Is It Okay to Cold Call a Prospect on Their Mobile Phone?

I don’t have a desk phone or home phone. Actually, correction: While at Tippit I allegedly had a desk phone. Only problem was it wasn’t on my desk as I had moved cubes and never took it with me. When we sold Tippit and I was moving on to my new adventure, the IT guy came to me and said: “Craig, do you want your voice messages from your desk phone?” Me: “I have a desk phone?” IT: “Dude, you have a full mailbox of a hundred messages.” Oh. So I had a desk phone, I just had no idea where it was. Now I only have a mobile phone. If you want to cold call me to sell me something, you will have to find my cell phone number to get me.

I have a customer where the only desk phones are with the sales team. There are conference room phones, but otherwise, everyone else gets calls forwarded to their cell.  Hell, even babies are on mobile…see below:

cold call

Okay, so what should we do as sales/inside sales as we try to reach people? It’s harder then ever to reach people as it is. Is it kosher to call someone you don’t know on their mobile? My take is, the mobile phone is fair game. It is truly hard to tell what’s a cell phone and what isn’t anyway. If someone complains (which they do/will/have the right to do), I apologize and offer to call back. But to me, relevance and approach always win. Heck, people get pissed if you email or call them on their desk phone with something that isn’t of interest to them. If you have the right person, the right message, and the right energy, your intrusion is forgiven.

But what do I know? I decided to explore the topic by capturing feedback from two groups:

  • I asked a mix of inside sales experts, inside sales leaders, and people “in the business” for their anecdotal take.
  • I also took a quick poll to see what other sales/inside sales people said.

The results are…

The “sometimes” camp:

Trish Bertuzzi, CEO of The Bridge Group Inc

I say yes… and no…Yes, if you have a business card or an email with a cell # in the signature. Hey, they put it out there.
No if you get that information from a crowdsourced site… they may not have put it out there.

Mari Anne Vanella, CEO of The Vanella Group

Only if their voicemail says “Feel free to call me on my cell at…” It’s really interesting because we do a lot of global work and in other countries it is perfectly acceptable and considered normal to call someone on their cell, here in the US it isn’t okay and only people in the “circle of trust” can call it. As a general practice, I would say not to unless you have permission via their landline voicemail or email.

Steve Hays, CEO of Insidesalesteam.com

Tough call. There seem to be so many different scenarios on this one.
First call, intentional, obvious or easy data mistake to make etc….in this “no home phone world” it seems to be more and more of a one number life. But having said that – if you’re calling an old school person on their cell phone when you haven’t earned the right…it could get ugly.

Megan Toohey, Marketing Manager at AGSalesworks

I believe there is no black or white answer, it depends on the company structure and/or the individual. However, before you take it upon yourself to make the dial I would do some light research so you don’t come off as rude.

If you’ve exchanged emails with the sales rep and they list their cell phone number in their signature, I believe it’s A-OK (just try their office number first).  Some sales reps are always on the road so their primary communication vehicle is their cell- depending upon their company’s sales structure. However, if someone gives you a sales rep’s cell phone number, if you’ve Googled their contact information, or if you’ve pulled it off their Facebook page- I’d say nay, respect their privacy you never know what’s professional or personal.  Don’t be that person.

Kevin Gaither, Vice President of Inside Sales at Ziprecruiter

Absolutely IF you get their mobile number off of an email signature Or if you got a referral.  And I’ll do you one better.  Text messaging is also fair game AND a good practice to confirm appointments.

Dan McDade, CEO at Point Clear

I would not call a prospect on their mobile number unless it was clear that they used it extensively for business or the relationship was far enough along that it would not be presumptuous.

I provide my mobile number to prospects and clients as a matter of course, but it would be offensive to me to get a call at 9:00 PM. One night from someone who is early in the process of selecting a partner – because most of the time I would know it was not a qualified company or a lower-level person who doesn’t know better.

The “No” Camp

Gemma Mailhot, Director of Inside Sales

Editor’s note: I debated whether this answer fell into the “sometimes” crowd…

The answer is 95% NO, but with that said…how would you know the number was a mobile/cell phone unless you called it and the person told you it was their mobile/cell?  In this case you apologies and explain you were unaware you called their mobile/cell and that you were calling for business reasons and if now is not a good time is there another number to reach them at which they would be willing to speak with you and schedule a time to call them at a preferred number.

The 5% yes.  If you are going through your contact systems (i.e. SFDC) and that is the only number listed for a contact then calling is OK.

Make sure you call during business hours (their business hours) only because the phone may be used for business and personal.  Once you reach the person I would say you know this may be there mobile and you hope it is ok to call them at this number (but it was only number you had for them) and you wanted to schedule time to speak with them.  This would show respect for the person and would be less intrusive.

Also, if an admin gives you the mobile/cell number to call then use it and follow the guidelines above.

Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing

Short answer is no.  Too often the customer’s cell phone is a personal device, paid for with their own money.  Some prospects may be OK with it, but if you don’t have a pre-existing relationship, you truly run the risk of looking too aggressive or desperate up-front and losing the ability to move the prospect further into a discovery and opportunity.  Alternatively there are numerous tools that are more business-oriented you can use to get in front of “cold” prospects – Twitter, LinkedIn InMails, warm referrals from their colleagues that you already know, etc.

Chris Snell, Inside Sales Manager at Care.com

Begin the backlash in 3…2…1…

I don’t think its okay to cold call someone on their mobile phone.  Here’s why: when I get cold called on my office line, or via email, I expect it; I’m cool with it.  When I get cold called on my mobile, I’m like, “Oh HELL no!”  But that’s just me.  I don’t give out my mobile to anyone – that’s my personal line.  I take umbrage with someone trying to sell me something on my mobile, and I’m a sales guy!  I realize that’s probably not the “killer” attitude that one expects of a salesman, but I’m a human first, and THIS human doesn’t want to get calls on his personal phone that he wasn’t expecting.  My office line?  Totally expected, but definitely not my mobile.

The “Yes” Camp

Isaac Fehrenbach, President of Compile

Absolutely.  The cell phone has become almost as business oriented as the office phone in many cases.  A high % (not sure if it’s a majority yet) of people list a cell phone on their business card or on their email signature.  If you have the cell phone# at your disposal, it likely means that the person has somehow put their cell phone in the public domain and should expect some degree of unknown calls coming in.  I fully expect to receive calls on my cell phone at times from people I have not yet met.

Best practices:

  • Please be respectful of the local time at the person’s home base.  Yes, they may be traveling and so you can’t bat 1.000 on this, but for goodness sake’s don’t call them at their home at dinner time.  9am-5pm local time is a safe bet.
  • While I doubt this happens much, obviously, be respectful if you have connected with someone who asks you not to contact them on that phone, lose their number!
  • You might consider not dialing as aggressively/often with the cell as it is slightly more difficult to ignore during “do not disturb” moments than an office phone
  • Last but most importantly, as with any cold call (cell phone or not), don’t waste their time!!  Do your homework, know who you’re calling, why you’re calling, why the person should care, and make those points right away.

Lars Nilsson, VP, Field Operations at Cloudera

I think it has to be ok.  I don’t have a home or work phone… In other words, my cell phone is all three and so it is my work phone… And I get cold calls from time to time and I think it’s ok.  Email before or after the call is encouraged as well

Mike Damphousse, CEO and Founder of Green Leads

Yes.  Many people today don’t even have home phones or office phones and their cell phone is it.

Don’t spam it.  Respect that it is a cell phone.  But don’t be afraid to call it.  If they challenge you on calling it, just say you “didn’t know it was a cell.  Sorry.”  Then keep talking.  Once they engage you with the cell and everything is cool, and you have a reason to followup in the future, feel free to ask them if you can follow up by text or do they prefer you call or email?  Many will say text is ok.

Never call a cell before 8am or after 7pm.  Give a guy a break!

Steve Richard, Managing Partner and Co-founder of Vorsight

Hell yes.  If you contact people on their cell phones the right way, then it is a very effective method.  If you do not, you won’t be remembered anyway.  Sales development is a game with unlimited mulligans.

If someone says, “This is my cell phone!” simply reply that you apologize and this is the number you found/were given.  Ask if you can call back later.  Most people will say, “OK, I have time now.  What’s this regarding?”  You are golden after this.

Survey says:

I sent the survey out via social channels and gave myself a couple days to get responses. It was a simple survey with one question that had three choices which I present below with the voting percentages. The winner is “sometimes” with yes getting a fair percentage as well.

  • Yes, if you have or get the number, it’s fair game – 36%
  • Sometimes, only if the prospect’s cell number has been provided (e.g. business card, email signature) – 57% (WINNER)
  • No – 7%

prospecting

So, there you have it. Next time we should survey the prospects instead of the prospectors…(: Can you imagine a CIO’s response? They would get 125 calls a day.

Join the fun and leave your take in the comments section below! 

Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic and a co-founder of Topo. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter

Baby rocking the cell phone photo by Marc Levin 

 

 

  • http://www.green-leads.com/b2b-blog/ Mike Damphousse

    I am shocked at all the “No” and “No, but”. Too much orange kool aid?

    • http://www.funnelholic.com/ Craig Rosenberg

      Orange kool aid references are always welcome on the Funnelholic

  • Scott Mersy

    I have a desk phone I don’t answer very much. I respond to voice mails if I might be interested. My “mobile” phone is on my email signature. It’s a Google Voice number, but routes to my mobile. There are particularly aggressive vendors (CIO speed dating type conference organizers, usually) who start using this number to incessantly call me on my cell if I don’t respond to the desk VMs. Drives me nuts, and makes me certain to never do business with them.

    • http://www.funnelholic.com/ Craig Rosenberg

      Harassment on the cell phone is a bad experience…Call the mobile, but be smart…unlike the “speed dating” conference vendors…(:

  • http://www.green-leads.com/b2b-blog/ Mike Damphousse

    Agree Scott, that “incessantly” is overkill. We typically know a couple phone numbers per person and an email address. We can pace it as to not overwhelm, but still be effective.

    • http://www.funnelholic.com/ Craig Rosenberg

      Preach

      • Scott Mersy

        Well, incessantly may be an exaggeration, but at least weekly if not 2x per week.

  • Ponderosa

    It is actually a violation of federal law to call a cell phone with an unsolicited call. I pay for my minutes for incoming and outgoing calls. I would never buy anything from someone who cold-called me on my cell phone.

  • http://www.exponetusa.com Jay Heichlinger

    I understand the “no’s”. But, if you’re going to put your cell number on your biz card and in your email signature then you’re volunteering it. I just had a client freak out because I called her cell (during business hours). She asked how I got her cell number, with an attitude. It’s in her email signature. ??!