Out of the Cold – The Proven Value of Cold-Calling


I hear from salespeople, sales managers, marketers, founders, etc., that cold-calling is dead. Wrong.

Social media makes your company visible and credible but selling proves your viability, capability, and reliability. For that, you need personal – not virtual – contact!

Effective cold-calling is more important than ever before because your prospects get more information than ever before. They get so much product and service data that they can’t make sense of it all. Many need a human connection to make good decisions. Also, they need the data we’re taught to analyze in business school but data-overload creates demand for credible salespeople.

People who refer to cold-calling as dead are those who haven’t learned to turn rejection into a relationship. Think about it—a verbal rejection is an engaged customer. You got a response! Many customers tell me that they respect the salesperson who gets through rather than just giving up.

A Story About Cold-Calling

At Hewlett-Packard (HP) we had “prospecting days.” Junior trainees or interns (like me) were paired with a senior person and dropped into a zip code to cold-call prospective customers. Our goal was to get appointments for salespeople. It was a competition and the winning pair each got $100. Believe me, the win meant way more than the money.

My partner was a highly-respected leader and senior manager who later became a top executive at Microsoft. We had a large business park in which to cold-call. Our plan: we’d walk into business after business and ask for the owner or president. The first four companies garnered two nice talks and two rude dismissals.

We entered the fifth company where the receptionist was seated to the right of the entrance. Following our plan, we asked for the owner/president and before the receptionist could answer a male voice yelled, “Go away!” The owner of the loud voice stood up, walked to his office door, and yelled, “Get out of here.”

So I was standing where I could see into the office and behind the man (who we later learned was the president) hung a huge mounted steelhead trout with a fly dangling from its mouth. I said, “Whoa, how long did it take to land that?” His demeanor and body language completely changed and he launched into a story of his fishing adventure on a river in Washington State.

We had passed the barrier.

The president invited us to sit down and offered us each a can of Coke. Five minutes later we knew that his team was in the process of making a buy-versus-build decision on an MRP (Manufacturing Resource Planning) system that would take nearly a year to build. I asked him if he’d be interested in an MRP system that could be running in three months. Three minutes more and we had an appointment for our salesperson.

Some would call this a slick sales tactic, but it isn’t. This is an example of a common cold-call. Sure, the steelhead was lucky, but we found a way to relate at a personal level and we gave the customer a win in his telling us about his catch. A picture of the guy coaching little league would’ve had the same result.

Our personal connection turned a closed door into chairs and drinks. It wasn’t a slick sales tactic, it was a human interaction that resulted in a valuable exchange.

Here’s the good news… this happens a lot. Once you get beyond your aversion to rejection, you can let your human instincts take over.

And here’s more good news… you forget the rejections. After all these years, the only rejections I remember are the ones I turned around. And I’ve heard this repeatedly from people I consider to be great salespeople. Rejection no longer has a bitter taste because you know that right behind it is a passionate customer who needs a solution.

I want to hear about your prospecting experiences. How have you turned rejections into invitations? Tell me below.

©Rick Wong, The Five Abilities® LLC


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