I recently came across a post on LinkedIn that sparked thousands of comments. It was about how a salesperson felt when a CEO reacted negatively to a series of cold call emails from the salesperson. The comments were varied, some siding with the salesperson, and some with the CEO. Here’s the post:

I recently reached out to a CEO, sending him three emails over the span of a couple of weeks. He replied to my third email saying that if I contacted him again, he would send me an invoice for the time he had to spend dealing with my emails.

Just a friendly reminder to everyone: when a sales rep sends you an email or catches you on the phone, you can politely say “no thanks.” You don’t have to be condescending or treat sales reps like inferior human beings. They are grinding and putting in the work so that someday they can be like you, running large teams and fielding sales inquiries of their own.

Don’t forget where you came from.

Having been in sales in some capacity for my entire career, I can understand the salesperson’s reaction. My challenge is that the salesperson doesn’t realize it is not about him. It’s about the CEO.

Kudos to the salesperson for the hard work, but please channel all of that effort in a different direction. A cold call, whether by email, text, phone, mail, Instagram, Snapchat, or whatever is an intrusion. It’s the same as the telemarketer who always manages to interrupt by calling during dinner.

The CEO is trying to run a company. That entails a ton of stuff, some important, some trivial, and some merely annoying. Dealing with unwanted intrusions from someone the CEO does not know falls into the annoying category.

My wish is the salesperson take the say one hour per day they spend making cold calls and dedicate that hour into research. Identify the top 20 prospects with whom you want to do business. Know all you can about them, most importantly, identifying why they should want to do business with you.

Research the CEO. Understand who she is, her background, her interests, her affiliations. Use your own relationships and tools such as LinkedIn to find a connection path to that CEO. If a connection path to the CEO exists, then potentially a warm introduction to the CEO is on the horizon.

You’ve researched and built a strong (albeit hypothetical) case as to why the CEO should work with you. Someone you know knows the CEO. Talk to your contact about the CEO. Share your thinking; ask them what they think. If they see value in your business case, ask them for permission to use their name.

Then, and only then, reach out to the CEO. Send the email, and in the subject line, reference your shared contact e.g., Harry James suggested we connect. In the best case scenario, Harry James would send the email or make the call for you.

Prospecting in this way produces much more positive results. The initial outreach is not cold; it is a warm introduction. This is huge. Cold calling is a low ROI activity. For every 100 cold calls, the outcome is maybe 5 appointments; a 5% return on effort.

The success rate with warm introductions is much stronger. For 20 prospects where you identify connections, you will usually get at least 10 appointments. The CEO is more inclined to take the call and/or the meeting because a shared acquaintance has vouched for you. Those 10 appointments are a 50% return on effort; a lot better than 5%. Plus, the appointments are more positive from the start because they emanate from warm introductions.

Mission accomplished. Your prospecting produces a strong ROI with prospects more inclined to share and listen. From this point on the really hard work begins. It’s up to you to build a strong relationship, listen well, and collaboratively explore opportunities.