The truth about cold calling in the freight industry

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Cold Calling scares the living crap out of me!. Yes, the idea of picking up the phone and calling a stranger to build a relationship for the purpose of making a sale just terrifies me. Maybe my fear of rejection is high, maybe my ego believes I am to experienced to be cold calling or maybe “I just don’t want it bad enough” screams the militant sales manager pacing the boiler room floor of my imagination. Whatever the reason Cold Calling for me and most sales professionals at large is just a down right nasty task. I have spent countless hours reading articles and studies on the ineffectiveness of cold calling. I even bought a book several years ago called Never Cold Call Again . Yes, I am a through and through hater of all things cold calling and have done whatever it takes to validate my fear.

So then why is it when I go into a lead drought do I start thinking “Justin, you should really cold call more often”. I mean if cold calling is yesterdays sales tool than why am I and so many others doing it or considering it still? If you research articles about the effectiveness of cold calling and tips on how to do it you will find massive amounts of current content available for your perusal. According to many of these publications and posts some of the reasons sales professionals struggle with Cold Calling is

  • Calling at the wrong time of day or on the wrong day (Thursday between 8am – 9am and 4pm – 5pm is the peak time and day based on my basic research)
  • Not having the right vocal pitch or tone
  • Not having the right scripted set of responses to handle objections

In fact many organizations claim to be having more success than ever with Cold Calling as a result of companies moving resources away from phone calls and into online channels therefore creating less competition for the prospects phone.   So is Cold Calling actually an effective way to generate new business being unfairly smeared by phone chickens like me? Or is it the negative ROI tactic being used by uncreative, out of touch companies and sales managers alike?

I decided to take matters into my own hands and find the truth out once and for all. Disclaimer: I am in charge of sales at an enterprise software start up and have worked in sales and marketing roles my entire working life (in fact I even did phone sales for a summer job at one point) so I am not technically a rookie on Cold Calling.

The Mission:

Put on my big boy pants and make 300 cold calls to determine once and for all the effectiveness of this hotly debated lead generation stalwart.

The Method:

I used a highly targeted list of leads that I have been building on Linkedin for the past year or so. We sell order management software to trucking companies and freight brokers so I was reaching out to decision makers at companies who fit this customer profile.

– I read and applied lessons from about 10 blog posts on top techniques and strategies for cold calling (all written within the last 2 years).

– I used my cell phone which displays my personal name and number.

– I was aiming to make 15 calls per hour. I did this twice on Thursdays between 8am – 9am and 4pm – 5pm.. I also spent an hour on Wednesdays to pre organize calls for the following day. I completed the 300 calls within 11 weeks.

The Results:

Cold Calling in of itself is a complete waste of time. The rare answers I got were generally not interested in hearing what I had to say (you have 7 seconds to make your impression). The very few ones that did express interest were in line with the types of customers I would not want to work with anyways (a less experienced sales person may not have the experience to qualify these types of “prospects” out). I essentially uncovered one quality lead over the course of 300 calls and about 35 total hours of work. The troubling part is I sell a specialty product with a unique value proposition and as a founder I really understand my offering and the customer profile I am calling on. I can only imagine how hard it would be if I were selling a commoditized product or service like general freight brokerage. I would imagine price is the only logical thing you could sell on in that environment – yikes!

So with those one sided results in hand it should surprise you that I 100% recommend cold calling to any sales person. Yes, I recommend it and see the value and here is why. Although during this 11 week calling period the calls themselves yielded jack squat I was simultaneously experiencing the largest volume of inbound leads through other channels that I ever have. I had more prospects reaching out to me via LinkedIn, more referrals coming via email from partners and happy customers and more web forms being filled out. In fact since I stopped this experiment lead flow is back to where it was prior to the campaign. Were people getting my voice mails and checking me out online therefore boasting my profile? maybe but probably not. What I think is that when I got into a “do whatever it takes” state of mind the universe conformed and delivered. I was stating that “I was open for business” and that message was released to the universe, creating more confidence and more positive energy. This may sound a little far out to you but it’s the best explanation I got and the more I consider it and talk about it the more it makes sense. If you are a sales professional looking to create more business and leads try the following.

  1. Spend an afternoon on the internet reading up on best modern cold calling practices.
  2. Do 10 well planned and targeted cold calls everyday for the next 2 weeks from 8am to 9am. Spend 30 minutes (ideally between 9am and 9:30am) each day planning the following days calls.

The results will astound you! Announcing to the world and yourself that you are “open for business” is a great way to start your day and this attitude alone will most certainly generate you new quality leads in ways you won’t believe.  This practice will obviously work best if you simultaneously have other lead generation channels going . Stay tuned for future posts on setting up and maximizing inbound channels for your freight service company to complement your cold calling Hour of Power.

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Justin Bailie is the co founder and president of a Silicon Valley based startup RoseRocket, a modern TMS for LTL carriers. Consistently recognized as a top industry influencer, Bailie has been quoted and/or contributed to over 30 national and international publications including INC magazine, Huffington Post and the Globe and Mail. Bailie is recognized as a subject matter expert in the logistics industry and consults with businesses on business modernization and systems, marketing to the millennial economy and sales 2.0. He is also a published author, keynote speaker, and father of three.

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  • It is great to know that I am not the only one terrified of cold calling. I still have not “plunged in” but after reading your post I am 95% ready. Thanks for sharing

  • Here are my numbers: Over the last 10 years I’ve made 2400 cold calls resulting in 15 million in sales. Each call, thus far, has therefore been worth $6250.00 to me. I laugh when people tell me cold calling doesn’t work.

  • I’ve been both a truck-line owner and a salesperson and sales trainer. Sales people ARE NOT BORN – THEY ARE TRAINED. I made my newbies create a 10 person prospect list then I had them rewrite it upside down. Last person was usually a prospect they were sure would say NO! I went with them. “This prospect is a practice person, you know you’re going to be refused, use the denial to hone your sales pitch for the better ones.” It’s amazing how often that person bought and the ones at the top of the list said no. If I’d sent them to what they thought were sure-to-buy and were rejected their confidence would have been shattered.

  • I agree cold calling is a very important factor in transportation sales (I’m an agent broker). However, whenever I give advice to those struggling, I tell them to make “warm” calls. Do your research, find out before calling if you have any kind of reference that will make you both relate. Even if it’s a buddy from college, you both like to fish or have been to somewhere cool where you can share an experience of having both been there. I think a “so and so gave me your contact info” is the best cold call if it’s legit, and sometimes, it doesn’t have to be because that person may be like “I don’t remember that person but I don’t want to feel like a jackass for not” and keep talking to you. Anyway, my two cents.

  • I think this is pretty neat, to see others write & share their experiences with “cold calling “ potential CLIENTS, as I have read the “rock star idea” is to be confident in yourself, your not just calling up “Joe blow” from podunk county your calling your CLIENT. & YOUR CLIENT has a business to run & YOUR JOB is to see that his business stays running till he gets tired, My advice IS THIS I’m going to call them & I am going to help them grow today & tomorrow for years to come.

  • I am open for business. In Trucking and logistics I am fifth generation trucker. BEen doing it for 20 plus years. Want to take my companies to the next level. 100 million. Need help