Is cold calling dead? I don’t think so quite yet. Its vitals may be in critical condition and almost on life support. Yet, some people still use, and are taught, to cold call. Surprisingly some people still think it's one of the best ways to build a business. They are a little niave.
I acknowledge that industries across the board have been getting diminishing returns from cold calling. Here’s some chilling statistics on cold calling shared by the Keller Research Center at Baylor University:
- 28% of those cold called engage in conversations,
- 1% of cold calls ultimately convert into appointments,
- 42% of sales people do not have the right information before making a sales call,
- In 2007, It took an average of 3.68 cold call attempts to reach a prospect, and
- In 2015, its estimate that it takes 8 cold call attempts to reach a prospect.
The good news is that if you are cold calling and know your statistics down cold, you can develop a relatively predictable revenue stream. My point, cold calling works for some people and is just one way of engaging with prospects. This is where a lot of people start or are taught to start. Its traditional and old fashioned. But if your cold calling results are slowly diminishing, you need to be prepared to do something else. Most people need to find better strategies especially in the days of the Do Not Call legislation. This is where some people struggle. So, what can you do?
“My training of cold-calling and everyone under the sun telling me no, and my keeping going, was a huge part of the first two years of Spanx.” Sarah Blakely
Thanks to the internet, email, and social media, we now have a new way to do business. You can communicate directly to your leads at any time of the day, and they can read and/or respond at their leisure. Your leads can respond to a message with less effort or ignore it easily if it’s not applicable.
You can send out 20 messages faster than you can make 20 phone calls. Everyone’s happy. However, make sure that you’re smart about using social media sites like LinkedIn to get new prospects and clients. Make sure that your online presence is tailored to a niche and that you personalize everything you send.
I recently read an article about LinkedIn that said, “Every new connection you make is an addition to your email list”. This couldn't be further from the truth. Please don’t add people to your mailing list if they haven’t opted in. I can’t begin to tell you how many people have added me to their little newsletters. It’s annoying and they’ve damaged my perception of them from the get-go.
“Without social media, I'd probably just be an amateur photographer with a hard drive full of photos. I'd be cold calling respected publications, begging for a feature.” Brandon Stanton
I think direct mail is incredibly underrated. In most cases, direct mail won’t work for selling a low-dollar product or selling to people with a small customer lifetime value. But for some businesses like financial services, there is a large lifetime value per client, which means that often, it makes sense to be using direct mail. For all of you who want to target millennials and think directmail is oldschool, think again. 36% of people under 30 look forward to checking the mail every day, and since people are receiving less mail than ever before, your mail pieces will stand out. If you do it correctly, you should be getting a 1-2% average response rate from your direct mail campaign.
The problem is that most businesses completely fail at direct mail. I like to tell the story of how I kept getting letters to insure my teenage daughter… but I’m not a teen and I do not have a teenage daughter. I’ve also heard stories of people in young, upscale neighborhoods getting postcards talking about retiring with an elderly couple’s picture on it. This type of approach is a waste of time, effort, and money.You should learn how to target your direct mail with clear focus as to the type of client you are pursuing, being specific about who, where, and how you will reach them, to get the best return on your direct mail investment.
There are so many clubs and associations that are looking for speakers on a regular basis. It’s just up to you to make sure you’re the one speaking. These are great opportunities to get in front of a room of dozens of prospects at the same time. If you speak about a topic that interests the audience and don’t solicit, you might even be invited back. Consider topics that most people have questions about. For example, if you are a travel agent, don’t speak about specific packages and prices. Try speaking about top ten things for tourists to do in the Caribbean.
There are so many opportunities for you to get in front of people and it’s easier than ever before. You can use the internet to find:
- Service clubs (e.g. Kiwanis and Rotary)
- Colleges and universities
- Business networking groups
- Special interest clubs
- Conference directories
- Trade associations
- Large companies
These are prime opportunities to get the word out. Pick one or two of these ideas to get speaking engagements and go after them. Simply make contact, ask if the group accepts speakers, and present your credentials and proposed topics.
Your current clients probably know far more prospects than you think they do. After all, they work with them, hang out with them, and spend time in the same social circles. Your clients also know better than anyone else the real value of what you do and the impact you've had on there business or personal lives. Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals or to be introduced to people thy think may benefit from your goods or services. There is nothing stronger than a personal recommendation. Make sure that you’re using the relationship you’ve established with your current clients, and thanking them for the referrals they send your way.
If your website isn’t bringing you in inbound leads, you’re doing it wrong. There are so many ways that you can get people to your website, possibly with the end goal of filling out a “contact me” form.
Optimize your website for SEO. At the very minimum, you should make sure that your website is optimized for the keywords of your name, title, and location. The whole idea is to place strategic keywords into key areas of your website to effectively communicate your page’s message to the search engine. For example, if you are a real estate agent in Toronto and your core skills are high end homes and entrepreneurs, your website could be optimized for “entrepreneur real estate” and “high end homes Toronto.”
"If you have more money than brains, you should focus on outbound marketing. If you have more brains than money, you should focus on inbound marketing." Guy Kawasaki
Make it easy for people to contact you once they reach your website. People aren’t going to spend that much time on your site. Even if you are exactly who they’re searching for, if they can’t immediately see a way to get in touch with you, they’re going to bounce. Make your contact form, direct email, phone number, and preferred means for contact as obvious and easy to find as possible. For example, on my sites, my social media, phone, and email contact information is right on the main page and every page.
Develop an off-site strategy to drive traffic. Do whatever you can to make sure people know about your website – after all, it is working for you 24/7. One of the best ways that I’ve found for some businesses (including my own) to drive traffic to their site and capture inbound leads is by blogging, specifically publishing on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Why different social media sites? Because we are directly content to specific types of clients on each site. If you are targeting a group, for example on LinkedIn, you can write about something that interests business minded people. When they check it out they are much more likely to visit your site. Remember to also provide a direct link to the post on your website or the subject matter that is specific to their search.
I practice what I preach. This is not something that comes easy to some people, especially when they are starting out. You will make mistakes. That’s part of improvement and refinement to see what resources work for you and why. You need a game plan and a way to measure your results. Nobody taught this to me. I decided to learn about it myself. There are a lot of smart people who can assist you with the mechanics of your approach.
The internet has a wealth of information. Just think that when you are online looking for ideas, others are doing the same thing for something they are looking for. Tie this concept into your own strategy. This is what you want people to do about you. By taking a pro-active and pre-active approach to prospecting, you too will find that cold calling is not the only way as a lot of us are taught early on. Being smart about your marketing strategy, time and effort is part of Keeping Life Current.
Steve is the SBCN Community Mentor and can be reached at steve@NorthernRiverFinancial.ca