Why persist with telephone cold calling?

by Leigh Wallinger.

If you had set up a new business twenty-five years ago, the most popular wayto identify sales opportunities would have beenby telephonecold-calling.  You worked through a list of names and telephone numbers, arranging initial sales meetings with prospects.  It was probably the default lead generation method for small businesses at that time.  It was cost-effective and worked well.  Cold-calling has helped thousands, perhaps millions, of small companies to grow and become established in their chosen markets.

Twenty-five years on and much has changed.  Technology has changed everything – the way we run our lives, the way we find suppliers and the level of expectations we all have.  We now live in an instant-gratification world.  Prospecting and lead generation techniques have also evolved.

The way people want to buy has changed radically.  Company buyers will now investigate and research possible suppliers using the Internet.  They want to engage with a small(ish) number of possible suppliers, having first generated a shortlist based on the results of their Internet-based research.

Only when they are ready to engage with shortlisted companies will they want to schedule meetings with them.  Until then, they have no interest in meetings with suppliers.

As a result, it is a challenge to ensure your telephone cold call is made at the exact time when prospects are likely to be receptive to what you have to say.  If you telephone at any other time, your prospect isn’t ready to engage.  The result is a less successful outcome to your telephone call.

Even if you do manage to get through the various gatekeepers (receptionist, departmental secretary, personal secretary and voicemail system) and speak with your prospect, your call is unlikely to be warmly welcomed.

Why do entrepreneurs setting up new businesses today still persist in using telephone cold calling as a key lead generation strategy?I think there are 5 reasons why:

  1. It is easy to start prospecting.  Get a list of names and telephone numbers and start work.  There are no barriers to getting started, there is no lengthy preparatory work and productivity is scalable.  If you need to make more calls, bring in more people.
  2. Acquiring a list is no longer a barrier it once was.  A few hours working on the Internet will usually be enough to construct an initial list.  Of course, for those small businesses with funds there is still the option to save time and purchase lists at modest cost.
  3. Cold-calling satisfies the typical entrepreneur who wants visible evidence his staff are “pushing for business”.  The minimal start up time is also very attractive to entrepreneurs who are looking for “quick wins”.  They want to start calling potential clients as soon as possible to win the easiest sales.  [Of course, it is very likely their competitors have been there first, unless they operate in a niche with no established competitors – unlikely and risky].
  4. With telephone calls, you get instant feedback from your target market.  Your proposition and offer can be tweaked in response to what you learn during calls.  You evolve your approach to attract less resistance.
  5. It still works.  However, it is less effective than it was twenty-five years ago.  It takes more dials to reach a prospect.  There are many barriers in the way.  The most common and most effective are company voicemail systems.  These allow prospects to efficiently filter incoming calls.

There are a couple of issues to bear in mind before launching a telephone cold-calling campaign.

  1. The true cost of finding a prospect is somehow disguised.  Many small business owners focus on the number of prospect meetings rather than onthe sales achieved.  With long sales cycles this can be tricky to measure.  It is a complete waste of time meeting prospects who aren’t seriously considering the purchase of your product / service within a realistic timeframe.
  2. Most cold-calling activities play lip-service to prospect qualification.  Linked closely to the last point, small business owners should be asking questions to assess the likelihood of winning an order.  You must focus on serious prospects and avoid the time-wasters.

Remember, the prospect will only want to engage if you telephone at exactly the right time.  Your chances of getting that timing correct are very small indeed.

As a small business owner, you should be implementing prospecting methods which allow you to meet exclusively with prospects who are active in their buying cycle.  By doing this, more time will be spent selling to people who are ready to buy.  The result will be better conversion rates, more sales and, if your pricing model is correct, increased profits.


Leigh Wallinger knows the problems that every small business owner encounters when trying to establish and grow a small business.  After 30+ years’ experience he now helps small business owners to grow their businesses.  Contact him by email (enquiries at salesmadeeasy.co.uk) or via www.salesmadeeasy.co.uk

© Arteka Limited 2012. All rights reserved.