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Cold calling should be consigned to the dustbin of history says Andrew Yates who reckons social selling is the way forward for organisations

Cold calling has developed a bad name thanks to the deluge of scammers and nuisance callers that have irritated and harassed not just consumers but businesses too. The government’s recent legislation, which will make it easier to take action against these companies, will not, however, help sales organisations who are legitimately trying to market their products and solutions to both consumers and other businesses.

The furore surrounding scam and nuisance calls has resulted in cold calling becoming a no-go area, a trigger for instant hang-ups where previously it could be effective. Now, an unsolicited call has become so unwelcome it’s almost pointless to even try establishing a rapport, never mind launching into a well-crafted sales pitch. Even when cold calling was acceptable, it still had only a small chance of getting the sales person to the next stage and lagged behind the alternative method of generating leads through marketing – which was also referred to as the ‘bluebird’ flying in through the window.

So with that avenue closed how are sales-driven companies contacting buyers without the door being slammed in their faces? Consumers, for the most part, make a decision in advance by carrying out their own research using reviews and reputation scores to select the best product for them and comparison sites to make sure they have the best price. In the B2B world it’s more complicated.

Selling is a science and not an art. Which means that even with the most charming approach and a keen ear for a buying signal, you are still unlikely to get in front of the prospect in the first place.

Selling B2B solutions and products has changed so much over the years, usually dictated by the technology available. In fact, Gartner even predicts that by 2020 80% of IT spend will be under the control of non-IT functions in the business. In recent years the changes wrought on the sales department have been driven by the web. Even as recently as 10 years ago the selling sequence followed a familiar pattern: buy a list of companies; cold call to set up appointments; carry out a sales pitch and demonstration; close the deal. But with the emergence of the ‘connected buyer’, informed by their research online, the sales pattern has changed and buyers can proactively engage with sellers, choose from options and significantly, negotiate terms.

Through the new scenario the opportunities for proactive sales people seem limited but a new generation of sellers have worked out a way to add value to the connected buyer. They are Social Sellers and what differentiates them is that they use tools that ‘listen’ to the plethora of data and intelligence on the web and social media to establish who might be a good prospect to sell to. By using social listening tools the social seller can adapt their approach, using, for example, a critical piece of knowledge that instantly renders them ‘value add’ to the connected buyer. Instead of being a nuisance, they instead become a source of topical and relevant information. In a recent survey conducted by Artesian 96% of buyers said they saw sales people as useful information sources, with three quarters of respondents stating that customer-relevant knowledge was the most important factor in gaining the attention of a buyer.

Selling has evolved and cold calling has become irrelevant and no longer economical. The same Artesian survey revealed that most sales organisations know they need to use ‘social’ in the sales tool mix but don’t know how because they still believe that social networks are the preserve of someone else, and LinkedIn is simply a glorified Yellow Pages. But if they just look around they will see that the tools and methods are available to make social networks work to their advantage. It is now easier than ever to take control of the selling process rather than depending solely on the marketing department and leaving the windows open in the hope of seeing the blue birds.

Andrew Yates is CEO at Artesian

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