Owner at CRM Insights
I’m a pre-baby boomer, i.e., I was born just before the end of the War, not after. Until I was ten I lived in a three-story courtyard building in Chicago. The Fuller Brush Man would come around knocking on doors. Every few months the knife sharpener would drive his horse-drawn wagon down the alley calling out his presence. Peddlers setup their suitcase on a folding stand on the street corner. We had a party line and the phone itself was a box with a slot for a nickel. Drop in a nickel and the operator would ask “Number please.” My parents owned a women’s and children’s clothing store. Salesmen came to the store with merchandise samples and my mother would pick what she wanted to carry. Selling by phone was not an efficient option.
When I was ten, we moved to a single family home. Salesmen still came to the door, but our phone had a dial. One summer during high school I worked for the Leukemia Foundation of America. About 20 of us, using reverse yellow pages, called every house on a street seeking a volunteer who would walk door-to-door, carrying a can, soliciting donations. Another summer I sold encyclopedias door-to-door. The phone was becoming a sales tool, but sales people still knocked on doors.
By the time I finished college most people had push-button phones. A few years later door-to-door encyclopedia salesmen had to carry a card saying they were door-to-door encyclopedia salesmen. Using the phone to call 75-100 numbers a day became physically possible, and people answered their phones, but the era of salesmen going door-to-door was waning.
In the 1980’s things started to change again. Executive assistants became more proficient at protecting their bosses from callers. Answering machines became popular. By the 1990’s voice mail had gained traction. People didn’t answer their phones and operated behind an impenetrable force field. New cold calling techniques designed to penetrate this barrier became popular. The suspects caught on. They were using the same techniques themselves and knew how to play the game.
It is now ten years past the time Arthur C. Clarke thought there would be regularly scheduled flights between earth and the moon. Sometimes things change, sometimes things stay the same. Selling has changed—actually, it keeps changing. Today we can gather information about the people we want to contact. We can use applications such as LinkedIn to establish a connection with a prospect and engage in a conversation. The process shouldn’t be rushed, but it doesn’t take long to suggest a phone call or getting together for coffee. The phone call is not cold call, the receptionist/executive assistant is no longer a gatekeeper. The prospect is expecting your call. Not a cold call, but a warm call.
Researching prospects and courting them takes time, but the prospect’s score is high unlike an unknown who is often a waste of time. During the courting phase, waiting for responses, many of these connections can be made. The pipeline contains a flow of actual prospects, not suspects. The ROI far outweighs the cost of cold calling. There are numbers behind this, and this will be the subject of my next post.