10 Ways to Kickstart your Start-up – Part 2 – Pick up the Phone and Cold Call
This is a 10 part series on Kick-starting your Start-up. Part 1 Mail Drops is here
Pick up the phone and make an appointment or start a dialogue. Scary, painful for most, not much fun. I hate making cold calls and receiving them, yet if you want leads right now today its hard to beat for ease of implementation and it still works.
If you are starting a B2B business or B2C business in mortgages, real estate or home improvements this will be the most cost-effective way to get it launched, it will also help you refine your offering, polish your pitch and get early feedback about if you are on the right track. If you have made 100 calls and no one is interested it’s very illuminating about your sales pitch, the offering or the market you are attacking.
There are thousands of sales books on Amazon or blogs, this is my condensed view of what it takes.
The key issue is quantity of quality calls.
- You need to focus on daily prospecting and getting your message right, if your message isn’t right or not working and you don’t have appointments after 100 calls then it’s time to make changes to your offering.
- You need to be clear about what you are offering and what outcome you want from the call ie appointment, arrange a quote, send a flyer or letter, give a proposal etc.
- You need to get permission to continue to send them information about your business to stay top of mind such as a newsletter or blog posts or interesting industry news as it comes to hand.
- Set a goal of at least 10 cold calls before 10.00. You can’t make it up on Friday. (although my record for cold calls on a Friday is 200)
- Keep a track either via a CRM or a spreadsheet, make sure you hit your prospect call target each day.
- You need to followup the initial interest when you said you would or every few months.
- Hand written thank you card in the mail with your business card or flyer.
Getting appointments with businesses or consumers is hard work and requires discipline day in day out.
If you have no other business to deliver or customers to satisfy, then you should be spending a lot of time calling or making appointments with friends and previous work colleagues to generate leads and referrals.
I will say this, it’s not very scalable or efficient but in some like real estate its one of the main methods, however it will get you your first 20 customers, then you can work out if you have other means of attracting customers in a more scalable automated way.
Even if they won’t meet you, ask permission to keep in touch and send them interesting articles on your business aka a Newsletter or blog updates.
Beware of thinking someone’s politeness is real interest. Startups have a habit of believing they have a deal in the bag with prospects but the client has never really considered placing an order.
Unless you have experience with hardcore corporate sales and understand how the corporate sales process works its very easy to get carried away and believe that you have a huge deal on the table when in fact it’s not even a warm lead.
It’s worth spending time reviewing books or presentations by Miller Hyman who are the long time experts in corporate sales.
Often you will be stuck dealing with an underling who probably can’t make a decision unless you have asked the right questions (like “who will make the decision or who will influence the decision process”)
Where do you get names from? For consumers presumably you are focused on a local areas, the best source of names data is probably the Real Estate lists from RP Data or other similar. They list owners by name and often phone number and address. A subscription is not that expensive or find a mate who is a real estate agent and get them to pull you a report.
For business sales start with the 1-2 industries that most need your service. Use Google to find all the businesses in an area of that type, put them all into a spreadsheet or CRM and start calling, often you can buy databases but frankly these are often rubbish and with tools like Linkedin they are becoming far less relevant.
Linkedin is pretty good for finding the right person(s) in a particular company or industry, then you can google a phone number.
Be clear about the value proposition and why they should take time to meet you, life is easier for them to not take meetings, so you really need to have a 30 second dialogue that explains who you are and why your offering is worth them taking the time to meet you.
I always like to ask them if this is a good time to speak, if it’s not find out when to call back, some guys will give you the run-around but often they will appreciate being asked and are far more open once you showed some consideration to them.
Ask them if you can have 30 minutes of their time to present the product to them, tell them it’s reasonably new and not many people have seen it (assuming it is:) or why it is worth their time to meet you.
Often they will say “we already have a ______” (insert your business here), it’s often worthwhile to ask if you can be their number 2, spend some time, build a relationship and then start getting real business.
If you have a me-too product or service and you own the business you need to work out how to differentiate it from the 100s of others that will be calling, if you are working for someone else go find a job in a business that is differentiated.
Just remember to make sure you are regularly scheduling time to call your previous contacts back every six months or sooner.
The top real estate agents are experts at this. One of Australia’s top agents Melbourne’s James Tostevin writes $4-5 million in gross commission a year and puts out 400-500 calls a week every week, he cycles through and has called the same patch of Melbourne for over 10 years, he is a machine.
Who do you think people think of when they want to sell a house?
A great touch which so few people do is to send a handwritten thank you card as a followup to their address along with your business card. This strategy lead to over $1,000,000 of sales for me from just one client (old school didn’t use email)