Cold calling is back and worse than ever

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I was sitting at home hastily writing something the other day when the phone rang.

“Hi Pilita, it’s James here,” tweeted a man who turned out to be a complete stranger to a PR firm, who wanted me to speak to an executive at a company I had never heard from. heard of such a boring topic that I can’t remember it.

What I remember is a monstrous sense of outrage he had the nerve to call out. Didn’t he know I was busy? And to residence?

This was of course a disproportionate response.

Public relations people have always cold called, as have pollsters and salespeople at all kinds of businesses.

The difference, I realized, was that Covid seemed to wipe out a lot.

Now, as offices are steadily filling up and the pandemic is beginning to subside in many places, they’re back. The problem is, I’m not sure the rest of us are ready.

For one thing, working from home has persisted to an extent that few thought possible.

People work from home on average at least one day a week everywhere, from Singapore (where it’s actually 2.4 days) and Canada (2.2 days) to Brazil (1.7), Turkey (1 .7) and in Greece (1.2).

And for reasons that make no objective sense, being cold called on a work-from-home issue feels more invasive and irritating than when everyone else was sitting in the office five days a week.

After such a long and welcome lull, even getting an uninvited call to the office is more annoying than it should be.

In fact, after my call from James, the PR man, I realized that I had become so dependent on texts, chat messages and emails during the pandemic that I had called back, to so say, to make unsolicited phone calls myself – even to people I had known.

When I called a perfectly pleasant teacher I’ve known for years on his office landline the other day, I found myself half hoping he wouldn’t answer and wondering if he’d be annoyed if he didn’t. he did.

Of course, there was no need to worry because he didn’t pick up. He worked from home.

I finally understand why many young workers I know would rather text or email than make a phone call. Once the habit of dialing at will wears off, it’s surprisingly inconvenient to start again.

Still, it’s slightly surprising that the cold-calling lasted.

It was so widely hated before Covid that authorities around the world were trying to contain it. The pandemic then sparked an explosion of phone and text scams that further fueled the hatred towards him.

In addition, cold calling has never seemed so effective. According to studies, only about 2% of cold calls result in a meeting.

For better or worse, that could be about to change thanks to companies like PicUP, a tech group in Israel that wants to revolutionize phone sales.

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Its software allows a company to make calls that display on a recipient’s screen with a number, name, face, or logo that clearly identifies who’s calling, rather than the “Unknown incoming caller” message that is the appellant’s trademark.

The idea is to make sales calls transparent and therefore more reliable, PicUP chief executive and co-founder Lior Shacham told me last week.

“What we essentially do is help callers turn cold calling into something much more respectful, personalized and engaging for the customer.”

He may be right. His company’s clients already include major European telecommunications groups and a British bank.

Yet listening to him speak made me think of simpler times, like those that shaped veteran American journalist Gay Talese.

A few years ago, I heard him talk about his early days in the 1950s New York Times newsroom, where an older reporter warned him never to let cutting-edge technology get in the way of speaking. to people in person.

Or as the older man said, “Young man, get away from the phone.”

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