In my earlier years telemarketing, I used to make well over $2,500 a week. While today that is barely enough to change a wheel on just one of my cars, back in the old days, $2,500 a week for a 15 year-old was quite a bit of money. If you watched my Secret Academy Interview, then you already know my secret to success was my unique cold calling strategy that took me from $200 to $2,500 a week. My strategy was not only focused on what I said, but also who I said it to, making it very effective, and the same principles still apply today.
Back in those days, I was selling windows, roofing, and siding. While those things may seem boring to most, they were things home owners in the northeast had a major need for at the time as most homes were made of siding, and many old homes didn’t even have insulated windows. Today, depending on where you live, it would be rare that someone needs siding.
When I first started telemarketing I was given leads to call which had previously been collected by a bunch of incompetent canvassers who supposedly had spoken to these homeowners and identified a need. Reality was that these leads were nothing more than random cold calls someone had written on a piece of paper, which was why calling them didn’t earn me much coin and certainly didn’t make me a very good salesperson.
It wasn’t until making thousands of calls that I realized cold calling really didn’t have much to do with a perfect pitch or presentation. Instead, it had quite a lot more to do with fixing a problem, almost no differently than in entrepreneurship. All you really had to do was figure out a problem someone had, match them with your product being the solution, and add in what I call, “facilitation,” simply meaning that the person on the phone would feel confident about his or her decision to allow you the opportunity to fix their problem. Since no one I was calling had a need for siding and windows, I figured finding people who did would be the first and most important part of making cold calls, which is rule #1.
1. Identify your customer: Simply identifying a person or group that may need your product isn’t enough. You have to actually know who has a need for it right now, which is very different than someone who may have a need at some point. Remember that people buy based on their emotions, not on factual information.
Think of this very simple example: let’s assume you are a roofer and charge $2,000 to fix a roof but can barley get your clients to pay this amount. Now imagine one of your clients who previously said no to paying $2,000 has a leaking roof so his whole family is at stake because of the roof. Do you think that this same customer would argue pricing with you now? If there is an immediate need then there is an opportunity to provide a solution, even if that solution isn’t the cheapest or most competitive.
If you can provide a solution people are willing to pay for it, so you have to be able to identify who would have an immediate need for your product or service. Back then I identified individuals who were recent victims of hail storms, which were common in the DC Tri-State area, so their homes had an immediate need or an urgent need depending on how bad it was.
2. Identify the problem: Since you are now aware that you’re calling the right client, you need to make sure to identify why you are calling them so you can continue to keep them on the phone. Since I was selling windows and siding to people whose home had been damaged by hail, now there was a problem and I was making sure to identify it for them immediately.
Instead of calling and telling someone who I was and what my company did, I understood the best way to keep them on the phone was to start by asking a series of questions relevant to the person I was calling. I would start conversations asking if they had experienced hail storms in their neighborhood, followed by asking them when the last time someone inspected their roof for signs of past hail damage was. Knowing hail damage was dominant in the area, it was easy to assume that at some point or another the person had seen or dealt with hail damage. Bringing up the problem, especially if they were aware of it kept them on the phone long enough to at least hear me out.
This is the most important part of cold calling – being interesting enough to hold your client’s attention. The reason I never asked if they had hail damage was because most people would understand I wanted to sell them something and others wouldn’t even know if they had hail damage as they had no access to their roof.
3. Provide a solution that makes sense: A big mistake many people make when faced with closing an appointment or following up on the phone is they think they need to sell someone immediately. Most people know a salesman and there is a no need to be one. Instead, focus on being a problem solver which is much more welcomed.
For me, I focused on providing a solution which was having them get a free inspection of their roof by one of our experts, and giving them the peace of mind that someone else would climb up there and figure out if they had an issue. The best part was that they didn’t even have to pay for it. We knew most homes in that area were either hit by hail or were simply old, so this allowed me tons of quality appointments for my reps who went out and sold these people while creating a more personal approach.
4. Fortify the call by providing a hook: Setting an appointment is one thing, but getting your clients to honor them and stick to them is completely different. While many people were emotional at the time they heard about the possible damage to their homes, they would then talk to their neighbors or others who would persuade them to not even bother as it would cost thousands.
For me, the hook before closing their appointment was letting them know we worked with all insurance companies so most of our clients never even paid for any repairs made to their homes, and to make sure to ask their rep about it when he was out there. This created a very durable hook that allowed them to look past the biggest objections that came up between the appointment being set and when it was actually executed.
I learned early on that no matter how many people I called, it had more to do with who I was calling and what problem I was solving than trying to sell crap to a thousand irrelevant people. The goal is to have quality conversations rather than simply dial and get hung up on.
I hope you found these tips and examples helpful and you can see why cold calling is a vital part of entrepreneurship, and why it is more so related to it than most people think.