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What Cold Calling Means

There’s a lot of confusion about what a cold call is and what a cold call is not. Whenever I write about cold calling I get emails and comments from people who insist the cold calling is dead. A few days ago I even had Jeffrey Gitomer comment to that effect on this post. But I don’t believe Mr. Gitomer means what some people think he means (but who knows, maybe he’ll correct me).

I believe there’s some confusion around the words cold calling, and that confusion is a matter of semantics. We’re using the same words but we mean something different.

When I talk about cold calling, I am talking about calling someone who is not expecting your call in order to initiate a sales conversation. What makes it cold is that they aren’t expecting your call.

Different Meanings

It’s important to understand that when people say they’re opposed to cold calling they are taking about picking up the phone and indiscriminately dialing through a list of numbers without doing any research—and without doing anything to improve your odds of success. This is not a good strategy. It never has been.

In fact, in the days before computers (B.C.), if you were hired to sell, someone would throw a phone book on your desk, tell you that the book was your “leads,” and expect you to dial numbers. This is what some people mean when they say cold calling is dead. But even in the old days smart salespeople knew better than that. They read the business sections of the local papers, local business journals, attended networking events, and did everything possible to gain knowledge, insight, and introductions—anything that would allow them to make a warmer call.

The reason there is so much confusion around the words cold calling is because a lot of people who tell you cold calling his dead mean that you should do everything possible to make a warmer call instead of indiscriminately dialing phone numbers. And they’re right—even though the person on the other end may still not be expecting your call.

But another group of people, I called them the anti-cold calling charlatans, literally mean that you should never pick up the phone and call prospects. They go to far, and many of them offer awful advice. You can almost always spot the anti-cold calling charlatans because they always suggest that sales is a dirty word, that you should feel a sense of shame, and even change your title to disguise the fact that you’re selling. This is criminal negligence as advice given to sales people. Criminal!

When I write that I am an advocate for cold calling, it doesn’t mean that I’m an advocate for indiscriminately dialing numbers without being smart enough to do any research. It doesn’t mean I’m an advocate for not trying to connect with your prospects on LinkedIn. It doesn’t mean that I believe the cold calling is better then asking for a referral and an introduction from a client that already loves you (even though in my experience people that don’t cold call don’t ask for referrals either).

What it does mean is that you are the salesperson. After you’ve done everything you can to make a warmer call, you still need to pick up the phone and dial your dream client. You should also do whatever you can do to improve the likelihood that they say, “yes” in front of that call.


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  1. […] There’s a lot of confusion about what a cold call is and what a cold call is not. Whenever I write about cold calling I get emails and comments from people who insist the cold calling is dead. A fe…  […]

  2. […] Cold calling isn’t evil, it’s just misunderstood.  Still not convinced?  Check out this great post from Anthony @ TheSalesBlog for a great post on “What Cold Calling Means” […]