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Cold calling to source new clients

Discussion in 'Starting a business' started by encore4deb, Jan 15, 2009.

  1. encore4deb

    encore4deb New Member

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    Hi All

    I am a new Virtual Assistant and have recently posted a question at one of my industry forums requesting comments from people about contacting chosen businesses on a cold call basis. It is my intent that I endeavour to find the right person to speak to, provide a small introduction of how I can be of assistance to their organisation and then request a time to meet them in order to expand on my services and to find out how/if I can help them.

    The initial feeling I got from my feedback was how brave I was! How else does one get out to promote their business? My website will up at the end of January, I have a listing in the Yellow Pages and am listed on industry websites. These three options are highly competitive and I need something else to get things going - I don't want to sit waiting for the phone to ring but is it considered 'not appropriate' to cold call?
    Any comments would be greatly appreciated.
    Kind regards

    Debie
    encoreadmin@bigpond.com
  2. LeelaCosgrove

    LeelaCosgrove Member

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    A lot of people are anti-cold calling ... the way I see it - it's because they are afraid to do it. Rather than admit this to themselves, they will give you all kinds of lectures on how it doesn't work and how awful it is ... however, I've worked as a commission only sales person and have literally made hundreds of thousands of dollars for clients using ONLY the phone.

    It CAN be done - and good for you for having the guts to do it. All you have to remember is that you can't sell everyone. Man, if you manage to sell 5% you're doing REALLY well!

    There's only one problem I see with your plan.

    People use VAs to save time.

    If you call and try and set up a meeting with people who are already pressed for time ...

    Why must you meet with them? Why not just sell them on the phone?

    Let me e.g. this for you - I've been looking for web designers recently. I've gotten about 5 quotes. People keep saying to me "The best thing to do is for me to meet with you and discuss ...". And I'm like - WHY? We're on the phone now ... why do you want to meet? What possible benefit will that have for me? I have NO time as is ... just tell me what it's going to cost!

    It also costs you time to go out and meet them - time you could be using to sell yourself even further.

    I would approach it like this ...

    * give the person a call. If they try and rush you off the phone because they are too busy to talk to you, you have the PERFECT opening! "Tell me Mr X - would you see value in having someone take these phone calls for you, without you having to pay $35,000 for the privilige?"

    * Establish their needs.

    * Explain what you do.

    * Offer a special trial service. I don't know what your rates are, so it's hard to say.

    But let me tell you this - if you call 10 over-worked business owners and offer to take the work they HATE doing off their hands - you WILL have success (so long as you approach it right - have you got any experience with building a sales script? I can probably help with that - I've done a bit of it).

    Especially if you call them at a really inconvenient time ... I would play with it, but try times like 6 and 7 pm ... "Gee Mr X - wouldn't you prefer to be at home with your family right now? What would need to happen for that to happen? So, if you could get someone to print, collate and post out those letters for you - for less than the cost of a full time employee - is that something you would see value in? Great!"
  3. ray_223

    ray_223 Active Member

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    I've never done it myself (so take my comments with a grain of salt) ...

    I think the biggest issue is finding the right people to call.

    Do you have any areas of expertise? If so then look at calling businesses in those areas.
    Keep it as short and pleasant as possible.
    If they aren't interested ask if they think they may need assistance in the future. If yes, ask if it would be OK to call back in the future. Also ask if they may know of someone else who may be interested in your services.

    Also, look at asking current customers if they know of anyone who might also be looking for a VA. You never know until you ask!

    I'd say definitely give it a go. I think these days to many people put to much focus on internet marketing.

    Let us know how you go.
  4. Burgo

    Burgo Well-Known Member

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    Anyone who cold calls have my VOTE.
    I did it for years and became one of the highest paid reps in the rag trade.
    I did heeps of it when I worked in the photographic industry, and did heeps more in the cleaning industry.

    If you want to the same as others in your industry do as they do, however if you want to be a leader in your industry step out of the square, be different and cold call. It is hard work and sometimes frustrating work, but the rewards are greater than just waiting for your phone to ring. If i had done that 35 years ago I would still be waiting.

    Cold call and enjoy the journey as you will get more from it than you will ever immagine.


    GO FOR COLD
  5. LeelaCosgrove

    LeelaCosgrove Member

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    You rock Patrick.
  6. Adam Randall

    Adam Randall Member

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    Funny, I was talking to someone yesterday about this very thing.

    A freind who does the same thing as me in Sydney said things were dead for him during November so he went cold calling and had enormous success with it.

    He gave a few bits of advice to me:

    1) Have an anchor, a client in the vacinity, a reason to be there, ie; I was just visiting so and so and I pass your office all the time, I thought I would drop in and see if you require any of my services.

    2) You are not a salesman /woman, you are the CEO of one company wanting to talk to someone at the same level in their company.
    People hate salesman, so tell them you are not a salesman.

    3) whoever you talk to, whether its a PA, reception or manager, send them a hand written note thanking them for their time.

    He said so far he has had an 80-90% success rate of getting a meeting with the decision maker and now has more work than he can handle including 1 really large client.

    I am going to get off my backside and away from my safe zone (about 1 square metre in front of my computer) and go visit some people.

    He also said, you will get some rude and arrogant people, receptionists who think its their job to block everyone and everything, just have to accept it and move on.
  7. BB

    BB Member

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    Cold-calling can be fun, and it can be awful. Having done a fair bit of it - in a few past lives, here are a few tips-

    1. Always have a 'smile' in your voice
    2. Have a good script, which you know well, but also be prepared to think and respond quickly if the conversation takes a different path
    3. Sitting at a desk isn't conducive to sounding energetic - stand up and perhaps walk around a little whilst making the call.
    4. Understand that your initial conversion rate may be disheartening, but with practice it will become great.

    If you'd like a 'reason to call', think about sending a short letter of introduction to the people you wish to call, explaining who you are, and that you will be calling them in a few days/week/ fortnight to arrange an appointment with them. Your follow-up call may be a lot easier.

    And remember - you'll never know, if you don't have a go!

    cheers,

    B.B.
  8. Tristan Boyd

    Tristan Boyd Member

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    I had some success with cold calling in the early days. We build websites, so I went through the Manly Daily ads and found companies that didn't have a website address in the add and called them. Some of them are now our oldest clients.

    It's definitely worth doing, but the one peice of advice I would share is to identify yourself as the owner of the business from the outset. People hate call centres, but if you are humble and polite and start with an honest introduction, something like:

    "Hi my name is Debbie and I'm the owner of Encoreadmin, ...I was hoping to speak to the owner or manager" , or if you get the right person .... "we provide office admin support to businesses like yours, do you have 30 seconds to hear my sales pitch?"

    Good luck! :)
  9. Burgo

    Burgo Well-Known Member

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    Adam your mate is spot on NEVER give the impression you are a salesperson.

    My business card never indicated the possition I held within the company, although I was General Manager Sales and Marketing.

    Another thing I forgot to mention if you dont succeed try again, in about a month, keep showing your face and you gradually break down the resistance.
    Surprising how it works.
  10. LeelaCosgrove

    LeelaCosgrove Member

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    So true Patrick.

    On average - it takes 7 no's to get to a yes.

    If you give up on the first no, you're throwing away a potential sale.

    There's a great quote by one of the sales gurus about a guy who has worked out that from every 10 people he talks to on the phone, he gets one sale. Each sale is worth $500 - so he knows that on average, every single CONVERSATION - regardless of the person buying - is worth $50. So everytime someone repeatedly says no, he says

    "Thank you."
    "What do you mean, thank you? I said no."
    "I understand - however, I just made another $50."

    That's the way you've got to see it. A monkey with a script and a phone could make money if they just PERSISTED. I've seen people who were not overly bright make thousands of dollars in commission - because they just keep going. As long as you DON'T stop - you WILL sell someone eventually.


    BB's advice about standing is great - motion creates emotion. Actually, before you start go and hire out the movie Boiler Room. Okay, what they are doing is dubious and you don't want to emulate that - but the technique is spot on. Stand, project, you are the owner of the company ...

    I disagree with asking to speak to the owner / manager.

    First, do your research. Find the name. It IS the receptionists job to not put you through - I've been there, I know that. This very knowledge makes me outstanding at getting around them!

    That said - the kinds of companies you should probably be targeting are NOT companies with receptionists - they already have admin staff and if she gets wind that you're offering to replace her ...

    You're better off aiming for the kind of companies where the MD answers the phone themselves.

    A good script is ESSENTIAL - as is testing what you say. Test and Measure, Test and Measure - the golden rules of business.
  11. encore4deb

    encore4deb New Member

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    To everyone who responded to my plea - a heartfelt thank you!!

    The response from my industry forum was that I must be mad and what on earth did I need to cold call for. One this is that being in Perth we don't have the access to the same networking opportunities afforded my colleagues over east. Secondly, I want my business to succeed, I can't just sit and wait for everyone to come to me.

    Your tips/hints/words of wisdom were so motivating. I am going to spend the weekend preparing my 'script' and then plan a moderately aggressive marketing campaign for next week targeting those people I want as my clients.

    Love the advice about not being a sales person and being the owner/manager of the business, I think I have been putting too much focus on the 'sales' side, but your comment was so true, I do own my business and I want to be a proud and successful business owner.

    I have always told my two sons the old .... if at first you don't succeed ....... Now I have to put it into practice.

    Again, thanks to all, what a great forum.
  12. encore4deb

    encore4deb New Member

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    To everyone who responded to my plea - a heartfelt thank you!!

    The response from my industry forum was that I must be mad and what on earth did I need to cold call for. One thing is that being in Perth we don't have the access to the same networking opportunities afforded my colleagues over east. Secondly, I want my business to succeed, I can't just sit and wait for everyone to come to me.

    Your tips/hints/words of wisdom were quite motivating. I am going to spend the weekend preparing my 'script' and then plan a moderately aggressive marketing campaign for next week targeting those people I want as my clients.

    Leela, with regard to your comment about seeing people, VA's are not only hired at busy times so I want to meet these people and personally introduce myself. Even though my business is virtual, I am a business owner, not just an email address. My professionalism is further enchanced in person in order to present a complete package. A big part of the process at the moment is in educating people about virtual assistance and I would prefer to be on hand to see where/how they operate and get a feel for them as a potential client. Call me old fashioned, but I still like to talk face-to-face.

    Adam, great comment about not being a sales person and being the owner/manager of the business, I think I have been putting too much focus on the 'sales' side, but your comment was so true, I do own my business and I want to be a proud and successful business owner.

    I have always told my two sons the old .... if at first you don't succeed ....... Now I have to put it into practice.

    Again, thanks to all, what a great forum.

    Deb
    encoreadmin@bigpond.com
    1 person likes this.
  13. encore4deb

    encore4deb New Member

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    Sorry all, you really only need to read one!!
  14. LeelaCosgrove

    LeelaCosgrove Member

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    Hey Deb,

    "I want to meet these people and personally introduce myself."

    Hmmm ... my problem with this is - it's not what YOU want. It's what THEY want. Don't tell them you HAVE to meet them ... ask them if they WANT to meet you.

    First rule of sales ... NEVER EVER tell the client what they want. ASK them what they want - and if you can provide it, show them how.

    On top of which, by doing that you geographically limit yourself to businesses within traveling distance. So - are you NOT going to work with people out side that area?

    And thirdly - are you target market people who work at home at all? Because I know a lot of people who work at home hate people knowing that - so they just turn down appointments without explaining why ... because they're embaressed to have you know as much ...

    But TEST it.

    It might be that I'm wrong and they WANT to meet with you. However, give what I'm saying a shot too and see how that goes ... I work a lot with the same kinds of people you'll be targeting and my experience is that most of them are too busy - they just don't want to meet with me. In fact, I'd say one of the biggest selling points of my services is that I'm the person who gets stuff done.

    Give it to me and you're not going to have me talking to you on the phone every 5 seconds or needing you to walk me through it - the work gets done and it gets done well.

    Of course at the end of the day, everyone on here can have all the opinions in the world ... but we're not the ones who count ... it's the people who buy from you that you have to listen to ...

    TEST everything ...
  15. encore4deb

    encore4deb New Member

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    Thanks for your time Leela. I hear your comments and will indeed take them on board. I will give it a go next week and will probably end up here with more questions than answers but I guess that's all part and parcel of being a soloist.
    I feel so much better about the whole situation having this forum discussion and appreciate the time people take to help 'newbies' (gosh I hate that word).

    I have an experienced sales mananger on hand who has been coaching me in all the things you have noted ie; what the customer wants etc etc, my biggest fear is taking that first step and putting myself out there be it on the phone, or in person.

    There have been too any times that the fear of the unknown has made me want to quit but I really believe in what I am doing and what I want to achieve for myself so will look upon anything I try as personal growth!.

    Thanks again, enjoy your day.

    Deb
  16. LeelaCosgrove

    LeelaCosgrove Member

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    That's a really awesome attitude Deb - good for you!

    Everyone is afraid of sales at first ... but like you said, you just have to go for it ... don't take rejection personally - and never forget that you're trying to HELP people ... if they don't see that, it's okay. Never let anyone make you feel bad about yourself because they are rude or think it's okay to have a go at people ... (I always find business people who have an issue with being sold an interesting contradiction!)

    I'm sure you'll do great! Let us know how you go!
  17. Burgo

    Burgo Well-Known Member

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    Hey Deb, think of us as your support group
  18. BeniCreative

    BeniCreative Member

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    Hi,

    Wow.. there has been some great advice here so far. I'm getting all inspired to do some cold calling next week I think! I just had a link to contribute. I came across this site last year and it really helped me step out and start doing some cold calling. In the end, it wasn't half as scary as I what I originally imagined it to be. I have formed some great connections out of it too. Here is the link for you. I hope you get inspired!

    http://freelanceworkshops.com/appointments.htm

    Good Luck!
    Bronwyn
  19. Lisa Murray - Biz Coach

    Lisa Murray - Biz Coach Member

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    Hi Debie
    Lots of great advice on cold calling from others already. I'd add that ideally you want to develop a marketing system that works - in most cases, cold calling is one of up to 7 steps in your marketing system. Whilst some people do buy on one contact, many need multiple contacts before they are ready to buy. There is a great book called 'Book Yourself Solid' by Michael Port that outlines some alternatives to cold calling and how you can integrate these tactics with cold calling to create a lead generation system that you know works for your business.

    I have a marketing background - happy to have a chat if you'd like a little help in structuring your contact system. It can be a mix of cold calling, direct mail, ezines, networking, writing for publications (online and off) etc... Basically there are lots of systems that work - it is about creating one that works for you given your specific gifts and abilities.

    cheers
    Lisa

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