Does cold calling work?

October 2, 2015

Recent years have seen a few extreme industry-specific cases of clamping down on cold calling in the UAE. In 2011 the UAE Central Bank issued a ban on cold calling individuals, preventing banks and finance companies from contacting people by phone uninvited to offer loans and services.

And the practice hit UAE headlines again recently, when The Real Estate Regulatory Agency (Rera), the regulatory arm of the Dubai Land Department (DLD), issued fines of Dh50,000 to three real estate companies for repeated violations of the ban, with another 20 receiving warning letters.

But don’t let these extreme examples discourage you from the practice. If it is necessary for your business and if you are legally allowed to do so (most industries are), then adding this brave sales tactic to the mix can bring big results indeed.

And believe it or not, you are not bothering people as much as you may fear. In fact, quite the contrary. According to a survey by MarketingSherpa, a research firm that tracks what works in the marketing profession, only 11-17% percent of business prospects were annoyed at getting an unsolicited cold call. Much more significant is the fact that 45-53% of the executives interviewed said that a cold call they received had helped vendors leapfrog onto the consideration shortlist for purchases.

Ok, so now that we have concluded that cold calling is a good thing when done right and when following the law, let’s take a look at five tips that you can apply to get the most out of it.

1. Be smart with your timing

What’s the best and worst time to call? According to research from InsideSales.com and the Kellogg School of Management, it is as follows:

  • The best time is towards the end of the day (between 4pm and 5pm) when your prospect is likely to have dealt with the most pressing items on their to-do list. According to the research, calling at this time of day gives you a 114% better chance to make contact than calling at 11am to 12 noon.
  • Of course, you can’t leave all of your calls until the end of the day, and so be aware that the second best time to call is between 8am and 10am, when your prospects are just starting out their day and generally have a fresher and clearer mind.
  • The middle chunk of the day, between 11am and 2pm, is the worst time to call. This is when prospects are tied up with meetings and dealing with the bulk of the day’s work, or of course away at lunch.

The day of the week is also important in impacting both your chance of reaching your prospect and getting them in the right frame of mind. According to research by InsideSales.com and MIT, Thursday is the best day, Wednesday is second best, and Tuesday is at the bottom of the pile (shift the days here in Dubai to account for the Sunday-Thursday work week). Why? The reasoning behind this is that B2B prospects are easier to reach on Thursday and more willing to talk because the week is winding down and they tend to be more relaxed. In fact, according to the research, calling on a Thursday gives you a 49.7% greater chance of reaching a prospect than on a Tuesday – the day of the week on which most actual work gets done.

Of course, that’s not to say you shouldn’t make calls on other days or at other times. But being aware of how time and day impact the availability, frame of mind, receptiveness and openness of your prospect will help you to be all the better prepared.

2. Do your homework

With all the online information now available at your fingertips, there’s no reason why any call need ever be stone cold. Most good salespeople worth their salt will spend time doing their homework on their prospects’ companies and the industries they operate in.

Reading news reports, websites, annual reports, and letters to shareholders will improve your odds of a productive call by demonstrating that you understand the business. According to sales strategist and author Jill Konrath, top cold callers use LinkedIn for six hours a week as a key tool for identifying leads and getting to know the businesses of those they call.

Putting in time to do the legwork before you even pick up the phone makes all the difference between guessing at your prospect’s business needs and going into the conversation armed with valuable insights that literally turn the cold call into a warm one – increasing your chances of success.

3. Rewrite the script

As a rule of thumb, you have 10-15 seconds to make an impression before your prospect dismisses it as ‘just another sales call’ and hangs up. Traditional telesales scripts were based around who you are and what your company does. But we now know that we have to make it all about the person we are calling.

Think about how you can turn it around and get to the heart of any potential needs your prospect has. It goes without saying that people are much more likely to listen when the conversation is focused on them, and when it comes to business, we are selfish beings. If you can’t add value, the person you are calling is not going to want to hear from you. This in large part goes back to point 2 above – do your homework. Because if you do you’ll have a better chance of making it about your prospects.

There are no hard and fast rules – but sounding just like every other sales call is a quick route to a ‘Not interested’ – click. Dale Carnegie, an international training and consulting services company that helps businesses sharpen sales skills and improve performance, recommends preparing a ‘call guide’ – a list of the key objectives you want to achieve on the call. This tends to help you stay focused while freeing you up to talk naturally.

4. Tenacity brings dividends

The amount of cold call attempts it takes to reach a prospect is increasing. In 2007, it took an average of 3.8 attempts. According to research by TeleNet and Ovation Sales Group, it now takes an average of eight calls to get through.

And just how many times does the average salesperson attempt to reach a prospect before giving up? According to sales and marketing advisory firm Sirius Decisions, just two. So How do you measure up?

If you’re calling at those optimal times of the day as listed in point 1 above, you hopefully won’t need to make eight calls. But in situations where you are struggling to get through and you might be tempted to give up, remember that the one last call could be the one that pays off.

5. Look at the big picture

According to the Marketing Donut, an organisation offering marketing advice and resources for SMEs, 80% of successful sales required five follow up calls after the meeting before the close came. Yet once again we see the lack of effort, with almost half (44%) of salespeople give up after just one post-meeting follow-up call.

That’s a lot of time and resource that’s gone into the groundwork to be losing out on a sale for the sake of a few phone calls. Rather than being short-sighted, keep an eye on the entire sales cycle, using the same persistence and perseverance throughout.

Do it right or don’t do it at all

Cold calling isn’t for everyone. Done badly, it can be a nuisance that puts off potential leads. But done well, it can generate new business and ongoing relationships that lead to even more business. Weigh up the amount of time spent for a win compared to other methods and determine if it’s right for your company. If you have better methods for generating sales that cost less, then the answer is clear and you will want to focus on those.

Just remember, though, that big wins can come out of cold calling, and just about every sales person I know who has cold called in the past will have stories about those big wins that started off by picking up the phone and calling someone they have never spoken to before.

 

Karl Hougaard
About the author
Karl Hougaard; Head of Sales & Marketing
As Head of Sales & Marketing at Virtuzone, Karl ensures the company maintains its position as one of the fastest growing business setup operators in the region.Karl started his career as a senior manager with Primovie, the Cinema Operations arm of Primedia LTD in South Africa, which saw him relocate to Dubai in 2001 as part of the group’s global expansion plans. He has also represented some of the region’s largest media firms including ITP Publishing Group and Dubizzle.com.