The Trouble With Cold-Calling

I won’t deny that cold-calling can work. Yet in 99 out of 100 cases, my advice is never to do it. The reason is that, even if the prospect on the other end of the phone expresses interest in your services, the very fact that you cold-called him puts you in a weak position – for three reasons.

First, people want to deal with vendors who are successful, not those who are desperate and need the work, right? Well, when you cold-call, your prospects assume that you are not busy. After all, if you were, you would not have time to sit there calling strangers and asking them for their business.

Second, cold-calling puts you at a disadvantage when estimating prices and quoting fees.

A large part of what determines how much you can charge is the law of supply and demand. When the demand for what you sell outweighs your supply, it’s a seller’s market and you can name your own price. By cold-calling, you are signaling to the prospect that the demand for your services is less than the amount of time you have available. Therefore, prospects generated by cold-calling are more price-resistant – and more likely to haggle.

Third, cold-calling puts you in a weak position when negotiating terms.

Again, cold-called prospects know that you want and need their business. You are perceived as being easy to hire, and, therefore, they feel they can dictate things like deadlines, payment schedules, and work arrangements.

Why is cold-calling so ineffective? Because it violates the “Silver Rule of Marketing.”

The Silver Rule is a universal principle, first stated to me many years ago by my friend, marketing consultant Pete Silver. The Silver Rule of Marketing states: “It is better for them to come to you, rather than for you to go to them” (with “them” being your potential clients).

You can see why the Silver Rule makes sense.

If you go to a potential client, seek them out, ask for an audience, and plead with them to use your services, you are seen as needy and desperate. Your prospects think you can’t be any good at what you do. After all, if you were good, your schedule would be filled to overflowing – and you wouldn’t be spending your valuable time on the phone, dialing for dollars.

The only prospects who buy from needy and desperate vendors are those looking for the cheapest bid. So cold-calling risks dooming you to being the low-priced provider.

When they call you, the dynamic reverses. They call because they have a need or a problem… and they are hoping you can help them.

But how do you get prospects to call you? There are two methods. The first is good, and the second is better.

The first method is to generate inquiries through traditional marketing. This includes Yellow Pages advertising… magazine ads… TV commercials… direct mail… radio spots… billboards.

When someone calls in response to your ad in their industry trade magazine, you know they have either an immediate need – or at least some interest in what you are offering. Otherwise, they would not have called you. However, all they know about you is what they read in your ad. Therefore, they may not be convinced that you are the right one to hire.

The second method of getting people to call you eliminates this problem. I’m talking about establishing yourself as a recognized authority in your field. You can do this by writing articles for an industry trade publication… being interviewed on radio talk shows… writing a book… giving speeches at industry meetings… and/or publishing an informative print or online newsletter on your specialty.

When people call you because they read your book, they – like prospects who respond to your ad – are telling you that they have a need. However, unlike those who merely saw your ad, they are already predisposed to buy from you.

After all, prospects are skeptical of advertising claims. But authors are perceived as experts. So by writing the book (or the article or column or content-rich website) on the topic your prospects are interested in, you will be the one they call first when they need help solving problems in that area.

Think about how you can establish your reputation as a leading expert in your field or industry. Can you volunteer to be a speaker at the next big industry conference? Publish a white paper? Write letters to the editor? Publish a blog?

The best place to start: Write an article about the solution to a big problem your prospects are likely to have and publish it in a magazine, periodical, or on a website where they are likely to see it.

[Ed Note: Bob Bly is a freelance copywriter, the author of more than 70 books, and co-creator of ETR’s Direct Marketing Masters Edition program. Sign up for Bob’s free monthly e-zine, The Direct Response Letter, and get more than $100 in free bonuses.]

Bob Bly

Bob Bly is an independent copywriter and consultant specializing in business-to-business and direct marketing. He has been hired as a consultant by such companies as Sony, Chemical Bank, J. Walter Thompson, Westinghouse, and Prentice-Hall. Bob is also the author of more than 50 books including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Direct Marketing (Alpha Books), Targeted Public Relations, Selling Your Services, How to Promote Your Own Business, and Keeping Clients Satisfied. A phenomenal public speaker, Bob will share with you how easy it is to start your own business. Whether you’re ready to quit your job or are just looking to make a little money on the side, you’ll want to hear Bob’s advice.