January 12, 2011

RIP Cold Calling
Survived by Social Networking

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

I know many people will think that there is no replacement for activity, specifically picking up the phone. Yet, 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.

Consider the following data I found online...
In a test which spent an equal amount of time cold calling and using social media (9 AM - 5:30 PM; M - F).

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
These are average conversion ratios for time spent but it comes with much overhead.

Social Media Results
  • 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 sales associate's blog Subscribers (RSS) to sales associate's content 27
  • People following sales associate's Twitter 12
  • New contacts 71 (on LinkedIn, Facebook, WeCanDo.BIZ, etc)
  • Listeners to sales associate's Podcast 83
  • Opportunities to sell found 21
  • Online conversations had 39
  • Warm call list (names generated expecting a call) 11
The cost of the social networking blitz to find new business opportunities, other than time and internet connection are small, if anything at all. Most importantly 2 sales were closed, covering any cost associated with the activity and generating a very healthy return.

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 salespeople 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 one through five to achieve your aims. Social media networking can be processed as well, giving salespeople clear guidelines on the ‘how to’ and ‘how not to’. We spend millions every year teaching salespeople to cold call better, use the latest CRM (customer relationship management) 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.

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

Social media networking will reduce 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.

What kind of results are you seeing when you pin Cold Calling vs. Social Networking?

By Jennifer Pricci