man in cold rainI’ve covered problems with the concept of “warm” calls at a tactical/caller level elsewhere. This article heads to the C-suite to cover one and one-half strategic problems summed up this way: “warm” brings “cold” with it.

The Half-Problem

Using “warm” and its concepts sets unrealistic expectations and encourages counterproductive calling methods. This eventually generates frustration, fewer calls, and poor performance. However, the trend into poor performance is affected by turnover. Here’s how:

By the time employees get fed up and performance drops they also tend to move on to different positions. New employees take their place, making “warm” calls sounds good to them, they make enough calls to make the metrics look healthy for a while… and the cycle continues.

For positions in which calling plays a smallish part, turnover offsets the drop in performance — which is why from a strategic standpoint it can be considered just a half-problem. That’s not the case for the next set of issues.

The Full Strategic Problem

Promoting a “warm” concept severely and unnecessarily limits a company’s ability to reap the rewards of telemarketing.

As companies emphasize “warm,” they build a snug nest from which to make calls. The more “warm” is reinforced, the less likely it is that employees will venture out of that nest. And who can blame them, because everything outside is “cold” by default. Here’s just one example of how this plays out:

Banks often instruct branch employees to call customers they know, telling employees these are “warm” calls and therefore preferable.

The percentage of customers who call or come into a branch on a regular basis is tiny compared to those who do not. That rich pool of the latter goes untapped because calls to those customers are obviously “cold” and less preferable. (It’s also worth noting those known customers soon tire of being called so often.)

How to Dump “Warm” – and Therefore “Cold” – from the Strategy

Companies often spend a good deal of effort and budget promoting the idea of “warm” calls. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to drop that counter-productive strategy. There’s no need to announce or explain a change, no need for a costly campaign: simply avoid and delete references to “warm” and its negative effects will soon fade.

Avoiding references to “warm” may take a bit of thought so here are corrections to common usage:

  • A list of certain customers or prospects is not a warm list, nor does the list help generate warm calls. It’s a list. Maybe it’s a list of consumers or businesses likely eligible for a certain service or product; if so, say that.
  • Calling people on that list in a certain order is not about warming up calls: it is a segmentation strategy. Maybe the strategy is to call residences or businesses closest to a branch first because that can spotlight convenience; if so, say that.
  • Customizing call content to each customer or prospect does not warm up calls. (Teaching people to do this also teaches them an assumptive and ineffective method.) Maybe calls focus on services or products that MAY be of interest; if so, that’s how to describe it.

Teach People How to Make Calls: Period

Adjusting a strategic approach so it doesn’t emphasize “warm” calls is only part of what’s needed for ongoing success. Employees also need effective calling skills, which may beg the question of what to name these calls (“cold” is clearly out).

Keep it simple. When we pick up the phone to generate leads, develop new business—or whatever description is used—we are telemarketing.