Four Alternatives to Cold Calling

By Heather Baldwin

Think you’re not a gambler? If you require your reps to cold call, you’re gambling—and it doesn’t work, says Todd Duncan, CEO of The Duncan Group ( and author of Killing the Sale: The 10 Fatal Mistakes Salespeople Make & How to Avoid Them (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2004). “Cold calling is a waste of your selling hours, is highly unproductive and puts your sales future in the hands of mere chance,” says Duncan. Instead, he says, use these four strategies to warm up your initial prospecting calls.

Sew a common thread. Warm up prospects with a referral call from someone who you and the prospect both know and trust. When you pick up the phone, you won’t be cold calling; you’ll be calling with an established measure of credibility. As a result of Duncan’s introduction, his brother, a top financial planner, recently landed an account with the person from whom Duncan bought his Mercedes. Now he’s being referred to all the other salespeople in the dealership, without having to make a single cold call.

Stretch client satisfaction. When you’ve got a solid relationship with a customer, use that customer to help you build rapport with new prospects by giving the customer great incentives to refer their friends, families and colleagues to you. Sure, good business usually breeds word-of-mouth referrals, but why not jump-start the process? “When you offer creative, valuable incentives to your clients to incite them to work for you, they tend to do more than just think of your name when your product or service comes up in conversation,” says Duncan. “They literally begin to hit the pavement for you.”

Get out more. Focus on building relationships outside of work. Too many salespeople see a clear dividing line between work relationships and nonwork relationships. But nonwork relationships often can lead to new business. Become involved with a local club or organization that promotes something you are genuinely interested in. Get more involved in your local church. Befriend the people you see regularly at the grocery store or the gas station or the local coffee shop. “The more people you get to know, the bigger your pool of potential prospects becomes,” says Duncan.

Forget about selling. When you enter a conversation with a strict business mentality, you usually come across as square, egocentric and unapproachable. People don’t respond well to reps who sound like they’re selling something. They respond to people who are courteous and genuine. So forget about making a sale and think about making a friend.