B2B Cold Calling in a Digital Sales World: (Does it still work?)

by Angeline Plesek, Online Marketing Contributor

They said radio would die when television came on the scene.

Nearly 70 years later, radio has stood the test of time side by side with television through the decades.

can-chat-chatting-500Just like the age old debate between these two mediums, now there is a similar contest going on in the B2B sales environment —the question is whether or not old-time cold calling is still applicable in an ever increasingly digital world.

According to a survey conducted by Software Advice in 2012 titled, B2B Demand Generation Benchmark Surveywhen marketers were asked which channels yielded the best results for producing quality leads, in-house email marketing came in at the top followed by search engine optimization. Even though these digital channels came in first and second in popularity, cold calling still came in a close third.

So, to dismiss cold calling would be foolish, right?

Proponents of cold calls still swear by them because apparently they are still proving to be a way to generate good sales leads in some industries.

When it comes to cold calling, Steve Spencer, Director of Recruitment for Managed Information Technology and Print Services at the Morisey-Dart Group, says, “I cold call everyday in my business for one reason—it works!  My prospects are senior managers and C-level individuals.  It has been apparent to me that they still use the phone even though the social media channel and others have been well developed. They are very busy and don’t have time for social media any more than they take time to surf the Internet. Productivity is all important to this group and effectiveness is all important to me. The clients I call on in the MPS space still prefer the phone. Some of them do use LinkedIn and a few use Twitter; however, the phone is still King.”

On the other side of this argument, there are those that are less enamored with cold calling like Mike Volpe, CMO of Hubspot. He was recently part of a panel discussion on a Google+ Hangout session where panelists were asked whether cold calling still works in B2B lead generation.

Volpe commented, “I’m not going to say that no one gets a ROI out of it anymore, but it’s not at all the first thing that you should be investing in. I think there are other things that have a much lower cost to acquire new customers and also annoy people a lot less.”

He goes on to say that for about every 200 people you contact, you may actually get only one person as a customer, but in the meantime you have annoyed the other 199. His feeling is that the phone should be used primarily to contact people that have already expressed an interest first through other digital channels.

Isn’t it possible to strike a balance?

Maybe it’s a generational thing, maybe it depends on the demographics within the target market you call on, or maybe it’s just the culture of the industry you deal with day to day. In any case, couldn’t there still be room for cold calling, email marketing, social media, search engine optimization, and various other digital channels when it comes to B2B lead generation?

Using a newer medium such as social media can help to warm up for cold calls, using each to fuel the other to get to the end result of boosting your ROI in the end.

People still listen to the radio today even nearly 70 years since television was introduced and has managed to reinvent itself throughout the decades even to the point of Internet radio—in spite of its visual counterpart.

Maybe the cold call still has its place in B2B sales and marketing, and can survive alongside the digital media channels as long as there are prospects that are still open to it—at least for the time being.

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