Outside Consultant: Why Is There a 'Hurdle' to Cold Calling?

This “Outside Consultant” column by Opus College of Business Participating Adjunct Instructor Michael Hoffman ran in the Star Tribune on June 7, 2021.

Simply put, salespeople see cold calling as “sales-ish,” and they fear rejection; it’s deemed hard and awkward. Yes, it can be all those things. Just the phrase alone is one of the main reasons people don’t consider a sales job. Some professionals prefer cold calling because they’re not calling people they know, so a “no” doesn’t feel personal. But keep in mind that every “no” gets one closer to the next “yes.” Cold calling also conjures up the word “scripts,” as in, “I’ll have to use scripts and I don’t want to use them … it won’t sound like me.” Mostly, I find, people don’t employ cold calling because they don’t believe in the value of what they or their company is offering, or they don’t really know how to articulate the value of their offering to the audience they’re calling. They aren’t confident in presenting their product or service, and they also worry they’ll get a question they don’t know how to answer.

But there’s a flip to all this. “‘Cold’ will never be dead,” exclaims one of my colleagues. Turn it around and embrace it. Ultimately, we have to start a relationship somewhere – we simply can’t rely 100% on referrals, so we have to generate other possibilities. Getting into uncomfortable is where some of the best discussions can take place – with people you don’t know! If we treat sales as the long game, then every encounter is a possibility to accomplish a win and a beginning of a relationship.

We do have to have a reason for the call. Call reluctance, as it’s often referred to, also paints a picture of our confidence level. Before this current Zoom era, we could hide behind a phone call … no one could see us sweat or see us nervous. The more confident we are, the straighter we sit, the taller we stand, the more effective we engage. A successful colleague engaged her competitive team by gamifying cold-calling sessions with contests and prizes among her team.

Cold calling – which we should really give another name – is what keeps the company alive and vibrant. Sales is an activity game and the more prospecting and rapport building we do, the more business we will generate and the greater the impact we can have on our enterprise.

Michael Hoffman is a participating adjunct instructor at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.