Real Marketing – Phone Calling

I thought I’d start off by talking about picking up the phone and making marketing calls. I’ll admit up front that I hate this part and I don’t think I’m all that good at it. However, in the long run I’m probably not as bad as I think I am, since I don’t stumble over my message, and though I don’t do tons of it I have done it before now.

Basically, before you make phone calls you have to have a few things lined up, if possible. The first step is to have two scripts to use. One is what you want to say if you have to leave a message. The other is what you want to say if you actually get to talk to a decision maker. If you get a secretary you pretty much use your phone message script; at least that’s what I do. The difference in the two doesn’t have to be drastic, but you want to make sure that when you’re leaving a message you leave your name and phone number, something you won’t always get to do when talking to someone on the phone.

The second step requires a little bit more work. You should try to find out the name of the person you’re calling before you start making calls. That’s a big part of my ritual. In health care, I know the person that makes the decision most of the time is either the chief financial officer or the vice president of finance. For other businesses I contact regarding SEO or social media projects, I look to speak to the owner. This little bit of preparation can help you in many ways, especially if you reach a secretary who’s been told to immediately eliminate anyone who doesn’t ask for a specific name. Actually, it’s how I eliminate people who send me requests to guest post on my finance blog, since it’s stated clearly in my guest post policy over there.

After that you start your calls and prepare for the worst. Yeah, I know, every sales and phone guru says go into every call with the expectation that you’re going to get them to agree with everything you have to say but I don’t buy that. Be upbeat, project confidence on the phone, but don’t kid yourself. On average, based on what I’ve read, it’s expected that you might get one contact out of every 100 calls, and actually get someone to purchase from you maybe by the 8th time you talk to them; ouch.

What have my last two weeks been like? Surprisingly not all that bad. No, I didn’t get a single legitimate bite, but I did have two people ask me to send them more information. I only had 2 people who were a bit rude, and I maybe got to talk to 20% of the people I called, much higher than I expected.

The one disappointment was a major one, and I’m going to talk about it. This is someone I’ve actually talked to before, twice. I’d also sent her literature on what I do and I sent her email when she told me to send her an email about a potential project. I hadn’t heard anything so I call her up and actually get her. She then tells me that they’d just had the project performed 2 weeks earlier and she tells me the name of the company. I look them up and they’re out of Florida. I’m in New York, less than 2 hours away, and I didn’t even get an opportunity to put in a bid for it? Yes, I was angry; obviously still am a little bit. Part of me is thinking that I should have gone over her head and tried to talk to the CEO, someone I’ve actually met in the past and it’s probable that he might remember me as well, but that’s always kind of a gutsy move. Another part of me is thinking that I’ll be removing her from my contact list because, well, that’s just not right.

That of course leads to something else that’s discouraging, but I might as well bring it up. For many things, especially services, it’s hard to get people to perceive you as adequate or qualified unless you’re from somewhere else. Most of the projects I’ve done, either in health care or online, have been for clients that don’t live within even 3 hours of where I live. I’ve been to NYC, Westchester County, New Jersey, Connecticut, Dallas, North Dakota, Alabama… a few other places. I’ve done online work for people in these area and let’s add Singapore, Abu Dhabi, Nebraska, California, Virginia, Pennsylvania… and more. Locally; only one health care project, a six-week thing back in 2005 and it happens they knew me because I’d worked there 10 years earlier; whew! And for web stuff… okay, more than one, but very few; strange.

Anyway, back to the phones. A strategy I just picked up from someone is that I should start with a list of 20 and should consistently call that list until I’ve gotten a “no” or some other commitment from them before moving on to the next group. Since I’ve made about 40 calls that might not be a bad strategy, since a couple of these folks I did call a second time. Hey, what do I have to lose, right?

Do you have a phone strategy you use? Any recommendations or comments on any of this, including the one that’s got me so irked?

10 thoughts on “Real Marketing – Phone Calling”

  1. Very good post. In business you are either flying or crashing. There is now in between.

    If the phone is not ringing you need to do something about that. Old school marketing techniques still work in 2012.

    Your blog was selected as one of the best 75 in the world by #IBCT. The #IBCT is about helping people learn from the best of the best.

  2. I personally don’t like this part of marketing, cold calling looks like a bit outdated method, however it seems to work very well and most companies are using it. In terms of marketing, I think arranging B2B meetings can really unleash the power of this form of marketing. In most cases, I also advice companies to start field sales and get sales person to establish connection with companies with semantic interests, so potential to get indirect sales is getting higher.

    1. Carl, I’m not crazy about phone marketing either. But with part of what I do, I’d have to travel hours just to get to the places to talk to someone, and that’s not feasible, especially with the price of gas now. Now, if they’d make an appointment on the phone with me I’d go in a heartbeat.

      1. Definitely only for arranging meetings, but actually using VOIP for example Skype can be better option as as soon as the conversation is going, files can be sent at the same time. At the opposite situation, I also don’t like to be approached by sales people by phone, honestly I hate that.

  3. Mitch, this is a very good article. Making marketing phone calls is much more difficult than making calls in person. I don’t know anyone who likes to do this. Your recommendations about preparation are right on the spot. Since the natural response is likely to be defensive or rejection, I try to use my “friendly voice,” to break down the barriers of the first person to answer the phone until I reach a decision-maker. Then I use my “professional voice” to make my pitch.

    I like your recommendation about selecting 20 prospects and calling them until you get an answer. I used to call this my “make’em tell you no” strategy. I wouldn’t linger long in the cycle of voicemail, no answers, and hangups.

    I have found that in the information age, most business prospects provide a lot of contact information on their websites. So I try to make Internet contact first, then promptly followup within 2 days with the phone call. I reference my previous communications and indicate that this is a follow up call. This helps to at least engage the first responder in a little dialog — “Who did you send your communications to?” “What was the communications about?” “When did you send it?” This allows me to ask, “Whom should I contact about…?” “When is the best time to call?” “Is there a better email address than ‘info@xxx’?”

    This usually sets an expectation that I should receive a response. It sometimes takes 2 or 3 more calls to get the “No” that clears this call from my list. When I get the “no” answer, it is usually a professional answer explaining why. This provides the basis for a better approach maybe 6 months later, if I have a different reason to call. I can reference the response I got earlier.

    This is still not pleasant, but has helped me to gain better results.

    1. Thanks for how you go through this Roger. I actually do run into a couple of people who say they like making phone calls, and I always think they’re nuts. lol I think they’re a special breed. For the rest of us it’s a routine we go through to survive, and maybe that’s a part of why we don’t like it, with the other part being we hate it when we’re receiving them. That one’s been hard to get over for all these years, but I have to get my name out there.

  4. Phone marketing is really tedious but if you have the passion then you’ll never give up that easily. How many times have you been nagged on the phone?


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