I have spent the better part of my professional career reaching out to prospective customers so I like to think I have a pretty good feel for what works and what does not. Back in the day (this is a relatively recent expression that has become seemingly ubiquitous but I always wonder why?) when I was a young sales guy there were secretaries, assistants and other gatekeepers. Also when I started working there were no individual computers on people’s desks. The old-fashioned letter and the telephone were the primary ways to reach a new prospect.
I heard some of the great excuses about why a prospect could not speak to me. One of the best was when I asked to speak to Mr. Smith the assistant/secretary responded ‘He’s in his office but he’s out of the office.’ Apparently Mr. Smith was a really tricky guy. I knew I needed to refine my approach and did.
Today I am the guy on the other end of the phone when someone calls looking to sell me something or get me to do something. So I respect and respond to a professional and even creative approach. Sadly those approaches are too few and far between.
I don’t have an assistant or (gasp!) a secretary. I never have. I rarely screen my calls. So while I am difficult to reach because of my travel and schedule I do pick up the phone quite regularly having no idea who is on the other end. I have an idea that many people that call me, once they go into voice mail they bail out.
A short summary on the types of cold calls I receive:
1) The young stockbroker – either they call and ask me to hold for someone else (I hang up), or my first name is uttered and the broker goes right into his pitch (I hang up).
2) Someone claiming to know a buyer who is buying businesses similar to mine. I simply ask them what my company does. They never seem to know (I hang up).
3) Other ‘professionals’ try to sell me some product or service. If I am not asked if this a good time or not I give them 10 seconds, then I hang up.
I am hardly averse to be contacted by phone, email or postal or other mail. But keep in mind I may have absolutely no need or desire for your product or service. Ask me if I have a moment to speak or not – more often I will say no but that is a ticket to calling me back at some future date.
Don’t expect me to call you back after you have left me a voice mail in which you did not identify your company or what you calling about. In that instance I NEVER WILL CALL YOU BACK. EVER.
Do – send me a letter suggesting that you will contact me to discuss something you know is relevant to our business.
It’s not that hard folks – just respect the other person’s time.