B2B Marketing Blog

Written by The Mezzanine Group
on August 07, 2008

I had one of those 'shake your head' cold calls recently. Mezzanine just appeared on the list of Fastest Growing Companies in Canada, so we're getting inundated with calls from business services providers.

I have nothing against cold calls. It's a successful lead generation tactic in many businesses. What does bother me is useless calls where there is no apparent preparation or focus.

Here's how the call played out:

Phone rings. I check call display. Name of a local publication that I'm vaguely familiar with appears.

"Interesting," I think to myself. "I wonder what they want?"

I answer the phone, "Lisa Shepherd". Young voice on the line says, "Is this Lisa Shepherd?" (Uh-oh, I think). "I have Jane Jones* on the line, from XYZ Magazine. Would you take the call?" ( I know we're all busy and time is precious, but this approach just seems pretentious.) But, I say "Sure".

"Hi Lisa, how are you? I've put together a community of CEOs as a peer group to get together and talk about what problems they face." No background on herself or company. My head reels. I'd been intently working on something else prior to this call, so a little context would have helped. Then she adds enthusiastically, "Tell me about your business."

If I was unsure before, I'm now very sure that I regret picking up the phone.

I could go on with the details, but it's too painful. After a couple of minutes of her rambling, I ask "What can I do for you?" She asked if I want to get together for coffee. Presumably this is preamble to joining the peer group. But talk about a dodge-dip-duck-dive strategy. Getting to the point would have been much better. I tell her I belong to a similar group already (Innovators Alliance), am actively talking to another (Entrepreneur's Organization) and had been approached by another the previous week (Presidents of Enterprising Organizations). She is unaware of all these organizations, except the last one. I wasn't sure if this was more dodge-dip-duck-dive or serious ignorance. At that point I was in too much pain to care.

I'm writing this because I want those who have to do cold calling (and it is a tough job, I truly admire those who do it well) to avoid this painful and embarrassing situation.

Here are some basic tips for a good cold call:

a) Do your homework. Don't call me and ask me what my company does. It's on the web for all to see. Asking me this question is laziness in the extreme. I can't help but think "If this is what you do when you're trying to sell me something, how bad is it going to be when we're working together?"

b) Make it easy for me to understand who you are and what you want:

  1. State your name and company name.
  2. State what the company does or offers.
  3. State why I might care about what you offer (hint: it will help my business perform better, grow faster, decrease costs. Pick any.)

c) State what you want from me. 15 minutes of my time for an intro meeting is a reasonable request. Of course I will give you more than 15, but it's nice to start with the small ask.

Cold calls aren't usually so painful. All the same, I'm not going to answer my phone unless I recognize the number for a while.

*Not her real name

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