Cold calling is one of those topics that gets a lot of responses when posted in the forums. Generally, people are divided into two camps:
1. Those who hate it either because they hate to do it or they see it as an exercise in futility.
2. Those who swear they built their career on it.
For clarity, I think it is important to define cold calling as making calls to a list that you have no reason to believe is aware of your company or products. Follow up calls to people who stopped by your trade show booth are not cold calls in my book. (Although they may feel like it to the person making the calls!)
I will admit that there are times when cold calling is a necessity. For example, when you are a sales rep in a new industry or business with very little marketing support. Sometimes you just have to pick up the phone and do what needs to be done. Although, in those cases, I’d encourage you to make your “cold” calls as warm as possible by targeting prospects and doing some research ahead of time.
That said, in a well-established business with a formal marketing department, true cold calling could be a sign that something is wrong with your marketing programs. Possible root causes for the need to cold call could be:
1. You are not conducting campaigns that bring in a significant number of inquiries. I would not build my marketing plan around trade shows and the like as they are expensive and the number of qualified leads is often low. However, these kinds of campaigns that generate a large number of unqualified responses can be the foundation for other marketing programs.
2. You are not building your database. Maybe you are doing the aforementioned types of campaigns but these inquiries are not going into your database for future campaigns. Your Inside Sales team calls them, perhaps up to three times, and if they do not get a response, they go into a desk drawer and never see the light of day again.
3. You are not nurturing your database. If you are putting these inquiries into the database but not reconnecting with additional campaigns, that is little better than putting the list in the desk drawer. Consistency is also key. One additional campaign does not make up a nurture program.
If you are doing all three of these things, your lead generation efforts should be improving. Of course, there are still times when picking up the phone is necessary. For example, a new rep needs to build a pipeline as quickly as possible and might not have much to start with. But, having done all three steps, the marketing team should be able to hand this rep a list of likely suspects that gives them a much higher chance of quickly building a pipeline than if they opened up the phone book and started dialing.