Cold Calling: Sniper or Machine Gunner?

I was talking to my good friend and appointment setting guru Mike Damphousse from Green Leads a couple of days ago and Mike used a phrase that inspired this post. Mike said he’s worked a variety of people in inside sales and some of them are “snipers” and some “machine gunners”.

After a little reflection I’ve decided I’m from the sniper school not the machine gunners academy.

For those who’ve read any of my “Social Calling” methodology you’ll see it’s heavy on pre-call prep. It’s about getting very well prepared before you call a prospect. This is rather analogous to the very careful set up and aiming procedures snipers go through.

On the other hand machine gunners just go at it blasting out hundreds of rounds over a wide target area and mowing down anything that happens to be there.
Now the problem with machine gunning is that you’re going to create a lot of “collateral damage”. You’re going to hit a lot of targets that are not appropriate. Anything that’s in your field of vision is likely to get hit.

No wonder most prospects don’t like cold calls. They’re being “hit” by a wild spray of cold calling that’s often not aimed at them at all. They just happened to be somewhere in the vicinity when a “classically trained” prospecting “machine gunner” started to let fly.

That’s the way most of the prospecting world has been trained. They’ve been to the machine gunners school. It’s all about how many “rounds” you can get off in a given day. More rounds equals more hits. Just like the advice I was given by my first sales manager “just make MORE cold calls”. Get off more rounds and you’ll hit something.

Now say weapons technology changed (this happens all the time and suddenly battles change a lot – think about castles and gun powder or for my British readers Agincourt). Say our buyers started riding around in tanks. “Ping, ping, ping” that’s the sound of the machine gun bullets bouncing off their tanks. Guess what? Our machine guns aren’t working any more. Buyers are too heavily shielded (I might say too well “screened”).

Buyers didn’t want to be hit by wild spraying machine gun fire, especially when it wasn’t even aimed at them. So they figured out ways to shield themselves. They built tanks – much better for them.

Now snipers can hit targets at very long ranges – machine gunners can’t, it requires very precise aiming. So let’s say in our analogy here that it’s possible to “hit” buyers when they’re a couple of miles away when they haven’t jumped into their tanks yet. They don’t need tanks back there machine guns can’t reach them. Now only the snipers are going to be able to hit their targets. Machine guns won’t work any more. The technology shift has changed the way this battle works.

OK so a bit too much on the combat analogies. I don’t believe we are fighting our buyers. All those sales battle analogies are overused in my opinion. But I do think Mike’s observation on the different kinds of prospectors out there is relevant. “Classic” prospecting is all about “spray and pray” whilst “Sales 2.0 Prospecting” (or “Social Calling”) is all about careful preparation and very precise targeting of calls.

Has technology changed? Is prospecting about volume or precise aim? Machine gun or sniper rifle? What do you say?

P.S. For those of us with too much testosterone you can check out the classic last scene from Scarface here. “Say hello to my little friend!”

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