For a modern small business, cold calling is dead — or at least it should be. It may have worked in the days before caller id – when phones were attached to a desk or a wall.  But today, sales and marketing channels are fragmented, putting consumers in the driver’s seat when it comes to who they want to engage with.

So before you pick up the phone, consider the following reasons why you should give cold calls the cold shoulder:

1. It’s Outdated

According to the International Smartphone Mobility Report, Americans prefer text communication over phone call communication. Nowadays, people are more likely to screen phone calls and avoid unfamiliar numbers. Even random calls from familiar business numbers provoke fear from otherwise willing customers.

When it comes to calling business clients, it’s increasingly more difficult to navigate extensions, operating systems, and voicemails. Many people refuse to give out direct lines and refer inquiries to email addresses instead. And, given the myriad communication options available today, cold calling is no longer creative or optimal.

2. It Wastes Time

As the adage goes, time is money; small businesses desperately need to conserve both. In fact the average sales rep makes 8 dials an hour and prospects for over 6 hours to set just 1 appointment (Source: Ovation Sales Group)

Both as an input and success output, cold calling wastes time. The act itself forces the caller to sit through:

  • Phones ringing
  • Dial tones
  • Gatekeeper blocks
  • Voicemail recordings
  • Directory messages
  • Dropped calls and disconnects
  • Other technical concerns

Industry statistics indicate that cold calls have an average 2% success rate. Common sense indicates that rate hardly counts as sales success.

3. It’s Irritating

As the world is becoming overloaded by brands due to modern technology, customers are increasingly looking to reputation as a means to sort out their options. Goodwill is crucial in the present business climate and cold calls are a great way to tarnish that goodwill.

Cold calls, by their nature, are disruptive. They take the recipient out of their likely busy day and set them in a state of momentary alarm. Why is someone calling me? Is there a concern I should know about? And how does this interaction actually benefit me?

Even if you’re calling with something they’d likely need, that doesn’t change the initial impression of frustration or alarm.

4. It’s Exasperating for Employees

Not only is cold calling taxing for recipients, it’s emotionally draining for assigned employees. Most everyone has been on the receiving end of a cold call and can understand the annoyance; with every call made, your employee feels the inconvenience being caused and braces for customer backlash.

This very quickly turns into burnout and high turnover. Employees who are asked to cold call day in and day out suffer mental fatigue and a drop in productivity—leaving them feeling that their  emotional labor was spent on a highly unproductive and tedious tasks.

Marketing strategies in which the business initiates contact with the prospective customer are categorized as outbound or push strategies. Cold calling is a prime example, along with other strategies like direct mail and TV ads.

So if you’ve been convinced to hang up on your cold-calling, outbound marketing ways, how can you reach prospective customers and drive new business?


Consider The Alternative: Inbound Marketing

While outbound tactics like cold calling interrupt your potential prospects, inbound marketing  pulls warm leads into your sales process through your blog, website, social media or other channels – giving you the chance to spend more of your time with people who are actually interested in your products and services.

With inbound marketing you still leverage conversations to advance the sale but in a different way. The calls come inbound to you versus having to dial up lists of un-interested people just to find the one that might be.

There are a number of reasons inbound marketing is the smart alternative:

1. Drive More Qualified Leads

Inbound leads are proven to be more qualified than cold calling sourced leads. Here’s why:

When you cold call to build your pipeline, the sales rep is responsible for moving the prospect throughout the entire buying cycle on one call. From initial awareness, to consideration, to decision. It’s a recipe for disaster.  This highly inefficient approach burnouts your list, leaving your prospects more excited to get you off the phone than to stick to the meeting you just booked with them.  

Inbound marketing attracts your ideal buyer to your website and uses content to pull them into your sales process. Then, by using marketing automation tools, you can nurture leads with valuable, timely content until they are ready to buy.  In fact, studies show that when businesses use marketing automation to nurture prospects they experience a 451% increase in qualified leads.

2. Create Better Communication

Cold calling is a one way street that focus on what you want and how you can get the prospect on the other end of the phone to just say yes. When you leverage inbound marketing to engage with your prospects, however, you create a two-way communication stream.  You might even call it a conversation.

With inbound, your business delivers valuable thought leadership content through professional networks such as Linkedin, social media channels such as Twitter or Facebook, or even through your blog.  In doing so, you have a chance to build a relationship with your potential customers early in the sales process — and in sales, relationships win.

3. Save Time

There are only so many valuable selling hours in the day. If you do the math, based on a 2% conversion, you would have you make 50 calls a day just to set an appointment, much less a new customer. If you’re like most small businesses you need to find more efficient ways to do more with less.

By using inbound methods to bring hot leads to your doorstep, you’ll spend more time talking to prospects that are ready to buy and let your inbound marketing process nurture those leads that aren’t quite ready to have a personal conversation or or might still be in research mode. Instead of chasing cold leads, you get valuable hours back in your day.

4. Save Money

If you look at the costs to staff an outbound sales team, procure the targeted call list and mash those up with the slim conversion rates into a customer – you are left with an inefficient way to grow sales in today’s digital world. Contrast the cost of outbound sales to the budget you need to get found online and drive inbound marketing leads, and it’s easy to see why cold calling is dead. In fact according to the Search Engine Journal, inbound leads cost 60% less than outbound leads.

When you build out an effective inbound strategy there is some initial work upfront such as creating your customer personas, building a website that converts, creating email marketing campaigns and developing content (such as your blog) that is aligned to your buyers’ greatest challenges. But once you create the assets for your inbound plan, you own them.  Then, it only becomes a matter of testing the right channels to discover which ones drive the most leads at the best cost per lead.

So before you spend your valuable sales time making futile cold calls, give inbound marketing a shot. By shifting to an inbound approach, you’ll attract more HOT leads to your business and have a more cost effective way to boost sales and bring in new customers.