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So you’ve heard of businesses crushing it with cold prospecting. Some cold call. Some cold email. The best do a bit of both and more and anyone who is indeed crushing it with cold outreach is doing the above in ways that cut through their recipients’ drowning inboxes and voicemail machines to get interest, replies, and meetings. The insider techniques for accomplishing said herculean task quickly devolve into the proverbial weeds, and before you find yourself wading in them waist deep, first things first. Run a sanity check to see if outbound cold outreach is right for your business at all — at this stage or ever — or yet another shiny object that would spread your efforts thin and distract you from doing what you do best.

Cold reach is a nonstarter for you unless:

You Serve a B2B Market

If your offer and market are B2C, fugget about it. CANSPAM laws are designed specifically to protect our inboxes from unsolicited commercial emails and when it comes to any pitch, even the most innocuous B2C offer is on the same category as viagra and Russian catalog brides. Same goes for cold calling. More stringent consumer protection laws have come into effect and are being enforced to shield us all from those robocalls from hell, which are the reason so many of us have stopped answering unscheduled incoming phone calls from unrecognized caller-IDs. Focus on branding and paid ads in consumer platforms like Facebook, Instagram (I am repeating myself), and Google. Cold outreach is not for you.

Your B2B Market Is Reachable Over Email

Unless you’re prepared to pound the pavement via cold calling all day, or can outsource it to an SDR (sales development rep), you need cold emailing to get traction and warm up your leads all the way to a conversation. Not every profession is email friendly. Think bartenders or bouncers. You need to test if people in your target market even check their email at all. Best way to check is by emailing a small sample (say, 100) with highly relevant and personalized questions about their services. Don’t be misleading and disguise yourself as a prospect, of course, but ask questions they’d have no inclination to ignore. If you still get crickets, chances are a sales pitch of any sort will not fare any better. And in that case, cold email cannot be part of the mix in your outbound efforts. Either call calling all the way is your way to go, or try to cold email central hubs (say, associations of bartenders? is there such a thing) that could broker you through their members in mass, because emailing them one at a time won’t get you results.

You Are a Bootstrapping Startup / Entrepreneur Willing to Trade a Lot of Time for Money OR Can Afford a Sales Team

Compared to paid channels like LinkedIn Ads or Google Ads, available to reach specific B2B audiences, cold emailing is practically free. All you need is a good list (and that can be put together for close to nothing), a sending automation tool that can need not cost more than $50 a month, and a premium inbox at G-Suite or Microsoft Outlook, and you’re good to go. You can technically send up to 5,000 emails a day. Bam!

But this cost calculus is deceptive.

What you’re gaining in budget over paid ads you must invest in list cleanup, research on your prospects, segmentation, personalization, and the brain cells that must go into the occasional BASHO email (highly researched and beautifully crafted email to a high-value target meant to elicit a response against all odds). If you’re just starting your business it is best to do all this yourself at first, so that later you know how to train and delegate to virtual assistants or SDRs, but know that it will sap your time and productivity from other initiatives and if mean to get results from cold outreach, you simply cannot half ass the prep work.

Not only do you eventually need an SDR to go hunting for business, you also need a sales rep to take those inbound leads on the other side, because the creature that can do both and well is mythological. Such a person doesn’t exist. So be prepared to spend time and brain power during setup and optimization, and also make sure you have a sales infrastructure in place to handle the demand generation from your outbound efforts.

You Understand Your Target Market and Their Pain Points

If you’re reaching out to people ice cold, you’d better have value to offer them in exchange for their attention. If your list is not clean and enriched in terms of job titles, company industry, company size or stage, and sometimes even one-to-one research and data on that particular prospect, how can you begin to address each recipient in a way that’s relevant to them? People don’t care about you, they care about themselves. So starting with list building and segmentation and all the way down to your introduction and follow-ups, you need to know who you’re going after, know why they’d want to take time out of their busy lives to talk to you, and give it to them. Easier said than done. It takes a lot of preparation and list cleaning that’s above most SDRs’ pay grade. You need to know your prospect like the back of your hand, and your knowledge and empathy needs to drip into the content of your outreach.

You Have Buckets of Patience and a Thick Skin

Regardless of how long your sales cycle is, one thing is sure: with cold outreach, the first-touch-to-first-reply cycle is long. It typically takes seven touches (outreach attempts) before making contact with a prospect. Most outreach efforts stop after the 3rd attempt at follow up. Do the math.

Your prospects are busy. They may not see your email, or they may see it and mean to respond but forget to, or they may see it and think it’s interesting but it’s just not the right time for an offer such as yours at their company, or it might be the right time if the offer is indeed right, but they are hesitant to reply and get sucked into an excruciating sales conversation until you’ve built more trust first, or they may have objections and leaving the ball on your court to melt down said unspoken objections, and judging you by the quality of the follow up.

Either way, the money is in the follow up.

Granted, too many companies using cold email and cold calling for their business development are aggressive and obnoxious with their follow ups. But not doing enough is even more deadly, because you end up losing perfectly good prospects just by not going the extra mile. And you won’t know it (whereas if you’re overdoing it, the pushback from your prospects will give you a hint to ease up a little). You’ll also get demoralized by not seeing success immediately and quit too soon. If you set your expectations right, that it takes consistent follow up to get meetings, you’ll know that patience is the name of the game and get cold outreach to start working for you, within the timeframes where it is in fact workable.

If you check all the boxes, you should start looking more closely into cold outreach as, when done right, it can be a game changer for your business.