"Cold calling is dead" - such a phrase appears frequently in foreign industry websites and it is hardly surprising. Although cold calling is still used in some industries as a B2B sales channel, the effectiveness of this method of acquiring business customers has dropped dramatically. One of the main reasons is the commonly growing irritation - both on the part of people receiving calls from unknown numbers, as well as telemarketers themselves, who have to make even hundreds of calls a day to reach their goals. More and more companies are therefore abandoning cold calling in favour of more modern and much better perceived forms of reaching contractors, such as LinkedIn.
Cold calling - what does this method of acquiring customers consist of? (techniques, examples)
Cold calling, is a customer acquisition technique popular at the turn of the century that involves making multiple phone calls to people who have not previously made an appointment and are therefore unprepared for a marketing or sales call. This situation causes great discomfort and often embarrassment to the caller, which translates into low efficiency of this communication channel. According to the analysis of the renowned Direct Selling World Alliance (DSWA), only 5% of cold calls result in a sale (source: https://dswa.org/networking-communication/cold-calls/).
Although the call itself usually lasts only a few minutes, preparations for the entire cold calling process require incomparably more time. It is necessary to invest in telecommunication infrastructure with appropriate tools to manage the entire process, to recruit and train telemarketers, to collect a database of contact numbers of people from a specific target group, and to develop a professional conversation script. Neglect or omission of any of these elements may result in the failure of actions taken and, successively, serious financial consequences.
Automatic systems for cold calling have appeared quite recently, however the very unnatural and sometimes even irritating way of conversation conducted by robots started to cause a negative mood among recipients of the calls, as well as the ordering parties - just like in the case of chat bots. The cold calling automation processes, especially in the B2B sector, therefore did not fulfil their main role and usually ended in failure. The experiences shared to us by some of our users only confirms that cold calling does not work at all when the target group consists of middle and upper level managers, as a rule they do not answer calls from unknown phone numbers and they are extremely sensitive to this kind of marketing or sales activities.
The effectiveness of cold calling also depends on the way the conversation is conducted. The most popular techniques used by experienced telemarketers are described in detail in Andrzej Koziar's book titled "Telemarketing. Instructing effective sales". They are based on persuasion and rest on a few main pillars, such as:
- the authority of the telemarketer, who tries to quickly build an image of an experienced specialist in a given field in the eyes of the caller;
- scarcity of information in order to create the impression that the product or service is available only to a specific group of recipients or in limited quantity;
- reciprocation for taking advantage of the offer (usually in the form of a small discount or a small gift);
- social proof, i.e. referring to the recommendations and decisions made by all consumers according to the principle that "the majority is right";
- consistency, i.e. convincing to make a decision consistent with the customer's previous behaviour.
Cold calling specialists indicate that we should pay attention to three elements important from the point of view of a potential customer during a marketing or sales conversation:
- the benefits that our product/service can bring;
- the problem that the proposed solution will help solve;
- the realisation that the problem diagnosed during the conversation actually concerns the customer or his company directly.
Cold calling - advantages and disadvantages of this B2B marketing and sales channel
Apart from the already mentioned growing dislike of cold calling in business environments, a serious drawback of cold calling is its decreasing profitability. Highly qualified telemarketers are now an extinct species, and only a specialist properly prepared for this job is able to effectively achieve the sales goals set for him. Otherwise, the cost of hiring employees will be higher than the revenue they generate for the company.
In the B2B sector, the image of a professional is particularly important, yet many telemarketers demonstrate gross incompetence during business talks, negatively affecting the reputation of the entire professional group. Moreover, in order to persuade at least a few customers to cooperate, it is necessary to make tens or even hundreds of calls a day, which for less experienced telemarketers can be a challenge beyond their strength.
A problem for many companies using cold calling is also obtaining a quality database of contact numbers to the decision-makers from a specific industry. Additional limitations in this case are the provisions of GDPR and the Telecommunications Law. Article 172(1) of the Telecommunications Act explicitly states that "the use of telecommunications terminal equipment and automated calling systems for the purposes of direct marketing shall be prohibited unless the subscriber or end user has given their prior consent".
Among the advantages of cold calling, it is worth pointing out the immediate feedback from the potential customer and the widespread access to modern technological solutions facilitating the conduct and recording of conversations.
B2B cold calling - does it still work?
Although cold calling has not been considered one of the most effective communication and sales channels in B2B for a few years now, there are still some industries in which skillfully used cold calling can bring satisfactory results. This method is used, among others, by insurance, photovoltaic, marketing, advertising, industrial or telecommunication companies, which have access to a lot of information about their current and potential clients. However, it works mainly as the so-called follow-up, i.e. initiating contact with a potential client, rather than acquiring new business contacts.
It's worth keeping in mind, however, that without proper presentation, negotiation and sales skills, B2B telemarketers can shut off valuable leads for a long time (in some cases, forever).
B2B Cold calling has therefore become more difficult than ever, especially as the business customer is becoming more educated and aware of their expectations. A number of modern channels, in turn, gives the customer a huge field of choice of the optimal communication path, which usually does not require - unlike cold calling - a sudden engagement of attention at a precise moment.
LinkedIn - what is it and who is it for?
A completely different atmosphere accompanies communication via LinkedIn. It is currently the world's largest social network for professionals from various industries, with approx. 810 million users from almost all countries in the world. In Western European countries and the United States LinkedIn has overtaken other popular channels supporting B2B marketing and social selling, such as Google Ads or Facebook Ads.
The penetration of LinkedIn in Central and Eastern Europe is expected to continue to grow rapidly. It’s worth mentioning that in Poland, over a period of twelve months, the number of people using the portal increased from 4.2 million to 4.7 million (an increase of 11.9% year-on-year). And the potential of LinkedIn is constantly growing, as is well known to 97% of Polish managers who have an account on the site (source: research conducted by Kozminski University).
The specificity of LinkedIn and a number of functionalities available to each user, such as a free contact search engine or built-in messenger, make it easy to reach decision-makers in nearly 150 industries. It is worth noting that attempts to establish business cooperation are met with very positive reactions from the community of this portal.
LinkedIn - a channel created to attract new B2B clients
Linkedin is an extensive database of B2B contacts, for which you do not have to pay. In one place and in just a few weeks, you can establish up to hundreds of business relationships with high profile individuals such as Owners, Partners, CEOs, Directors, or Managers. After accepting the invitation to the contact network, you’re able to strike up an individual conversation using the built in messaging system, during this conversation the official greeting and possible presentation of the product or service takes place. In this way, the offer reaches directly to the person whose competences allow for an efficient finalisation of the cooperation and, thanks to this, we bypass the barriers present in traditional communication channels.
LinkedIn users are willing to share contact information in their profiles, such as e-mail address and phone number. Therefore, if we want to have a telephone conversation, we only need to arrange a mutually convenient date, using the aforementioned communicator. Thanks to this our potential contractor will be prepared for the incoming call, which will avoid awkward situations connected with the element of surprise.
In the case of an offer directed to an e-mail posted on a LinkedIn profile, it is necessary to obtain explicit consent from the recipient, which is precisely regulated by the GDPR laws. Only then can we use this channel for marketing or sales communication in accordance with the data protection regulation.
Cold calling vs. LinkedIn - a comparison
The biggest disparity between cold calling and LinkedIn is seen in the reactions of the recipients, and thus the effectiveness of the actions taken. Searching for potential B2B customers using LinkedIn does not involve exposure to negative reactions, as is the case with the overwhelming majority of cold calls. On the contrary, the friendly attitude of the professional community encourages new contacts, even with people you've never met before.
Users who use LinkedIn in the process of marketing or B2B sales don't have to worry about acquiring a legitimate contact base, as it is made up of all the users with whom they have managed to connect in the professional network. When creating an account, they accept the terms and conditions of the site, which allows for free communication within the portal and access to the data contained in the profile.
LinkedIn's advantages also include much more accurate targeting, much lower competition and lack of any technical restrictions. Above-average communication skills are not required to conduct effective business activities on this portal. Moreover, Linkedin activities can be easily and efficiently automated thanks to intelligent tools.
A detailed comparison of Cold calling with LinkedIn is presented in the table below:
|Pricing||Purchase of a contact database (at least a few hundred PLN for few hundred leads), investment in telecommunication infrastructure and appropriate call management software, as well as possible external training for telemarketers.||Creating an account is completely free - along with the ability to search and connect with profiles of decision makers.|
|Implementation time||From a few to even several days, if we decide to implement advanced technological solutions (before that it is necessary to train employees, which also takes at least a few days).||Creating an account on the portal takes just a few minutes.|
|GDPR compliance||Article 17 of the GDPR Regulation gives you the right to request the erasure of one’s personal data (including your telephone number) from the controller's database if it has been used for a different purpose than previously stated.||Every user of LinkedIn accepts the terms and conditions when creating an account, which allows you to correspond freely with all users.|
|Workload||Quite large due to the need to prepare an interview script and gather a contact database. Possibly hiring additional people to the team (training, recruiting).||Making lasting connections on LinkedIn manually takes a lot of time due to the portal's high potential. However, there are tools that can save you up to 99% of the time spent on manual activities.|
|Contact base||Need to purchase or collect an extensive contact database yourself.||The contact base is all of LinkedIn's users, which is almost the entire group of decision-makers from many countries around the world.|
|B2B targeting accuracy||The method is effective only when the contact base perfectly coincides with the target group. Otherwise, cold calling often turns out to be ineffective.||100% - every LinkedIn user brags about their job title and the industry they work in, which you can find out using the free search engine. Additionally, with the advanced LinkedIn Sales Navigator, we get even more filters at our disposal and thus increasing the precision of targeting.|
|Competition||Gigantic. Plenty of companies have been using it for a long time.||Relatively small. LinkedIn is a site that's growing rapidly, but still few companies use it for business, so it's easy to get noticed.|
|Client reach||Heavily reliant on the industry and how the conversation itself is conducted.||Each contact we managed to connect with stays in our Network, we can send a message at any given point in time.|
|Stability||Medium - there may be technical issues.||Pretty big - LinkedIn is not subject to seasonality or external influences.|
|Availability||Universal - anyone can use this channel if they equip themselves with the necessary equipment.||For everyone - creating an account on LinkedIn is completely free.|
|Competencies||A team of telemarketers must acquire a number of specific competencies to make sales calls to B2B customers effective.||While you don't need expertise to start a business on LinkedIn, you should use the freely available tutorials and instructional materials to expand your network and develop your professional skills more effectively|
|Recipients' reactions||Mostly negative - an unwillingness to have an unscheduled conversation and treating offers as pushy sales attempts.||Positive - middle and senior managers are eager to establish relationships and value direct contact.|
|Other||Breaking the privacy barrier.||There are no additional restrictions or blocking of user accounts on LinkedIn.|
Cold calling vs LinkedIn - summary
The experience of many B2B companies shows that the declining reputation of cold calling has directly translated into a lower effectiveness of this communication and sales channel. "Last year, I conducted a study showing that cold calling is ineffective 94% of the time. In the B2B sector, over 72% of buyers use social media when making decisions. So by properly positioning ourselves in social media channels we can safely resign from cold calling and effectively build relationships with potential customers" - writes professor Michal Chmielecki, who specialises in professional consulting and training for companies from Fortune 500 or Rzeczpospolita 100 rankings, on projectprzywodztwo.com website.
Looking for a more efficient alternative to cold calling, modern companies are redirecting their sales activities to LinkedIn. Using the full potential of this portal allows us to quickly improve marketing and increase B2B sales. An additional support in these processes are intelligent automation tools, such as the Sales Robots platform.
In the next article of this series, we will analyse whether LinkedIn activities can bring better results than SEO, advertising and search engine marketing (SEM). For a solid dose of expert knowledge, check out our previous articles on topics such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator, marketing automation and B2B sales, methods and tips on how to generate sales leads on social media.