Being Good At B2B Cold Calling Is Like Being A Functional Drunk

in On Marketing To Small Businesses

At a gathering recently I spoke with a b2b service professional who made the bulk of his living by cold calling. By all accounts, he is successful. (Then again, I’ve found the people who talk most about the money they have usually have the least; and a car they can’t afford. So who knows…)

Anyway, he was complaining because his business had stopped growing. I said, “well, of course. You are relying on menial grunt work to get your clients instead of automating the process with a marketing system so you can spend more time cashing checks.”

His response?

I was nuts because he was making money doing cold calling, so it was stupid of me to recommend something else and tell him what he was doing was wrong.

At this point I told him he was like a functional drunk. He frowned.

“Just because you can function with a gallon of Jack Daniels in your belly doesn’t mean you should, nor does it mean your foolishness isn’t gonna come back and kick you hard in the ass sometime in the near future. Cold calling is the same way. Keep it up and don’t grow your business the right way when you can, and not only will you stop growing now… you will probably be angry and sorry somewhere down the road when the manual labor becomes less effective or you want to take a few vacations.”

He puckered his lips and we said goodbye.

Like they say, you can lead a horse to water. But ya can’t make him drink.

{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anonymous July 7, 2012 at 4:03 am

To succeed in B2B cold-calling you need to pick up the phone and dial. Who you dial will require some research and trial and error. What you say is always an adapted structure of your introductory pitch. How you get to that introductory pitch is what “distinguishes” you from the masses. There is no set formula to follow. Creating dialogue is crucial to have them interacting with you as opposed to them listening to your lecture. Ask questions to determine what they do and to determine how you can propose your solutions that will help aid them actualize their goals quicker, more efficient, and cost-effective.

Don’t be afraid EVER. If the prospect starts demanding I need X, and I need Y, and send me Z … Cut him off and have him understand that your time is valuable and that if he’s interested he can go to the website and review A, see B, and if he has any questions or is ready to get the show on the road to call you.

You’re a busy man contacting specialists all day! You’re important. Always schedule an appointment and time for follow-ups. If they do not answer ( DON’t CALL BACK 1000 TIMES ) or you’ll lose 99% of the times UNLESS you ASSUME the sale and provide EXCITEMENT and JUSTIFIED reasons to get them started and play ball.

Some qualities of a successful cold-caller are they are well-spoken, quick-thinkers, can laugh at themselves and be witty at the same time. Someone who can adapt and change as a call goes on. Someone who can persevere in the face of adversity and take every “NO” as a learning opportunity to see where they can improve.

I sell leads. Nuff said.

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2 Marc Binkley March 30, 2012 at 7:07 am

Hi Michael,

That was a great post! I’ve been writing a case study comparing my own experience from one year of cold calling to one year of digital prospecting. I got to the part in my paper where because of it’s labor intensive nature, I make the argument that cold calling is the rate-limiting step in business development.

I know I’m not the only one to realize this so I was comparing the Google search results of “cold calling” (16 million results in 0.35 seconds) to “cold calling alternative” (31 million results in 0.23 seconds). This post is the first result of the second search query.

When it comes to marketing, the customer is the person who defines what our brand is. As a brand owner, it’s incumbent on the owner to make sure the customers experience matches whatever the brand promise is. Cold calling is a crude marketing tactic designed to generate business. The very act of cold calling puts the caller in the same category as political canvassers, girl guides cookie sellers, or religious groups who knock on my door with the promise of saving my soul. No matter what you say on a cold call, the action itself is interruptive, disrespectful of a customers time, and does nothing to support any claims of industry expertise.

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3 Mark March 14, 2011 at 5:25 pm

Great Article! I currently am working in a marketing position for a company and while I want to continue to build systems that will remain in place after I am gone, they insist that I spend the day making cold calls. While I have to say that cold calling can be effective. You are correct in that it is grunt work and their marketing will end the day I leave.

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4 Anonymous January 28, 2011 at 5:38 am

To be an effective cold caller you must be friendly, outgoing, assertive, and helpful. There are too many people in the game now that think you can just read a script and be effective.

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5 Trevor A Page September 16, 2009 at 9:37 pm

I see that you have a lot of opinions, and what I would like to see, personally, is a solid solution to the problems you are examining. I'm assuming this person walked away because you had offered him your opinion, hadn't really given a solution, and then compared him to something negative – if that is really how the situation occured, I would have done the same, envisioning you as arrogant and opinionated. So, what I've read is that cold calling is okay, but you need an automated marketing system (in a nutshell). Great, awesome, what kind of automated system? Why should I believe you? When I SEE the words automated marketing system, I actually HEAR e-mail blasts, snail mailing “marketing slicks,” and online newsletters. Well, if that's what you are trying to suggest as more effective than cold calling – I'd like to (politely) disagree. If that is NOT what you are trying to convey – again I'd personally like to examine your theory.

I've read three of your blogs, and have started losing interest already. This is my personal feeling and interpretation, so I certainly don't speak for the masses.

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6 jka January 5, 2012 at 11:25 pm

Agreed, Trevor. Show me the proof and not just a low blow. Cold calling works, if properly executed. Mail goes in the trash, email overwhelms…personal touch is necessary.

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7 Jennie August 6, 2009 at 8:44 am

It’s absolutely necessary when getting started to spend lots of time cold calling.  The trick is FOLLOW UP.  No simply means not right now.  Simply stay in touch over time and build a relationship.  Numbers don’t lie and the numbers say that 80% of the sales are closed by 20% of the people out there ON THE 7TH OR 8TH TOUCH.  Ideally, as clientele builds, the cold calling will reduce as the referrals, networking and the budget for other mediums ALL increase.  I totally agree with the functional alcoholism analogy but only IF a salesperson never takes steps to free himself from dependency on cold-calling alone.

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8 Jenn July 7, 2009 at 4:25 am

I believe cold calling can definately have its advantages and disadvantages. But having been there and done that, it give you such low self-esteem. Its such a hard job to do, regardless of all the people that say its easy!

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9 carl December 24, 2012 at 9:08 pm

Nah, i think its the people with low self steem the ones that avoid cold calling. Cold calling works. Its like trying to deliver an elevator speech by phone. You can make alot of money, and the good news it´s highly targeted and you control the quantity and quality of your marketing. So instead of making 1000 calls to the same person who´s avoiding you, you should instead try calling 1000 new prospects. I guarantee you can defenetively make more sales that way.

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10 Arthur May 21, 2009 at 5:53 pm

Lead this horse to the water. I have a new janitorial service with a limited budget. So what do I do. Yellow pages suck so do not even say to go there. I hate cold calling but what else do you do. Mail is expensive and just as crappy of results as cold calling except a lot cheaper. What should I do walk into the local doctors office and say… You know this place could use a good cleaning because it aint so clean. Even my own Dentist that charged me $1800 to fix one tooth said no and his office is dirty. That is dirty to me. It is fine for the average person and they would not notice the things I do.
So riddle me this Batman; what do you suggest.
Thank you so kindly.

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11 Anonymous April 14, 2009 at 4:32 pm

Ive started a company which generates leads and meetings for other companies. We are looking for staff to do some cold calling in many different areas. Some would say the company is a call centre, but its more of a company which brings other companies products to their interested buyers with the help of our own sales people.

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12 Anonymous April 11, 2009 at 4:29 am

I’ve yet to find a single person able to present a compelling reason why it makes more sense to have them digging around for prospects instead of having qualified prospects seek them out instead. To do so is a complete and utter failure on the part of whoever is in charge of marketing. In a small professional firm, like the guy I wrote about, there is no excuse whatsoever other than being ignorant of alternatives.

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13 Anonymous February 16, 2009 at 9:26 pm

I strongly agree with your point here! Like they say, you can lead a horse to water. But ya can’t make him drink.

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14 Anonymous December 16, 2008 at 10:16 am

I agree with the comments that suggest that cold calling is a useful part of a sales strategy but not the be all end all of such a strategy.

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15 Anonymous December 16, 2008 at 3:16 pm

I agree with the comments that suggest that cold calling is a useful part of a sales strategy but not the be all end all of such a strategy.

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16 Anonymous November 25, 2008 at 11:50 pm

Hi there.Ive started a company which generates leads and meetings for other companies. We are looking for staff to do some cold calling in many different areas. Some would say the company is a call centre, but its more of a company which brings other companies products to their interested buyers with the help of our own sales people. Any tipsPlease contact by email as I may not see this site again.Thanks, Jonathan

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17 Anonymous November 10, 2008 at 8:45 pm

The company I used to work with opened a branch in my home town…I did strictly outbound cold calling and had zero clients to over 450 clients in 7 years….we did advertising and costly trade shows but failed miserably…it is more cost efficient and effective to go out and smile and dial!!

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18 Anonymous November 11, 2008 at 1:45 am

The company I used to work with opened a branch in my home town…I did strictly outbound cold calling and had zero clients to over 450 clients in 7 years….we did advertising and costly trade shows but failed miserably…it is more cost efficient and effective to go out and smile and dial!!

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19 Anonymous October 31, 2008 at 4:50 pm

You guys should try going door to door.  It is way more effective than cold calling.

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20 Anonymous October 31, 2008 at 9:50 pm

You guys should try going door to door.  It is way more effective than cold calling.

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21 Anonymous October 1, 2008 at 9:54 pm

I think your analogy about him being a functional alcoholic is a bit harsh.  Telling him to augment his sales strategy is fine but it’s hardly like he’s in a spiral of addiction.

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22 Anonymous October 1, 2008 at 9:52 pm

I agree with the comments that suggest that cold calling is a useful part of a sales strategy but not the be all end all of such a strategy. 
Not only do most sales people start off by getting <a >telesales jobs</a> while at college etc, but you know that if you can cold call 8 hours a day you’re for sure cut out for a career in sales.  It’s a real test of a person’s resiliance.

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23 Anonymous September 8, 2008 at 9:46 am

thanks for info

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24 Anonymous September 8, 2008 at 2:46 pm

thanks for info

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25 Anonymous September 3, 2008 at 12:31 pm

Cold calling bought me a Rolls-Royce and just like the professional you spoke to, I love boasting about my achievements. In fact, I still truly believe that cold calling can be successful but I totally agree with you that in order to “get there” you need to adopt a non-conformist attitude towards marketing!

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26 Anonymous September 3, 2008 at 5:31 pm

Cold calling bought me a Rolls-Royce and just like the professional you spoke to, I love boasting about my achievements. In fact, I still truly believe that cold calling can be successful but I totally agree with you that in order to “get there” you need to adopt a non-conformist attitude towards marketing!

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27 Anonymous August 19, 2008 at 8:36 pm

Thanks for this efficient information! Continue to associate us in your information!

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28 Anonymous July 18, 2008 at 6:54 pm

I think its important to have many different strategies…as they say, you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket…

Cold calling can be effective (I have worked in that area) and even direct marketing, such as house to house

However, as with everything there has to be good practice…unfortunately, too many companies are going about using some of these strategies the wrong way – to the point where we are becoming less receptive to such marketing generally…

That makes it harder!

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29 Anonymous July 18, 2008 at 11:54 pm

I think its important to have many different strategies…as they say, you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket…
Cold calling can be effective (I have worked in that area) and even direct marketing, such as house to house
However, as with everything there has to be good practice…unfortunately, too many companies are going about using some of these strategies the wrong way – to the point where we are becoming less receptive to such marketing generally…
That makes it harder!

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30 Anonymous July 1, 2008 at 2:28 pm

I am also aginst cold calling. If you been in sales for quite a while or you are new to sales than you know that cold calling is a waste of time.  Many people call cold calling telesales but whatever you call it if you’re spending your time cold calling your not maximizing your time.

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31 Anonymous July 1, 2008 at 7:28 pm

I am also aginst cold calling. If you been in sales for quite a while or you are new to sales than you know that cold calling is a waste of time.  Many people call cold calling telesales but whatever you call it if you’re spending your time cold calling your not maximizing your time.

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32 Anonymous June 26, 2008 at 11:55 am

im a Sales and Marketing executive of a small software company, i do a lot of cold callings as a lot of ppl are still not aware of the product we deal in.
Cold calling is effective when u know whom u r calling. And by convicing them how the product will help them do their job efficiently, i have had prospective clients wanting to know more about the product.
Cold Calling is followed up by giving them brochures of the company and trail usage of the software.
Sooner or later, they get to know what the product actually is.

But i wanna improve my marketing strategy, i was wondering if anyone could suggest me if there is any alternative ways to cold calling.

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33 Anonymous June 26, 2008 at 4:55 pm

im a Sales and Marketing executive of a small software company, i do a lot of cold callings as a lot of ppl are still not aware of the product we deal in.
Cold calling is effective when u know whom u r calling. And by convicing them how the product will help them do their job efficiently, i have had prospective clients wanting to know more about the product.
Cold Calling is followed up by giving them brochures of the company and trail usage of the software.
Sooner or later, they get to know what the product actually is.
But i wanna improve my marketing strategy, i was wondering if anyone could suggest me if there is any alternative ways to cold calling.

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34 Anonymous May 28, 2008 at 10:22 pm

yeah, certainly both methods have there place.

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35 Anonymous May 29, 2008 at 3:22 am

yeah, certainly both methods have there place.

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36 Anonymous May 28, 2008 at 1:15 am

An intersting observation. But I do get lot of telemarketing calls during the day time where various different companies try to sell me something (or sometimes upsell calls from the companies i do business with). Its funny to see how those people talk reading the script. In order to be successfull selling over the phone, reading script is just not enough and one needs to identify the need

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37 Anonymous May 28, 2008 at 6:15 am

An intersting observation. But I do get lot of telemarketing calls during the day time where various different companies try to sell me something (or sometimes upsell calls from the companies i do business with). Its funny to see how those people talk reading the script. In order to be successfull selling over the phone, reading script is just not enough and one needs to identify the need

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38 Ryan August 8, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Finally a response from a prospective client… Thanks for taking your time Mr Anonymous.

A decision making individual has or takes the time to go out looking for your unknown service or product, or for a better price on what they already use? No… marketing takes time and multiple avenues. Cold calling is not dead, and in fact has a unique place in the modern market. Not to mention, a “cold call” for a new employee is often just another touch for the brand. We must monitor these “touch” relationships well in order to maximize our relationship with our customer.

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39 Anonymous April 20, 2008 at 1:46 am

Our company uses cold calling as a means of generating new business. We by no means feel that B2B cold calling is dead. In fact our success proves otherwise. Cold calling will not be dead for a long time to come.

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40 Anonymous April 20, 2008 at 6:46 am

Our company uses cold calling as a means of generating new business. We by no means feel that B2B cold calling is dead. In fact our success proves otherwise. Cold calling will not be dead for a long time to come.

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41 Anonymous April 14, 2008 at 1:07 pm

i am sales and marketing executive and my bosses think we should use cold calling as a marketing strategy. i think its pointless. large amounts of resources are put into calling random potential clients and results are so minimal, they are discouraging. unfortunately, not everyone believes this. in my experience, there are better ways of acquiring business without irritating people who could be future clients

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42 Anonymous April 14, 2008 at 6:07 pm

i am sales and marketing executive and my bosses think we should use cold calling as a marketing strategy. i think its pointless. large amounts of resources are put into calling random potential clients and results are so minimal, they are discouraging. unfortunately, not everyone believes this. in my experience, there are better ways of acquiring business without irritating people who could be future clients

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43 Anonymous February 18, 2008 at 1:01 am

IN my opinion cold calling is for every business.  Their no way that soon or later every business will not have to do some type of cold calling to stay in business.
I believe that a company who refuses to have some type of cold calling system will soon or later be out of business.
Tony Snow
http://www.ambetenergy.com

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44 Anonymous February 18, 2008 at 6:01 am

IN my opinion cold calling is for every business.  Their no way that soon or later every business will not have to do some type of cold calling to stay in business.
I believe that a company who refuses to have some type of cold calling system will soon or later be out of business.
Tony Snow
http://www.ambetenergy.com

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45 Anonymous December 20, 2007 at 5:53 am

I agree with last poster about a call first to warm them up, then followup in person for flyer and hopes you can visit with the decision maker to identify if we can assist in helping the company grow or get better at what they do.

At this point it isn’t selling…it is giving them access to our expertise. We really need to show them we can imppact the business and we just aren’t more blowhards.

grin

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46 Anonymous December 20, 2007 at 10:53 am

I agree with last poster about a call first to warm them up, then followup in person for flyer and hopes you can visit with the decision maker to identify if we can assist in helping the company grow or get better at what they do.
At this point it isn’t selling…it is giving them access to our expertise. We really need to show them we can imppact the business and we just aren’t more blowhards.

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47 Anonymous December 18, 2007 at 6:04 pm

I like the post, and am managing a few lower level sales poeple that are doing cold calls, so I know its not the best way to go. We combine the cold calling with direct mail and email campaigns too.  We still do get appointments and business this way, so it is not useless and it takes skill to put together the right approach this way.  The point is, it can be effective if you work hard at it and come accross as “different”.  I think its important to mix the cold calling with other activities.  If those activities grow to be more successful then yeah…forget the cold calling. Nothing is better training on how to handle objections and think on your feet, especially for a young sales person, than cold calling.

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48 Anonymous December 18, 2007 at 11:04 pm

I like the post, and am managing a few lower level sales poeple that are doing cold calls, so I know its not the best way to go. We combine the cold calling with direct mail and email campaigns too.  We still do get appointments and business this way, so it is not useless and it takes skill to put together the right approach this way.  The point is, it can be effective if you work hard at it and come accross as “different”.  I think its important to mix the cold calling with other activities.  If those activities grow to be more successful then yeah…forget the cold calling. Nothing is better training on how to handle objections and think on your feet, especially for a young sales person, than cold calling.

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49 Anonymous September 5, 2007 at 10:11 pm

All major companies use cold calling, Discover Card, Visa, Sony, Seriously if you said cold calling is for small businesses maybe you should check the facts that it makes business grow 43% at least

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50 Anonymous September 6, 2007 at 3:11 am

All major companies use cold calling, Discover Card, Visa, Sony, Seriously if you said cold calling is for small businesses maybe you should check the facts that it makes business grow 43% at least

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51 Anonymous August 31, 2004 at 1:08 pm

I found that using my extra minutes of my t-Mobile 3000 minutes plan from my cell phone to cold call each month is a really good and cheap way to draw in clients and get your name out. 10%-20% of cold calls end up wanting more information about your service, which is a good reason to go in person and drop off information the next day. I get more responce from cold calls then from ads. Also if you have online ads, you limit your customers to ones that know how to use a computer. One thing to keep in mind is that you should always have a promotion to offer during the call.
——-

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52 Anonymous August 31, 2004 at 6:08 pm

I found that using my extra minutes of my t-Mobile 3000 minutes plan from my cell phone to cold call each month is a really good and cheap way to draw in clients and get your name out. 10%-20% of cold calls end up wanting more information about your service, which is a good reason to go in person and drop off information the next day. I get more responce from cold calls then from ads. Also if you have online ads, you limit your customers to ones that know how to use a computer. One thing to keep in mind is that you should always have a promotion to offer during the call.——-

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53 Anonymous July 26, 2004 at 4:07 pm

Cold Calling is fine for Small Businesses starting out but should never be the only method of obtaining sales. Long term database marketing (i.e. mail, e-mail, website promotions, small ads) should eventually get most prospects calling you instead of you calling them. Marty Screeton

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54 Anonymous July 26, 2004 at 9:07 pm

Cold Calling is fine for Small Businesses starting out but should never be the only method of obtaining sales. Long term database marketing (i.e. mail, e-mail, website promotions, small ads) should eventually get most prospects calling you instead of you calling them. Marty Screeton

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55 Anonymous July 23, 2004 at 6:07 am

If you have sales professionals on staff, there is no excuse to be wasting their time with cold calling. I’ve yet to find a single person able to present a compelling reason why it makes more sense to have them digging around for prospects instead of having qualified prospects seek them out instead. To do so is a complete and utter failure on the part of whoever is in charge of marketing. In a small professional firm, like the guy I wrote about, there is no excuse whatsoever other than being ignorant of alternatives. (Granted, a problem most small b2b firms have.)

Michael Cage

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56 Anonymous July 23, 2004 at 11:07 am

If you have sales professionals on staff, there is no excuse to be wasting their time with cold calling. I’ve yet to find a single person able to present a compelling reason why it makes more sense to have them digging around for prospects instead of having qualified prospects seek them out instead. To do so is a complete and utter failure on the part of whoever is in charge of marketing. In a small professional firm, like the guy I wrote about, there is no excuse whatsoever other than being ignorant of alternatives. (Granted, a problem most small b2b firms have.)
Michael Cage

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57 Anonymous July 23, 2004 at 5:07 am

Your comparing Apples with Oranges.

Both methods have a place in a well rounded sales plan.

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58 Anonymous July 23, 2004 at 10:07 am

Your comparing Apples with Oranges.
Both methods have a place in a well rounded sales plan.

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59 mike February 16, 2011 at 11:32 am

Just found this article via google.

The problem with B2B cold calling is when the salesperson calls someone based on nothing more than a weak lead, then pulls the “can you tell me who I should talk to” card.

No, I am NOT going to give out an internal phone number. I will shut you down immediately. I am not a switchboard operator, and I will not risk angering an executive by giving out private information. There will be no followup.

Cold calling may work from time to time, but it is a crass practice and reeks of amateurism. The proper way to land clients is to get your product in trade shows, online, fishing for RFPs through networking, etc.

Calling John Doe the Finance Manager and asking him who handles the company’s point-of-sale technology is the height of stupidity.

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