How do you respond to a cold call?

I took part in a discussion recently that started with one guy sounding off (understandably enough) about the fact that his business was still getting cold calls from assorted companies despite having registered with the TPS (Telephone Preference Service) ages ago.

Everyone had his or her own story about bad cold calls (me included). And it transpired that what annoyed people most were callers who

  1. Obviously hadn’t researched the nature of the prospect’s business
  2. Couldn’t pronounce the target individual’s name
  3. Didn’t demonstrate common courtesy and good manners
  4. Treated the target individual like some long-lost buddy right from the off
  5. Phoned the individual for the umpteenth time about something s/he had already said s/he had no interest in
  6. Didn’t even try to engage the target individual in pertinent, intelligent conversation to establish a possible need for what they were offering
  7. Talked at the target individual – or, in some cases, down to him/her

On a human level I have some sympathy for all but the very last one because they’re normally flung on to the ‘front line’ with little or no training, a name flashes up on the screen at about the same time the call is answered and they have no idea how many times this person has already been called and told the company they’re not interested.

Anyway, the discussion evolved into a lively debate with those of us in favour of the ethical use of the telephone in b2b marketing (in the minority, to be sure) arguing the case for it. I pointed out that you shouldn’t feel that you’ve been telemarketed at all if the target market has been sufficiently researched and the caller has any brains and competence. And, whilst it’s not a cheap way of marketing, it can be a very cost effective and profitable way when it’s done well.

To be fair, the guy who started the whole thing off conceded that maybe he had been cold called in the past without realising it. He volunteered that if the caller knew something about his business, had done some research, and got his interest quickly, without going through what was obviously a scripted routine, he would probably not have regarded it as a COLD call.

So what do you think? Is a well-researched cold call in b2b situation, so well executed that you might not even classify it as a cold call, acceptable to you? Or do you think there’s no place for cold calling, full stop?

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