Every so often, I’ll get a cold call or email -- probably four to six a month. I used to ignore them, but since I started writing for this blog, I’ve had a professional interest in watching sales reps in action. Call it field research.
So I started picking up. And in the nine months I’ve started reading cold emails and picking up cold calls, I haven’t gotten a single good one.
Maybe I’ve just been unlucky, but nine months of bad cold outreach seems like a trend to me. So for all the salespeople out there who keep calling and emailing me, here’s why I’ll never buy from you.
1) I have no idea who you are.
I’ve never been to your website. I’ve never heard of your company. I’ve never done anything (that I can recall) that suggests I’m interested in your product or the problem it solves. In fact, the very definition of a cold call is that it’s cold -- the prospect has no connection to your company at all.
Cold calls don’t work precisely because they target prospects who haven’t signaled any interest. Calling inbound leads or professionals you’ve interacted with on social media is a far better way to engage prospects.
2) You have no idea who I am.
I once got a cold email from someone who wanted to sell me a CRM consulting service -- a product that, while potentially useful to someone in HubSpot’s sales division, is not even remotely related to what I do.
And yet, I know exactly how it happened. I write about sales, and my LinkedIn job title contains the word “sales.” The rep probably assumed that I was a salesperson, and reached out.
A simple Google search or LinkedIn skim would have revealed that I was far from the right person to call. The takeaway: Never pick up the phone without doing preliminary research about who your prospect is and what their concerns are likely to be.
3) You’re obviously using a script.
Here’s a cold email I received a few months ago.
Subject line: Secure Data Sharing For You and Your Team
Do you work with large files? I know this area very well, and it requires a lot of caution. [Company name] is something you should have a look at. It’s a unique storage device that lets you seamlessly move data from public to private storage clouds. [Company name] can sync all the data even large files for FREE. With this storage it always can be accessed and discussed with built chat, even if some of the participants turn off their laptops.
For instance, [Agency name] is successfully using [Company name] to share large image files and confidential data among teams and clients, without killing the Internet connection or uploading everything to a public cloud.
We want to provide professionals with this amazingly useful technology. Let's schedule a quick 15-minute call. My fellow [sales rep] can tell you more about how you can change the way you share files, using our solution.
Best regards, [Salesperson]
It doesn’t get more generic than this. There’s no mention of what I do, how the product helps professionals similar to myself, or why I’d be interested in this particular storage solution. The fact that I work at a software company and yet the case study cited is specific to an agency use case is another sign the rep cut corners and sent out a mass email blast.
In an age where internet research and basic customization are so easy, there’s no excuse for such a generic message. Always tailor emails and calls to what you know about your prospect’s situation, and make an effort to find out as much specific information as you can.
4) You won’t let me off the phone.
This happens rarely, but when it does, it’s incredibly frustrating. A few months ago, I got a call from a salesperson who positioned herself as conducting a research survey. When I declined, she said, “Okay, if you don’t have time for the survey, can I tell you about X product that’s related? It will only take two minutes.”
I declined again, and wished her a good day. But she pressed on twice more, giving me what was obviously an elevator pitch.
The hard sell rarely works to begin with, but it’s even less effective when the person on the other end of the line has already checked out of the conversation. When your prospect is clearly trying to get out of the conversation, do yourself a favor and let them go -- don’t damage the relationship further by relentlessly talking at them.
5) You want me to buy something right away.
Here’s the typical cold email I get:
“Hi, I’m X from Y company. We make Z product or service, which does A, B, and C -- here’s a link to our pricing page. Would you like to schedule a call to learn more?”
Nope, I wouldn’t. I’d barely absorbed your name and company before you moved right into product features and pricing.
Asking too much of prospects up front is a surefire way to lose the deal altogether. Taking a more measured approach that respects the buyer's desired pace is not only better for the buyer, it also increases the odds you’ll be able to see the sale through to the end.
6) You launch right into your pitch.
The corollary to #5, leading with an elevator pitch completely breezes by the buyer’s needs. On the off chance you’ve cold called someone who is interested in what you have to say, starting with a pitch is a great way to completely ruin the opportunity for the sale.
Always err on the side of listening, not speaking. It’s the only way you’ll be able to work with your prospect to come up with a mutually agreeable solution.
Cold emails and cold calls are annoying, interruptive, and rarely useful. And it’s no wonder: With more information available to buyers and sellers than ever before, customized outreach isn’t a nice-to-have -- it’s the bare minimum. Get wise to this fact before your cold-calling peers do, and you’ll have a clear leg up on your competition.
Originally published Dec 1, 2015 8:30:00 AM, updated June 11 2021