“So this document outlines the approach that they went through to create a telephone list. And then 2 or 3 nights a week they were calling. And it documents exactly why they chose the time that they did.” – Todd Caponi in today’s Tip 1459
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Scott Ingram: You’re listening to the Daily Sales Tips podcast and I’m your host, Scott Ingram. Today’s rather fascinating tip comes from Todd Caponi. Todd is the author of the 3x best-book-award-winning and international best-seller, The Transparency Sale, and the new bestselling book, The Transparent Sales Leader. Todd is a multi-time C-Level sales leader, a behavioral science and sales history nerd, and has guided two companies to successful exits. He now speaks and teaches revenue organizations and their leaders on leveraging transparency and decision science to maximize their revenue capacity as Principal of Sales Melon LLC. Here he is:
Todd Caponi: Hey everybody. I made a discovery, and it has to do with the beginnings of telephone cold calling. Now, I’ve researched this subject extensively, partially coming from this idea that when you search, when did cold calling begin? The answers that come up in Google searches are so wrong that I couldn’t take it anymore.
And so here’s the deal. Cold calling probably began around the beginning of time, right? You’ve got tribes that are building things. They’re cultivating the earth to make things that they could consume, to protect themselves, to house themselves, that sort of thing. You could probably imagine that some tribes did it better than others. And those other tribes maybe looked at the tribes that are doing it better, going, let’s kill them for it, right? And there was battles. Well, those tribes that were good at developing, but maybe not so good at protecting themselves were likely the ones that began the idea of sales and cold calling. By developing these goods, assigning value to them, and then potentially going tribe to tribe to try to sell them.
So cold calling in its own right might have began around the beginning of time. But telephone cold calling, let’s talk about that for a second. I mean, the telephone was originally patented back in March of 1876. The original AGB, Alexander Graham Bell made the first phone call on March 10 of 1876, had it patented right around that same period of time. But it took a long time for phones to become pervasive. And for many years it was either only the rich that had it, maybe there was a phone in a local corner store that you could go use to make a call. And the calls were kind of communal, like the phone system, so you probably could listen to other people’s phone calls. And that was the case for many, many years.
And in reading through all the research I do in the early 1900, the only mention of telephone use in sales really revolved around this idea that only do it if you’re confirming an appointment. It’s an existing customer, you’re a known entity. Otherwise, ethically, it’s a terrible idea. Digging in further, you look and find that there was really no documented evidence of telephone cold calling and outreach until the 1950s when a company called Dial America really started to formalize it. Ah, until now.
There was a listener to the sales history podcast that discovered something and sent it along to me. And it’s this article, this article is called Employing Telephone Canvassing to Increase Revenue. And it’s from a magazine from the year 1911. So this is much earlier than originally thought. This article talks about a company called Edison Electric Illuminating Company. They’re in Brooklyn, and they were selling electric power services, but also electrical appliances. You need an iron, you need a lamp, that sort of thing. They document in this article the approach that they used to do cold outreach. And part of it was because the decision maker wasn’t home during the day and they were going door to door. And a lot of times the person that they were trying to get to wasn’t there. They were at work, and they weren’t about to call them at work for residential phone usage.
So this document outlines the approach that they went through to create a telephone list. And then 2 or 3 nights a week they were calling. And it documents exactly why they chose the time that they did, which was 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. every night. And they made these phone calls to people, and the results were pretty amazing. They talk about an over 30% development of new prospect as the result of this sort of thing. And a couple of funny stats that I thought were amazing is you may be surprised to hear that in over 500 calls we have made to present to prospective electric light users, we have not received one discourteous reply or abusive criticism. So it’s amazing to me that they were able to pull this off back then. They talk about the fact that they closed a number of contracts. If they were calling a customer that didn’t have electric power, they would call on a hot night, which was kind of funny, right? But if somebody’s sitting in their house sweltering, that was the time to call them, which is hilarious to me. If they were calling somebody that already had it and they were looking to do Upsell, Cross-sell, the calls would always start with a confirmation that, hey, how’s it going? We would appreciate any feedback. And then they would go into the Upsell for a lamp, an iron, something like that, and then schedule a time to come by and show it and potentially give them the opportunity to use it in a free trial. Who knew?
So, amazing discovery, but the new answer to when was outbound cold telephone calling, when did it begin? I can see here that they started this on June 10 of 1910. So 112 years ago, telephone outreach and telephone cold prospecting began. Can’t wait to share more about this, but I wanted to share it with you. Hope you found it interesting. And now when somebody asks you, hey, when did cold calling begin? You can say 1910. All right, hope you enjoyed it. We’d love to hear your feedback. Thanks!
Scott Ingram: For more from Todd, just click over to DailySales.Tips/1459. Once you’ve done that. Be sure to come back tomorrow for another great sales tip. Thanks for listening!