What Reality TV Teaches Us About Cold Calling


We all know the scenarios: The bachelor enters a room full of giggling women hoping for a rose. One privileged housewife finds out another privileged housewife is sleeping with her husband. Someone wanders into a Las Vegas pawn shop with Civil War memorabilia of dubious authenticity.

At this point, the stories are old, but we still turn the TV on (sometimes in secret) to watch them play out. If the scripted programs of yore had recycled plotlines as often as their reality counterparts, they could not have kept the world’s attention. But the addition of the unpredictability of reality keeps it fresh, keeps it exciting, and allows the viewer to get something out of each occurrence.

In sales development, Sales Development Representative’s repeat the same processes over and over, hoping the success they experience once will replicate itself. And the most menial of these processes may be cold calling. We all dread it, which is why the position of Sales Development Representative exists in the first place. Sales Development Representative’s pick up the phone repeatedly to recite a pitch, answer objections with well-rehearsed differentiators, and politely request an email address to send over more white papers.

Following a script, even the finest Sales Development Representative becomes robotic.

However, what if we took a lesson from the TV writers of the early 2000s, who were sick of conceiving increasingly outlandish plots to attract viewers? Instead, they went back to the basics but threw in one giant curveball—reality. Boy meets girl, but it’s real people forming a real relationship. Young professionals fight tooth and nail, except there’s a real job at the end of it. The unpredictability keeps us hooked for season after season.

Think about it for a second. Reality sales development.

What if Sales Development Representatives took the time to actually learn everything about a product? Instead of sitting in front of a CRM with a list of key differentiators, they could continually educate themselves on the product, able to hold real conversations with prospects and unearth valuable discovery information before a sales rep ever gets involved?

The result is the same as reality TV: The Sales Development Representative cold calls over and over again, but without the weight of a script, each interaction is different, exciting, and productive.

More than a few sales managers get spooked by the idea. “But they’re Sales Development Representatives. I can’t just let them loose on the phone without a thoroughly vetted script! Who knows what chaos that will unleash upon the world?”

And it is certainly true that the unscripted approach does not work with minimal visibility into a Sales Development Representative’s work. But with the transparency afforded sales professionals by CRM software, everything the Sales Development Representative does can be monitored. This not only prevents a Sales Development Representative from going off the rails but also provides you an opportunity to take an agile approach to your cold-calling strategy.

Imagine the following scenarios:

Sales Development Representative:
Hello, I’m with Company X, and we sell the best widgets on Earth. All our widgets are widget-optimization compatible and better than our competitors’ widgets. When would be the best time to discuss your widget needs?

Prospect:
We’re happy with our widget vendor.

Sales Development Representative:
Are they optimized widgets?

Prospect:
Yup.

Sales Development Representative:
(flipping through script, trying to find a differentiator to list to the prospect)

Prospect:
I have to get to a meeting. Good-bye.

With the ball and chain of a script, the Sales Development Representative gets virtually nothing from the call apart from the opportunity to cross a name off his list.

But unscripted…

Sales Development Representative:
Hi! This is Sales Guy Y with Company Z. Are you the best person to speak to about widgets?

Prospect:
I lead one of the widget teams, yes.

Sales Development Representative:
That’s great. So do you have separate teams for optimized and non-optimized widgets?

Prospect:
Actually, yes, we do. Why do you ask?

Sales Development Representative:
We’re a widget manufacturer, and I was just going to see when I could get a few minutes on your calendar to go over the advantages of our widgets. Is that something you have time for?

Prospect:
I’m the buyer for optimized widgets and we’re currently very happy with our vendor, but I know we’re looking for some non-optimized widgets. Let me put you in touch with my non-optimized counterpart.

Even though neither call resulted in a meeting, the latter call was a real, authentic conversation and resulted in the acquisition of a new and appropriate contact at the company. Without a script, the Sales Development Representative was able to enter a situation and immediately adjust based on the needs of the prospect. Not to mention that he picked up some fantastic discovery information about the target company.

The unscripted call resulted in richer, more valuable insight into the company’s widget purchasing. Having more productive conversations on a regular basis will result in much more data, allowing the sales manager to make changes in cold-calling strategy as needed.

Or a Sales Development Representative can read a script into the void, hoping someone somewhere catches the echo of an excellent product.

Like reality TV, the story is still controlled. The brand’s messaging is still delivered, albeit in a higher-order method that requires the Sales Development Representative to study the brand messaging first. There are only so many ways a call can go, but with the added layer of unpredictability, the range of possible responses has increased exponentially.

EBQ - Cold Calling Fun

However, those who outsource their sales development or lead generation might still feel a little antsy. This approach requires an unprecedented level of visibility into the Sales Development Representative’s daily interactions, not something that normally comes with a monthly list of appointments and an invoice.

But with the advent of cloud-based CRMs, there’s no longer any reason for outsourced sales development teams to hide their work. With an unscripted outsourced team taking notes and communicating in real time via the CRM, sales managers can still retain complete control of the messaging and the direction of the conversation.

Except for this time, like in reality TV, maybe the bachelor doesn’t pick a bachelorette at all. Maybe the privileged housewives become friends. And maybe the Civil War memorabilia is just something that came free with an old-school erector set. After all, when things get unpredictable, the real fun of sales starts.