Cold calling isn’t the go-to item in the sales professional’s toolbox today. That’s not good or bad – it just is. At a time when everyone seems to have (at least) one phone on hand at any given moment, it’s harder and harder to reach out to a stranger over the phone for that first point of contact. As a sales coach in Vancouver, I’ve noticed this firsthand.

It’s ironic in an age when we’re more connected than we’ve ever been before – but as technology gives, so does it take away. You can have a 1,000-name list in front of you, but thanks to caller ID and a spam-alerted culture, you’d be lucky just to get 30 of those folks to even pick up. We’re long past the days when time-harried executives or their secretaries would still pick up any random phone call on the off chance it was important. More and more sales professionals are relying on email and social media to get the job done for that introductory touch-base (even though using those platforms carry related challenges in getting the customer’s attention).

Some Sales Pros Still Use Cold Calling. Here’s Why

A sales professional can call on any number of tactics to get their job done. While cold calling over the phone isn’t my recommended must-have tactic for sales campaigns, I wouldn’t throw out the option just yet. For instance, a recent poll from a lead generation firm showed “a whopping 60 percent of IT executives say an outbound call or email led to an IT vendor being evaluated.”

It’s hard to make sales cold calling work – but it can work. Different people like to engage in different ways; that’s why we have so many ways to get in touch. Some people will still appreciate (or at least acknowledge) a cold call on the phone. Be smart about it.

Target Carefully. Companies used to just buy lists of thousands of numbers. That’s pointless, now. LinkedIn and other social media profiles can give you insight into a potential customer’s situation, improving your odds. Old-fashioned networking can also lead to some names and numbers falling into your lap to follow up on later. Painstaking work, but it can pay off.

Don’t sell to the PA (Gatekeeper) – Woo them.  Introduce yourself – state your purpose (send an email to secure a meeting) and confirm that you have the correct details. Get permission to follow up with the PA. They will love you for it. Do NOT start telling them about your product and how great it is.

Use a Script. This helps ensure consistency in your approach and lets you measure the results to refine the approach later.  Adjust the script in line with relevant information for your target. E.g. finance director – cost benefits to discuss; HR – assist cultural integration and change; CEO – Strategic benefits for a specific initiative you know about. DO NOT be general.

Be Clear About the Objective of Your Cold Call.

It’s not about selling — yet. If you do it right, you’ll get their attention, a bit of goodwill and ideally a promise to continue the conversation later. It’s about turning these cold calls into warm leads and ultimately getting a sale, one step at a time.   It is also about qualifying OUT for you. If now is not the time – you want to know and then move on.

Closing takes persistence. The cold call is just the first step and must be supported by all the other tools sales people now have at our disposal. It’s just another part of your sales strategy toolkit.