January 2008

Hope everyone had a happy holiday and best wishes for a healthy and prosperous 2008. This issue's topic is something that has festered inside of me for far too long. It's time to set the record straight! As always, I can be reached at 508-276-1101 or rich@friedmanpartners.com with your feedback and questions.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Rich Friedman, President
Friedman & Partners

The Death of the Cold Call: May it Rest in Peace

If I had my druthers, I'd permanently remove the term "cold call" from any and all discussions about business development (BD). With more sophisticated buyers, a more progressive, advanced approach to marketing and BD by industry firms, and almost unlimited access to information via technology, one would think that cold calls are already on their deathbed. However, in the training workshops I conduct across the country, I continue to hear A/E/P and environmental industry professionals use "BD" and "cold call" in the same breath. It's time to put the final nail in the coffin: cold calls are "old school" and those who engage in this rather tortuous activity are missing the BD boat.

Here are five reasons why those engaged in BD should avoid cold calls:

They have a very low ROI. Anyone who has ever placed a cold call can tell you that they're rarely successful (and almost never gratifying!). And when they are successful (i.e., when they provide an entrée into an organization), the BD process often becomes protracted (requiring more professional services time) because the target does not know you or your organization — that is, after all, the definition of a cold call. The inefficiency of the cold call process often results in a higher cost-per-lead than the traditional BD process.

Greater connectivity and technological tools negate the need for cold calls. You don't have to have played the game "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" to know that in this day and age, you're typically one or two steps removed from a buyer or influencer at a target client organization. There should be no reason why ANYONE has to make a cold call any more. Here are a number of tips and resources that can help turn your cold call into, at a minimum, a "tepid" call:

  • Check out your corporate proposal or CRM files to determine whether your firm already has a relationship within the organization.
  • Ask your work colleagues, fellow professional association members, or clients for an introduction.
  • Use LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) to gain access to the networks of friends and business colleagues.
  • Use ZoomInfo (www.zoominfo.com) and Spoke (www.spoke.com) to learn more about the background of a prospective (or existing) client.
  • Search CD-ROMs of affinity groups (e.g., alumni from your alma mater) to which you belong to identify a "connector" into an organization.

Some technical professionals may even find placing "tepid" calls to be nerve-racking, so it's important for marketing and/or senior professionals to provide coaching regarding:

  • Discussion points.
  • Desired outcomes (usually a face-to-face meeting or to provide information that could lead to a meeting).

They send the wrong message to your staff. Cold calls do a disservice to the art and science of BD, and firms that rely on them tend to give short shrift to strategic marketing/business development planning and tactics. A focus on cold calls sends the message: "There is little value to positioning your firm and building its name recognition through professional association involvement, giving talks, serving on committees, and getting articles published."

They breed poor BD "hygiene." Those who engage in cold calls often believe that the process is more akin to telemarketing — the more cold calls you place, the more likely you are to land a lead. But selling professional services entails a much more complex process (thank goodness!) — one that should rely on the more tried and true process of conducting background research, honing your differentiators, value-add, and elevator speech, and asking probing, open-ended questions to identify what's keeping your target up at night. Engaging in this process has the added benefit of enhancing prospect/client relations.

They do a disservice to the industry. In my book, cold calls fuel the perception among some buyers and influencers that design and environmental services are undifferentiated (i.e., a commodity). As we all know, that's a bad place for the industry to be.

It's imperative that A/E/P and environmental consulting firm leaders seek to foster a firm-wide BD culture that encourages unique contributions from everyone based on career juncture, skills, and BD acumen. The first step in this process is to provide the necessary training and coaching so staff understand that BD does not (and should not) entail cold calls. I can just hear those architects, engineers, and scientists breathing a sigh of relief! (More about the essential elements of BD training for technical professionals in a future issue of The Friedman File.)

2008 A/E Advisors Annual CEO Forums
Feel free to call or e-mail me for more information.

ACEC Massachusetts 2008 Business Practice Conference (Copley Marriott; Boston, MA)
How Technology is Revolutionizing Marketing, Business Development, and Recruiting
April 9, 2008
Presented by Rich Friedman, Friedman & Partners
For more information, please contact The Engineering Center at 617-227-5551.

SMPS Northeast Regional Conference (Hotel Providence; Providence, RI)
The Death of the Sales Call: How Technology is Revolutionizing Marketing and Business Development
May 8, 2008
Presented by Rich Friedman, Friedman & Partners
For more information, please visit www.smpsct.org or e-mail Geryl Rose at gerylrose@sbcglobal.net.

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Who We Are

Friedman & Partners is a marketing and management consulting firm serving the U.S. and Canadian A/E/C and environmental consulting industries. Our niche is in crafting and implementing growth strategies through:

  • Market research
  • Strategic market planning
  • Business development consulting and training
  • Mergers and acquisitions assistance
  • Organizational and leadership development consulting

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