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I Stand Corrected!

People Really Do Still Cold Call

10/13/2022 | Gregg Emmer, Marketing Matters

It has been my practice to thoroughly research subjects before I offer my take on them. The few exceptions are things that seem obvious to everyone and I didn’t see any reason to disagree.

I recently had a call from a very successful industry distributor/sales person regarding acquiring computer telemarketing software to automate her cold calling and provide greater efficiency. Considering that I had plans to write an obituary for the death of the cold call, this came as a shock. 

Not too long ago a “cold call” was a face to face conversation with a potential client (customer). As the average age of people active in this industry declined, so did the interest in making cold calls. Covid 19 it appeared, was the final blow to this time honored tradition of our industry (and many others).

I agreed to do some research. Full disclosure - I always practiced cold calling and recommended it throughout the years. In B2B sales, nothing beats facetime with a potential client. It however has been a while since I was drumming up business for my printing company and the vast majority of sales people I talk to put cold calling right in line with a root canal!

To my surprise I found (according to LeadLanders) that 51% of business executives prefer receiving phone calls rather than email. When it concerns new ideas, products or services that can improve their business that number jumps to 71%. Further examination of sales conversions showed that nearly 50% of sales were the result of cold calls to the customers. One study showed that phone contact was up to 10 times more effective than email in starting business conversations. ValueSelling Associates rates cold calling effectiveness second only to referrals.

But how is cold calling handled today and what works or fails to develop prospective clients?     

What I found are many cautionary comments and a lot of what not to do. The most important thing not to do is use automated systems - Robocall software! While there are a few legitimate businesses using these systems, the public perception is that the dozens of calls we each get every day (funeral arrangements, Medicare updates, refunds from your utility company, etc.) are all scams. No reputable business in our industry wants to be put in that category. Also consider that automated telemarketing has a 1% to 3% success rate. That requires many thousands of calls to produce any reasonable conversion level and you would surely leave a tarnished reputation behind with the 98% of people that hung up, blocked or reported your calls as spam.

The answer to how to achieve the 50% mentioned above is to be selective. Organize your prospect list. First contact with referrals always at the top of the list. Perhaps next might be businesses similar to clients you currently work with. Knowing applications where promotional products media is always an asset - reach out to businesses that exhibit at trade shows, do ongoing training, are active in fundraising, have customer loyalty programs in place and many others. 

Don’t forget to check out community calendars as many of the participants in scheduled activities could be good prospects. And right along with the community, check the activity calendar of major malls. From health and wellness shows to vacation and boat shows, mall activities are recovering from Covid 19 and promotional products are a natural to stimulate business.

I made a full report by way of an advanced copy of this article to my industry sales contact. She agreed to give me a follow-up on the success of working a targeted “call” list which may be shared here in a future article. 

One last comment that I encountered several times is to know what you want to say in the first 30 seconds (live or voice mail). Don’t be mechanical but enthusiasm works great. 

Gregg Emmer is chief marketing officer and vice president at Kaeser & Blair, Inc. He has more than 40 years experience in marketing and the promotional products industry. His outside consultancy provides marketing, public relations and business planning consulting to a wide range of other businesses and has been a useful knowledge base for K&B Dealers. Contact Gregg at
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