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In a recent informal poll of sellers we conducted, 89 per cent said they do not like cold calling. And 28 per cent said "sign me up for a root canal" instead.

Meanwhile if we did a poll of buyers I suspect we'd see most do not like receiving cold calls either (not sure about the root canal stats). This seems like a very odd process to me: neither seller nor the buyer like it. There's pretty good evidence that humans perform best when doing activities they like. Here we have a process that sellers don't like, so it's pretty likely most of them are not going to be that good at it.

To date a lot of our solutions to this problem have fallen into the "so what if you don't like it? Lump it" category. Most of our solutions have been ways to psyche ourselves up to do something we don't want to do. OK, I get this. I can force myself to eat rice pudding (one of the only foods I don't like) but I'd rather someone changed "the game" so I had to eat ice cream instead.

OK so fess up time. I don't like cold calling myself (yes, it's true - sign me up for a filling - maybe not a full root canal, I've had two of those and they really hurt).

Not only do I not love the rejection aspect of cold calling. I know I could get more coaching etc. But as a bloke who's been trained as an engineer I also hate the inefficiency of it. Eventually it's the inefficiency that wears me down the most not the rejection.

What's inefficient about cold calling? It's so direct. Well, it is except as we've tracked data here it's clear it's getting harder all the time to get people on the phone. In the best case we're seeing 6-7 dials to getting a relevant decision maker on the line (or even influencer). And in the worst case this could be as high as 20 dials to get a conversation. That's a lot of time just dialing the phone for nothing. Not only is there dialing time but if you're even the slightest bit of a professional sales person, you need to prepare for those calls. So now you're preparing for 19 conversations that don't happen (3 minutes per conversation times 19 = 57 minutes of prep for no conversation).

I blame Stephen Covey ("The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) and David Allen (Getting Things Done) but this kind of "productivity" makes me bonkers. No engineer I know would develop a product that succeeds one in 6 times or worse one in twenty times (and I blame the engineering school).

And that success rate is only the getting through bit. Now we need to deal with the "cold" conversation. Even if we're super-optimistic about that part we're dealing with a 50 per cent success rate -- I'm being way optimistic, let's get normal and say a 10 per cent success rate. So now we're involved in a process that succeeds 1 out of 60 times or worse 1 out of 200 times. Thank goodness salespeople don't build bridges!

In my opinion there need to be better ways to do this -- whether we continue to call those ways cold calling or not. Here at Sales 2.0 we've been working on something I've dubbed "Social Calling" and we see much higher success rates with that. Others in the "marketing school" are continuing to develop "inbound marketing", "lead nurturing" and "content marketing" all with the same goal of generating qualified leads. I say "bravo" to them. Let's push the boundaries fast on this. There's tons of potential to generate business more efficiently.

And I hope dentists somewhere are working on a painless root canal treatment too.

About the Author:

Nigel Edelshain is CEO of Sales 2.0 LLC.  His company helps businesses work with Sales 2.0 improve their sales results 2-3 times.

Nigel has sold millions of dollars of IT solutions to major Fortune 500 firms. He was head of sales for the financial services vertical for Starpoint Solutions (a 600-person system integrator). While at Starpoint, he sold e-business projects to senior business and technology executives in Wall Street. Prior to Starpoint Nigel worked for Platinum Technology (now CA) selling IT professional services.



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