Word On The Street

The Cold Shoulder

Cold calls feel the deep freeze.

By Karin Moeller

The days of using cold calls as a main prospecting tool seem to be numbered. Case in point: In 1996, American Express Financial Services in Roanoke, Virginia, fearing that bad will generated by cold calling sullied the public's perception of the company, prohibited its financial advisors from making cold calls to residential prospects.

Considered radical by many, the policy change may have been bold enough to revolutionize how business owners approach prospecting. "Cold calling is a numbers game that wears people down," says Bill Cates, a professional speaker who helped American Express develop other prospecting methods. "It's becoming less productive. People use answering machines, caller ID and voice mail to screen calls."

So if cold-calling is out, how should you find prospects? Advertising campaigns, direct mail and seminars are other ways, says Cates, but referrals can be easier and more cost-effective. "If it's your prospects' preferred method of meeting you," he says, "it should be your preferred method of prospecting."

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This article was originally published in the February 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Word On The Street.

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