Cold Calling: A Junior Sales Activity?

Cold Calling: a junior sales activity?A topic of discussion in many an interview I've had with senior sales professionals is 'lead generation' and 'cold calling' and their willingness to pick up the phone to generate a new business opportunity. Many well established career sales people I've met feel as though they have moved past cold calling and no longer should have to do it, or they are not willing to do it. “I’m past the stage of working in a role that requires cold calling. I’m looking for a more ‘senior’ sales position”. This begs the following questions:

  1. Is cold calling only necessary in junior sales roles or transactional sales environments?
  2. Is there value in cold calling in a strategic solution sales environment, where there are long sales cycles, large deal sizes and complex solutions being offered to enterprise clientele?
  3. Should you not have to make cold calls as a senior ‘new business’ sales professional?

My thoughts? The highest paid and most successful sales people I’ve ever met are more than willing to pick up the phone to a prospect they or their company has never spoken to before. They are targeted in who they approach and have good reason for their approach. Where their own referral network or marketing efforts do not give them access to the customers they wish to do business with, they will source the key decision maker or a key influencer’s name, pick up the phone, introduce themselves and ask for a meeting. I believe cold calling should never be your exclusive or your major business development strategy. As we all know, qualified referrals and inbound marketing leads have much higher conversion rates. But to exclude it as part of an overall strategy is limiting to almost any business’s growth in my opinion. There will almost always be key target prospects that can only be accessed in this way. You may choose to send them a letter or an email, or invite them to an event first. If this is ignored, you still have a cold call to make if you want to have any chance of securing the client.  Coming back to my original statement about established sales people who are not prepared to cold call and feel they have moved past it; I believe this to be a career limiting outlook and one that will also limit your earnings and success capacity in almost any new business focused sales position. Social media and inbound marketing leads are hot topics at the moment. Our aim is that these campaigns will lead us to getting on the phone and in turn, face to face with the customer without having to cold call them. But when these campaigns and all other avenues fail to get a particular key prospect engaged in a discussion with your company, you don’t understand their needs and you’re likely to miss out on many key profitable clients; Clients that your competition is engaging with as a result of having picked up the phone to have a real conversation. Long live the phone I say. I’m not saying cold calling is the single most effective way to generate leads, as it’s often not efficient use of a sales person’s time. But there will always be situations that call for you to pick up the phone, or miss out. Especially in niche markets where there are a small few selected and named prospective clients. I do however believe the phone will always remain the most effective piece of technology to engage and communicate with your prospective customers. When it comes to having meaningful business conversations with prospective clients, perhaps not even the i-phone 12, with hologram capability will challenge the all mighty phone.

Originally posted on the HG Sales Leadership Blog


Views: 385

Comment by pam claughton on June 14, 2011 at 7:48am

Great post! Although I've been recruiting for many years, I still cold call exactly the way you mention, very specific, targeted calls, and it's one of my favorite aspects of the job, although that was certainly not always the case. I used to dread cold client calls. Now I look forward to them. I think of it like a game, one that you 'win' by gaining a new client and then delivering for them. If I hadn't made a recent cold call, I wouldn't have filled three very senior level marketing roles last month with a brand new client.


I think in sales though, people are naturally either hunters or farmers, and the majority are content to be farmers, managing and growing existing accounts, whereas the hunters excel and enjoy rainmaking, cold calling and generating new business. Even those who are naturally farmers though, can benefit tremendously by stepping out of their comfort zone and doing a little new business development regularly.

Comment by Caroline Armstrong on June 14, 2011 at 10:22am

Sales is about the next big thing, if you are not continuing to be in the “hunt" and are now awaiting the "lead "to come to you or just living by your current client base you are missing what fundamentally drives real sales people, so if you are not excited about uncovering the next best thing however you need to do that, maybe you are not a true salesperson.


Comment by Mat von Kroeker on June 14, 2011 at 11:55am
It's been my experience, having to cold call in markets as diverse as the creative to the uber-financial, that a junior level associate cold calls from the "yellow pages"- and through repetition, gains confidence in the pitch, answers to rebuttals, knowledge of the product, etc.  A Sr., seasoned associate knows instinctively who to call, and at the appropriate time--- and should have 99.99% chance of closing the business transaction---  but shouldn't be adverse to calling altogether. 
Comment by Chris Wallingford on June 17, 2011 at 11:59am
The only thing more satisfying in sales than closing a deal is bringing in a new client and eventually closing a deal with them.  Yes, targeted cold calling should be the focus for any experienced salesperson but other than referrals and upselling, how else do would expect to grow your business?  Always make time for cold calling.


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