In today’s technologically driven world, we’re almost used to being oversaturated with unsolicited emails and unsolicited telemarketing calls and unsolicited pop-up ads, among the scores of other unsolicited messages we receive on a daily basis. So it’s no surprise that many sales professionals and business thinkers have declared the cold call dead. Social media has made cold calling obsolete, many of them say. Why call someone or email them when you can, say, tweet at them or message them on LinkedIn? And why call someone when most of us live on our phones and computers?
But the ease and ubiquity of social media hasn’t replaced the age old concept of cold calling, it’s just changed its nature. “Cold calling,” “cold tweeting” and “cold emailing” are all essentially the same thing: a salesperson reaches out, unprompted, to someone they think could be a prospective buyer. Even if you aren’t picking up the phone and braving your way through explaining who you are and why the person on the end should give you their time, you’re still putting yourself out there. You’re still explaining how your product could potentially solve the consumer’s or company’s problem, still selling a prospect on your solution.
As a recent article by Forbes entitled “Cold Calling is Dead, Thanks to LinkedIn” points out, the big advantage to LinkedIn and other social media is that it makes sales calls less, well, cold, since the medium tells you how you’re connected to the person you’re calling. Even if you have a tenth-degree connection to your prospect, LinkedIn tells you. Furthermore, on LinkedIn, you can ask one of those connections to introduce you, so you’re not just another salesperson but a friend of a friend, a connection of a connection.
But have salespeople not always possessed impressive networks? Most of the “cold” calls of the past were not truly cold calls, but calls to people to whom the salespeople were connected, whether through someone in their network, a mutual business contact, a convention, etc. After all, leads have to come from somewhere.
Social tools like LinkedIn make cold calling easier and more user-friendly. They aren’t killing cold calling; rather, they’re taking an existing offline habit and making it social and more intuitive. Instead of having to name drop connections on cold calls, LinkedIn tells you upfront how you’re connected to someone. Furthermore, the colloquial, community nature of social media makes it a more natural setting—like a party, in the offline world—in which to introduce yourself or send someone an unsolicited message. For example, if a potential customer tweets that they’re frustrated about your competitor, who they’re currently using, you can message them privately (or tweet back) and tell them how your product can better solve their needs. Then you can get one of your LinkedIn contacts to make an introduction there.
So, in addition to any traditional cold calling your team is doing, make sure your employees are also tapping into all the social media resources at their disposal. Building their networks online, and following prospective customers, will make cold calls more seamless and less uncomfortable.