A lot has been published on societal polarization, usually as it relates to political ideology but I contend it also relates to sales, especially cold calling. This blog has numerous articles that speak to the inefficiencies of the cold calling process, and although in some industries it does generate sales, the argument that it does not align with human behavior is indisputable. We have done testing with existing sales organizations, layering in an inbound marketing campaign and over time measuring KPI’s like conversion rates, average transactional values, and retention rates. When the data is compared against both approaches (and the data is pretty conclusive in certain industries1) the strength of inbound marketing becomes very apparent.

But don’t just take my word for it. Here is a great illustration involving a personal referral, something every small business owner claims to be their best source for new business, and what should have been perceived as a warm call.

So the story goes…

Not another telemarketer!My next door neighbor is a fascinating guy. Our families have been friends for over ten years, and when one or the other is traveling, we shovel out the other’s driveways and cars (wife good, life good) and other neighborly things. We have two son’s, he has two daughters and they are a terrific family.

My neighbor just purchased a new car, a nice shiny feat of german engineering, and was proudly showing it to me. He was especially pleased that he negotiated a great “deal” (a term overused in both the real world and politics these days). I shared with him that I have my auto insurance with Statue of Liberty Insurance, that my agent is a terrific guy, our 2 claims have been handled professionally and effectively, and (best of all) every time I refer him, my agent is able to quote policies that provide more coverage and hundreds of dollars in savings. My neighbor shared that he had his auto insurance with Slimy Reptile Insurance and would welcome an opportunity to shop his insurance for a better “deal”.

That evening I provided my neighbor’s information to the agent, who promptly replied with a promise to contact the neighbor the next day, which he did. After placing the call, he then immediately called me, and shared something about the call that baffled me: “he said he didn’t know who you were!”

Okay, we’ve all had brain freezes, forgotten someone’s name, or been generally focused on a project and suffered a momentary loss of cognitive skills. But what this tells me above all else is that our force fields go up as soon as our sensors detect a sales call. Plain and simply, we have become so distrustful, feel so taken advantage of, so disrespected by telemarketers that we shut out the words immediately upon discovering (or merely interpreting) that we’ve just answered a sales call.

Image the “aha!” moment that the neighbor had when I shot an SMS to his mobile phone and asked if he was temporarily insane? Of course, our previous conversation came rushing back to him, and he apologized profusely, promising to call the agent (which he did) but the entire interaction demonstrated to me awful the state of telemarketing is. Remember, this was a referral and from a trusted source and yet my neighbor’s instinct was to essentially blow off the call.

“Spoke with him yesterday, he said he had completely forgotten about it and thought I was a telemarketer lol. Finished some numbers up for him to review.”

So, just how does polarization play into my argument?

There are sales organizations that solely rely on cold calling as their culture. When challenged, their defense of the process is profound and they often cite great results. Counter to that are companies who solely rely on networking, content marketing, and direct mail. The thought of having to “sell” is terrifying to then because they are fearful of being sold themselves. It’s an either/or scenario, sometimes predicated on a budget (cold calling is perceived as cheap) but often (and logically) based on the preference of behavior of the business owner. Gregarious, outgoing people go one way, introverted, risk-averse people go the other. But what is missing is the people you are trying to sell! Which approach will generate better sales KPIs over time.

And if referrals from trusted sources aren’t enough to produce effective sales calls, what will?

Ask yourself this question…

Was there an instance in the past 30 days that you personally made a buy decision based solely on a cold call? If so, please share your experience about the call, about the product or service, and what made the call sufficiently positive for you that it resulted in a sale. Please use the comment box below.

I wonder if we’ll get anyone with a comment…

Is cold calling acceptable behavior