Blake J. Harber recently published a post on LinkedIn that set off one of the best debates that I have witnessed, and I was personally amazed at how many people still seem to think that ‘cold calling’ is an effective part of selling in 2016.

In my opinion, this is a damning indictment on those business leaders that still allow this outdated, and low-value activity. Let’s be honest, there is absolutely zero customer centricity in cold calling. Seriously, you may as well open up your ‘cold call’ with:

“Hi Ms Customer, I just wanted to start by saying that I’m really not concerned about interrupting your busy day, because I’m only interested in my time, and my sale results. I’m sitting here in my office churning through these cold calls until I find a proverbial ‘gold nugget’ …what’s that? Oh, you’re NOT a gold nugget?….then you must be a piece of dirt…goodbye”

That’s how prospecting works right? Churn through enough dirt until you find a gold nugget? As if it’s not bad enough that you are annoying your customers, the main reason that cold calling is a really bad idea is often overlooked:

Number #1 reason not to cold call:

When you ‘cold call’ someone in 2016 you are in effect telling them that you have no other options – that is, no referrals, no customer intel, no recommendations, no shared connections, no digital or social strategies….cold calling just makes your business look desperate and very immature by comparison with modern businesses in today’s digital, global, connected economies.

Bear in mind (before you make that ill-advised cold call) that the recipient of your foul interruption will more than likely assume that you are a ‘telemarketer’ working from a low cost, offshore call-center, because why would any business invest in high paid people to perform such a low value task in this day and age? Even when you do try to explain to the now agitated recipient of your call that you are in fact an employee of the company, and not some 3rd party provider, they will then start wondering what type of company has to resort to this old ‘numbers game’ approach?

Remember how Jerry handled the cold caller?


Cold calling’ is a classic the churn & burn approach to prospecting from a bygone era where it didn’t matter if you burned a few prospects along the way. In today’s mature markets, the opportunity cost of this approach is massive. Think about it – whilst you are churning through the calls annoying everyone that you ring, and sewing the seed that your company is ‘old school’, your competitors are using modern tools and approaches to create awareness, build mind share and that all important ‘inbound’. Ask yourself how many new opportunities did your company miss because you were not using the myriad of current tools, platforms and techniques that are ubiquitous today? ‘Martech’ is now a $30B industry that did not exist 10 years ago…and that should be indication enough that ‘cold calling’ is no longer relevant.



So, while you are ‘cold’ calling (effectively breaking ground with a horse drawn plough), your savvy competitors are instead using the following:

  • Predictive analytics – to gain clearer customer insights around buyer tastes and preferences. Focusing on key buying trigger points.
  • Marketing Automation – to send the right (personalized) messages to the right buyers at the right time (‘buying stage appropriate’ messaging).
  • Content Marketing – creating thought leadership and customer value without pitching anything.
  • Social Engagement – omni-channel marketing to customers or prospects and engagement across every digital channel/device.
  • Lead Management & Nurturing – sophisticated lead generation techniques that capture important customer data.
  • Re-marketing – online programs targeted to buyers based on their previous actions and behaviors.

All of the above is of course predicated on the sales & marketing leaders in your business being closely aligned, and regardless of which parts of the above you currently utilize, please consider using at least some of these approaches in your sales execution to augment your old traditional approaches. Try to drag your company into the 21st century if you can.

Yes, there will always be an occasional outlier, but calling someone ‘cold’, without a referral/intro/hook of some sort is now an undeniable waste of company resource. If your sales leader is still insisting that you perform this low value activity then he/she needs to find a coach – fast!

Don’t agree with me? Then just go and ask any buyer, in any industry, if they like having their busy day interrupted by some unknown telemarketer that they don’t know, trying to pitch them a new product, when they already have more products and suppliers than they can possibly manage. Remember, that all businesses are now trying to do more business with LESS vendors. Thus, why would business person welcome an unsolicited call from a new vendor they don’t currently do business with?

In sum, cold calling sends the wrong message in every way in my opinion…regardless of what you say during the call. Of course, it’s the “cold’ that is dead…not the calling. Calling someone that you have never spoken with before, and quickly explaining (after you have apologized for the interruption) that “Bob Jones suggested that I give you call”, is a massive difference to the usual scripted drivel that most cold callers utilize. I urge sales people to do your research, find a hook or connection and make a warm call, but please remember that your customers will be judging and comparing you based on the approach you use.

As I keep saying, in this new customer-pull era, you had better start engaging your customers the way that they want to be engaged, and cold calling is not the way.

Agree? Disagree?

By Graham Hawkins