Many small businesses (SMBs) have difficulty reaching prospects or decision-makers (DM) on a regular basis. The traditional method to reach customers is to cold call businesses and tell them about your product/service. Cold calling is hard, but it definitely works (if it didn't, then the world's largest companies wouldn't invest billions in inside sales teams). The challenge is cold calling and all other forms of prospecting takes time that SMBs don't have. Most small businesses would rather wrestle a tiger then dial for dollars. Cold-calling hurts; it's like going to a single's bar and hitting on everyone you see there. You will come out with more bruises or hang-ups than phone numbers or leads. Instead, time-strapped SMBs need to identify their target DMs and say something meaningful when they get their attention. LinkedIn and other organizations call this process social selling. I like to call it recruiting customers. Below is how you can get customers you actually want much like how pro and college sports teams convince athletes to come play for their team or school.
Here are the resources you need to use and common sense you need to apply:
1. Resources. You will need:
- A phone and web access.
- Name of the company you are trying to reach and/or a specific person or department.
- What you want to say to the person when you reach them.
2. Identify. Find the name of the DM you are trying to reach. Visit their company website and get the contact details from it. Calling 1-800-XXX-XXXX and asking for the president won't work. Instead, call and ask for their sales department, and you'll have a meaningful conversation immediately. Obviously you don't want to buy anything, but this gets you a conversation with someone "in the building" and closer to finding the DM's name. Talk to as many people as required until you get the DM's name (Note: You can also use LinkedIn to bypass this entire step.)
3. Learn. Do your homework. Become the DM's fan like you are of your favorite celebrity. Find out their likes/dislikes, Google them, follow them on Twitter, see their interests on LinkedIn and read their blog to determine what may get their attention. Is it creepy to learn about people you don't know? Don't you follow your favorite celebrity already? Let me know when the clock strikes never and setting up that Mr. T Google alert contributes to your livelihood.
4. Recruit. People love to feel wanted. You've heard about how pro sports teams woo athletes with money and fame to play for their team. Apply the same logic to get new companies on your customer roster. Recruit them. How do you feel when someone unexpectedly calls you to say hi or pleasantly surprises you? The DM is a person too. Blow them away with your idea or suggestion. Don't just send a note that you wrote in 30 seconds or a basic brochure. Everyone does that. Try this; buy something from one of your existing customers and send that to them. You look like a great person to your existing customer and are doing something for a perspective customer. We recruited a customer that happened to be a foodie (they had a few restaurant reviews on their Yelp account) and sent them a voucher from one of our restaurant customers. Lastly, we sent along a poster of how we'd improve their business. Instead of putting how we'd improve their business in an email we put it on a poster. How did it go? We talked several times, but didn't get the business. The process cost us $50 for a legitimate look at the basket.
You may not always get the response you want -- that depends on a myriad of things (timing, offer, etc.), but the problem was getting a shot on goal; reaching the decision-maker and getting any response. Two things that you've successfully done and you didn't get hung up on.