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Are social networks the last nail in the coffin for cold calling?

Cold calling has been served notice, a new era beckons and with it an altogether different way of working. Social Networking is here and it will replace cold calling as the predominant method of prospecting in business.


I have profoundly changed the way I do business and have firmly embraced Social Media and the networking possibilities it has created. To that end I have reduced to a very small percentage the amount of time I spend cold calling. As someone that has been in sales all of my working life, been a sales director and managed large teams of sales people I know many people will think that there is no replacement for activity, specifically picking up the phone. No matter how intelligent you are about cold calling, it is what it is -- speculative, scatter gun selling, not to mention costly and increasingly ineffective.


Cold calling has a bad image, forever associated with double glazing, and I believe the whole process has run its course. Over the years the return on investment from a team of Cold Callers has gradually diminished; much like the internet killed press advertising revenues so will Social Networking see the demise of large salesfloors with people standing on desks, ringing bells or plucking £10 notes from washing lines (just some of the things I have seen in many years involved in telesales). The corporate climate is changing, businesses are signing up to CTPS, making a positive statement: “DO NOT CONTACT ME”. The instances of ‘No Names Policy’ have increased, so for every 100 calls made the percentage of pitches are falling. Up until recently, companies have tried every strategy possible; re-trained staff in different techniques such as buying facilitation, fact finding or SPIN Selling yet the percentages keep falling and cold calling is getting harder and harder to see good results from.


So, cold calling is in its last throes. For some I am sure this will be a welcome relief -- I for one get infuriated with the daily stream of people trying to sell me anything from cleaning services to water! I am now better informed as a customer than at any other time in history; I, the client, consumer or customer, control the sales process. I engage with others that have purchased a product to understand why, the selection process and what the experience like. Likewise I comment on Facebook, my blog or other social media platform about things I have purchased. I champion good service and smash the bad. I can be a brand champion one minute and brand slayer the next. There is a deafening amount of chatter online via social media platforms. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that all of that information is a hotbed of potential opportunities!


What helped me conclude that cold calling does not work anymore and that I should serve notice of termination on it was the results of a test I decided to run – the results are below.
As it so happened I had a new product to sell. In the test I spent an equal amount of time on each cold calling and social media, 9-5.30pm Monday to Friday. I started with cold calling

Cold Calling Results
Outbound calls made – 325
Meaningful conversations (pitches) and brand touches – 80
Meetings made – 4
Sales made (as a direct result of cold calling) - 0


From a cold calling perspective I was not surprised with the figures, from experience it is about the average conversion ratios. The data cost me .25p per name, phone charges were roughly £100, so all up £180 not including my time. If we took an industry standard salary for telesales of £20K plus, general overhead of office, rates, light, heat, computer etc you will have spent about £1000 to make 4 meetings.

Social Media
Inbound calls generated - 8
Meetings as result of inbound calls – 3
Sales as a result of inbound calls – 2
Brand touches (from site statistics unique views of content) – 422 visitors to my blog alone
Subscribers (RSS) to my content – 27 (stats from Feedburner)
People following me (Twitter) – 12
New contacts – 71 (on LinkedIn, Facebook, WeCanDo.BIZ etc)
Listeners to my Podcast - 83
Opportunities to sell found - 21
Online conversations had - 39
Warm call list (names generated expecting a call) - 11


The cost of my social networking blitz to find new business opportunities, other than my time and internet connection are small, if anything at all. Most importantly I made 2 sales, covering any cost associated with the activity and generating a very healthy return.


I used a number of platforms for the social media test, such is the diversity of choice and it is here that companies need to get it right. A great new platform is www.WeCanDo.BIZ, which takes the micro blogging idea to new levels and allows companies to register a profile and state what their business need is for all to see. During my test, WeCanDo.BIZ generated inbound calls, traffic to my blog and online conversations. It should be said that WeCanDo.BIZ was the most successful platform I used during the week.


Ian Hendry, founder of WeCanDo.BIZ told me this: “Where I think WeCanDoBIZ may change the rules is in getting the needs shared up front, so that you can determine much quicker whether a sale is likely. This means you can focus where the money is, rather than waste time with a lengthy qualification period.”


You can’t simply start using social media tools and expect your sales to increase. You have to change your sales & marketing philosophy for your business to get better. Your perception of outbound push selling needs to change. This is the lesson I want to get out to everyone. Social Media tools simply enable businesses


The central question however is “do modern day sales people have the level of skill required to conduct a social media campaign individually?”. The simple answer is NO. Not all sales people will have the necessary skills, but having a skills gap is nothing new on the sales floor otherwise we wouldn’t have the multi million pound training industry! Can the skills be taught quickly and cost effectively? YES. I have always taught people that sales is a process; follow steps 1 through 5 to achieve your aims. Social Media networking can be processed as well, giving sales people clear guidelines on the how to and how not to. We spend millions every year teaching sales people to cold call better, use the latest CRM system, be better team players and so on, and so it must come to pass that companies will need to train all staff to be ‘Social Media Savvy’ as it extends far beyond just sales, marketing and service need to be in on the picture as well.


There was a time not too long ago when the need for social media in business was not understood and faced resistance. Much like when everyone started creating websites people asked why, what for and pondered how they could help their business. People thought it would be a fad. The same discussion is happening now about social media. Businesses look at social media and think of it is Facebook or MySpace; a universally time wasting activity that employees should not engage in on the business clock. Indeed some businesses have banned access to social networking sites altogether.


I have to say that such businesses have got it wrong; rather than it being something employees waste time on, it is the future, is here to stay and that in it lies the evolution of sales and marketing.


Agreed, updating your Facebook or MySpace page with pictures of the weekend, playing silly games, nudging or poking other people is not the best use of your companies time. But creating engaging, thought provoking, discussion opening content, centred around your products or services is.


Social media networking will reduce the dependence on cold calling. I am not saying it will eradicate the need for the telephone -- that perhaps is to bold an idea. But I am certain it will become the first step in prospecting for new business. Companies around the world need to wake up to that fact and act now or get left behind. - by 6Consulting
To answer your question, no. - by Skip Anderson
What helped me conclude that cold calling does not work anymore and that I should serve notice of termination on it was the results of a test I decided to run – the results are below.
There have been so many thread about this already but there's always room for more. What we need is a litmus test for evaluating if cold calling does or does not work. thmbp2; - by Marcus
Cold calling has become less and less effective over the years. As someone that has been selling for 20 years I can categorically say that results have declined. Many large businesses have ditched cold calling in favor of more intelligent sales processes mainly due to cost. Generating inbound communication for your product or service is more cost effective than employing a large sales force that bashes the phone day in day out.

I agree cold calling will always be with us but the dependence on it will decrease as companies wise up to the fact that there are better ways to do business. - by 6Consulting
6Consulting what you're saying doesn't make sense to me. Do you feel this way about all sales or just B2B or B2C? Do you feel this applies everywhere or just certain areas like USA or UK? - by Houston
6Consulting what you're saying doesn't make sense to me. Do you feel this way about all sales or just B2B or B2C? Do you feel this applies everywhere or just certain areas like USA or UK?
Hi Houston. Not quite sure what doesn't make sense?

I am talking about B2B. B2C is an area that cold calling, especially in the UK, is frowned upon and is being heavily legislated against.

For me social media and the tools it provides is a step in the sales process. If sales is a process, step one to ten for example, then social media needs o be added to this process. By doing so you generate a higher degree of inbound communication, thus negating the need or dependence on cold calling. Using social media effectively will warm up cold calls.

I used to run a very large B2B sales floor with many staff and cold calling was our bag. However, given the same situation again, with the tools we have now, social media usage would have been used early on in the process to generate inbound communication, network and find leads. My team now work in this manner, yes they use the phone (of course they do) but every call is warm not cold.

As to whether it is in UK or USA it really makes no difference, sales is sales.

Hope this helps - by 6Consulting
Social Networking is here and it will replace cold calling as the predominant method of prospecting in business.
Are you serious about this? Is that a statement you want to stand behind? - by SpeedRacer
Are you serious about this? Is that a statement you want to stand behind?
Yes. As someone that has been in sales for over 20 years I am not some newbie with delusions about sales methodology. The way people prospect for business is changing, and has been for a while. Cold calling is less effective than it was 5, 10, 15 years ago. There is a wealth of data and research to back this up.

Social media and the tools it provides enables businesses to prospect better. As cold calling becomes less effective so social media will become more prevalent. Hence my statement.

The B2C environment will be first to give up on cold calling, closely followed by B2B. We will still use the telephone, but communication will be warm and expected not cold and intrusive. - by 6Consulting
Cold calling is less effective than it was 5, 10, 15 years ago. There is a wealth of data and research to back this up.
6C, please share with us where we can read this data and research.

Thanks. - by Skip Anderson
Social media and the tools it provides enables businesses to prospect better.
Social networking is only one aspect of social media. In my opinion your statement that "social networking will replace cold calling as the predominant method of prospecting in business" is misguided. - by SpeedRacer
Cold calling has been served notice, a new era beckons and with it an altogether different way of working. Social Networking is here and it will replace cold calling as the predominant method of prospecting in business.
You believe that social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn or MySpace will "replace cold calling as the predominant method of prospecting in business"? - by Houston
Cold calling has been served notice, a new era beckons and with it an altogether different way of working. Social Networking is here and it will replace cold calling as the predominant method of prospecting in business.
How do you prospect for new business with social networking? Do you send your offer through a message system like you would email? Isn't that spamming? - by Thomas
Some salespeople don't like cold calling and will jump on any reason not to do it or try any idea that promises no more cold calling. - by Marcus
Social media and the tools it provides are very powerful - if used correctly - for salespeople. Social Networking, bookmarking, media and more all have their uses.

The very nature of social media means you do not SPAM people, but create engaging content for people to discuss. We are on a social media site right now discussing issues that have arisen from engaging content.

In the UK this topic has sparked fierce debate with a 50/50 split for and against the hypothesis. Not surprisingly the people against teach cold calling as business! What they should be doing is looking into the subject and ADDING social media as a tool to sales departments as opposed to fighting the inevitable. Sales is a process, social media is a step in that process. If done well, warm calling becomes prevalent as opposed to cold hence the demise of cold calling as a central practice in sales departments (B2B, B2C or other!)

As ever, I am pleased that the article has caused such a conversation/debate, it shows and proves the power of social media! - by 6Consulting
6consulting, I have 3 concerns:

1. Your thesis in your original post in this thread is that social networks are "the last nail in the coffin for cold calling," not that cold callers should add social media to their mix, yet in your last post, you change your point-of-view to state that sales departments should be adding social networks to their existing activities. Those are two different points. Which one is your accurate position?

I agree that sales and marketing people should be adding social networking to their mix. I do not agree that social networking is the last nail in the coffin for cold callers.

2. It appears you are in the business of social networking (based upon your current profile here at SalesPractice). In this thread, you've been promoting social networking as a replacement for cold calling.

Yet, you chastised others who don't agree with you because you anecdotally accuse them of selling cold calling training for a living. That's the pot calling the kettle black, I believe.

3. You stated "Cold calling is less effective than it was 5, 10, 15 years ago. There is a wealth of data and research to back this up."

I asked you to in an earlier post to provide this data and research to the SalesPractice community. Seeing that you've haven't, it appears that there really isn't a wealth of data and research that you can point us to. But what there is, is merely your opinion.

It's okay for you to have an opinion, of course, but please don't call on "a wealth of data and research" to support that opinion if that data and research doesn't really exist.

Thank you.

Skip Anderson - by Skip Anderson
The very nature of social media means you do not SPAM people, but create engaging content for people to discuss.
Social media tools are constantly being used for SPAM purposes. That's a fact.

As Skip pointed out you first claimed "Cold calling has been served notice, a new era beckons and with it an altogether different way of working. Social Networking is here and it will replace cold calling as the predominant method of prospecting in business." I asked you if that was a statement you wanted to stand behind and you said, "Yes" so I think it's fair to ask how exactly will "Social Networking" replace cold calling as the predominant method of prospecting in business? - by SpeedRacer
Can you tell us more about the research you're quoting 6Consulting? - by Marcus
Hello all

I'm new to this forum but wanted to join in the conversation as my position here on this topic is unusual: I own the WeCanDo.BIZ site that Matt saw such great results from; but my other business is a telesales business!

I think Matt's point was that lead generation for many companies is rarely ever more than sales people hitting the phones. But as this gets harder -- and combinations of increasing legislation, dependence on voice mail and the pressures a touchening economy put on managers in target companies -- there are other ways of getting to your target audience in a way that, to them, may seem less obtrusive.

As sales professionals, we are always looking for people who want to buy ahead of people we can sell to. No matter how mucvh you consider a target audience and their needs, cold calling is always promoting the sell -- looking for people who may not know your company to try and establish their need and present a solution. In a day on the phone, it is tough finding and closing people with a need great enough to want to buy. With social networking, you can have many more contacts active and more easily research their need -- those that need what you want will "stick" better than the ones where they can't envisage ever doing business from you. So, you find yourself cultivating only relationships where business is a likely outcome. The rest qualify themselves out.

We will never stop picking up telephones. But if you use online resources to better qualify the contact first, chances are you'll achieve a lot more in the calls.

As someone who is classicly trained in Customer Centric Selling. If there isn't a need, there isn't a lead. Take a look at this list of needs that our members share and you'll see that we, in particular, use social networking to help you get closer to your customers quickly: http://www.wecando.biz/rss/bizneeds.php

IH - by wecandobiz
Sorry Matthew but I can't agree that cold calling is in its last throes. You ran your test and those are your results. As they say, mileage may vary. ;) - by AZBroker
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