This weekend I read much of the classic marketing book Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout.

The book gives a history of marketing, advertising, and selling starting with the 1950s, and what they had to say was a real eye-opener:

In the 1950s, selling was all about the Unique Selling Proposition, or “USP.” But toward the end of the 1950s, the USP, due to both overuse and the onslaught of technology, had become useless and ineffective.

Fast-forward about 55 years to today, and what is almost every sales book, sales manager, and sales trainer telling you to use?

A freaking USP!

I personally hate the idea of a USP. Or more specifically, using one in selling. But, like cold calling, everyone is telling you to do it, only because “that’s the thing to do.”

My issue with a USP is the same as with a cold calling script: It makes you come across as cold and robotic, and people don’t buy from cold personalities. They buy from people who show warmth and can communicate well.

The idea of a USP forces you into crafting a “30-second commercial” or an “elevator pitch,” which, for all intents and purposes, might as well be a cold calling script, because they have the effect of triggering instant sales resistance and pushing people away from you.

In the relatively few cases when I did meet someone in an elevator that led to a sale, it was by being personable – not by talking business, and not by jumping into a 30-second blurb about what I sell. That kind of nonsense will make the other person RUN as soon as the elevator door opens.

Take a look at the very top-performing salespeople in your organization, and one thing becomes clear: They’re personable. They know how to talk to people, they like to talk to people, and they make their huge sales numbers through building relationships and connections, not by pummeling people with annoyoing “USP” elevator speeches.

When I relocated to Dallas I got tons of business by going to networking events. How? By announcing that I was there to make new friends with like-minded people, not by giving a 30-second speech about what I was selling.

Worst of all, guess what the USP was really designed for – not networking. It was invented to be used with cold calling. The idea is to get someone on the phone, or in front of you in person, and pitch your USP.

In other words, you’re taking an obsolete and ineffective method of making the initial contact – via a USP instead of acting like a normal, personable human being – and you’re delivering it via cold calling, which has the lowest percentage of all sales call success!

In other words….

Stop cold calling already!

Continuing to cold call makes zero sense, particularly even when university studies concluded that 4 out of 5 decision makers won’t even take your call, let alone buy from you. Those are pretty bad odds. Combine that with triggering instant sales resistance by using a USP on the 20% you might be able to reach, and you’re finished in sales.

The good news is that there’s a way out of cold calling. Lots of ways – more than you can imagine. Jeffrey Gitomer and I did a brainstorm session where we ran a stopwatch for 30 seconds and tried to see how many alternatives to cold calling we could list in that time.

We came up with over two dozen!

So give up the cold calling nonsense, and learn how to use the Internet, Social Media, LinkedIn, how to network effectively (no USPs!) and the other many options out there to give up cold calling forever.