Customer 2.0…Social Calling…So what IS the point of a cold call in 2011?

During my recent period of job hunting I was at home a lot more, so took the opportunity to help out a relative who rents out a flat nearby. Told her she could use my number on the ads that she was placing on Gumtree and I could take calls and arrange viewings for her. She did use a lettings agency once, a few years ago, but in recent years has been happy to find tenants directly. There is a willing pool of potential tenants reachable through online advertising.

She thanked me for offering to help out, as she said that the worst part of advertising directly was fielding the calls from agents, many of whom were quite devious and often didn’t own up to who they really were.

The ad was published online, and with an hour the calls started. About half were people looking for a flat to rent, most of them wanted to view, whilst the rest of the calls went like this:

Them : I’m calling about the flat in xxxxxxx Street, is it still available?

Me : Yes it is, are you calling for yourself or are you calling on behalf of an agency?


Them : er, well I’m calling from ******* and we have a lot of people registered with us who are looking for flats in your area.

Me : Ah I see, well we’re not looking to use agencies for this.

Them : Why is that? Is it the cost? If it is then we can do a deal on fees.

Me : Well that’s nice to know, but we don’t need to use agencies at the moment, there’s been a good response and we already have viewings booked.

Them : Well we have a lot of people on our books, we can get some round to you this afternoon.

Me : No, it’s OK, we have a lot of viewings already.

Them : But it’s still available

Me : Well it has only just been advertised and we have quite a few viewings so we’re fairly confident, given previous experience, that we will let it.

Them : Alright, bye.

I wish I was exaggerating but I’m not. A couple of the callers got quite short with me and started disagreeing.

No-one tried to find out who was letting the flat. I answered the phone so they assumed it was me.

No-one tried to engage me in conversation, build a little rapport or empathy.

No-one really tried to find out why I didn’t want to use an agency; they ASSUMED that it was a cost issue.

No-one tried to sell any VALUE in the services they provide.

All calls tried to sell to me based on cost and speed.

I have to say that dealing with calls from letting agents was a fairly dispiriting experience. The callers sounded dispirited, and that was the way that they left me feeling too.

What was the point of these calls? Seriously? Why ad chase someone straight after they decided to advertise for themselves? No-one who called appeared to have any interest in really trying to find out why I wasn’t using an agent. They just wanted me to know that they were cheap and quick…as if that were enough.

Can only wonder how these agents were hired? How are they trained? How are they motivated? How are they managed? And what job satisfaction do they get?

Customer 2.0

We live in an enlightened, information driven age. I’m sure that landlords are fully aware of why they do and don’t want to use an agent.

Google ‘Why should I use a letting agency’ and you will immediately get a range of links, for and against.

You can make an informed decision.

What about recruiters?

Google ‘Why should I use a recruitment agency’ and you get a similar set of links.

We’re now Customer 2.0…we have the information and we are more knowing. If someone wants to sell to us they need to do a lot more. They need to show expertise. They need to sell value. They need to accept that we have knowledge so at the very least have to ascertain if the knowledge we have is enough to make an informed decision.

And they need to use a different approach. Now!

Seriously, the noise from frustrated clients is loud and clear.

Take this blog post from Katie McNab, a senior recruiter from PepsiCo – Dear John

Or this blog post from Jason Pankow, a senior recruiter from Microsoft  – Cold Calling is Sooooo 20th Century

We’re talking serious recruiters with serious companies spelling out a serious message. Cold calls are intrusive. They are annoying. They add no value nor show any expertise.

Change the model!

How about Social Calling?

Here’s a quote from Jeffrey Gitomer, author of Social Boom:

Cold calling does not work anymore. Unfortunately, the only people that don’t know this fact are the ones still cold calling. Social media presents an opportunity for business people to connect and know each other prior to a phone call or email taking place. At this moment in 2011, business social media is still in its infancy, but a random job title search on LinkedIn in a defined geographic region will not only net hundreds of new prospects, it will also tell you how these prospects are related to you and who in your network might serve as an introduction – thereby making it a warm call. All of this research can be done in a matter of seconds at a total cost of zero. Instead of making a hundred cold calls in a day, a good salesperson can make a thousand warm calls in under an hour.” (you can read the rest of the interview here)

I blogged about this last year. In Four Reasons why Recruitment Sales is Changing I concluded that the main factors driving this change, all enhanced by social media, were:

  • Relationships – lasting, mutually beneficial, value add relationships…not the transactional, quick fix delivered by telesales and ad chasing
  • Transparency – social media platforms offer visibility of status and methodology
  • Advocacy – connectivity gives power to recommendation and reputation, allowing validation and referral to replace patter and killer closes
  • Communication – is the phone really the best way to connect and engage with future clients?

It’s highly unlikely in 2011 that a hiring manager, landlord or purchasing professional doesn’t know that they have options. They will also probably already know who they want to buy from. The information is there, and social media is creating a transparent marketplace where advocacy and reputation are key.

So what IS the point of a cold call now?

Clients don’t like them and don’t seem to want them, so how can they lead to long term, profitable business relationships?

And how are you trying to sell to enlightened customers?

10 thoughts on “Customer 2.0…Social Calling…So what IS the point of a cold call in 2011?

  1. In my honest opinion just because you have someone’s name and you know what they look like or where they have worked before or that they are connected with someone you know on Linkedin- does not make this call any more warm then getting the name off their website or via the switchboard.

    The bottom line is, if you have not met, not had any communication with that person before it is still a cold call. It’s what you do with it that counts.

    Cold Calls are to an extent, a required evil- the issues you’ve outlined and in Katie’s blog aren’t so much the process more the methods employed.

    Recruitment Agencies (and Estate Agents) have a service to sell, something of value and they shouldn’t enact ‘Double Glazing’ sales techniques.

    Cold calling isn’t fun most of the time but you can build some great relationships after that first call, that skill is down to the management and training of the rep on the phone. When Management stop measuring by KPI’s and more by revenue created then you give Cold Callers the opportunity to build relationships and thus build revenue.

    And with anything to do with Social Media (and I am an advocate of it). It can’t be the sole channel you use, it should be used in conjuction with other methods.

  2. Interesting points Mervyn. I find that cold calling rarely yields immediate response, though if pitched correctly can open the door for future relationships/business. Of course, there is a huge difference between B2B and B2C. I tend to be quite ammenable to cold calls at work, but extremely dismissive if it is in my private time (energy suppliers, mobile phone tariffs etc).

  3. Great blog Mervyn, and thanks for linking back to my post, and pointing me in the direction of Jason’s!

    Cold calls are not useful or productive. For either party. They’re time-consuming annoyances. If I answered the phone to every agency that called me, I would never actually get anything done. And what are the odds that I’m going to give an assignment to a agency I’ve never heard of, who calls me to ask if they can work on the role we just posted?

    It doesn’t have to be like this.

    The insane target driven behaviours need to stop. Playing the numbers game might work in the long run, but irreparable damage is done along the way.

    If I need agency support beyond my PSL, the first thing I’d do is reach out to my network – including other in-house recruiters – and ask for recommendations. I place a very high value on their input.

    I see a few recruitment companies doing business development in a very smart way. Oasis Seach partnered with a few other vendors and created the Direct Resourcing Think Tank. What started out as a small discussion group has become a large community that regularly meets to discuss recruitment issues – all arranged and hosted by Jeremy and his friends. Jeremy has been able to build friendly and positive relationships with a network of senior in-house recruiters that are happy to engage with him. I’d be very surprised if those relationships hadn’t blossomed into actual placements along the way… without a single cold call.

  4. I agree with your observations but the “cold-callers” need to see viable alternatives before they will divert their energies. Recruitment Consultants in particular need urgently to set up and/or support new channels to market whether that be Jeremy’s DRTT model as Katie pointed out or T.E.A.M. Vacancy-Clearing, Talent-Puzzle, I.R.G. etc.
    Choosing to participate in these engagement models designed to connect Buyers and Sellers in a transparent, consensual and fair way, instead of relentless cold-calling will go a long way to restoring some sanity to the recruitment space.

  5. Top post Mervyn – you’ve managed to weave some good humour (your retelling of the phone call is great) into a subject I find very painful. And Katie nails it for me with “The insane target driven behaviours need to stop.” They certainly do. Some stuff is better nurtured than measured. Always has been, always will be. The quicker folks can get to grips with that and just let stuff happen the better.

  6. Thanks for comments.

    Oli, I think that they need to start measuring by client satisfaction…then you may get a different approach.

    Russell, I’m with you on the irksome cold calls at home…which is probably how a Recruitment Manager like Katie feels about the ones she gets at work!

    KPI driven telesales does seem to irk most people, yet still they continue. Thanks to Katie for highlighting different approaches by businesses like Oasis.

    David, I think that the models you mention could certainly help new recruitment start ups, particularly those with strong networks. I can’t see many existing businesses changing their models any time soon though.

    Doug, nurturing business and letting stuff happen would be great…wonder if any recruiter or estate agent will be brave enough to give it a try.

    1. Mervyn,

      I agree I think that maybe client retention should be used as a measure as opposed to new business. That would encourage more relationship buidling and understanding – that said business’s need to move to a model which will weight in favour of repeat business.

      As they say, give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he’ll eat forever….. ! (or something like that).

  7. Mervyn – great blog, and extremely relevant.
    It is a big discussion point at the moment – albeit within the same circles sadly – because blog-reading is too time-consuming for most recruiters as they have er… calls to make… (over, and over again)

    I haven’t made a sales call in well over 18 months. Those have been the most thriving of my business. The 4 points about Relationships, Transparency, Advocacy and Communication have the the cornerstones of my business for years, but social media has made it ever more possible.

    One message on Twitter, reaches a potential 2000-odd followers I have, plus the potential forwarding reach from my advocates thereafter. 1 sales call usually equals an answer-machine like Katie’s.
    It takes time to build an audience, advocates and those relationships – but it is Transparency and clear honest communication – business and non-business related – that matters. It’s Networking 2.0. No business cards, no sales pitches, no annoying life-coaches – just communication, visibility and reputation building.

    The sales call SHOULD be dead. Well, killed off at least. Won’t happen tough.

  8. The Cold Call is not dead – not in some industries anyway. I have been away from the recruitment industry for a couple of years now but still enjoy looking the industry debates and blogs. The trouble is on the blogs and social networking sites you will all agree with each other – it’s the others you need to tell!!

    For the past 3 months I have been working in the highly competitive world of office stationery. The sales teams are independent units of 4 – a team manager (often cold calling on the road), two telesales people and an administrator. The average monthly gross profit figure for each team is £20,000. Every one of the clients contributing to that figure was ‘cold called’ at some point.

    Social networking is a valid sales technique, but don’t write off the cold call – it too is valid and current.

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