Forget Cold Calls: 10 Ways to Make Hot Contacts
15 to 20 contacts a day.
That's the goal many companies are setting for their account managers. Challenging, but achievable.
But what happens when all your competitors have this goal? Multiply those 15 to 20 contacts by the number of competitors in your market. That's how many sales calls are being made each and every day. If you then divide that total by the number of prospects in town, do you know what you get?
Prospects who are sick and tired of being cold called!
When WIN-WIN becomes LOSE-LOSE
While few would disagree that a more aggressive approach to sales and marketing is necessary during slow times, many will disagree about the best way to do it. Old school managers simply believe in cranking up the numbers. More volume equals more sales. But that logic doesn't always hold true.
Did you see the movie "A Beautiful Mind?" In the movie Russell Crowe plays John Nash,a mathematician who won the Nobel Prize for developing the concept of non-cooperative game theory. In case you're not familiar with the theory, it roughly means that to make the best decisions, you have to consider the actions of your competitors.
How does game theory apply to cold calling? Let's look at the results that tend to occur when everyone in an industry tries to win more business using aggressive cold calling tactics.
- Decision makers become inundated with solicitations and in response raise their defenses—and you get to invest more time to speak to fewer people.
- For most companies, sales stay roughly flat while the organization suffers the following consequences:
- Depressed morale
- Anxiety and even depression among sales staff
- Increased sales rep turnover
- More transactional selling and less consultative problem solving (more volume equals less time for each prospect)
- The industry as a whole suffers:
- The more competitive "noise," the more buyers perceive your services are a commodity
- Pricing pressures increase and margins fall
- A negative perception develops regarding the professionalism of the entire industry
In this game, the best outcome does not occur when everyone tries to use the same business development strategy. So if you're faced with intense cold calling competition, the best solution may be to choose an alternative marketing strategy.
No doubt, you have to continue to be aggressive about sales and marketing. But don't do what everyone else is doing. The current environment offers an ideal opportunity for you to truly differentiate your services. Instead of simply increasing the cold call numbers, consider the following:
Every time you make a cold call, write a letter, or send an e-mail, you are interrupting the recipient's day. You are, in effect, saying "STOP! Put down whatever you're doing, and pay attention to me." And as we all know, unwanted interruptions are annoying.
Direct sales is all about building relationships. To be successful, put yourself in your prospect's shoes. If you're going to interrupt someone, make sure the interruptions are worthwhile—from the recipient's point of view. At Haley Marketing, we encourage our clients to create a "Valid Business Reason" for every interruption. Simply put, we want every communication to add value and enhance the relationship our clients are working to create.
What's a Valid Business Reason for interrupting someone's day? Consider these 10 ideas:
- Solve a problem
The best interruptions rarely have to do with the services you sell. Instead, share information that helps your prospects address their most important challenges. For example, you could offer:
- How to's on issues that matter to your customers (kind of like what you are reading right now!)
- Tips on leadership, management, hiring, motivation, productivity improvement, cost control, technology, and any other topics that are relevant to the recipient's job function
- Share local & industry news
- forward articles you see in the paper
- share stories you find about companies that are in your clients' industries
- share experiences and trends you're seeing in the market
- Provide statistics
Publish data that would interest your prospects, such as industry trends, hiring costs, turnover costs, etc. For example, when I was in the staffing industry, we published a quarterly clerical and office salary guide showing the local pay rates (min, max and average) for about 20 different positions. We collected the data just by reading the classifieds each week and recording pay information in a spreadsheet.
- Offer access to competitive data
Do you have information about your prospect's competitors that they don't have? If so, offer to share it. For example, you may know the salaries and benefit programs other companies are offering to attract and retain top talent. By sharing that information, you become a valuable resource for planning hiring strategies.
- Thank you's - cards, gifts, calls
People like to be appreciated. Taking the time to say "thank you" is a simple, but too often overlooked, way to nurture a relationship.
Teach people how, when and why to use your services. Show people the types of problems you can solve, and how easy (and cost-effective) it is to use your services. This technique is especially important if you are selling to smaller companies who may not be sophisticated consumers of the services you offer.
A good joke can be a great relationship builder. Just keep it appropriate and don't over-do it. I had a friend who used to share some really funny e-mails with me, but when he began to send them daily, I quickly lost interest. Humor is best when used sparingly.
- Case studies
Show how real companies are solving real problems using the services you provide. People like to see case studies for two reasons:
- They prove the value you have to offer.
- They make people feel more comfortable that someone else has tried the solutions you're recommending.
- Puzzles, brain-teasers and trivia
While these may seem irrelevant, providing occasional "fun breaks" can be a great way to create involvement and get people to respond to you. Like humor, this type of information is best used with restraint. In the past, we've had good success by adding a brain-teaser to a reply card and by sending out an annual trivia challenge.
- Training and professional development
Teach your clients and prospects relevant skills (e.g., how to hire) that help them become better consumers of your services. This can be done through seminars, direct mail, e-mail, webcasts or teleconferences. Through the process of teaching a skill, you build trust, you position yourself as an expert in that skill, and you get to spend considerable time with your prospects.
If you don't want to do the training, consider partnering with other firms who would—so long as there is no cost to you. This type of co-marketing adds value for your customers while demonstrating your caring, commitment, and understanding of the issues that are important to your customers.
Please note... There is ZERO sales literature on this list. That's because unless you're specifically asked for sales information, it rarely makes a worthwhile interruption. The exception? Limited time sales and new product announcements—most serious prospects will want to know when you have something special to offer.
The Value of Adding Value
So what does all this "Valid Business Reason" stuff do for you? It will turn cold calls into hot contacts! Here's how this kind of "high value content" helps:
- It makes a great drop-off or direct mail piece that will get you past the gatekeepers.
- It creates a strong first impression and positions you as an expert in your field.
- It provides a reason for a follow-up call and acts as an ideal conversation starter.
- It offers the shortest path to discussing real issues with decision makers.
- It differentiates you from the cold callers.
The whole point of marketing is to make sales easier. Cold calling is hard. Sharing high value content is easy. When account managers have something valuable to offer, achieving those daily contact goals becomes a simple task. By including high value content in your sales and marketing plan, you'll find it easier to get in touch with more people—and stay in contact with them more often.
And of course, that will make it easier to win more business!