Can cold calling help to grow a business?

Cold calling could bear fruit if the businesses play by some ground rules, writes the senior financial planner at deVere Acuma.

There are many ways that professionals here in Dubai and worldwide will actively seek to expand their client base, seek out new prospects and ultimately drive their businesses forward. This is not intended to vilify or justify any particular method but should offer some insight to the process, whether you are the one seeking new contacts or the one being sought and contacted.

It would be brilliant if every business could survive on clients that simply walk through the door or call them asking for help. That will never happen. In order to grow, even the biggest and best organisations need to put themselves out there and actively pursue new leads.

For this first part, I’m going straight for the jugular. Cold-calling. Practised by most businesses to some extent. Loathed by most that receive the calls. Dreaded by many who need to pick up the phone and make them.

Hold on! Wait a minute. Just because I mentioned cold calls, you shouldn’t stop reading. This is not a cold call. This is useful information. This could help you.

Strangely enough, so could a cold call, from time-to-time. I will grant that most unsolicited calls that we receive will be trying to sell something that we may not want or need. However, I always give someone a moment to explain why they are calling. Just imagine, though a little far-fetched, that SMS services, TV and the internet were out of action and the only way you could be notified of an impending disaster was through a call from someone you didn’t know. Would you hang up straight away and be left to your doom or would you give up 30 seconds to establish if the information being presented might be useful?

This scenario may seem absurd but it offers advice to anyone receiving unsolicited contact as well as to the poor soul who has to make these calls, only to hear the line fall dead moments later.

Firstly, if like me you receive several such calls each day, give them a moment to explain why you should stay on the line. If the reason is not satisfactory, politely decline to continue.

Early in my career there were times that I needed to ‘hit the phones’ and I can guarantee that the person who is calling you is quite possibly dreading your response as much as you dread their approach. If their reason for calling is valid and relevant to you then you could benefit from their services without the effort of seeking out a professional on your own.

Imagine if a physiotherapist cold-called you ten minutes after you injured your back. What if a mechanic phoned just as your car broke down?

If you are someone who needs to make sales calls or cold approaches, bear the same in mind.

If the person answering the phone is kind enough to donate a clutch of seconds of their valuable time in order to hear what you have to say, make it worth their while.

If your call seems useless to them or you can’t effectively get your point across in those precious few seconds then not only will you be unsuccessful, you will make it ten times more difficult for anyone in the future who calls that same person. By making a bad phone call, irritating or upsetting a prospect, you are actually making cold calls in general seem more irritating and upsetting for everyone.

I should include some important warnings here. Of course it is impossible to know if the person on the other end of the line is genuine, honest, a true professional or even if they are who they claim to be. However good something may sound when presented by someone trying to sell it, always do your homework.

If someone proposes to perform heart surgery on me then I want to see that his surgery is clean and licensed and I want to see that his visa confirms he is a heart surgeon.

From the caller’s perspective, if you find that your business is reliant solely on cold calling, it is my firm belief that you are doing something wrong. It should be a last resort, not a primary tactic. A way to supplement the leads or appointments that you have generated through other means rather than a core tactic. ‘Hitting the phones’ certainly serves a purpose if you want to crack a new market or promote a new service but it is simply too costly in terms of time, effort and money.

Hundreds of calls might yield just one new client. That can’t be considered highly efficient.

Although cold calls are a costly and time-consuming method of developing leads for any business, they can always be relied upon to generate some extra activity when times are tough.

The redeeming factor of the cold call is that results are directly proportional to the effort that goes in. The more people you approach, the more response you should receive. For new or struggling businesses, cold calls may just be that essential lifeline.

I expect that some enterprising salesman will read this article and decide to contact me to see if I will practise what I preach. I hope they do. I will welcome it – if they go about it in the right way.

I long for the day when nobody makes cold calls. I’m pleased to have reached a point in my career where I don’t have to pick up the phone and fearfully dial those numbers, not knowing the response I might face when the answer comes.

That’s not to say that I am naive or arrogant enough to believe I will never have to do it again. However, in order to rid the world of unsolicited phone contact, we need to explore other routes to market that might be less intrusive and certainly less stigmatised.