Cold Calling Is Still Hot

The key to making quantum leaps in one’s production is found in the psychological arena. —Dr. Aaron Hemlsley

In his ERE article The End of Sourcing Is Near … the Remaining Recruiting Challenge Is Selling, John Sullivan suggests that due to the LinkedIn factor, the biggest challenge facing recruiting today is the need to sell, and the fact that many recruiters dread doing so. That’s because they just might have to make cold calls.

It’s Called Cold for a Reason

When I get ready to make a cold call, I do this whole psyche up thing.

I imagine myself as tall, strong, and fearless; ready to crush the competition. I get out of my chair and walk around. I look and feel the part. I am a recruiting professional and I am prepared for action.

I pull the trigger (aka dial my phone). It goes straight to voice mail. I leave a message that is precisely 30 seconds in length; I know that because I timed myself reading my prepared script before making the call. I hang up.

I made a cold call to the VP of Sales.

Whew, that wasn’t hard at all.

A few minutes later I dial into my voice mail to check out the recording I just made to myself..

Oh crap. I sound like a pissed-off drill sergeant begging for food stamps. I would delete this joker’s message within the first three seconds if I were the recipient.

Why So Many Avoid Cold Calling

Is it fear, laziness, or procrastination? It has a lot more to do with the psychological barriers against higher performance that many of us build overtime.

According to performance expert, Dr. Aaron Hemlsley, “The key to making quantum leaps in one’s production is found in the psychological arena. If this area is ignored all change is at best, short term. All performance problems are psychological problems.”

It’s a Numbers Game, But …

A few years ago I attended an onsite training seminar by a well-know recruiter trainer. He talked about setting a daily schedule of 40 marketing and 40 recruiting calls. He inspired me to go back to the office and try to make 80 calls a day.

Before long I was finding other priorities to fill the time allotted and making only a few calls a day. I was avoiding cold calling and did not know why.

Goal Setting Is Not the Answer

According to Helmsley, “if goal setting generated change, then everyone would be a success, because everyone has set goals.”

I had stopped calling because I had inner barriers sabotaging my success, regardless of the goals I had set for myself. In other words, to stop avoiding making calls, I had to first look inside of me. Before I did that it would not matter how many sales coaches I listened to.

As time went on I realized that how I perceive the value I bring to the table has more to do with the way I feel about me than what I’m selling. If I didn’t believe in myself, the value proposition I offered didn’t matter. I needed to first master my inner demons before I could master the phone.

Gradually making calls began to feel easier, less intimidating, and even fun. I was on my way to getting my emotional recruiter house in order. I felt invigorated.

If Cold Calling Doesn’t Even Work

Now that I was spending more time on the phone, I began to question just how much time I should be devoting to it. What if the effectiveness of old-fashioned phone prospecting has been killed by the advent of social media and other modes of communication?

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In the fall of 2011, Baylor University’s Keller Center for Research partnered with Keller Williams Realty International to conduct the first scientific study to quantify the effectiveness of cold calling.

Each of the 160 agents selected for the study was provided with a standardized, cold-calling script, (essential to effective cold calling), and committed to set aside an hour each day for seven days, over a two-week period, to make cold calls in his/her respective geographic region. Agents were asked to call a generic, random list of numbers from a region not previously marketed to.

Results of the study:

  • On average each call took five minutes with an agent making on average 209 calls over 7.5 hours.
  • 72 percent of calls went to voice mail or were a wrong number
  • 28 percent or 58 calls were answered
  • One qualified appointment, or referral, came from every 209 calls
  • 1 out of 58 answered calls resulted in an appointment or referral
  • The most productive time was 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • The least effective time was after 5 p.m.
  • Maintaining motivation while cold calling in anticipation of unsuccessful outcomes is a challenge many are unwilling to face
  • The quality of the list is a major factor.
  • A key aspect to staying positive when making cold calls is to understand that it is a numbers game.

The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated. –Mark Twain

Based on the evidence, it seems that cold calling is very much alive, like it or not. Overall, the researchers concluded, once contact was made (the call was answered) the results were encouraging with an overall relatively strong ROI. They summed up the findings in the following quote:

“Cold calling can be tedious (both mentally and physically), but can lead to potentially fruitful outcomes.”

Cold-call Dropouts Create Opportunity

Perhaps the most interesting result of all was that many agents said they have given up on the effectiveness of cold calling, while the ones willing to invest the time, energy, and resources into cold calling reap the benefits made available by other agents unwilling to do the same.

Recruiters are no different and many have forsaken cold calling in favor of social media as a primary contact mechanism.

You Change Lives — Now Change Your Own

As a recruiter you bring the prospect of real change and growth to any one you call. You can improve a career — or a company’s bottom line — if given the chance. Along with making a lot of calls, the depth of your resolve of the belief that as a recruiter you can make a positive impact is a real driver of cold calling success.

So before you give up on cold calling as a recruiting or marketing tool, feel inner goodness about the value you bring to the people you call and you’ll see the difference.

Having science prove that cold calling works, if you make sufficient calls, should make picking up your phone just a bit easier. Using proven phone scripts will help make your calls more effective and keep you on the straight and narrow call after call.

So should you spend a bunch of time making cold calls? That’s your call to make.

Jeff Wood has seen the recruiting profession, and the technologies used, evolve dramatically since becoming a recruiter in 1995, (when he used to fax resumes to clients). Today he is co-founder of RecruitLoot; a web startup that builds useful tools and resources to help recruiters save time, and get more hires.

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