I long ago gave up on trying to help people understand the superiority of cold calling over any other form of cold outreach. Several years back, the proponents of a “social only” approach to prospecting were certain that they had replaced cold outreach, particularly the barbaric practice of picking up the phone and calling a complete stranger. They proclaimed that the cold call was dead and that anyone who supported such a cruel approach to starting a conversation should be, in today’s parlance, “canceled.”
Fortunately, those of us who care about the truth don’t easily cave to bad ideas, zeitgeist or not. Along with a very small group of friends, I talked down social selling, in large part because it replaced chemistry with alchemy: the promise was too great to be believed. Once you’ve had real sales experience, it’s easy to dismiss “get rich quick” schemes. Like trainers who promise that you can “get fit in five minutes a day,” the social sellers insisted that adherents could acquire meetings with their dream clients without having to do any more than respond to their tweets, comment on their LinkedIn posts, and wait for the money tree to grow.
The New Alchemists
When the social selling concept died, no one even noticed, though a new group of alchemists now pushes email as the new hope for generating phone-free meetings. But it’s just as illusory: according to McKinsey’s recent study on cold calling, in a sample of 40,000 deals, “top performers favored cold calls over cold email.” They made “82 percent more cold calls than low performers” and sent “26 percent fewer unsolicited emails.”
My friend Chris Beall, the CEO at ConnectAndSell, tagged me in his LinkedIn post about that study. I replied with the following quote from the indomitable Richard Winters: “How do I feel about being rescued by Patton? Well, I’d feel pretty peachy, except for one thing. We didn’t need to be f-ing rescued by Patton! Got that?” Winters was the commander of the 101st Airborne’s E-Company, the Bloody Bastards of Bastogne. When Patton showed up, his company was out of food, had little to no gear, and was literally down to a single bullet per soldier.
The research is valuable, but no serious person responsible for helping salespeople improve their results has ever believed otherwise. No one who works with sales organizations and salespeople every day needs an official study to know that cold calling is much more effective than any other medium. You can see it in the results.
It is frustrating to see how many salespeople and sales organizations use an email-first, email-only approach to prospecting. What’s worse is a fully automated approach to prospecting, especially when it’s used to eliminate human beings from the process altogether. This automation has found its way into LinkedIn, turning the best social site for salespeople into spam central. Now many people will refuse to connect there at all, knowing that the non-person on the other end will probably straight pitch them for a meeting 14 milliseconds after they accept.
Why would you choose a sales medium where you send a message and wait hours or days for your prospective client to tell you they’re not interested? Why would you ever start a conversation with a platform that features a one-click “No thank you, but I am not interested” response? Maybe the rejection stings a little less when you don’t actually hear the word “no,” but that’s a terrible reason for giving up the proven results of synchronous selling.
On a podcast I did with my friend Jeb Blount, he told me a story about a salesperson who started their prospecting sequence with eight weeks of cold emails, one every week. That spammer probably believed they were “warming up” the client to avoid having to make a cold call, but I very much doubt that two months of spam will produce a warm reception, let alone a meeting request.
What’s worse than the eight emails is the eight weeks that passed before the salesperson picked up the phone and called their prospective clients. They had no way to recover that wasted time, and no way to catch up with their competitor dialed the client and scheduled a meeting in a single week—instead of nine.
The Problem with Email
The first challenge with using email to acquire meetings is that your prospective client has experienced so many automated sequences that they’ll assume you’re just one more spammer. Even if they don’t delete your message immediately, you’ll eliminate any chance of differentiating yourself from your competitors, simply blending into the background noise like a TV commercial or a clickbait ad.
Question: how many of the emails that you receive do you actually open and read closely? How often do you reach out to the sender and ask them to engage with you further? A better question: why do you think your clients are any different?
The second reason email is inferior to the phone is that the communication is not synchronous. Instead of engaging in a conversation, you ensure that there is no conversation at all. Over email, there is no way to convey how convicted you are about the value you intend to create for your dream client, and there is no opportunity for you to resolve the single concern that prevents them from giving you a meeting—their fear that you are going to waste their time.
Email, however, is great for following up with a client after leaving a voicemail, especially if you use it to inform them that you will try to call them back later in the week. This usefully supplements your voicemail promise to provide them with a meeting that is worth their time.
Pick up the phone and call your dream client. Not only will it improve your results, but it will speed them along.
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Filed under: Sales