THE PROBLEM WITH COLD CALLS
Posted by Tim Bryce on January 20, 2014
BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT
– Despite our sophisticated technology, you still cannot speak to the right person.
When we started our company years ago we relied heavily on “Cold Calls,” initial telephone contacts with prospective purchasers of our products. To do so, we carefully created a list of potential candidates, rehearsed a speech, and made the call. Actually, it wasn’t quite that simple. We spent considerable time researching company backgrounds by geographical regions, including it’s financial standing (thanks to Forbes, and Standard & Poors directories). As we are in the systems business, we were very much interested in the type of computer hardware and software they used which we found through various computer related directories. Finally, we located the main contacts by job title, such as “MIS/IS Director” and “Systems Manager” (this was well before the advent of such titles as “I.T.”). If we knew people familiar with the candidates, we would contact them first as a pre-investigation. In other words, we did our homework in order to locate the most qualified candidates, thereby maximizing our chances for success. Only then would we make the call.
Later, as we began to use advertising and articles were written about us, people would contact us. These candidates were also checked out accordingly before we mailed promotional literature.
Prior to making the initial Cold Call, we prepared a simple script that would touch on the key benefits in a short amount of time. If the prospect wanted to know more, we would be happy to elaborate, but our intent was to get our foot in the door and schedule a presentation.
We also learned there were good and bad times to make a Cold Call. In the mornings, we found 10:00am – 11:30am were the best times to call a prospect. Most people do not want to be bothered first thing in the morning as they are starting their day, which is why we avoided the 8:30am – 10:00am time frame. Also, we discovered executives liked to leave early for lunch and couldn’t concentrate if they were running for an appointment or food. In the afternoon, we found 2:00pm – 4:00pm was the best time to call. From 1:00pm – 2:00pm, managers were just returning from lunch and organizing the second half of their work day (plus, they might be slightly groggy after consuming a meal). The 4:00pm – 5:00pm period was also considered bad timing as people were tidying up loose ends before departing for the day. Further, we only made calls on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Mondays were considered busy start-up days, and Fridays were burn-out days. I suspect little has changed in this regard in corporate America.
Getting past a secretary was also a challenge, but we found if we introduced ourselves properly, and honestly told of the nature of our call, the secretary would tell us when to call back. We also found a little professional courtesy went a long way in those days.
Cold Calls are much more difficult to make today as opposed to yesteryear. For example, secretaries have become an endangered species. It is also ironic that despite the sophisticated communication devices we have invented, it seems nobody answers the phone anymore, allowing messages to go to voice mail which is inevitably deleted without being heard.
Frankly, I do not know how telemarketers today make such calls for their clientele. I have a friend who sells solar water heating systems. His company depends on telemarketers who canvas for candidates and makes appointments for the sales force. Evidently, they do not qualify the candidates very well as it is not uncommon for the salesmen to arrive at the scheduled time, only to find the appointee is either puzzled as to the purpose of the meeting, lacks the necessary finances to purchase the product, or is simply not at home. In other words, the sales force travels an inordinate amount of miles to make their calls at their own expense. Further, their chances for success are a measly 10% (or possibly lower).
Instead of properly qualifying candidates, the telemarketers are playing a numbers game, at the expense of the sales force.
This means true Cold Calling, as we knew it years ago, is an ineffective means of marketing products. Your alternatives today are either making such calls in person at the customer site, which can be an expensive and time consuming proposition, or relying on spam e-mails which has its own set of problems. As to direct mail through the post office, that disappeared with the 20th century.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Copyright © 2014 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.
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