The impact of GDPR on cold selling practices

As most business owners will already know, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will become active legislation in the European Union as of May 25th 2018.

If you’re a business owner in the EU that hasn’t heard of GDPR, or begun adapting for it, then we strongly recommend you read one of the many brilliant guides on the subject (just type ‘GDPR’ into Google – there are literally thousands). There could be serious consequences if your company is found to be in breach of the framework from May onwards.

It’s worth noting that GDPR, or some form of it, will certainly carry over into a post-Brexit Britain. It’s here to stay, and as such we should consider what that means for us marketers and sales professionals, especially those with active cold calling and emailing campaigns.

Cold calling is still acceptable, with a caveat

There are no regulations in the GDPR that will prohibit cold calling outside of the current restrictions of the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), which businesses and individuals can register on if they do not wish to receive cold marketing and sales calls. 

This is because the services and products offered by cold calling, when done properly and genuinely, are considered to be a legitimate and fair interest to individuals.

However, GDPR demands that customers have the option to opt out from future communication. On a website, this would be done with an unticked checkbox (meaning that a customer has to intentionally tick the box to opt in). On a phone call, this is done by asking the recipient if they would be open to receiving a call again.

For good cold callers, you are not likely to encounter an issue here thanks to having quickly built up a rapport during your engaging conversation. However, those that do not provide as good an experience for the recipient will struggle to gain the opt in – and this is where we could see prospects slip through the gaps. This makes it more important than ever to ensure all front-line cold calling staff are well trained.

Furthermore, GDPR requires companies to keep a log of consent, as they must be able to prove they have opt ins for all of the customer data they use for marketing and sales purposes. There are a number of ways to do this, including recording calls or keeping secure records of the details of each call.

Email marketers need to be careful

Cold calling, done right and with the relevant data recorded and protected, will see little effect from GDPR. Cold emailing, on the other hand, will feel much more of an impact.

As mentioned above, websites will not be able to automatically collect and store email addresses for marketing purposes without explicit consent from the individual. This means soft and passive opt-ins will be against EU law, bringing the end to those sneaky pre-ticked email subscription boxes when you’re buying something online. Similarly, purchased email lists are out.

All in all, it’s now going to an offence to send marketing communications to any email addresses collected in a way that does not satisfy GDPR, even if those email addresses were collected before the date GDPR comes into play (25th May 2018).

The impact for cold emailing is clear. Not only will companies need to obtain opt-ins and record this proof of consent in a secure database, they’ll also likely need to reach back out to their existing database of contacts and re-obtain consent. Companies will also need to provide a clear option to opt-out and respect the wishes of those that remove themselves.

This is likely to have a significant effect on email databases by reducing the total volume of contactable prospects for cold emailers. If you rely on email to source new leads or as a key sales channel, then the impact of GDPR must be given considerable thought and attention.

However, this doesn’t spell the end for cold emailing by any stretch. Consider that those who you obtain an opt-in from moving forwards have done so because they made an intentional decision. In other words, they want to hear more from you. Future email databases will be filled with contacts who are engaged and interested in your product, service, or brand.

This gives you a much better chance of converting prospects into leads or sales. Of course, this won’t just be a formality – with a smaller pool of contacts, you need to make each conversation count; clear and confident communication skills will be a must-have.

Furthermore, B2B companies should consider the need to re-obtain consent from existing email databases as an opportunity to reach out and touch base with businesses they may not have had much interaction with recently. A nice personalised email is much more likely to succeed in getting an opt-in than a generic template. Be warned though, offering incentives to get opt-in is not allowed.

Final thoughts

The GDPR will certainly change long-standing marketing and sales practices, but this is done with the interests of consumers in mind – to protect them from unwanted and often spam-filled communications. This is a strong, progressive move from the EU, as it will force the whole of the marketing and sales industry to review the way it obtains consent from users and improve the ways in which businesses interact and nurture their contacts.

It will make the conversations that do happen more important than ever – meaning that sales professionals will need the necessary skills to make the most of every touch point with a contact. This includes the ability to impress immediately, build rapport and trust, nurture leads, communicate effectively, and negotiate obstacles. If you’re looking to brush up on any of these skills, we offer a range of courses across the UK and internationally that are perfectly suited for sales and marketing professionals.