.

    Here’s a (somewhat technical) piece on building a “traffic light” dashboard in for each rep’s territory showing interest –

    With marketing providing those insights (based on inbound marketing) and sales focusing on interested people and companies, the combination can be much more effective.

  • Business Communication

    At some point, we try all the tricks in the book if we want to survive and grow. We can’t do the same thing and expect different results. I’m excited about Twitter and social networking reach for new clients. That’s cold but a lot more cozy!

  • John

    I absolutely agree. I’m always preaching about building and online marketing ecosytem that includes inbound, outbound, online, and offline marketing tactics. In most cases, just using one or the other will not yield results.

    – John

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