Has Digital Changed B2B Cold Calling, and Does It Still Have a Place?

Phone waiting for the callObviously, I'm a huge fan and proponent of digital marketing. At the same time, I realize that digital marketing is only part of a complete B2B marketing campaign. That's why I was intrigued to see the following tweet in response to one of our recent social posts:

I contacted Daniel Francès, the person who authored the tweet, to see if he'd like to share his expertise here on our blog, and he agreed. After all, he actually enjoys making B2B cold calls! Here's our conversation:

Many B2B companies obviously still use cold calling for sales purposes. What are your success rates?

Although B2B cold calling is clearly for sales purposes, I don't sell on the phone, and I don’t train cold callers to sell on the phone. The goal of all talented enterprise level salespeople should be to make qualified appointments on a cold call. Then conversion is done in person, rather than on the phone.

My goal is to make 6-7 qualified appointments out of every 10 cold calls I make. Cost per lead varies depending on the product or service being presented. A B2B product like energy will require a higher cost per lead because the sales cycle is longer, compared to a B2B product like office supplies, where the sales cycle is much shorter. Pens and pencils probably don't require demonstration, explanation, or appointments. I mean, even though Jim from The Office likes to show off his Dunder Mifflin paper in person, I think that the level of product I train cold callers to sell actually demands an in-person meeting to convert.

You mentioned in your email response to me that “digital has changed cold calling.” Can you give us some more detail on why you say this?

The Cold Call Process requires preparation as one of the key elements to pre-call. Targeted research makes it easier for me to find common ground with the potential client. Anything mutual (grew up in the same area, favorite sports team in common, same previous employer) makes connecting a smoother process.

Doing homework by checking out your potential client's background makes it’s much easier to enter the call from a position of knowledge. The digital age has helped cold callers perform faster, more efficient and more complete research, ending up with more targeted calls. We waste less time this way. There is so much information available online that smart cold callers can also figure out exactly how the target company is organized and who the decision makers are, instead of (the old way of) attempting a zillion different extensions and talking to 15 different gatekeepers in order to map the company.

Is digital marketing impacting cold calling budgets? How? (Are companies doing more digital and less cold calling? How are companies using both?)

I was fortunate enough to join a debate about Cold Calling's Place in a Digital World with some "sales biggies" recently and we came to a few conclusions about this. It used to be a that the sales 'pie' was made up of cold calling, advertising and marketing efforts. Cold calling was a large piece of that pie. In the Digital Age, it works very well alongside the other new pieces, like content marketing, social media, social selling and referral selling. Although cold calling is a smaller piece than it used to be (simply because we have more tools available to us) it absolutely still holds a firm place in the sales pie, since nothing can replace a real live conversation with a real live person.

What kinds of B2B companies are using cold calling as a tactic in their marketing arsenal?

A whole range of B2B firms are using cold calling today as an effective tactic. I've trained teams in the media, shipping, energy, security, beauty products, industrial clothing, and outsourcing industries, just to name a few!

What are some considerations for companies in the U.S. that may want to prospect internationally? Is there a difference between cold calling companies in the U.S. versus other countries?

From my perspective, we as cold callers have to understand that US-based salespeople have more of a "go-get" attitude, and a hungrier mentality than we do in Europe. Europeans are not used to that, although I'm aiming to convert them. We need to be more assertive in order to establish ourselves in American culture.

Keep in mind that Europe is and should be seen as a lot of individual countries with various cultures. Europeans only need to adapt to America (one culture) when calling into American firms, so it's easier for us to adapt than it is for Americans to target and get comfortable with each European country's culture.

I have cold called throughout the world, it comes down to understanding, showing genuine interest and enthusiasm, establishing a connection, using empathy and calling once educated/prepared. Do some research - when you call India or Japan, familiarize yourself with the culture first. You must be prepared to adapt.

Anything else you’d like to say?

Yes. Cold Callers: Don't be like The Wolf of Wall Street! Be sincere, be authentic and follow The Cold Call Process. And most importantly, have fun doing it!

Final Thoughts

  • I completely agree that digital has changed "cold" marketing. Cold emailing -- a "digital" marketing tactic, relies heavily on digital research and seeks to make qualified appointments, just like cold calling.
  • Cold calling can work hand-in-hand with digital. The cold call can connect you to the prospect, and you can use digital marketing to nurture the relationship, build trust and help close the sale.

What successes or challenges have you seen with cold calling?

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About the Author

Rick Whittington

Rick Whittington is the founder and Principal at Whittington Consulting. He has over 15 years of experience in websites and online marketing. Rick shows clients how to turn their marketing challenges into opportunities that yield measurable results. If you'd like to get in touch with Rick, click here to get his contact information or connect on LinkedIn here.