Does Cold Calling Ever Work?

Call Center

Does cold calling EVER work?

No.

Yes.

Well ….it all depends on how it’s executed, of course.

Consider the following examples – both true stories.

Example 1:
Random Dude: “Hi. Is this Waldow, DJ?”
Me: “Depends who this is.”
RD: “I’m calling for a globally recognized web design firm. Waldow, DJ just purchased the domain [redacted] and we are offering our services.”
Me: “Who are you again?”
RD: “We are a globally recognized design firm and are offering you, our valued customer … ”
Me: “How can I be a ‘valued customer’ if I am not a … customer. And, have never heard of your company?”
RD: {pause} … {confusion} … {looking for script}. “I am looking to speak with Waldow, DJ.”
Me: “This is DJ Waldow.”

I won’t bore you with the rest of the conversation, but suffice to say, it ended moments later with “RD” saying, “thankyousirgoodbye.”

Also, probably goes without saying, but this was NOT a good example of how to execute a cold call.

Contrast Example 1 with Example 2.

Example 2:
Current UC San Diego Junior, Nick: “Hi. May I please speak with Kristina Milan.”
Kristina (my wife): “May I ask who is calling?”
Nick: “This is Nick. I’m a 4th year biology major at UC San Diego. Is this a good time to talk? It will just take a few minutes.”
Kristina: “Yes. Now is great.”
Nick: “Great. We just wanted to reach out to some of our alumni and make sure we have the right contact information as well as update you on a few of the exciting things we have going on.”

[Kristina and Nick ensured all contact info was up-to-date.]

Nick: “We update this information to be sure you are getting all of our email newsletters and other news about other alumni events in your area.”
Kristina: “Okay. Great.”
Nick: “Would you be willing to share a few of your greatest memories as a student at UCSD?”
Kristina: “Sure.” [shared a few stories as well as specific professors she loved]
Nick: “Oh, I’m also a Biology major. I love all of the classes. I’m going to be a TA this year and am a bit nervous. You know, a lot of people also comment on our great exchange abroad program.” [Kristina studied abroad. Nick did his homework … aka “used the data.”]. I just wanted to let you know, with all of the state cutbacks, it’s important that we reach out to our alumni to continue to fund excellent education, especially for people who may need assistance. So one of the reasons we are reaching out to you is to see if you’d be willing to donate to one of our scholarship funds – Merit, need-based, or for something specific like study-abroad. “

And there it was. Yup. The ask. DONATION TIME!

I heard the tail end of this conversation.

Kristina: “Well, I guess we could give $100.”
Nick: [I could not hear what he said, but assume it was something like, “Thank you SO much, Kristina.”

And just like that, 210 seconds later, we donated a cool Benjamin (I mean I am unemployed) to Kristina’s alma mater, UC San Diego.

But that’s not were this little “cold call story” ends. Nope.

Moments later, Kristina received an email from Jessie Szumski ([email protected]) with the subject line: Thanks

This is what the email looked like:

UCSD Thanks

While it’s true not every Alumni Association would have the insight to send a thank you email after a donation, this is not all that unique. Being in the email marketing industry for nearly a decade, I can tell you this is an automated email that populates the last name, Ms. Milan (though technically it’s Dr. Milan – ha!). It also auto-populates the donation amount and the student callers name.

Side note: Me being a bit (over)critical here, but I would consider a better (non-stretched) image at the top of the email. Also, I would change the Sender Name to the student caller’s name. An email from Jessie Szumski means nothing to me (nor to my wife). I’d also drop a picture of the student caller (Nick!) in the signature. But again, that’s me being nitpicky (or NICKpicky … as Kristina wanted me to add when she read this).

But again, that’s not where the story ends.

Are you ready for the next email Kristina received?

This one was from Nick (the student caller).

Sure, it came from “Telephone Outreach Program” ([email protected]) … an easy “Sender Name” fix. And sure, the “A Quick Thank You” subject line could have been a bit more personalized (subject lines DO matter).

But …

This was the contents of the email.

Hi Kristina,

I was really excited to get to talk to you this evening, and I wanted to share a personal note of thanks. Hope you enjoy it!

Nick
Class of 2014

Nick – the student caller who was over-the-top nice, the student caller who convinced Kristina to donate $100 to her alma mater … that Nick.

This Nick. The same student caller who sent a personalized, one-off, non-mass email to my wife with a VERY personalized, one-off video … just for Kristina … attached to the email.


Can’t see the video? Try watching on YouTube.

Wow, right?

Now, The 3 Marketing Lessons

You didn’t think I was going to omit the “marketing lessons” now did you?

1. The power of video: Video rocks. I mean, really really rocks. Just ask Amy Schmittauer. She does (and teaches) video. Ask the folks at Vidyard. Ask Tim Washer. Oh, and my fellow University of Michigan alumni and recent Living Your Passion podcast guest, Ethan Beute. In fact, Ethan recorded a pretty compelling video (meta, I know) titled Why Video: Human Facial Expression of Emotion is Universal <–well worth the 3 min, 18 sec of your life. LOOK AT THAT VIEW!

2. “Thank You”: Other than someone’s name, the two words “Thank You” are the sweetest words in the English language. Bonus: Nick actually used Kristina’s name too (it got cut off a bit in the beginning of the video). Nick totally nailed it here. Thank you Kristina. Genuine. Real. Unscripted.

3. Video does NOT have to be perfect: Allow me to repeat … Video does NOT have to be perfect. I’m 99.4% certain Nick did that video in one-take. I’m 99.4% certain Nick did not edit that video after his co-worker/buddy filmed him. The audio quality? Meh. The video quality? Meh. The lighting? The backdrop? All … meh. But it did not matter. It was real. It was personal. It was from the heart.

I’m sure there are about a zillion marketing lessons, but that will do for now!

I asked my non-Marketing Ob-Gyn wife, Kristina, why she dropped a cool c-note and is likely to donate more in the future. Her answer:

Nick did an amazing job getting me emotionally reconnected with my four years at UC San Diego. He listened to my stories and then shared his personal experiences with me. This made him more human. He really made it sound like even small gifts could make a huge difference.

The entire conversation was three or four minutes long. I really appreciated that personal, focused, and efficient approach.

The personalized video was icing on the cake and just upped the odds of me donating again by 400% … or something like that.

Human to human (or #H2H as my buddy Bryan Kramer calls it) works.
Personalization works.
Video works.

Speaking of video, if you are not using video in your marketing, I want to know why not? Are you worried about the cost? Are you concerned about looking and sounding “professional?” Do you hate how you look/sound on video? Are you not sure where to start? Whatever the reason, I want to hear from you. Drop a comment below. Or better yet, just have Amy help you.

9 comments
MichaelBowers
MichaelBowers

Cold calling will absolutely work if the person making the call has a plan and is prepared for the call. My friend Steve Kloyda is an expert at using the phone to generate sales. He is prepared, practiced and respects the person on the other end of the phone. He has a script but  rather than reading it he internalized it so he can engage in a dialog around the product and better meet the needs of the customer. 


As to the call your wife received it was well executed. The great thing about the video is that it sets the stage for next year's fundraising call. 

TomMartin
TomMartin

DJ -- think you buried the lead buddy... 


The end of this ... how UC San Diego followed up was golden info... super smart stuff there.... 

But the cold call portion -- I'd may be quibbling but that wasn't an apples to apples comparison. Had your wife had no prior connection to the caller (school) would the call have played out the same? Would the outcome have been the same? 


Gotta think her love of her college created an opening that Mr. Global Website Design company guy could never have enjoyed/achieved. 


But love the post all the same. Hope all is good over in your world. 

@TomMartin 

timbrechlin
timbrechlin

I don't use video as much as I probably should, primarily because I'm actually violating my own mantra as a marketer: "We are not our audience." To be frank, I don't like video -- I'm a speed-reader (north of 1,000 words per minute), and I'd much rather read an email or an article than watch a video that takes triple or quadruple the amount of time to consume. Of course, that being said, I do realize that I'm in a (very) small minority.

Yukari Peerless
Yukari Peerless

Don't you just LOVE when someone gets it right? :) Great job UC San Diego!

djwaldow
djwaldow moderator

@TomMartin Yes, Tom. You are quibbling. Ha! It was not meant to be apples to apples. It was meant to - ideally - highlight how awesome NICK was ...