Is this the party to whom I am speaking?

No aspect of sales and marketing is more controversial that cold calling. Many sales managers swear by it, many salespeople and prospects swear at it.

I hate to admit it, but at times in my life I have been a dreaded telemarketer. In the very beginning of enhanced telephone services like Call Waiting, Call Forwarding, and Speed Dialing, I was calling 40 hours a week for GTE (General Telephone) in a windowless basement office in Fort Wayne, Indiana, while spending my weekends on the radio at 98.9 The Bear.  We pushed a $3.95 “Smarter Call Pack“, which customers of the landline company could take on a 30 day free trial. They had to call back to cancel, and I’m sure GTE was banking on the fact that a lot of people would forget, and just leave the charges on their line.  There was no commission involved, just a straight hourly rate. Most of us were temp workers.  Sometimes we strictly worked from scripts; sometimes we talked on the fly, hoping to get the words out before the “click”.  Sometimes, we even called nursing home residents. Later, I went on to setting appointments for a pager company (remember them?), which brought me into my first business-to-business calling. I’ll say the results were underwhelming.

When I made a move into broadcast sales, I was looking for any help I could get as far as approaching prospects. I found Frank Rumbauskas‘ “Cold Calling is A Waste of Time” book and CD series. Mr. Rumbauskas made many good points about selling in the  industrial age vs. the information age.  He declared that cold calling was dead; business owners and C-level executives did not want to take cold calls, and that cold calling destroyed one’s status as a business equal, making the salesperson be seen as begging for business, rather than as a competent solution provider.  Flyers, the web, e-mail and phone calls made by others would fill the funnel. I thought he made some very good points. I wouldn’t expect a doctor to call me at home asking if I need an appointment.

A LinkedIn discussion started with someone putting it this way; “Cold Calling is Creepy, what else are you doing?” The discussion got testy, with some saying a variation of “buck it up and bang that phone”, to those who didn’t like cold calling or to receive cold calls,  to those who talked about making cold calls warm  with e-mails and other means of contact. Reading the entire thread, which is close to 600 posts, it would seem that using a variety of methods, including the phone, is the most preferred method.

Does anyone do walk-in cold calls anymore? I’ve done them, and I’ll even say that in a few cases they worked. Outside of a mom-and-pop style business, it’s more difficult to get someone to talk to; as large businesses can be virtual fortresses.

My opinion? What would I like to do more?  a)get teeth pulled   b)listen an opera singer at the wrong speed or  c)cold call…’s a tossup.

For the crowd at large…what do you think?