I was sitting having coffee with a colleague as he was sharing how his cold calling sales efforts just were not working. He happens to be one of those rare human beings who do not mind making cold calls; he came up through the business doing them. In fact, jobs he held in the past required him to make cold calls — upwards of 50 or 60 calls a day. Yuck– gives me chills just thinking about it.

Having changed careers, he admitted it has been years since he has cold called, and he was shocked at the low response he was getting. I personally have never been a fan of the sales cold call; I am glad the change in our economy has led to a change in people’s willingness to accept a call (an interruption) from someone they have never met, seen or  known. In today’s economy, cold calls (in the humble opinion of this business development expert) do not work. I believe they are one of the most inefficient ways to sell and build your business.

Our products don’t differentiate us; the client’s experience with us is our differentiating factor.

There are a number of reasons why cold calls do not work, but the most important is that this economy has literally shifted. Economists say that we have moved out of a push economy and into a pull economy. The most significant change that happens when you move into a pull economy is that the consumer moves to the position of control; they are driving the sales process. Meaning that what we sell, or what we offer consumers, has become a commodity, but how we offer it is now our competitive advantage. Our products don’t differentiate us; the client’s experience with us is our differentiating factor. It is not about product, it is about the relationships we create; that’s the reason I have come to call this a Trust & Value Economy.

With that one shift in the economy, with the consumer moving to the position of control, everything has changed.  We have to understand (because consumers certainly do) they don’t have to do anything they don’t want to do. Including taking a call from someone they do not know, who is selling something they do not even know if they want.  The shift in this economy has led to the death of the cold call, or at the very least, made it the most incredibly inefficient way to sell.

Again, while on some level that makes me happy, as someone who hates cold calling,  it still leaves the challenge of getting in the door and getting in front of prospects. If the traditional cold call is no longer working, what takes its place? What is the new cold call?

Are you ready? Drum roll please…. The new cold call is a combination of branding and networking– a balance of the two, really. A simple description of the sales process in the Trust & Value Economy is: establish your brand, network to connect, sell to build trust, and follow up to add value. Let’s take a closer look:

The steps:

  1. Branding – Most definitions say that branding is your promise to the customer. I agree, and that translates to what the customer thinks of when they think of you. So to define your brand, you need to define what you want to be known for, how you want to be described, and the reasons prospects think of you.  Define what that is, then communicate it to your customers, prospects, and the world.

  1. Networking – The purpose of networking is to connect and to learn in a way that helps you find the prospects you want to call on, the ones you want to have a sales conversation with. First, you have to be networking where your target market is; then you need to attend each and every networking event with one goal: to learn about others. Take the approach that it is better to give than to receive. Invest the time in learning and listening to others, and they will not only open the door when you call, they will welcome an opportunity to work with you.

A combination of branding and networking creates your WOW Factor, and in today’s market you need a WOW factor. Your prospects and potential referral opportunities need to have heard of you, before they will ever consider doing business with you.

  1. Sales Calling – With a strong foundation of branding and networking, the sales call becomes a natural. Prospects understand your brand promise, who you are and what you stand for, and they “buy in.” In addition, you have connected via networking and have had the preliminary conversations to determine if there is need there, and you have emotionally connected by listening and learning. So naturally, your prospect trusts that talking with you is in their best interest. For these reasons, this type of sales call has been termed “the warm call.” In essence, you have moved to the front of the line among your competitors; you have differentiated yourself. Both of you are ready to talk sales, to get specific about how you can implement your products or services to meet the needs of this prospect.

  1. Following up – with the relationship started, and one sale underway, the next natural step is to add “real” value. That happens in the follow-up. Once you make the first sale, the sales process has just started; it has just begun. Your customer believes in you (brand), has connected with you (networking), trusts you (sales), and now they are ready and willing to go further with this relationship. You follow up to add value, to offer other products or services to further help them achieve their dreams and goals.

The sales call and the follow-up are what give you the information you need to acquire a customer for life. Done well, the sales call and the follow-up turn your prospects into customers and your customers into advocates.

Yes, in today’s Trust & Value Economy, cold calling is dead. In its place is a new way of doing business — one that is better for the sales professional, and most important, better for the prospect. Gotta love this new economy! If you are passionate about what you do and passionate about whom you serve, then go out there and get it!