1000 phone calls. The real fear behind cold-calling.

I own a contract sales company so if there’s one thing I know, I know how to pick up the phone.  Social media, predictive analytics, email lead-nurturing and spiffy cloud-based CRMs; that’s all awesome.  But at the end of the day, somebody needs to pick up the phone and call a guy.  All the purchased leads, list builds, trade shows and million dollar ad-spends don’t mean jack if your sales guys are only pumping through 5 calls a day.

You can network your brains out, run awesome PR campaigns or give a free industry talk every two days and your competitor who does the same and has a disciplined call plan will beat you.

As a thank you for getting this far in the entry, I’m going to share with you the results of 1000 random phone-calls from one of my reps over a random period of time, selling a random product.  If you’re a sales leader, you already know this so print it out and stick it in front of your new reps.  If you’re a sales rep, do it yourself and save your boss the walk.

  • 1000 fresh cold call dials in 20 days
    • 793 did not connect with anybody or went to voice mail including 15 that were wrong numbers (79%)
    • 9 were outright hostile and asked to be removed from our calling list (1%)
    • 154 politely said “Not interested/No need/Already purchased” (15%)
    • 44 said “Sure, let’s talk more.”  (4%)

If you only look at the calls where there was a conversation (207 calls), 21% said ‘yes’ to next steps. That’s 44 completely unique businesses.  If small businesses or consultants had 44 new opportunities to follow-up on every 20 business days, the owners would pull their kids out of school to man the phones.

My lawyer advised that I don’t show a child engaged in labour of any kind.  So here’s a picture of my dog.

Let’s look at the 3 fears of cold-calling right now.

Fear of rejection – You’re only going to hit some guy who’s a total hostile dork 1% of the time.  15% of the time, you’ll get a polite “No thanks.”  79% of time, you’re getting voice mail.  There’s almost no real rejection at all.  How to cure.  Statistics man.  Track everything so you see the whole picture and not mull over the last call.  Every call is just a data point and when you make enough calls you’ll realize any prior fear of rejection just isn’t substantiated.

Fear of sounding like a goof – I can’t help you if you don’t know your stuff or are embarrassed of the stuff you sell.  How to cure.  Learn your stuff really well so you don’t sound like a goof.  Or in the case where you don’t want to sell the stuff you have to sell, leave.  If you’re not confident in your phone manners, record a video of yourself, watch it, gasp in horror then practice to improve.

Fear of the grind.  44 opportunities opened over 1000 calls.  If I told you your first 44 calls would all be ‘Yes!’, you’d dial all 44 before lunch and could probably close 15 of them at some point.  But because it’s 44 spread out over 1000 calls, it’s like playing a tormented variation of the penny slots where the win rate is 4% and you’re not playing because you’re having fun; you’re playing because you need to pay your mortgage.  Every single sales guy knows he has to pick up the phone.  And every single sales guy knows that most of his calls won’t go anywhere so in order to justify not ‘wasting’ time dialing no-connects, he wastes his time doing something else to justify his time.  Pro-Tip:  Preparing to sell is not selling.  Prepare to sell in the evening, not during selling time.  How to cure.  Buy an auto-dialer or hire someone to do it for you.

There are plenty of cliches to make you feel better about cold-calling.  Go read them and make yourself feel better.  You can claim any reason for not wanting to call and you’d be right.  But at the end of the day, the guy who doesn’t put in the work will always lose to the guy who does.  Folks may tell you that in this age of FaceTube and YouPin, calling to sell is a dead practice.  But successful billion dollar companies have inside sales teams for a reason.

The real fear behind cold-calling isn’t anything you can make up.  The real fear behind cold-calling is the fear of hard work.


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