Well, in this case it was Friday morning.
The CEO of a large New York-based company (approx. $100M in revenue) left me an urgent message early Friday morning, August 7, requesting that I call him on his cellphone as soon as possible. He answered my call immediately and let me know my timing was perfect. However, he couldn’t wait for my UK client to visit New York in September to get things started. Was it possible to organize a teleconference meeting next week?
This was the direct result of my cold calling his company the previous day, a cold call that has now resulted in a strong opportunity for my client to not only generate hundreds of thousands of dollars, but also grab a larger share of their new export market.
Here’s the story:
As part of my commitment to The Phone Lady and the skills I teach, I take on two or three cold calling projects each year. I do this because I know phone behaviour is changing rapidly and I need to make sure my workshops are up to date and accurate. I also do it because I really enjoy the challenge of cold calling … and the adrenalin rush when it works.
Is it easy? No.
The New York company mentioned above is part of a project I started on Thursday morning, August 6. On behalf of a client in the UK, I am booking September appointments with qualified prospects in Manhattan and Long Island.
It’s important to know that I always start these projects with maximum optimism and I truly believed I could call the list of 24 companies before noon. Enter frustration #1: the list was flawed and required research not only relating to accurate contact information (thank you LinkedIn), but also in terms of recent mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcies, location etc. Fortunately my journalism background means I love this research part but it does take up hours and hours of precious time. In the end, the research revealed that only 15 of the 24 leads were valid.
As I completed the research on each company, I dialed the phone. Enter frustration #2: All of the companies had many-layered voicemail systems. While this is to be expected today, it’s still annoying. One system had me spelling the last name of the person I wanted to reach, but then did not confirm my choice. It said “For (silence) press 1” and “For (silence) press 2”. As I’d entered the name of the CEO, I pressed “1”, only to have the system disconnect my call. I dialed again and this time pressed “2”. The same thing happened. (I’ll get back to calling this company again on Monday.)
Frustration #3: In 5.5 hours I dialed the phone 21 times. This is well below my average of 10 calls per hour. Several other items on my list for Thursday are still waiting to be done.
Frustration #4: I only spoke to 3 people on Thursday. They did all accept detailed information by email but I ended the day a bit agitated. After all, the client is hoping to attend 10 booked meetings in September.
But remember the end of the story? At one company the Executive Assistant of the CEO put me through to a senior executive she thought could help me. And he did. He shared the email I sent late Thursday afternoon with the CEO and that CEO called me Friday morning. This confirms: 1) I am working with a valid list; 2) my approach of starting with the CEO is also valid; 3) my client’s product is well represented in the marketing material they’ve created; and 4) there is a need and interest for what my client provides.
If you are an entrepreneur or salesperson, I really want you to stop listening to those who say cold calling is dead. Cold calling/prospecting still matters when it comes to business-to-business communication. Would the CEO I’ve mentioned responded as quickly if I’d only sent an email to his company? No, I don’t think so.(In fact, my client has sent out email to their target market with no results. The reason in this case? My initial research on this company indicated a different CEO. Turns out that CEO died 18 months ago. And yes, on Thursday I did have to navigate the dreaded “He’s passed away” phone call.)
And if I’d started farther down the decision-making chain, if I hadn’t asked for the CEO initially, would the information have reached him so quickly? No, I don’t think so.
A phone call still gets you inside a company. The sound of your voice begins the process of building trust. The follow up email with well-crafted marketing material moves the relationship forward.
Still nervous and hesitant? Of course you are and I do empathize. One of the other reasons I take on these cold calling projects is they demand I go back to basics: write a pitch, practice a pitch, change the pitch when it doesn’t work. And if you think because I’m “The Phone Lady” I don’t get nervous calling CEO’s in Manhattan … perhaps I’ll video the start of a new campaign some day so you can see that cold calling always takes courage, especially for that first call.
But it’s a courage that always pays off.
Until next week – enjoy your phone work!