Small Business Brief

Small Business Articles

[Home] [Submit Your Articles]

Article Categories

Subscribe to the Small Business Brief Newsletter!

Our free newsletter is delivered once a week and provides a digest of small business ideas and articles that inspire, inform and generally keep small business owners up to date with the information they need to succeed. Your email address will NOT be given to third parties.

Overcoming Cold Calling Resistance

by Barry Wellford


Cold calling, even if 'sanitized' with the title Telemarketing, seems to meet universal resistance. Who wants to take an unexpected telephone call when you're in the middle of doing something else? Indeed who wants to make a cold call when you may well make someone angry? It's a two way street here. Frank Rumbauskas has some interesting Cold Calling Statistics on his blog.

Research indicates that an executive will only be receptive to talking with you after seeing your message at least nine times, and since only one out of three messages will reach on average, it takes twenty-seven attempts to gain a qualified appointment with a prospect.

Let's translate this into real-world cold calling. On average, companies and managers that require cold calling set a daily activity minimum of fifty cold calls. So, ultimately, each day salespeople who make fifty cold calls are making enough calls to reach only two executives based on the twenty-seven attempts it takes to get an appointment. And that's assuming the people you're calling are actually interested or have a need! In reality, cold calls to random people rarely reach anyone who has a current need.

Those are very dispiriting statistics.

Remember that cold calling isn't just talking for the first time to someone. A better definition is possibly that you're calling someone who did not ask you to call and who is not expecting the call. Even if this is the closest you get to pure 'cold calling', there is important advice here on how to maximize your telephone contacting effectiveness.


Perhaps it's not surprising that cold calling is resisted by sellers almost as strongly as it's resisted by buyers. Why should that be? Going back to Frank Rumbauskas, he has an explanation for that: The Hypocrisy of Cold Calling

One common theme I hear from salespeople who are unfortunately required to cold call is that the very same managers and executives who mandate cold calling do not accept cold calls themselves! Here they are, making cold calling a requirement, and yet they refuse to accept cold calls. Their very own actions prove that cold calling DOES NOT WORK, and yet they're ordering their own salespeople to do it. If that doesn't describe stupidity, I don't know what does!

Of course the domain name for his blog is NeverColdCall. Does that perhaps indicate a bias in his views? However I believe we can all relate to what he is saying.


Given the universal dislike of Cold Calling, why does anyone do it?

Well without it, sales may not grow at the desired rate. If you have invented the best mouse-trap in the world, you might possibly survive if you wait for people to search you out at your workshop in the woods. More often you must consider some type of marketing or advertising to make sure folk know about your product and where to find you. In this Internet age, you could perhaps decide to have a website. You would then hope that people will find your website in a Google search for 'the best mousetrap in the world', and will then get in touch with you.

Sitting back and waiting is tough, and probably not very productive. If you're a retail store of course, you build your store where the traffic is. Location, location, location is the name of the game. However that is wholly inappropriate for most companies.

If you don't wait for the customers to contact you, then inevitably you are forced to contact them. Of course if you've sold to them before and have their contact coordinates, then it isn't as tough as a pure cold call. They know you already. If you don't contact them then perhaps the competition will and steal the customer away without you even realizing. It's also good to be in touch with lapsed customers. In addition it's almost guaranteed that you'll need to contact potential customers who have never heard of you before. So cold calling or something equivalent is forced on you.


One paradoxical aspect of all this is that most people have lots of things in common. If you get chatting as you wait for a bus or possibly an elevator, most of us have similar concerns and can relate to the concerns and the joys of other people. It's only when we get to sit at opposite sides of a table or opposite ends of a telephone line that sometimes things get in the way of that easy going relationship that you might strike up face-to-face. By analyzing what is the difference, we can help to remove that mutual resistance to cold calling. It all relates to what is in the mind of the Seller and what is in the mind of the Buyer, or what might be called their Mindsets.


Although the mindsets of a Buyer and a Seller involved in a Cold Calling situation may be in conflict, it doesn't need to be like that at all.

The Seller must work on both his own mindset and that of the Buyer if the Cold Call is to be successful. His or her own mindset must be geared to a successful outcome for that Cold Call. In a complementary way, his organization must have worked to prepare the mindset of the Buyer for a successful outcome. The Buyer should have a positive reaction towards the Seller's company. For success, the Seller should follow the elements in this Cold Calling Credo.

For the Seller:

1. There are no 100% solutions: you're always working with percentages.
2. What you offer should be the right solution for a reasonably high percentage of potential Buyers.
3. You will only use methods that a reasonably high percentage of potential Buyers will find appropriate.
For the Buyer
4. Most Sellers as individuals would probably share a lot in common with you.
5. Some Sellers may have useful information and offers for you.
6. In your available time, you should check out at least some of the Sellers that you know something about.
For both Seller and Buyer
7. There can be Win/Win.

So Sellers should adopt this Credo in making Cold Calling work for them. The first element is the most important. There is no magic solution here. You're always working with percentages. Any given activity will work with a certain percentage of potential Buyers. It will also fail with a certain percentage of potential Buyers this time around. You've got to choose those activities that give the best percentages. However there'll always be ones you lose. More importantly there'll be a percentage where you win.


The easiest part of this is for the Seller to develop a positive mindset, based on confidence in having the skills that the task demands. You'll find some excellent advice in a blog post by Kevin Stirtz entitled, "How to Make Cold Calling Work for Your Business". He sets out what he calls Some useful ideas. (Note the order below is a slightly different order from that in the post.)

a. Have a Lot of Leads
b. Qualify (or Pre-Qualify) Your Leads
c. Persistence is Painful, Not Profitable
d. Have a Goal for Your Cold Calling Program
e. Warm Up First
f. Schedule Your Calling
g. Yes, Your Call is an Interruption. Get Over It.
h. Use a Script But Don't be a Robot
j. Get Them Talking with Good Questions
j. Don't Waste Time
k. Remember Why You're Calling
l. Ask For a Commitment
m. Manage Your Activities and Monitor Your Outcomes

You should read the original post for a full description of how to handle these steps well.

I fully support Kevin Stirtz's excellent advice. However I might differ slightly with him on the following statement:

If cold calling is accepted in your industry then you should consider making it a prospecting tool. A benefit is that you connect directly with people who are likely to need or want what you offer. And, because cold calling is an active form of prospecting you can use it to fill holes in your pipeline when other lead generating methods are falling short.

That is true but I take issue on whether there is any industry that accepts cold calling. Conversely I believe it's a technique that could be applied in many industries. The key to this is how you work on the Buyer's mindset so that there is an acceptance of the technique.


I found an amusing account of what may appear as the Buyer's traditional mindset when faced with Cold calling. It was in a article by Ernest Nicastro entitled "How to Win Over the Man in the Chair: Salesmanship, Repetition and Direct Mail" (March 22, 2005). He describes a classic business-to-business print ad from the late '50s for McGraw-Hill Magazines. An imposing-looking executive sits in his chair. He has both feet planted firmly on the ground, and a look on his face that is a cross between a frown and a scowl. His hands are folded together in front of him, and his elbows rest on the chair; he leans ever so slightly forward. To his right run these eight lines of copy:

I don't know who you are.
I don't know your company.
I don't know your company's product.
I don't know what your company stands for.
I don't know your company's customers.
I don't know your company's record.
I don't know your company's reputation.
Now-what was it you wanted to sell me?

Even in the 50's, that was a pretty intimidating presence to make your pitch to.


50 years later, things have got only worse. We're now in the Information Age. The Internet means that competition is now global. Everyone is assailed by floods of information via a whole series of different channels and by hordes of people trying to sell you something. Stress is now a common work hazard.

It's not surprising to see the eagerness with which an approach such as GTD is accepted. The GTD (Getting Things Done) technique was developed by David Allen and is now accepted widely within even the biggest corporations. GTD is geared to reducing the stress by focusing only on those activities that are productive. This was the same message that Stephen Covey was bringing to Highly Effective Executives in his book on the 7 Habits. Concentrate only on the Urgent and Important. The rest can wait, perhaps for ever. That presumably includes taking Cold Calls.


At one point, a Buyer's strongest defence might well be his or her secretary or administrative assistant. The good sales person cultivated relationships with such 'gatekeepers' to be able to grab the slightest chance to talk to the boss. Now there are additional hurdles protecting the decision-maker.

Mrs Adams is on the other line: would you like to leave a message on her voice box.

The best approach would be to send your message by fax to Mr. Bruce.

Why not send an e-mail message to Ms. Chambers.

All three may well mean the same. Your communication is about to end up in the trash.


So if the Buyer is erecting defences in this battle, how can the Seller get through these defences. What tricks can be used to avoid ending up in the trash? The answer is that no tricks work well enough to be useful. If the Buyer is tricked into being aware you exist, then you're starting off on the wrong foot anyway. Like judo, you shouldn't just try to match strength with strength. Remember the defences may be keeping out the rest of the competition as well. So if you can find your way in, you may be at an advantage.


The short answer is that you can't get around the new defences. It's the age of Permission Marketing to use Seth Godin's phrase. The Buyer is in control now. If you're going to get on to the Buyer's radar screen, it's only by invitation. So you must play the percentages. You should only do what will be deemed acceptable by a reasonable percentage of prospects. You should do nothing that will alienate too high a percentage of prospects.

So rule out buying databases and sending email messages to many thousands of people. Such methods are offensive to us all. Luckily legislation is changing to block such mindless approaches. Instead you should be building up your own database of potential Buyers and investing effort in learning more about every one of them and particularly finding how you might approach them. Ultimately the Buyer must be the one who invites you in to give them more information.


The Internet brings some problems but also some benefits to the Cold Calling process. The difficulty in getting recognition by the Buyer is that there are now many more competitors visible on the Internet. However at the same time the Internet brings a variety of new ways of informing the Buyer you exist. A good Buyer will be keeping his or her eyes open at all times for possible new suppliers, products or services that may suggest new ways of doing things or of beating their own competitors. So they read magazines or newsletters or visit trade shows, either physically or via the Internet.

Then at certain times they will be looking more intensively at lists of potential suppliers when they have a particular need. To do this they may look at an online directory or use a search engine.

The effective selling organization will choose from all these different ways of being visible on the Internet the most cost-effective ways of getting 'brand recognition'. Like cold calling itself, it takes a number of impressions to build up that recognition. The important thing is to gain such recognition that a Buyer will accept a telephone call from the Seller. In such a call the Seller will move the relationship forward with the Buyer so that when the actual purchasing moment arrives the Seller is the preferred supplier.

The advantage of Internet marketing is that it is very easy to measure with great precision what is working well and what works less well. The company can then adjust how budgets are applied based on return on investment (ROI).


What frequency should the Buyer be receiving cold calls from you? Again that is determined by what the Buyer would regard as reasonable. I remember at one point every year on my birthday I received a call from a very amiable insurance salesman. I don't know how he got my telephone number on the first occasion but he called me four years in a row. We developed quite a relationship from those annual calls. My company benefits package included insurance so I never had occasion to use his services. However if circumstances had changed, he would have been at the top of the list.

So depending on what you're selling there will be a natural frequency of contact. Sometimes it may be only once a year but that can be particularly powerful. In other cases, a call every four or six months would not be out of place. In general you should not leave a message on a voice box and you should try only once. Unless the potential customer is very important, you would then put off the call to the next regular planned call perhaps four months out. This assumes that your database of potential contacts is fairly large and you will not run out of people to contact if you only try them once. Ways of improving on this approach are discussed in the next section.


The general principles that should determine your Cold Calling Action Plan have now been discussed. Within the scope of this article, it is not appropriate to give the full details on how to set out a fully detailed Cold Calling Action Plan. However the following partial check list will indicate how to develop such an Action Plan.


1. Set up a Sales Contact Management or Sales Force Automation Database

This can be something as simple as an Access database or one of the commercial software packages such as Act!, Maximizer, Goldmine or something even more complex. It should include current customers, lapsed customers, qualified prospects and not-yet-qualified leads. It should provide a history of contacts with each individual and alerts for the next contacts and their purpose.

2. Company "Visibility" activities that may influence all prospects
Appropriate effort on any or all the following:

A website that is easily found in search engines
Directory listings
Back-links from other prestigious websites
Paid Internet advertising - Banner ads, Pay-per-Click advertising
Paid print advertising
Business blogging
E-mail newsletter alerts with associated web page newsletters on the company website.
PR announcements
Trade show appearances

3. Contacts with individuals

Surveillance of news items related to individuals as basis of individual contact
Have daily target contact list
Preparation for each call - review of current information (e.g. news items on their website)
Make the calls to the target contact list
E-mail follow-up to all whether successful contact or not


Cold calling is an essential activity for most enterprises. There are ways to do it poorly and ways to do it well. This article has shown how to make it effective. As a final thought another way of looking at all this is that you're really trying to turn every cold call into a call that is made to a willing ear. So it's not cold calling but rather creating warm receptions.

If your company needs to get up to speed on this, SMM will be happy to help you figure out your best approach. Our help can be configured to meet exactly the needs you have. Our strengths, experience and creativity can complement those of your company. So write us a Fast Message today, Thursday, May 19, 2005 , on what you're looking for.

Discuss this in our Forum

About the Author:

Barry Welford is the president of Strategic Marketing Montreal. SMM provides Internet Marketing Consultancy and Coaching to clients in the manufacturing and service sectors. This includes strategy development, website conception including usability, SEO, credibility and sales conversion aspects, search engine marketing and sales force management. Many will have seen his writings through the SMM Newsletters. He is a moderator on the Cre8asite Forum along with other major search engine forums. Barry is known for his writings in two associated business blogs BPWrap and the Other Bloke's Blog.

business cards

Small Business Ideas Forum - Small Business Opportunities - Small Business Articles - Small Business Resources - Small Business Software - Small Business Loans

Home - Contact - Privacy - Top of Page

Copyright © 2006 - 2008 K. Clough, Inc. All Rights Reserved.