9 steps to making cold calling work for you

9 steps to making cold calling work for you

I find cold calling really difficult, while recognising the potential effectiveness when the inertia is overcome.

For me,  it takes time and emotional energy far greater than the return I have ever got from cold calling, except when I have run  out of options, then it seems to work. When the instinctive fear of failure is overcome by the necessity to take a step, when the fear of failure, or rejection is beaten by the fear of not being able to feed the kids or pay the bill on the fridge, the fear of rejection by a stranger seems trivial.

What does it really matter if you are rejected by a complete stranger anyway?

A friend of mine treats cold calling as a game, she does it for a living, and is very good at it.

Recently I sat down with her to try and extract from her routine a scalable cold calling template, and realised two things:

  1. The fear of failure was crippling
  2. Cold calling is pretty much the same as sending a cold email , which I am OK at.

Her advice was to get over the fear, and she referred me to this terrific TED talk, and to treat cold calling with just the same set of disciplines I used for cold emailing.

I have a process for developing email success that I use as a coaching outline for those I work with, and it almost always gets great results when applied sensibly. However, adding Jia jiang’s Ted talk will add greatly to the effectiveness of the following pretty standard management process to increase your effectiveness.

Segment your list.  The better you know the prospect who answers the phone, the more likely you will have a successful call. The more defined your call list, with unique messaging and value propositions developed for each segment, the better. This is as different from the completely random call you get as you are sitting down to dinner in the evening, from someone in a call centre flogging home insulation, insurance or a holiday, as it can be.

Headline. The first sentence in a phone call, or headline in an email carry the same responsibility: to pique the interest of the receiver. Fail in the first glance of a headline, or 5 seconds of a call, and it is a long hard road back. There are plenty of headline generating tools around, but the best lesson in my experience is to go to the local newsagent, and just think about the headlines on the cover of the magazines you see. They are aimed to grab attention, and direct the reader to the following sub  head, which leads into the magazine article.

Them not you. Make the message about them, and the things that interest them, not about you, as generally they will not be interested, and you will have lost them. You need to  be able to spell out exactly how you can help them.

Be a peer. Speak and write like a peer, not a supplicant sales person. There are few worse sales turn-offs than a “needy” caller. Much better to be a busy peer, making a little time in a crazy schedule because you have discovered something that you think will be of value to them.

Credibility. Be credible by providing social proof, or better yet, a referral from someone the receiver knows and respects.

Personalise. Ensure everything is personalised, anything less than a highly personalised call will almost always fail. It is necessary for you to have done the research, to know a fair bit about the receiver, the problems they face in their role, and the value of a solution you may be able to provide. Making a call to the switch of a target company and asking to be transferred to the “person responsible for XXX” is a waste of everybody’s time.

Respect. Time is our most valuable resource, so respect the receivers time by keeping it short, but to the point, ending with some sort of call to action by you or them. However, the CTA needs to be consistent with the context of the conversation. Early stages may lead to a further conversation, or the inclusion of someone else, but rarely to a sale on first contact. Generally the objective is to get some sort of positive response, a step towards a sale, but not a sale, yet.

Differentiate yourself. If you are just the same as everybody else, why should the person you are trying to engage bother with you? While the call has to be about them, and not you, it is also about articulating the way that you can help  them in ways others cannot. The necessity here is that you have done some homework, at least enough to have a shot at articulating the solution you may have to a problem they face, or opportunity they may be unaware of. Differentiation early in the conversation offers a reason why they should continue to give you their time, and builds the status you have in the conversation, you are not just another cold caller.

Follow up. And follow up again, and again, politely and with respect. Generally sales people give up at about 3, whereas all the research indicates that 5-7 follow  ups are the point at which the ability to convert increases significantly. It reflects the old advice about advertising frequency, at about the time you are getting sick of the ad, if it is worth anything, the target audience is just building awareness of your proposition.


So, what is stopping you, pick up the bloody phone!


Photo courtesy Nancy Rose via Flikr.


Can you shrink your way to prosperity?

Can you shrink your way to prosperity?

There is the old story of the successful large business becoming an unsuccessful smaller one. Usually it is accompanied by stories of missed opportunities, poor strategies and a focus on cost cutting.

The poster boy for this transformation in my personal experience is Goodman Fielder, for whom I have worked on two occasions. First as a youthful marketing person in the glory days, when Meadow Lea was changing the spreads market by congratulating its consumers for their choice of margarine, and later as a General Management contractor tarting up one of their smaller business units for sale, as it shrunk its way to near oblivion.

To be successful in any commercial arena means that you have created value for someone else. It is a simple truism of business that only be creating value do you attract customers, the support of your value chains, and as a result, revenue.

Businesses do have the tendency to attract overheads, the way a boat attracts barnacles. They attach themselves to the structures and they slow you down, reduce manoeuvrability, and can eventually sink you. You cannot be prosperous while carting around the commercial equivalent of a barnacle covered hull. Cleaning off the commercial barnacles may result in some size reduction initially, but it also increases the potential to add value, agility, and sensitivity to the needs of your markets, so growth is the outcome when the cleaning is done well.

Growth is part of our DNA, it is a mind-set necessary for success.

Who would want to work for, or deal with a company that was overtly focused on squeezing out the maximum dollars from a transaction and relationship? You know the motivation is about their interests, so It would be easy to believe the service, quality, and longevity would be compromised by such a focus.

By contrast, who would not want to engage with a company growing quickly, innovating, and delivering value to customers, and offering opportunity to its employees.

Cost cutting is one thing, using your resources wisely to create value is another, and they are profoundly different.

Photo credit Wes Iverson https://www.flickr.com/photos/62425933@N04/7398646344/


Competition for attention creates Opportunity

Competition for attention creates Opportunity

The nature of competition has changed dramatically in the last decade.

We no longer live in a world where information is limited and controlled, where the old truism that information is power  gave the few power over the rest of us applies.

It is no longer a competition amongst a few cashed up suppliers to use the power of advertising in a few tightly controlled communication channels to stuff the supply chain to limit our choices.

It is no longer a supply chain controlled by a very few of those who are able to supply, it is a demand chain, under the personal control of those who have a need.

It is now a competition for our attention.

Those with the money in their pockets, or at least access to it, have all the power, as there are literally millions of channels by which we can be reached.

I love the work of Hugh McLeod, have been following him for a long time, as those regular readers of StrategyAudit will know from the numerous times I have used his images as headers. It is because he is able to do with a few squiggles, what Albert Einstein recommended when he said ‘everything should be made as simple as possible, no simpler‘.

This post, and the borrowed header,  I felt really reduced the marketing task down to its simplest form. Gain the attention of people who care, those to whom your value proposition is relevant, and you have a chance to make a difference.


Are you solving the customers real problem?

Are you solving the customers real problem?

Marketers spend huge amounts of effort and money trying to define the problems they solve for their customers and potential customers. Often they fail simply because they do not understand their customers motivations sufficiently well, or they are overwhelmed by the great, world beating features the engineers have built in.

Customers do not care about your features, they only care about the outcomes for them that come with use.

There is a process that leads from the prospect being identified through to the initial transaction, then the development of a mutually beneficial relationship

At each point in that journey, in order to build the relationship, marketers have learnt that stories are by far the best way to go about it.

There appears to be three types of stories, and these are prevalent not just in marketing, but everywhere we look that stories are told. Books, movies, the theatre, and even advertisements.

External: These are the superficial obvious pieces of the narrative, but do not go to the heart of  the reasons why things are happening. The role the external story plays is that it provides the context for the real messages being delivered.

Internal: The internal parts of a story is usually all about how the protagonists feel about themselves, and those with whom they interact, how they behave under different circumstances.

Philosophical: This about the basic motivators of human behaviour, and the roles being played. Good vs Evil, Envy vs generosity,  Us vs Them, and Right Vs Wrong.

Consider the original Star Wars movie. The external story is about the development of Luke from a boy to a trainee Jedi, and the trials that are encountered as he and his acquired companions try to keep out of the clutches of the Empire.

The Internal story is about the angst and confusion felt by a boy suddenly thrust into a strange world that is trying to kill him and his companions.

The philosophical story is about the battle between good and evil, which comes to a head in the climatic fight scene.

When considering the elements that make up your brand story, remember that customers buy solutions to internal and philosophical problems, not the external ones, as they do not really matter beyond a question of price.

In other words, do not bother selling the features, sell the beneficial outcomes of use.

This works for simple products as well as it does for a complex one.

One of my clients provides a specialist engineering service to large scale manufacturing plants and infrastructure. The external story is that they do a really great job in a potentially dangerous and  highly regulated area. The internal story is about the absolute confidence that clients can have in the technical and project management skills they deliver. The philosophical story is about the need to retain some of these key skills in Australia, as once gone, like the Tassie tiger, will not come back, and the impact of that is long term and painful to us all.


Why the accepted notion of ‘Brand Loyalty’ is rubbish

Why the accepted notion of ‘Brand Loyalty’ is rubbish

Brand loyalty, and one step further, finding those few  users of the brand who will use no other, and demand their networks do the same, is the holy grail of most marketing. It comes up in almost every marketing brief ever written.

However, there is almost always a flaw in the logic I see used.

Heavy and exclusive use of a brand is interpreted as brand loyalty, and occasional users are disregarded except as a possible opportunity to increase usage, if they are even picked up in the data. Consumers usually have a small pool of acceptable brands, and expect to be satisfied by the product they buy, whatever the usage, or they do not return. The brand is just one of the the filtering mechanisms of varying strength they use to make the choice easier.

While loyalty and heavy usage may be in a very few cases generated by the brand, it may also be that the heavy usage is just habit, availability, convenience, the shape of the package, or many other factors other than a behaviour changing loyalty to the brand.

Heavy usage and brand loyalty do not always have a cause and effect relationship. There is certainly a strong correlation, not necessarily causation.

My father would only use one brand of mustard powder, a blindingly hot concoction he used sparingly on an occasional sandwich. The stuff was only purchased once every blue moon, as he was the only one in the household who would go near it. Far from heavy use, but very loyal.

Conversely, if you look in my sisters fridge, there is only ever one brand of natural yogurt, and she consumes a kilo or more a week, in a number of ways. However, the choice is driven not by  the brand, although it is entirely satisfactory, but by the fact that the small supermarket she stops at every couple of days on the way home because  of the easy parking and friendly environment, to buy her milk, and a few other staples, only carries that one brand. Convenience drives the purchase, not loyalty.

Anyway, the nonsense that gets touted around by snake-oil sellers about consumers wanting to have a relationship with their brand is just so much crap it makes me sick. Brand loyalty is a rare thing, and is always, always given as a part of a whole package of value that is delivered consistently by the product to the consumer.

Consumers want a lot of things from  their favoured brands, but only a very few with some sort of emotional incapacity see a brand as a substitute for a human relationship, so lets stop talking about it as if it were.

My thanks again to Tom Fishburne.https://marketoonist.com/ When I went looking for a visual for this post, this cartoon says it perfectly.


Case study: The pros and cons of PR in a B2B market.

Case study: The pros and cons of PR in a B2B market.

PR can be a remarkably effective tool in the marketing arsenal, but most of it is just wasted, simply because it is not delivering any message of value to anyone who cares.

What can you expect when you have a combination of PR agencies who get paid by the word, various supposedly credentialed dills with a barrow to push who like to see their names in print, and politicians who will respond to the smallest of pressure groups who make a big noise?

The latest target of the word churners is sugar, specifically sugar in soft drinks,  but more broadly, sugar in everything.

Tax it and the problem will go away.


While it is true that in economics 101 I learned that when you increase the price of anything, you sell less of it, this is a logical outcome based on an assumption of rational behaviour.

If I have learnt anything about consumer behaviour in the 45 years I have been in the marketing game, it is that it is rarely just rational, and unlikely to be altered by well meaning press releases, full of adjectives and promises of better days, written by those with a dog in the fight.

I was recently asked by a former client who supplies high value but very low usage ingredients that have the  potential to replace some of the functionality of sugar in food products for an opinion on a couple of different PR approaches they were considering in response to the discussion about a sugar tax.

Following is the reasoning I offered on PR as a marketing tool in this situation, sanitised for more general consumption.

  • There is a political problem, we are all too fat, therefore there is pressure on governments to regulate. Some of this regulation is warranted, such as the disclosure of the calorific value of products, in this case soft drinks, some is just nonsense.
  • We all (should by now) know that soft drinks are full of sugar, and drinking them to excess makes you fat, as well as having other health impacts. Therefore ensuring that label regulations are clear and understandable to laymen is a good thing, resisted by the beverage companies, as they do not want to scare the horses.
  • We cannot expect (in my view) governments to regulate for our behaviour, to be the gate keepers on our fridges. However, the tendency seems to be to seek to regulate to protect people from themselves. This is the guts of the move to have a tax on sugar, but underneath, there is a revenue measure for government that they will not talk about, but remains.

For a business to successfully leverage the public discussion for their commercial purposes requires some sort of strategy, and what I often see is a strategic vacuum, into which a PR release is sent. Some thoughts on the value of PR in these circumstances to a business that has some sort of vested interest in product formulation in the beverage market :

  • The target market for information is the marketing and technical people in beverage manufacturers, and they require different messages entirely. If it was me, I would have a plan with a few simple elements, and execute on the plan.
  • Create a list of the beverage manufacturers in each market, along with the relevant information about their ownership, location of factories, brands, strategies, etc, all you can reasonably glean from the combination of public documents and what your sales force knows. This is part of what marketing departments in businesses  with these sorts of interests should be doing.
  • As part of the above, ensure there was a list of the personnel in each business, their role in an organisation chart, and more importantly their role in the marketing, procurement, and product formulation decision making.
  • Develop ‘content’ with credibility to support all sides of the debate, and make all the data available, not just the bits that may support your commercial objectives. Research by the likes of Tate and Lyal, and CSR will be viewed with suspicion, irrespective of the science of it, because they have a vested interest, unless they discuss all the data and both sides of the debate.
  • Use the lists developed above to target selectively the people you need to speak to with the commercially agnostic data (content) you have developed. Do this digitally to create MQL’s (marketing qualified Leads) which are then passed to Sales and Technical services to follow up in person to make your formulation and commercial arguments.
  • Pick a small number of real target companies and devote resources specifically to the task of selling to them.  I would pick the challenger brands in each market, the ones you can sell to without the regional head office being involved, those who do not  have the big marketing budgets and brands, so they have less to risk. Once you convert a small number, and they have success in the market, the rest will follow.

This is pretty basic marketing 101.

Recognise that your target market is specific, and sales intensive, not marketing intensive. You are not selling toothpaste to a consumer with a low transaction value and regular small transactions, where marketing is vital. You are selling high value ingredient to customers where there is a high degree of specification, complication, and a long term relationship at stake. The challenge is different. Wasting time and effort, as well as money on consumer PR is useless in this context except as a strategy for keeping the wallies who do not understand the basics of the sales and marketing of their businesses quiet.