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Old 02-22-2011, 10:29 PM
TFTech TFTech is offline
 
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Default Cold Calling Small Business Owners

Well, I was feeling brave; so I decided to go into my local Chamber of Commerce directory, and call a few folks in there.

I have to say, it's tough not to get discouraged:

First call was a non-profit that I was providing with a 2 hour block of time Pro-Bono (to drum up something), and I was forced to leave a voice mail.

Second call was to a carpentry contractor (because I deal with 2 contractors current as customers that are absolutely great customers), and I was gruffly mentioned 5 seconds into the call that he is 'on the do not call list'. He is a listed and current business on the chamber's site, so I'm Sure that it is ok to call him, as it is a Business-to-Business call. He hung up on me as I was trying to apologizing for taking up his time.

Anyways *sigh*, wowsers.

I know I need to keep calling those small and home businesses that I am trying to target, but boy-o.

Any advice to this cold-call rookie?
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Old 02-22-2011, 10:36 PM
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Ccomp5950 Ccomp5950 is offline
 
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You cannot place businesses on "Do not call" lists.

http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/cons...ts/alt107.shtm
#14

But stop calling. Start going to see them. Have a business card (or business targeting brocure and card) ready and practice what you are going to say.

Ask to speak with whoever would be making the decision about computer repair services. Always try to talk to them first, don't just walkin hand them your card and leave without saying a word.
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Old 02-22-2011, 11:11 PM
Cybjun Cybjun is offline
 
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I never cold call and don’t recommend it. The last thing I want to be doing when I'm trying to make money it fend off people trying to take that money. I have a hard enough time with the government , I don’t need to fend off other business too. My best marketing to other small businesses is shopping them. Sometimes I walk-in to local business and ask for flyers and offer them my business cards. I also leave business cards at the local chamber of commerce (but thats never has help draw up any business)
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Old 02-22-2011, 11:11 PM
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I was in sales involving cold-calling for about 20 years. Believe me, 2 calls is nothing. The hit rate is very low and you have to harden yourself to this. I used to sometimes cold call all day, all week and maybe get 1 or 2 customers that would eventually deal. It's hard work no doubt about it.

I personally am pretty curt with cold-callers despite knowing how tough it is. I got a call today whilst busy and just put the phone down on them. I've no idea if they were a good firm, I just knew I was busy. So it makes no sense to take it personally.

My advice is:

1. Avoid cold calling as much as you can by putting more effort into generating hot leads by referrals and networking. Given the low hit rate of cold calling, this is BY FAR the best strategy. If you have a reason to call because they were recommended, or even if you just sold to their competitor or the people in the same building...it's all better than completely cold calling.

2. Pre-qualify your targets as much as possible so you don't waste their time and yours calling unsuitable people. Don't be asking them for information you could have got online. That's disrespectful of their time.

3. Qualify the people you do call as early as possible so you don't waste your energy talking to people who will never buy your service.

4. Be calm and polite and get to the point, not "salesy", over-friendly and pushy. If you are all sing-song and "Hi this is Brad from ABC Corp. How are you today sir?" they hear the Sales Call alert and go into a learned evasive pattern.

5. Try to speak to people as high up in the firm as possible. If you have to make one call to get the name and another the next day to speak to them then fine. Don't waste time selling to administrators.

6. Have a plan about the call and what you are actually trying to get out of it. Given you won't get what you want most of the time you need a plan to deal with that. So have a few lesser goals too. So if your main goal is to secure a meeting with the CEO then have lesser goals that are also actually useful in eventually getting to Goal 1. E.g. your lesser goals might be to get them to agree to read some literature and accept a second call. Then further down the goal list: to find out when their current contract ends or who deals with choosing a supplier. This way you can get SOMETHING out of the call and chalk up some progress, albeit minor.

7. Think about it as much as qualifying unsuitable clients OUT of the process as much as getting the suitable ones in. A qualified lead is one where they have a need for your product and are in a position to buy. If they are genuinely happy with what they have, it's as good as your offering and as cheap, then they have no need. Don't con yourself that isn't possible because you believe you're so great unless you're in some kind of super-unexploited niche. If they don't need you then admit it and bow out.

8. On the other hand, always leave a way back in with people who might develop a need in the future. Get some literature to them and agree a genuinely realistic call back date, even if it's in a year. You never know what will happen and if you sounded like a good guy they might just think of you when things go wrong with their current people.

9. When you make your pitch to the person that matters, tell them a couple of things that might interest them (your benefits, low price, unique service etc) and ask them a question to move the process forward. E.g. "...we offer a low-cost maintenance service without the commitment...can I ask, what sort of contract do you have in place at the moment?" then planfor what they can say at this point e.g.:
(a) We have no contract because we don't think we need one
(b) We have a contract in place with XYZ firm
(c) Wow really! Can I buy it now

then have a path for each one, e.g. for (a) Is that because you don't get computer problems? (obviously answer to this is a no)....OK so how do you deal with those....and so you pay how much per hour....what did you spend last year....really that much?....what if I told you could have spent about half that with very little commitment?

or for (b) Oh yes I know that firm...how long have you been with them...any problems...no?....if we were offering a fuller service for less money would you consider moving at some point"

You get the idea. Only experience of the calls will tell you what the responses will be but you can have a good guess initially. Push where a need for your offering arises, back off politely when it doesn't and keep the door open for future contact.

10. Keep a list of info that will let you know if they are worth pursuing in the future - number of computers for instance. If things don't go well then at leas get that info so you know whether they go in the diary for another call or in the bin.

11. Don't get bogged down in sales technique, cheesy verbal tactics as taught by cheesy American sales-trainers and BS "you can close every sale" stuff. Keep it simple. Keep it real and keep at it. If you don't feel confident in hard sales then just call people up to "let you know that we're here and eager to help you if you need us". That alone done enough times will net sales in the long run.

Last edited by MobileTechie; 02-22-2011 at 11:14 PM.
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Old 02-22-2011, 11:20 PM
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Businesses need suppliers and they expect to be cold-called, but they will also be well practiced in beating off the army of salespeople who call daily trying to sell them products and services they don't want or need at the time

Forget the idea of selling blocks of service time, most businesses will never buy this, especially from someone they don't know or trust and who's trying a hard sell. Remember it's YOU who's providing a SERVICE. If you're providing a service to businesses your own business is secondary, it's their business that's important to them and must be to you - therefore do a bit of research on their business before you call - try to understand what systems they might use. Don't go offering free blocks of service as a bait or offer discounts, promotions, no-fix-no-fee, etc. to get in the door, this will send the message you don't value your own skills and abilities. Remember, you're a confident, efficient professional who's available to provide a solution to their IT problems. If they BUY YOU, they will call you when they need you, but this might be days weeks, months or even years after you first contact them.
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Old 02-22-2011, 11:33 PM
TFTech TFTech is offline
 
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Thank you all for your advice!
I've called a number of other people 'cold' now, and have mentioned that I am calling because they are members of the chamber of commerce. It seemed to help quite a bit.

I've also started to offer a 1 hour of daignostic time to them, because I don't mind, and I want to get in the door. I believe that they will want me to just fix the problem (if I find one) right there and then, because it's faster then having me leave, and then paying someone else to do it for likely more than I would charge.

In my area, there isn't really any meetups or groups of entrprenuers that get together, so it's very VERY tough to get to these business owners to show them I want to help them .

I honestly don't believe that I would be able to fix or repair super specialized equiptment such as high end servers and what not. I am not aiming for these systems anyways.

What I would envision as 'great' clients are people with fairly simple systems, and networks, maybe the occational home theatre install.

I have a few customers that call me back again and again; the only issues they have are of this calibre, and they are always very very happy with my service ( and pay well and without bounced cheques).

I want more of those types of clients. Entrepreuers like me that value quick, acurate service for thier non-specialized equiptment.

EDIT: I'd also like to say that I am not wanting to work on large businesses - I do not ever want the responsibility or the stress of having a businesses' multi-hundred-thousand dollar server on my head, and having them call me in a blood-rage if it EVER has any issues. I have health problems that preclude me from working in those conditions (high blood-pressure), so anything that helps me get those big clients is not what I want .

Last edited by TFTech; 02-22-2011 at 11:38 PM. Reason: Clarifying
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Old 02-23-2011, 03:30 AM
Paul Rodgers Paul Rodgers is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TFTech View Post
EDIT: I'd also like to say that I am not wanting to work on large businesses - I do not ever want the responsibility or the stress of having a businesses' multi-hundred-thousand dollar server on my head, and having them call me in a blood-rage if it EVER has any issues. I have health problems that preclude me from working in those conditions (high blood-pressure), so anything that helps me get those big clients is not what I want .
I actually like the emergency business calls. It is a great feeling when you can solve a problem like that and look like a hero to the customer.
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Old 02-26-2011, 03:36 PM
sedigital sedigital is offline
 
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I find cold calling annoys more people than they help. It can be effective if your value proposition is targeted enough to address a very specific need. You also need to be focused on a specific industry too.

Want to know how effective cold calling can be? I've worked for Xerox in the past and we generated a majority of our leads from cold calling, and Xerox posts billions of dollars in revenue every year.

If you do lots of research you'll find it often works alright. However, I agree with everyone here that networking/referrals are the way to go. Once you have momentum with this then the rest becomes history.
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