Why cold calling doesn't
work for a millennial

Everyone hates cold calls. Even cold callers hate cold calling. This is nothing new. What you need to factor into your sales process now is that millennials don’t just hate cold calls – they hate phone calls. Phone calls of any kind.

Last year the total number of millennials in the workplace reached 40 million. The year before, a Google survey found the number of millennial B2B researchers had dramatically increased. In fact, in 2014 18 to 34-year-olds accounted for almost half of all researchers.

By 2025, 3 out of every 4 workers around the globe will be millennials. Times are changing and if you want to close deals with the next generation of workers then your sales methods have got to keep up.

If millennials already hate and fear phone calls, how receptive are they going to be to what your sales reps have to say? This article summarises the reasons for millennial telephonophobia and how you can adapt your sales techniques to include added value and cause marketing, improving your close rates with the millennial demographic.

So why exactly do millennials hate calling so much?

More than 75% of UK adults own a smartphone today, but a quarter never uses it to call anyone. Daisy Buchanan in a Guardian article last year attributes this aversion to how millennial manners have developed.

Once calling was considered a necessity for everyday working life. Now, to younger generations, calling someone without warning is rude.

Put yourself into the mind of your millennial prospect. There are three key reasons why you might hate calling or receiving a call – reasons that anyone at any age can probably relate to:

Reason 1: You could lose composure on a call

Growing up with platforms like MSN Messenger, SMS, BBM and MySpace, and communicating via Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Twitter and even Tinder today, has normalised writing for millennials as the primary means of communication.

Writing is asynchronous, meaning it allows you to take the time to compose your thoughts and plan out what you want to express. A live conversation, on the other hand, will always involve some level of improvisation and spontaneity – and millennials don’t like that.

For what has been labelled the “anxiety generation”, making or receiving a call can be a nerve-wracking experience because it takes away that time to reflect and prepare.

Reason 2: Receiving a call is time-consuming

Twitter allows its users 280 characters – a recent change from the previous 140 limit. Regardless, you read and digest a tweet in seconds. Millennials have become used to digesting information that has been filtered into soundbites, so phone calls feel long and rambling by comparison.

A recent comScore study shows that millennials don’t engage with longer pieces of selling content. Ads targeting millennials need to be just 5 to 6 seconds in length to be effective. Sales techniques are going to have to evolve to be shorter and sharper if they want to engage with the Millennial worker.

Reason 3: Callers are inconsiderate

Emailing or messaging a friend or colleague is respectful because it doesn’t interfere with their schedule and demand their undivided attention for a period of time. One worker in their 20s told the Wall Street Journal: “Calling someone without emailing first can make it seem as though you’re prioritising your needs over theirs.” By calling someone you are imposing on their time.


Sound familiar?

Millennials aren’t alone in their anxieties. Dr Guy Fielding, a psychologist and communications specialist at Queen Margaret College in Edinburgh, has been conducting studies into a developing condition known as ‘telephone apprehension’. 2.5 million people in Britain, that is 10 to 15% of the adult population, suffer feelings of anxiety or fear when on the phone. 2.5 per cent are so anxious that they are classed as truly ‘telephonophobic’.

Factor these anxieties in with the already unpleasant experience of receiving a cold call:  perhaps it is time to hang up your phones and try something new?


If Cold Calling Doesn’t Work How Should You Sell To Millennials?

Given the changes in how younger generations prefer to communicate, advertising and marketing are going to have to evolve with the times as more and more millennials enter the workforce.

To resonate with a millennial audience you have to reach out their way…

Think about the basic principles behind prospect mapping – even the most amazing, well-crafted, aesthetic piece of advertising is worthless if nobody can see it.

You need to take your message to where your target audience is and reach out to them there.

The Center for Generational Kinetics has found that millennials prefer to communicate in this order:

Texts and texting apps like WhatsApp/Facebook Messenger

Email, with the subject line being the most important aspect

Social media

Phone calls

In-person interactions

From this, we can see that the issue is not with phones themselves, but calling. In fact, research shows that 39 percent of millennials would rather interact with their phones than with actual people…

Nielson found that 98% of millennials aged 18-24 own a smartphone, more than any other generation. Millennials aged 25-34 are a close second with a 97% ownership rate, followed by Gen Xers aged 35-44 at 96%. Smartphones are practically ubiquitous in these generational segments so if you are in marketing or sales, you need to be capitalising on this key resource.

Ways you could reach out to millennials without calling them:

Based on The Center for General Kinetics top mediums we have collected a few options and examples for you.

1. Send them a text…

Texting (including free chat platforms like Messenger or Whatsapp) is fast. You send and receive a response instantaneously. 68% of millennials admit to texting “a lot” on a daily basis, again much higher than other generational segments (just 47% of their Generation X counterparts admit to this).

Companies like Domino’s or EasyJet use text to share offers that require an active response, like rewards or limited time offers, because of the immediacy of text message. However, this format is trickier for B2B sellers who need space to describe what service they are selling, and whose offers don’t carry the same sense of urgency.

2. Try using social media…

A study done by the Elite Daily found that roughly half the millennial population use social media or other internet-based tools to make buying decisions. A referral on a social media platform from a friend or family member has a huge influence on millennial decision making. But how do you get someone to use your service so they can positively review it? Building up an online presence may work for big B2C brands like Nike or Converse maintaining customer loyalty, but if you are a B2B business or a newer business, it is difficult for an unknown name to stand out from the noise. Social media needs to work in combination with your selling strategy – whether that is your LinkedIn profile or prospectingor sponsored banner ads leading to website content.


3. Send them an email…

study by Movable Ink found that 48% of emails are opened on a smartphone. Despite being older than other platforms millennials have not abandoned email. Email doesn’t require an immediate response in the way that chat platforms do and allows for a longer, more crafted message – perfect for workplace communication.

survey of US marketers conducted by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and Demand Metric in June 2016 found that email had a median ROI of 122%, four times higher than other marketing formats, including social media, direct mail and paid search.

Of course, this metric is very different for B2B email campaigns, but 59% of B2B marketers still find email to be their most effective channel for generating revenue.

What you say (not how you say it) is still the most important thing

Now I referenced a recent comScore study showing that millennials with much shorter bites of content or advertisement – but this doesn’t mean they have a shorter attention span.

The concept of millennials being crippled by their early introduction to technology and digital platforms, and finding it impossible to focus for extended periods of time, is a commonly cited misconception originating from the infamous Microsoft goldfish study – a study drawing questionable conclusions.

While millennials may become distracted easily, this is not reflective of any physiological or psychological change to their mindset. The internet and the increasing usage of second screens contribute to a much more competitive landscape for a content marketer or direct advertiser.

Millennials have developed a higher standard for entertainment due to their content-heavy, environment. It is the most competitive time to get your voice out there because everyone is doing the same, everywhere, all of the time.

Millennials place a higher value on quality experiences, so in order to hold their attention content must provide some form of experience. This can be educational, entertainment or socially orientated. Selling what your services are or what your product does is not what millennials are interested in; only 1 percent say that they are influenced in anyway by advertising. They engage instead with brand values, authentic and honest content, seamless and engaging brand interactions, and ethical outlooks.

As Simon Sinek puts it, ‘why’ you do it is more important than ‘what’ you do. A CrowdTwist study found that almost 50 percent of respondents are loyal to brands with socially conscious benefits such as charitable giving or rewards for brand interactions. This is often referred to as cause marketing.