What do the following have in common?
The buggy whip, the wristwatch, the CD, the telephone
Just as the buggy whip has become a museum piece, some would say that there’s no need to carry a watch if you have a BlackBerry or iPhone, no need to collect CDs when you can download music to your laptop, and no need to use the telephone to generate sales leads when you could be using social networking platforms like Facebook or Twitter.
But is this an accurate assessment?
Some, like Nigel Edelshain, CEO of Sales 2.0 (LLC), would agree. “The cold call is dead, if that means ‘smiling and dialing’ with little-to-no preparation on the part of the salesperson,” he writes in his e-book, Don’t Cold Call. Social Call. However, he qualifies, “smart prospecting is very much alive. Smart salespeople can execute ‘social calls’ using the latest in Sales 2.0 tools and social networks.” Based on emerging evidence that suggests a sales professional might make 100 cold calls versus 12 social calls to set up just one appointment, Edelshain estimates that “social calling” represents an eight-time improvement over traditional telephone techniques.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean the telephone is obsolete. Jim Domanski, President of Teleconcepts Consulting Inc., is one who begs to differ. “The phone is as valuable, if not even more valuable, with the advent of social media,” he says. “When e-mail started to hit, everyone said the web and e-mail would replace the phone. Instead, what it did was synergize the phone, because it added another layer to contact the client. If it’s changed, all that I see is that it has created another avenue for prospecting. When you boil it all down, it still comes down to a one-on-one discussion or meeting.”
Wendy Weiss is known as The Queen of Cold Calls. “The phone is here to stay,” she assures, “because you’re making that human being-to-human being connection, which you really don’t make in other types of marketing.”
Weiss presented a session called “Cold Calling For Profit” at the second annual Warrior Forum in Raleigh, North Carolina. “I’m speaking at an internet marketing conference, and the topic of my speech is using the telephone to build your sales,” she says. “I was expecting that people would be saying the telephone is outdated. The speakers talked about the way they sell: they use their websites to generate leads, and then they use phone centres to call people up. Two of the world’s most successful marketers run call centres, so anyone who thinks the telephone is dead, is totally out of touch.”
“Social networking is still an important part that you can have working in the background for you,” says Domanski. “But what I see in social media, from a prospecting point of view, is a slippery slope, and that is to think that blogging and LinkedIn and Facebook can do the work for you while you sit there and passively wait for the sales to come. I think that can become very dangerous for business.”
Sites like LinkedIn are hailed as a less invasive way to contact people. However, Domanski continues on to say, “My experience with LinkedIn is that people are looking for information; from there, people can make a decision about who to call. If anyone on LinkedIn starts sending me promotions, well, that’s just as annoying as spam.”
Also, there are practical issues to consider. He adds. “Are the people on LinkedIn going to be the manufacturers that you want to get in Hamilton? I’m not interested in millions; I’m interested in the 30,000 in a certain area. Quite frankly, I can get more information from a 12-second phone call than from searching LinkedIn. At least with the phone, I can call a targeted market, and I don’t care whether it’s intrusive – it works.”
“One of the biggest time-wasters is calling people that are not appropriate and will never buy,” says Weiss. “There’s a myth about cold calling that it’s about getting anyone on the phone and wrestling them to the ground to get them to buy. That’s not what cold calling is about: you’re looking for the people who are looking for you.”
There’s one question a sales professional needs to ask before pursuing social networking: “Is what they’re doing working for them?” Weiss asks. “If they have enough leads and they are making sales, then they can just keep on doing what they’re doing. I’m on LinkedIn and Facebook, and you can follow me on Twitter. These are all things that I use in my business. Does it mean everybody has to use these things? Of course not. You have to realistically look at the number of prospects that you can actually contact and work with over the year. You work the numbers backwards, and there will be a finite number of prospects that you can pursue. If you don’t need more leads, maybe you don’t have to be on Facebook and Twitter and everything else.”
For those who do think “social calling” is something they want to explore, Edelshain offers three top sites.
a) Jigsaw, a user-built business information site
For building prospect profiles and lists by identifying the right companies and the right people within them
b) InsideView, a site that mines traditional media for useful information tidbits
For identifying what he calls “trigger events” – those changes in the prospective buyer’s environment that might affect their needs
For maintaining relationships and garnering referrals
“Google alerts are very useful,” Weiss says. “Putting alerts on your top customers or your top prospects so you get an alert whenever anything is mentioned about them is very valuable, because you can use that information to reach out to that customer and build customer loyalty or move that sales process forward. You can send them a card – or preferably call – to say ‘I noticed you won that award or were mentioned in that magazine, congratulations!’”
“Selling is the life blood,” says Domanski. “If I’m a sales manager, I want you engaged in active conversations with contacts, because that’s where the money is. I can see social media really working well with existing clients, because there’s affinity, but I wouldn’t want to rely on that. Having said that, I think a wise company should look into social media and what it can do, but do it with a grain of salt. It is not the great hope for sales; it’s just another avenue for marketing.”
Edelshain predicts a future where salespeople will work at a display screen that allows them to monitor social networking sites constantly. Even now, he says, “When you’re prospecting in a social calling way, you will have these tools up and open on the dashboard all the time.” But for most, the telephone will still play a key role in daily business.
“The phone isn’t going anywhere,” says Weiss. “Twenty years ago, we had phones on our desks; today we carry them around. Other than having a one-on-one conversation in the same space, the next best thing is a phone call.”
About the Author:
For over a decade, Sarah ran a Toronto-based cross-cultural media relations firm called Cadmus Communications. She currently lectures on writing, arts and culture in the Centre for Arts and Design at Toronto's George Brown College. Besides work for newsstand magazines, she has written for numerous trade publications.