Thursday, November 27, 2008

Will I Have to Cold Call for the Rest of My Sales Career?

Will you have to cold call for the rest of your sales career? While I might have said yes to this statement five years ago, I'm not so sure anymore. As a moved in my sales career over to becoming a top producer, I found myself struggling to remember the last time I actually made a 100% pure cold call.

Make no mistake about it, every salesperson starting out needs to be able to cold call with some success. After all, the biggest reason why most people get out of the sales profession is their lead generation is inadequate. Therefore by default, they simply do not have enough prospects to sell to. This leads a salesperson down the path to either a loss of job or not enough income to justify staying in the sales profession.

After you have survived in sales for a few years, however, the monotony of cold calling will start to burn you out. It is awful hard to be seen as an expert salesperson by so many of your customers and then have to pick up the phone to cold call (in other words, to make hundreds of cold calls to people who don't want to speak with you).

Garbage in = Garbage out (usually). I don't care how strong your desire or attitude is - it is very hard to displace all of the negativity that comes with cold calling. This is especially true when so many alternative lead generation options are available. Amazingly, I still know a lot of salespeople who use this as their primary or only way to obtain leads.

Most alternative lead generation activities take time and a lot of effort before they become effective. If cold calling is your primary way of obtaining new customers, I'm certainly not advocating that you stop this tomorrow. What you need to do instead is to start building and developing other lead generation methods to replace your cold calling activities over time.

When you move from being a mediocre salesperson to a top producing salesperson, you will find that your biggest problem is not filling your lead bucket but rather having the time to get to everyone who is in the bucket. The happy trouble of having too many people who are eager to do business with you (only for you to turn them down due to time constraints or lack of qualifications) should be your #1 goal. When this happens, you simply won't have the time to cold call. Listen up as this is important, because you don't stop cold calling because you don't like it - you only stop cold calling when you don't have the time because your lead bucket is overflowing.

So the short answer to the question in my book would be - no- you probably won't have to continue cold calling for the rest of your sales career. This will only become true, however, if you take the time to learn & develop alternative lead generation methods. At the same time, you don't want to paint yourself in a corner with believing it will never become plausible for the need to cold call in the future, either. If your alternative lead generation activities dry up or become inadequate for whatever reason, you must be prepared to cold call your way back to being a sales success.

10 comments:

Shaun said...

Will:

Great post. I agree that my 100% cold call days are behind me but I continue to make cold calls to strategic organizations. I believe successful sales people and managers, will need to make cold calls their entire career.

I believe the difference will be how you define a cold call. Is it simply someone not expecting your call? Is it an ice cold call (ex. calling out off a list) or a warm call (ex. referral)?

If your read my sales blog (http://closerq.blogspot.com/), you will read that I am huge believer in making calls. We have a saying on my team, 'When in doubt call.'

Thanks,
Shaun

From the Author: Will Fultz said...

Shaun,

Thanks for the comment. Cold calling always seems to generate a lot of intense feelings for everyone who has spent their career in sales.

My primary focus of this post was to get across to the new salesperson that alternative methods of lead generation are viable and can be used with/without cold calling to generate new customers. In my own career (especially this year), I got to the point where I had so many leads that I could not possibly get to all of them.

Someone new in sales needs to understand that you can get to a point in your career where your expertise is recognized and wanted in the marketplace. The days of waking up and getting nothing but hang-ups can be overcome.

Julian Eagles said...

Cold calling is always a big debate amongst salespeople. Why is that?

Is it that the vast majority of people have a massive fear of cold calling/ rejection or is it more that they resent putting in the time in the first place?

All effective lead generation techniques should be employed IMHO, but I feel strongly that picking up the phone is going to be one of them that is necessary for many years to come.

From the Author: Will Fultz said...

Julian,

Thank you for your comments. There is no doubt that cold calling will not disappear from our sales world. It is important, however, for new sales people to understand this is the least productive and hardest way to prospect for the long term.

Again, there are a variety of opinions on this subject. Perhaps no other strategy gets debated in the sales community as much as this one.

Dennis Austinat said...

I have been in Sales for the last 16 years and there is nothing more unexciting then just doing cold calls.
I believe however that if you prospect right you will not have to cold call but will get some "warm prospects" within less then 1 week.

I will post on this on my blog later this week.

Rupesh Bhat said...

A good article for a newcomer in sales. I appreciate your thoughts and the way you have put it.

Rupesh Bhat said...

A good article even after 5 years for any newcomer in Sales. I appreciate your thoughts. I've personally seen people shy away from sales after a good career of 5+ years.

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rcpalabrica said...

How this will help a lot.. I'm just starting my sales career and these are the articles that i found very useful.. thanks so much for posting...

Dan Symons said...

Cold calling should be a part of every sales persons toolkit. Yes, you can move to 'warm' introductions and contacts - but cold calling is often needed for those high value contacts that sit outside your network or where your network is pointed to the wrong part of the business.

Yes, I get business introduced through a strong referrer network - but I don't advocating replacing cold calling entirely. I thoroughly enjoy cold calling and often find the results better (as I control it) than business that is 'introduced' to me.

In short, you don't have to cold call for the rest of your career - but you SHOULD. It's just the mix that changes