There is a belief that cold calls for the purpose of appointment setting leave many a recipient cold, but it is still cited as being the second most effective tool for growing one’s business – second only to referrals.
Indeed, data from intelligence and lead generation services company DiscoverOrg – which was collected during a survey of 1 000 IT executives at a variety of IT firms, including Fortune-ranked companies and small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) – shows that 60% of IT executives say that an outbound call or e-mail led to an IT vendor being evaluated, and that 75% took an appointment or was compelled to attend an event as a result of a cold call or e-mail.

“Many people think that phone calls are outmoded, especially in an age when a lot of companies turn their attention to social media for their marketing needs and for the purpose of communicating with existing and prospective clients,” says Louise Robinson, MD of CG Consulting, a Cape Town-based outsource lead generation company specialising in business-to-business (B2B) marketing.

“The truth is that people still like to have in-depth, realtime conversations with a real person who can immediately respond to their questions. This is why cold calling for appointment setting is still so successful after all these years, despite the uptake in social media.”

Robinson points out that social media can actually be used in the lead generation process of cold calling as well.

“Before you can make the call, you need to know who to speak to. The aim is to engage a C-level client, since they are the influential decision makers within a company. You can utilise social networking sites such as LinkedIn to identify the correct person to speak to and then call them,” she says.

“Don’t send them messages via social networking. Chances are that they’re already inundated by e-mails, Facebook and LinkedIn messages, tweets, and so on. No matter how catchy, irresistible and original your message is, they will never know because they are unlikely to ever even lay eyes on it.”

She cautions that you might not get them on the phone right away either.

“High level executives usually have a personal assistant (PA) or secretary whose job it is to screen and ward off unwanted calls. Accept that you will have to win them over too, in order to get some precious talk time with the boss. Get those gate keeping assistants on your side by being respectful and friendly, and don’t be above asking for their help,” Robinson advises.

“Some appointment setters make the mistake of looking down on the secretaries and PAs, in which case they’ll never be able to get past them. They are knowledgeable about the company and, once you win their trust, they’ll be able to advise you on the best way to communicate with their boss.”

Robinson says that’s why many companies outsource this portion of their sales cycle to a reputable consultancy.

“Generating leads through qualified appointments with C-level executives are a crucial step towards clinching a deal,” she says. “That call is an art, because nobody wants to hear from a person who sounds as if they’re reciting a scripted speech in a sing-song voice, or even worse, who stammers through the call and sound as if they don’t really know what they are talking about.

“Getting it right requires time-consuming preparation. At CG Consulting, we have a dedicated and skilled team with the ability to set up appointments with C-level clients. We ensure that the initial contact with your clients is positive, and that it will set the correct tone for further business,” Robinson adds.

She points out that when time is of the essence, an outsourced consultancy can mean the difference between making target and falling short of sales goals.

“With only four months left of the year, can you afford to spend the time required to generate the leads you need, when you could be using that time to close sales? Do you have pipeline in place for the rest of the year? If not, outsourced lead generation is the simplest and fastest way to make sure you achieve targets in the little time that’s left this year,” Robinson concludes.