The telephone may have reigned supreme as the best way to connect in the past, but sales reps of today have multiple options for reaching prospects and leads. As a 21st century salesperson, you may prefer to focus on social media to connect with potential customers. Social selling is a great way to begin engaging with people. However, very few complex sales are closed through social selling alone.

At some point in the sales process, you have to pick up the phone.

Engaging in the Cold Calling vs. Social Selling Debate

Sales teams have traditionally generated prospects by placing hundreds of cold calls every day, a technique that has created high levels of success. Today, though, many sales experts like to debate the effectiveness of cold calling versus social selling. You probably have some opinions as well.

Traditionalists still tend to think of social selling as a fad, but contemporary opinion points to the increase in the use of social media and the decrease in answered calls. This debate is one I’ve had many times before, and we even featured this debate as one of our webinars last year.

When it comes down to it, each of these approaches to selling has its place. You need to familiarize yourself with and use both social selling and cold calling to make the most of your sales contact attempts.

Embracing Cold Calling . . . Well, Warm Calling

I’m not asking you to ditch your LinkedIn game for a cold call script and a telephone, but I am asking you to consider the value of placing sales calls — actual phone calls — in combination with your social selling efforts.

If you’ve been effective in your social selling efforts you will find that when you call prospects, they will answer the phone. These cold/warm calls let you:

  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Listen to a decision-maker so that you can hear his or her pain points first hand
  • Get the opportunity to book a time to get in front of the buying committee
  • Move closer to the step that closes a deal

Optimizing Your LinkedIn Profile for Better Cold Calling Results

Social selling pros: you already know the importance of a good LinkedIn profile when it comes to social selling. Did you know it can help you with your cold calling game, too?

Those prospects with whom you connect on LinkedIn have checked out your profile. If your profile is credible and you have a good online rapport, your prospect may take or return your call.

Did you know that an optimized profile can work in favor of those reps who decide to cold call first? Here’s why.

When you get prospects on the phone, they will probably go check out your LinkedIn profile during or after the call if your solution piqued their interest. Even the right voicemail message can prompt a visit to your profile. Your LinkedIn presence should be up-to-date, professional, and credible. Otherwise, you may not get a chance at a second conversation.

Whether you’re a “cold caller first” or a die-hard social seller, make sure you’re LinkedIn profile has:

  • A relevant and appealing background image
  • A headline defines who you are and how you help solve specific problems
  • Endorsements and recommendations
  • Featured skills
  • Work experience
  • Accomplishments
  • And interests

Cold Calling Tips for Social Sellers

1. Use Role-Playing to Improve Cold Calling Skills

Many salespeople do not enjoy call role-playing, but it can help you improve your cold calling skills. A colleague or your manager can help you run through different scenarios that you may encounter in cold calling, and the practice can help you handle objections you may face.

After each session, discuss how the role-playing went. Give your thoughts to your partner, and listen openly to your partner’s critique. Don’t take the criticism personally. Use it as your guide to issues you need to improve upon for next time.

2. Use a Script to Stay on Message

I recommend using a script as a guide. You don’t have to read your script verbatim nor memorize it. Just use something as a guide that helps you have productive conversations that stay on point. Make sure your script has points for breaks and questions that help you learn more from the prospect. Be sure to take time to gauge how a potential customer reacts to you, your pitch, and your products or services.

3. Have a Defined Approach to Voicemails

More often than not, you will go to voicemails during your cold calling attempts. Instead of stumbling through some off-the-cuff ramble, plan what you want to say in your sales voicemail. You should even consider using different messages depending on what attempt this is (1st, 5th?) and what other channels you’ve connected on with this prospect.

4. Ask Questions and Listen to Your Prospects

You probably figured this part out during your role-playing exercises, but it bears repeating: you have to listen to your prospects. If you call leads and don’t take time to listen to their concerns and pain points, you’re just wasting their time and yours. Ask a question to check in with the prospect during the call. When you do, click your mute button to help you resist the temptation to start talking again too soon.

5. Follow up Persistently

Reports indicate that 10% of sales are closed after you follow-up with contacts and 80% of sales are closed between five and 12 follow-up contacts. According to the Sales Engagement Study by the Telfer School of Management, the average number of contact attempts needed for a positive outcome with a lead is 5.7 for B2B companies and 5.9 for B2C companies. So, if you stop following up with your prospects after four attempts, you’re missing opportunities to close deals that may have only required one more follow up call.

Ready to Cold Call?

I’m not going to fool myself into thinking you die-hard social sellers are now won over to the wonderful world of cold calling based on this one blog post. However, I hope you are at least considering giving cold calling a try.

Need a little more encouragement? Maybe this will help.

Social selling expert, Dan Disney, and I wrote an ebook to help salespeople put the disciplines of both cold calling and social selling to work for the ultimate approach to prospecting. Throughout the e-book, you can find cold calling tips as well as social media ideas.

Give it a read, then come back and share your thoughts in the comments below.