Cold Call Bullpen

A one-time widget seller told me a fascinating piece of history the other day. Huge firm Arrow Electronics used to have what they termed a bullpen.

Their American HQ sales office was by all accounts a fairly intimidating place to work. Investment in fixtures and fittings was not high on their agenda. The mainly very young and aggressive salesforce worked in open plan. The managers had not offices, but ‘cubes’, walled in plexiglass without a ceiling.

When you made cold calls, you had to enter the bullpen.

It was a room with a single, long table. Closed off from the rest of the office. With over a dozen chairs around it, at each place was positioned just a phone. The room featured only one computer. And that was only allowed for an on the spot stock check. If you needed to look at inventory when someone else was sifting through ahead of you, then tough.

It was the early 90s. Glengarry Glen Ross quotes apparently repeated ad nauseam. Training slap bang of the door-to-door variety.

It doesn’t feel like a winning approach, does it. Yet at the time, the company were making money. A ton of it. Industry leading margins on components with rapidly squeezing margins.

How could that be? Was it simply an “enough mud at the wall” success?

Whilst we can scoff at such methods today, judge them neanderthal and unenlightened , the fact remains that cold calling still must be done. Each generation seems to trumpet its cold call killer. The telephone even replaced door-knocking way back when. The fax, email, social networks. None yet remove the need to try and speak to a possible buyer.

So two questions. How do you make sure people actually do it? How do provide the most enabling environment for it?

Well, upon such answers are fortunes made.

Swap the pressure for the end result to the strive for making progress. Work on the Cause before the Effect.

It’s not as cryptic as it sounds.

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