Michael : Good morning David. Firstly can I really thank you for taking part in this podcast this morning.
David : That’s no problem.
Michael : I’d like to introduce it briefly. It’s going to be slightly different from some of my other podcasts on the subject of cold calling, where we’ve looked at how to successfully make a cold call. This time we’re looking at cold calling from the point of view of a client who is looking for somebody else to outsource their cold calling and what that client can do to make that cold calling campaign successful.
So David, can I just ask you to kick this off by telling our audience a little bit about who you are and what you do.
David : Well, my name is David Regler I’m the managing director of a company called Maine Associates. We’re effectively a new developments business agency, so we provide a variety of outsourcing, business or telemarketing services – Mainly aimed at high end B2B clients. People like technology/software vendors, management consultancies and sort of agencies. In a nutshell we help our clients find new business opportunities.
Michael : OK. There’s been lots of talk about cold calling one way or another recently. What’s your view of cold calling as a route to market?
David : Cold calling is a direct marketing tactic, similar to email marketing or direct marketing – it pushes out into the market. So whether its effective really depends on who you’re targeting, what your offer is, and what you’re trying to achieve. I hear what you say – a lot of people say that cold calling is dead, that it doesn’t work – I don’t tend to subscribe to that. I just think that you have to pick the right tactic.
My view is that where I would advocate cold calling is if you’ve got a high-end proposition, because cold calling and telemarketing isn’t a low-cost route to market. If you’ve got a high-end proposition and you’re trying to push into a market where you’re not a known quantity, so maybe you’re not the top three on their list – then maybe cold calling is the most effective way for you to reach that market.
Michael : OK. Can I just ask you a question based on what you’ve said? If you’re not one of the top three and you call, why should somebody listen to you?
David : Well, that’s all down to having the right offer. Why they should listen to you, that’s an interesting question. One of the things that you’ve got to do is put together a proposition that is compelling enough that they do listen to you. I sort of dodged that one Mike.
Michael : Yes, that’s OK. We will come back to it. Another of these top level questions for anybody that is considering using cold calling or any selling campaign. What do you think are some of the basic differences between something like cold calling or having referrals from current clients?
David : Well, the way that I would put it is that the new business area of actually going out and finding new business as opposed to having a referral coming to you – new businesses are probably about as hard as it gets. So the two differences that I would say are a positive and a negative. The negative side of it is that its more expensive, so if you get a referral from somebody then typically they’re slightly pre-sold on you by the time that they reach you. If you’re cold calling and pushing into a completely cold market it takes a lot of time and therefore a lot of cost to sort of get to that point.
So it is a more expensive option. However, on the positive side of it when you take the decision that you’re going to target specific companies and go out and build a client base you can be much more strategic and pick the type of clients that you want to work with, where as referrals are a bit more random. The best way of describing this is that if you speak to most consultants about their clients, and they may have a fairly desperate set of clients that they work with, if you ask them why they work with those clients, they will invariably give you some version or a referral – so it was Joe Bloggs that I used to work with, and now he’s working with so-and-so, and that’s how they get it.
Which is a great way – and a low cost way. If you’re trying to build a business that goes in a strategic direction, then referrals tend to be a bit more random then branching out and targeting new clients directly.
Michael : I take that a bit as – you’re setting your own direction. If you wait for people to come to you, to some extent you’re waiting for the market to chose. If you’re starting with cold calling you’re actually saying “these are the people that I want to approach with this proposition”, so actually you’re much more in control.
David : Control is the right word because the one thing with referrals is that you have no way to plan. You cant put referrals onto a sales plan and say “Oh, I’m going to get a referral at this time, and I’m going to get a referral at this time.” Where as if you decide to go out and run a campaign, you can -with a degree of accuracy – predict how many opportunities you’re going to get, and how many will go into the pipeline.
So if you want to plan for growth then you really need to plan a direct campaign into the market.
Michael : Another question for somebody who is looking into outsource telephone calling – Why is it that he shouldn’t be doing it himself?
David : Let’s put aside the fact that the reality is that he won’t do it himself, because people hate doing it. Which is one of the reasons that we do quite well with clients. So we’ll put that on one side.
Two main reasons I’d say. One is a positioning factor. If you are doing your own cold calling and you’re trying to get an appointment with a CEO and you have to deal with a PA and you have to work your way into there, than that actually, to me, is a sort of negatively positioned “you” as a consultant. Effectively, if you’re trying to bill yourself as a two thousand pound per day consultant, for example, really should you be on the phone hammering away to a PA? Probably not.
So one thing is positioning. I think that it’s a much better position to have someone in your team doing it for you rather than doing it yourself.
The second thing is experience. As a consultant you’re very good at selling yourself, so you’ll have an inherent expertise in your business, and you;ll show it. Same as if you’re the director of a software company, you know the software better than anyone else, and you’re very good at that – but the reality is that you can offset that by the fact that someone who is a professional in telemarketing or teleselling, or cold calling, that does it for a living, has probably made thousands and thousands of calls and has good an inherent skill set which is very much about getting a meeting – getting a qualified meeting, rather than selling your services saying –
I think where people probably get caught up in this question is that to sell your services you have to understand on a deep level what your services are, which is as a consultant, who may be the right person for that – but however what we’re doing is selling a meeting, for example. To start a meeting you don’t need that level of experience, you need enough to position the company.
And to answer the question that you asked earlier of why they should be seeing you, you have to have answers to those, but that’s about as deep as it needs to go.
Michael : Now we talked about this proposition bit earlier on. When you’re dealing with a new client who you’re going to do some calling for – how do you get them to refine their proposition so that it stands a chance of working?
David : We tend to go through a session that we revise before every campaign. Where we work on this. Again, it’s going to be another duck on an answer, because it really does depend on the market and who they’re going to approach. So for example, in some sectors there’s a fairly well-established buy-in process at the client end, so for example if you take something like a market research company, most research teams for large companies will have a buy-in process where they regularly look to see new vendors to come in and pitch. And our purpose is to get them on the radar, therefore engineering a meeting where it is relatively simple – which is extremely simple – because inherently the clients are open to seeing people.
So our positioning there is more about communicating how our clients are different to the established vendors. So you’re trying to position them against who’s already in there as an average vendor. So anywhere where you’re in a situation where there is incumbent suppliers, it’s important to position yourself against incumbent suppliers – So people understand why they’re seeing you, why they’re different.
If you go in as exactly the same as who they’re already using then the chances are that they’re not going to want to see it.
At the other end of the spectrum are things like new technology companies where really you’re not positioned against any incumbent, because there isn’t actually an incumbent there – And quite frequently people aren’t even aware that there’s a solution. So there its more around talking around a problem that people have. Understanding the problem that you solve, and therefore the communication will revolve around the recognition that they have a problem. And then from that you can build up an opportunity to then go and see them.
So they’re the two ends of the spectrum. Our discussions with clients are really about understanding where their market is, understanding what the buying processes are like – what are the trigger points that people might want to see – And it does change depending on who you’re pitching to. A low-level manager may be interested in looking at a tactical alternative, so maybe a new vendor if they’re got a particular project. Where as if you’re trying to go in through the C-Suite and you’ve got a CEO, maybe you need a more strategic pitch which is more about the long term, which is more about business in the long term.
It depends on who you’re trying to target.
Michael : And a question on a similar vein – How do you help people decide who to target?
David : We tend to look at a few things. One is understanding who your existing clients are. For example, the easiest thing is to look at the people that you’re already doing business with, and are actually good clients, so there’s an understanding there of who you’re doing business with, who you’ve been successful with, and that’s your sweet spot.
The other thing to look at with some companies, we’ve talked about using an outbound campaign as a strategic way of winning new business. You might be looking for companies that are not like your existing clients, maybe they give you a bit more of a diverse portfolio. So for example, you may have a company that is quite heavily loaded with the public sector and actually they want to get more private sector clients on mainly because they’re purchasing cycle is less around budget years.
So that might be an example of what we’re looking to do is to target customers with clients who are in a strategic position to help their business grow rather than looking at their existing clients.
Michael : OK, so it’s a balance of looking at who your existing clients are, but also where you want to go to.
David : Yes. It’s all about the outcome, the objective that somebody wants. So if we’re working with somebody that wants to grow their business rapidly and maybe within four years to be bought by someone else, so maybe they have a plan in mind, then you might want to target clients that are used by their competitors. You might want to get in and mix it up in a competitive space because you’re looking for an acquisition at some point. If we’re looking at somebody that is looking at more of a lifestyle business, they might want to grow it up to be profitable, we may push them into a less competitive market, but one that they can realise higher margins on. A more secure market.
So generally when we’re talking to business owners it’s about their business and where they want to go. And developing their strategy around delivering that objective.
Michael : OK. You talked a lot about objective. Let’s talk briefly on what are some reasonable objectives on a telephone sales campaign to relatively cold customers?
David : We used to have a rule that most of my associates and people that I work with in the same business agree on which is “A deal a day is a reasonable rule.”. So if you do a days worth of activity, than you will get a significant outcome at least once. That might be a meeting, that might be a qualified meet depending on what people are trying to achieve.
The reality will be that the higher up with people that you go means that might be one every two days or every three days and if you’re going to something that is much more targeted, a much simpler proposition you might get five or six in a day, it might depend.
But a deal a day is a nice average to look at. So in our market you might look at higher end solutions. So if we were pulled into a reasonable marketplace and we would expect maybe somewhere in the region of ten to fifteen conversations in a day – so you might have to spend a day making ninety phone calls to get those ten to fifteen conversations – and if out of those ten conversations you get one interested party, that’s a reasonable ratio. If we’re getting less than that we’re wondering if our proposition needs to be beefed up. If we get more than that, than obviously we know that we’re onto a good campaign.
So, even in the tough times that we’ve got now I would say that that’s a reasonable yardstick to look at. A deal a day.
Michael : Moving on from that. You’ve got an appointment for a consultant. How do the good consultants use those appointments? How do the currently less successful consultants use those appointments?
David : When you say “Use” those appointments?
Michael : What do they need to do at their first appointment? You’ve made a cold meeting for somebody – I’m a sales consultant, you’ve made a cold meeting for me – what’s it important that I do when I go to that meeting? What should my objectives be for that first meeting?
David : And that’s an interesting point, because the meeting is obviously only the start of it, and when we work with clients our philosophy is that we’re partnering with clients over a long period of time to drive new business for them. Success for us is not just simply getting a client set up for a meeting. We want those meetings to turn into tangible meetings. And as I’m sure you’ll appreciate our clients want the same. The worst thing for us is when we get our client in for twenty meetings and they dont’ get any business from it, because that really means that ultimately it’s not going to be a long term relationship for either party.
So when we start a campaign I always spend a bit of time with the client, understanding what their sales process or their engagement model is, because we need to make sure that the meetings that we set up fit with the engagement model. So lets just say that an example is a client that is a consultant, their typical engagement model is that they will go in and look for a small piece of work to start a relationship. At an extreme, we could set up a meeting with somebody who just simply wants to see them without any qualification criteria, which makes it much more difficult for the consultant to make an opportunity out of that.
The worst case scenario would be, that a meeting is set up that is completely unqualified, so the consultant has to spend a lot of time turning that into an opportunity. The reality is that that will be a wasted meeting. What we do is that we understand the criteria, and we understand the engagement model and we would understand that the client would have to at least understand the potential project on the horizon within six months down.
That would be a qualifying question that we would use. We would set that meeting up, and then the client would then have an objective for that meeting, which is that they go in and that their objective is to get a small piece of work so that the objective for them is a proposal.
I don’t know if that answers the question.
Michael : It gives us an idea. Let me build on that. If it’s a consultant, and they want to do some work for you – from their point of view what’s a reasonable timescale for a sales campaign, or a cold calling campaign to demonstrate that its working, and what are some of the minimum costs that are involved to make the thing worthwhile?
David : Our engagement model, and the way that we tend to work with clients in that we tend to put together a campaign which is usually a six month pilot. Usually we expect our clients to at least be thinking about that if this is successful then it will run for a minimum of six months. Then built into our pilot are a number of milestones where we need to hit some tangible numbers to hit during that six months. The six month pilot is what we think we need to build up steam, to build up a pipeline, to build up opportunities and to get meetings throughout those six months using that pipeline. But we’d also recognise that if after month two for example that we hadn’t hit that significant number of meetings we would have to refine our business to put our clients in front of people, and that basically there would be no point in continuing.
So, the milestones that we need to hit to continue are aligned with our clients objectives. Generally I think going into it with a six month objective is the right way of going around it. If somebody goes in and thinks “Well, I’ll give them a weeks work and I’ll get loads of business” it’s a bit unrealistic.
The question then of when you would know it was successful and how long it would take really depends on your market, your lead time, and the buying process. Somebody selling a half-a-million pound software solution, they could conceivably have a eighteen month lead time, from getting to somebody that is aware of that they have a problem to getting through the process to get approval and signed off – could take at least eighteen months.
So the clients sales process and our pipeline generation process needs to be linked in. And it needs to be a realistic outcome for both sides. But having said that I worked with – I talked about one marketing agency pipeline – we set them up, and in the first month we got them a meeting and by the half way through the second month they won a RFP and got a piece of work off of it.
So it can happen fast. It’s all about timing really.
Michael : I understand that. But for budgeting purposes, I’m a consultant, we’re going to do a six month campaign – What sort of cash ought I be budgeting for?
David : That’s like asking “How long is a piece of string?”
Michael : I know, but I like asking “How long is a piece of string?”
David : I would say an average monthly fee – and it depends on how many days we put into this, but generally these things don’t scale down to one day a month, they need to have a good four or five days a month. An average monthly fee would probably be about £1500 a month. If somebody is looking at this and they’re saying “OK, £1500 is on average, could be slightly more, could be slightly less, and therefore I’m going to work on this and after six months I’ll have invested 9K and what could be a reasonable outcome from that?
And our view would be – obviously, just off the top of my head, but it’s a reasonable yardstick – is that you might get say four meetings a month that are qualified so over that period in six months maybe you’ve got twenty odd meetings that you’ve been on, the meetings from the first month, if they’re going to turn into business, might turn into business towards the end of the six month period depending on how long the sales cycle is.
So as you’re a consultant that could say “Well, if I could win, (Worst case scenario) two or three clients from a £9K investment.” Then the question is then; how much is a client worth?
If you’re someone that over a reasonable lifetime of a client – If a client could be worth a quarter of a million pounds to you over maybe a two or three year period, then it’s a bit of a no brainer really isn’t it?
Michael : What are some of the characteristics of some of your most successful clients? Or putting it another way, clients that you have been most successful with?
David : It comes down to whoever is going to be doing the meeting, so whoever is doing the development from the client point of view which more often than not, because we tend to deal with smaller companies, tends to be the directors or the principles of the business. They do need to be able to sell. It might sound like a bit of an obvious statement, but our job is about targeting people and putting our clients in the room with the right person – our clients then have to close the business.
So that’s why we spend time understanding our clients engagement process. They have to be able to build relationships, stay in contact with people and win business. And the ones that are successful are the ones that can do that, and if they can win business – this whole discussion we had earlier about investment becomes a bit obvious.
When it doesn’t work is when we put people in front of meetings and they don’t really need business. You’re not going to continue that for very long.
Michael :Let’s go on. Let me ask a similar question. You do lots of cold calling yourself, you employ lots of cold calling people, what are the characteristics of successful telephone sales people?
David : It’s an interesting one. The people that we work with have at least five years of experience in telephone sales or telemarketing. And we’ve got quite a few people that have had decades of experience doing it. The characteristics that I would say that they have, is that generally they are very persistent and organised as far as they can effectively sit down and make sixty calls, and make every call as a potential “hot one” where you have to talk to the prospect and you have to deliver.
Being able to do that requires a certain amount of self discipline and persistence to keep on going. The ones that are successful are the ones that made a note to call back in two weeks time and then called back in two weeks time. The second call is a lot easier than the first one.
So I would say that a lot of the traits that people that are good at it show, in terms of style and approach in the way that they pitch, that is actually extremely varied. I’ve got people that are like chalk and cheese in terms of how they work, but they’re both as effective as each other. So I think that there’s a consistency and persistence that works, and if you’ve been in it for five years and you’ve made thousands of calls, then typically you find a style that works for you.
Michael : A question that I didn’t ask before, but I’m going to ask now because I think it is an important one – Do you call to all levels of people, or is there a limit?
David : You mean the type of people?
Michael : Senior level or – do you have a particular type of preference, a level of seniority where you won’t call people?
David : That’s interesting. It actually fits in quite nicely with what you were saying about what makes people successful in telesales . What I would say is that as a company we are exclusively business for business. Typically our costs are at the high end of the telemarketing spectrum, so we’re not a cheap company. Generally our clients have got to have a decent enough value proposition to make our investment to them justified.
That usually means that we’re calling C-level, senior or mid-managers of big companies. It’s quite funny, seniority depends on the size of the company. Typically we don’t call one-man-bands and small businesses. We tend to call mid-section companies through to large corporates. Arguably a general manager in a large corporate is as senior as a CEO in a large SME for example.
I think generally we’re at the mid-to-senior level. We don’t call consumers and we don’t call small garages and businesses. We tend to call companies where they are large enough to pay for our client services which therefore pays for our services.
The thing I said earlier about how it ties back to our salespeople – We have some people who are very very good at calling at the absolute top levels, like the CEO’s of a major credit card company, they love that type of work. But then you put them into talking to mid-managers which is a completely different approach, lots of dealing with voicemail, there’s no PA and they just don’t like it. It’s completely different. They don’t get enough face-value, if you like.
And then we have some people who are very good at the mid-level and not as good for the top level, and our job is to find the right person for the campaign.
Michael : OK. Something totally different. I know that you’re an NLP master practitioner. How have you found that NLP has helped in what you do?
David : The fundamentals of NLP are about communication, so I don’t think that you could be in this business without -consciously or not – doing some NLP. To me some of the language in patterns are useful when actually doing the cold calling. And the other thing with NLP in terms of state control – if you’re doing this work and you’re taking a lot of control during the day, then state control is very important.
The people that have been doing it for five years must be fairly hardened to that anyway, but I think that there are some NLP things in there that are quite useful.
Michael : We’ve talked quite a lot about the subject of making cold calling campaigns successful. Is there anything that you’d like to add either because we’ve left it out or emphasise because it’s important?
David : Probably whats come out of this conversation in terms of whether cold calling is successful is that I think it can be successful but there are a number of things that you should think about before you start. Whether its understanding your market, understanding who you’re targeting, getting your proposition right for the target market, and then also thinking through the whole process and thinking about after you’ve got the meeting. What do you do next? What’s the engagement process?
That all ties back to having a return on it. I think that we’ve said a lot in terms of planning the process. We haven’t gone into the detail of talking about getting the proposition right is one thing but actually, how do you get a proposition is another. I think that’s generally what we do at the beginning of a campaign with a client, when we have an initial session with them.
Michael : Excellent. To finalize could you give your contact details, and as you’ve given us your advice and opinion for the last thirty minutes, maybe plug what you do a little bit more.
David : Well the website is Maine associates, so that’s http://www.maine-associates.co.uk/
Actually if you go on your website there’s a free report that you can download that does go into some areas of how to make a successful telemarketing campaign. And that’s free to download, so there’s a lot of information on the back of that.
In terms of who we are, I think we’ve covered our approach and what we do. If anybody listening to this is a consultant or they’re a business owner and they’re thinking of starting a cold calling campaign, I’d be very happy discussing their business with them, what they do and see whether they might be a fit for our services.
Michael : Thank you very much for your time David.
David : Thank you Michael.
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