Cold Calling: The Importance of Sales Activities
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To cold call or not? This is not the right question! Many articles suggest cold calling is dead, but I believe it remains an effective prospecting method – however, it is only one of many such activities. Much of the words-on-the-street identify cold calling as an obsolete prospecting technique, but at the same time, this commentary is often met by resistance from those “carrying the bag”, defending cold calling as an effective prospecting activity.
Having read multiple articles and blogs on sales activity and in particular, the pros and cons of cold calling, it appears there is very little grey area in many of these articles, and in the ensuing commentary, as they typically take a side in support of either camp. Those of you earlier in your sales career may be asking yourself, who is right?
In my experience, limiting oneself to one method of prospecting is too narrow, so why not incorporate a more comprehensive attack? The purpose of prospecting is to connect with potential clients at a higher frequency than your competitors in order to engage in sales conversations and build up your pipeline.
I recently read one article on how referrals, not cold calling, is the best way to build up your sales funnel. Referrals are great and kudos to those who have put in the time and work to build up such a network. However, it would prove challenging for a junior salesperson to rely on referrals when they are new to the industry and/or sales in general. Referrals are earned and that takes time.
Let’s be pragmatic, in today’s business environment, a multi-faceted approach to sales activity including both traditional and digital prospecting methods will yield the best results. I refer to prospecting as High-Frequency TouchPoints. To begin a sales process, we obviously need to get to some form of initial engagement with our prospect. This is difficult and often lengthy, especially in highly competitive industries. Therefore, approach your potential customers at a higher frequency than your competitors by keeping your activity level high but also varied and value-driven for your prospect.
Here are a few ideas on prospecting outside of traditional phone calls or door-knocking:
- Speaking engagements
- Posting written content
- Posting video content
- Host thought leadership/networking sessions – I call this content sales
- Attend networking events
- Join relevant industry & business associations, advisory boards
- Referrals from existing clients and colleagues
- Host Client/prospect on-site lunch & learns
When hosting prospect networking events, I recommend focusing the content on important business issues to the audience rather than a pitch on your company’s products and services. There is a time and place for direct sales pitches, of course, but combine those with content-based activities on information outside of your product and service benefits. Not only is this potentially more interesting for your attendees but they will remember that you didn’t “just try to sell them.”
How much of each activity is the right amount?
If you measure and track each activity, you will gain a line of sight on which ones are meriting results. It may be different for each individual as we all have competencies that are stronger in one area or another. Use some form of an activity tracker (CRM, basic spreadsheet works for small or one-person shops) and assign volume metrics to each of these activities. Measure results by linking the specific activity to results (booking a face to face meeting) and then you can tailor your activity volumes over time.
Base volume on what you like to do most and where you have high competency to keep it fun: but remember just because you may not like the activity doesn’t mean it’s not warranted!
Sales is a great profession if you like to be in control of your schedule and have some autonomy in your work. That’s what attracts many of us to sales – but too much freedom on your schedule can turn into unproductive time, without the discipline of setting activity targets to fill your days. Plan your week or it will plan you! Aim to have 70% of your next week’s activities planned and scheduled before the week begins. Busy only equals productive when busy with high-priority activities.
The best approach to sales is to be a well-rounded sales person and that means having strong skill sets in many prospecting methods. The more you practice and engage in the activities, the faster you will grow your skill sets. Consider my recommendations, or create activities of your own. But be sure to engage in “High-Frequency TouchPoints.” Outwork your competitors and accelerate your skill sets in all these areas!