"Did I catch you at a bad time?" The Fallacy About Cold Calls
For manly love be here March 25th at 2:15 AM sharp. I'm sure it's safe to say that Lloyd thought that was a bad time to run into Seabass, don't you?
Cold calling isn't right or wrong, it's just DUMB!
Just as my tenure on the Mastodon Soccer Team was gaining steam I took a random phone call from some guy attempting to pitch me on an idea to be the face for the new Miller Lite advert campaign. Oh, heck yeah! I was nearly 21 and apparently, I had been spotted casually sipping on some at a local establishment. My maturity was at an all-time high with the reply, "well, I do have a phenomenal fake id, please continue." Picture this, your mug, and those frosty tips on every billboard in town. I thought to myself, this was way too good to be true, nearly 21 and about to score my dream job without lifting a finger. Well, I guess technically I did but then I remembered oh yeah, I have a brain. First, I can't afford Miller Lite and second I was a loyal Champagne sipper (that's Miller High Life for all my non-alcoholic friends). Right about that moment I heard a familiar chuckle, not a full chuckle, but more of a quarter chuckle accompanied by a clench holding something in. "Wait a minute, what's going on, I said." "Is this Kohlmann (college friend)? That accent sounds a lot like dirty SSP (South Saint Paul for you non-Scandinavians). It wasn't, it was even better. It was Kohlmann's dad who gladly agreed to play along. I was duped and almost 18 years later we still laugh about it. Remember when Biff grabs a brewski out of George McFly's fridge? "I have your car towed all the way to your house and all you got for me is lite beer?" It felt like that. No billboards for me...
What's the point?
I do have one you know. In 2001 I would answer any call on my phone. First, cell phones were rad, and second, they made me feel important. Fast forward to 2018, I barely even answer calls from my closest friends [and their dad] let alone a random number.... NOPE, NEVER.
Maybe, you're not like me and you enjoy being cold-called, or spammed by "Randoms." Or you're the kind that appreciates calls from:
- Did you know your car's warranty is about to expire? "No, which car?"
- Would you like to make a donation? "Ahhhh, no....."
- Can we come by and give you a FREE estimate on custom windows, how about siding? "Will you promise to take three hours to give me a presentation?"
- Did you know your business has been pre-approved for a $1,000,000 loan? "What business?"
- Insert any cold or spam call example here: _____________________________
The question of whether you take these calls or not was rhetorical, you don't and you know it. But do you then go to work the next day and knock out a bunch of them and think you're any different? Yeah, you're a hypocrite. In my fourteen-year sales career, I can't tell you how many people I have encountered in this profession who say one thing and do another. This is a classic example of that. What makes us think that cold calling someone is any different than the person dialing us to ask about a car warranty?
To explain you should know the history of my cold calling experience which includes both making them teaching others how to make them.
First, I picked up the phone 47,979 times...
From 2007 to 2011 I was required to make 160 cold calls a week on the job. Now, I only averaged between 120-150 so I feel safe calling it an average of 135. Given my time at that job including holidays and vacations, the total adds up to approximately 29,295 calls. From 2012 through May of 2016 I can tell exactly what the calls were as I have them clearly documented (I included them under my job description on my LinkedIn profile). That number is 18,684 for a grand total of 47,979 cold calls since 2007. That doesn't include the 40 or so cold calls per day I made from 2004-2007.
Second, I taught others how...
I was a client of sales training methodology and eventually a sales trainer myself. I taught people how to get over the fear of making cold calls and how to deliver what's called a "30-second commercial." With 100% certainty, the call would begin with me saying, "did I catch you at a bad time?" I made my living telling people that the quickest way to build a pipeline was to pick up the phone. I believe in the process that we were trained in, I believe that what I taught my clients about sales was true. I just lied about prospecting.
Out of the 49,979 cold calls I made I speak to the success or failure of all of them but for the last 18,684, I know exactly what the results are. Out of 18,684 cold calls I averaged just 5 new conversations a week with people I wanted to talk with. That means CIOs, CFO's, IT Directors, only answered the phone 5 times a week to speak with me. Five people had to be sitting at their desk, who had to check their caller ID and make a split decision if to answer a random call potentially from a stranger.
Everything I have ever known about sales and about prospecting could potentially be wrong and I'm afraid of who I am if I am not the guy who can make 200+ dials a day. I was Rhonda Rousey, "if I am not this, who am I?" If each of my conversations were just 30 seconds and I only had five new ones a week, what was I doing with the other 39 hours, 57 minutes, and 30 seconds? I was becoming an expert on how to navigate a switchboard, I was learning about rejection and feeding my need to feel important but, I was only doing one obvious thing. I was wasting my time. Side note, if I were lying in a grave I just rolled over.
Feeling valued, feeling important, learning how to handle rejection and switchboard expertise look great on paper but, they don't pay the bills. I often wonder if the people who get into the debate over cold calls being dead or alive are making an argument based on facts. To me, I never was, cold calls were alive because I wouldn't let them go, I kept them alive. The truth is cold calls have been dead for quite some time now.
Proving a theory is key to my new-found belief that cold calls are in fact dead, or at the most, a cliché wouldn't work without evidence. I had to prove it......so I did. I told my guys that cold calls will be the last touch we make in our very specific cadence (proprietary). It's 2017 (when we started this), and in 2017 there is no reason to call someone three hundred times on the phone. There is no reason and no excuse for not being able to communicate with someone somehow. There are just too many ways to reach someone now.
Here is what we uncovered:
We made 8,350 cold calls and as a result delivered 274 commercials. We sent 10,438 cold emails and as a result, had 211 replies. For your math majors out there, that's a 3% & 2% response rate respectfully. My emphasis was on new ways to engage, so I had my team focus solely on social media. In 2017 we sent 16,304 cold LinkedIn messages and as result had 2,281 responses. Now, that's a 14% response rate which although is impressive is not the number I'm necessarily impressed with. What sticks out to me isn't the engagement rate, it's the total amount of conversations. 2,281.
We could double the amount of touches made and increase the amount of conversations we were having by 832%.
The debate of if cold calls are effective or noneffective is irrelevant, the debate is why do we even make them in the first place?????
At the end of the Sales Playbook I wrote for our company, on page 57 I wrote this:
If we have the means to contact the people we want to speak with in so many ways, why do we put all our eggs into picking up the phone... The tagline "did I catch you at a bad time" is so hypocritical, and so rhetorical. Sometimes I wish we could just go back to simpler times. Times when the one and only Bill Kohlmann would prank cold call me about a modeling job but that's not going to happen, even he would be smart enough to find another way to get my attention. Things have evolved, and it's perfectly ok to start accepting that fact.
And of course, if you like being disrupted at "bad times," think about how Lloyd felt....
If you need to get ahold me, I already told you how....I'm reachable.
p.s. Don't get me started on cold emails