By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company

Image courtesy of Pakorn at

0-rip-phoneAccording to a study by the Harvard Business Review, 90% of decision makers won’t respond to cold calls. So is cold calling dead?

Many prospects that have answered cold calls probably hope the rumor is true and are actively trying to spread it. Getting executives interested in discussing offerings is one of the hardest tasks sellers are told to do. That mindset crystalizes the crux of the problem and sets most sellers up for failure. Executives able to spend unbudgeted funds have little interest in learning about offerings.

In the first minute or less, the challenge is getting executive buyers interested in improving business results through the use of a seller’s offerings. Few sellers are capable of getting buyers to share their business goals in a brief phone conversation. Without identified business goals there is no reason to engage with sellers. If a goal or problem is shared, the seller must understand the buyer’s needs before offerings are discussed.

After analyzing 15,000,000 dials and 770,000 conversations last year, a Miller Heiman Research Institute study concluded 8.5% of the sales professionals surveyed could be considered “world class.” The study also found average salespeople convert 4.76% of conversations into meetings and 5.91% of conversations into referrals. The figures for 

world class reps are 12.73% and 24.76%, respectively.

Cold CallingIf traditional cold calling is dead or in critical condition, few can be sad about a fate it richly deserves. Averages sellers making sporadic attempts to contact executive buyers by leading with offerings will net a horribly low percentage of new opportunities. If you look at the numbers above for average sellers it is difficult to justify having average sellers do business development activities left to their own devices.

Making the challenge even more daunting is the AMA study that found it takes an average of 7.2 attempts to reach executives while at the same time discovering that few sellers made more than 3 attempts to contact prospects. 

What to do?
Here are a few suggestions to improve the fruits of business development (bus dev) by using best practices:

  • Provide sellers the titles they should be targeting for given offerings or verticals.
  • For each title create menus of business problems that your offering addresses.
  • Provide a series of scripts (phone and voicemail) and relevant collateral.
  • Combine phone, voicemail and email to create a series of touches that will be done over a finite period of time. Have each touch focus on a different business issue.
  • Define a lead as a title that admits one or more problems from their menu.

Inbound leads are often with companies that don’t fit your profile and buyers that are low entry points. Best practice outbound Bus Dev efforts allow vendors to target companies and titles that meet their criteria and should yield much higher close rates.

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