Monday means it’s time to open up the ol’ mailbox!
Once a week I dig into my inbox for YOUR questions about marketing, selling, productivity, business, copywriting, and any other topic that I think will make for a great Breakthrough Marketing Secrets issue.
To add your question to the queue and get it answered in an upcoming Mailbox Monday, simply email me at [email protected].
And now, for today’s question!
How to cold-call without sounding like a chump!
I’m taking advantage of this! (Plus it’ll hopefully help others that are too scared to ask the question.)
I have several companies I want to target for my services. I have their info, and I have ideas that could help them with their web copy and conversions, but I don’t want to sound like every other cold/warm email that lands in their inbox with the line “Hey, here’s how I can help you grow your business.” (cringe)
What’s your suggestion for getting around this and to land the appointment to consult?
First, I want to say that by asking the question, you’re probably 10 steps ahead of everyone you don’t want to look and sound like…
For the most part, my experience with the kind of people that make you cringe is that they don’t think about the other person.
— They don’t think about how they’ll be perceived.
— They don’t think about the impression they’re going to make with that lookalike email.
— They don’t think very much at all!
They simply adopt the classic selling attitude of “it’s a numbers game” and email dozens, scores, hundreds, even thousands of so-called prospects, just hoping that someone will respond.
They all sound alike because, in effect, they ARE all alike.
Because there’s no thought that goes into it, the recipient feels like the message isn’t really for them, and so the sender is as easily dismissed as any other non-relevant spam.
Quick comparison: Jobs sites like Monster.com, Indeed, etc.
When I worked for that IT training company, I ended up being involved in the hiring process. I’d write and sometimes post the job descriptions, and for some jobs I was the “first line of defense” sifting and screening the applications we received.
The vast majority of applications that came in through those sites were from people who basically just clicked the “apply” button. That is, they already had a generic resume stored on the site, they scrolled through the listings for ANYTHING that looked interesting, and when they saw a job they might be interested in, they clicked “apply.”
So we got a generic resume, that often didn’t feel like it had anything to do with the job we were hiring for. (We deleted all of these right away.)
Contrast this with my application at the same company. I had a generic resume, that didn’t qualify me for the job. But I knew that. And I still thought I could excel in the job. So I wrote a cover letter that acknowledged my lack of experience, and promised to out-work anybody else to more than make up for my shortcoming as an applicant.
Which would you rather have? Generic 1-click application, or someone that obviously spent a good amount of time thinking about the job, and how they could be a fit?
(I got the job, helped them make millions, and launched my marketing career starting with that cover letter.)
I hope you get the point of that. The more you show you think about each person you reach out to, the more likely it is that you won’t look like everyone else reaching out to them. If you have a high-dollar offer (as most consultants and copywriters and service providers who read BTMS do), it should most definitely be worth the time invested to think about them a bit and customize your introduction before you reach out cold.
There’s even more you can do — and ways to add scale and speed to this as well…
You need a “feeder system” to give your best prospects something to respond to as a way of expressing interest…
Dean Jackson often uses an illustration of “Make yourself at home,” versus “Would you like a cookie?”
Imagine you have a guest over. You have freshly-baked, delicious homemade cookies in the cookie jar. You want your guest to have one, if they want one.
Now, you could offer up the generic “Make yourself at home,” and they would probably never know to go check the cookie jar.
Or, you could grab a plate from the cupboard, stack it with a few of those cookies, carry the plate to your guest, and as you offer it to them, ask, “Would you like a cookie?”
Which do you think better fulfills your desire to offer the cookie? Which do you think ends up with your guest most likely to take the cookie? I don’t even have to ask!
The question becomes: What can you put in front of your best prospect to make it easy, obvious, and appealing to get them to take your desired action? What do you need to offer? What do you need to ask?
The best answer: Easy-to-consume, ultra-relevant, useful information that meets them at the point they’re at in the buying cycle (often, if cold-calling, at “haven’t even started shopping and maybe not even thinking about it, but may be interested”), and brings them one big step forward in terms of working with you.
This falls under the category of education-based marketing.
One of my favorite tools here is a book. Because a print book has so much built-in credibility that it will instantly set you apart from all other providers in your market.
What if you reached out and said, “Can I send you a free copy of my book on how to create web pages that convert in XYZ industry?” Even better, add: “I’ll make sure to flag a couple ideas in it that I believe could be really useful to helping you turn more visitors into buyers on your website.”
Sounds like “Would you like a cookie?” to me…
You’re not saying, “Can I sell you my copywriting services?” You’re offering to send them a book with helpful, useful information on how to solve the problem you are an expert at solving (without necessarily saying that the conclusion of the book is you should really hire someone a lot like the author — you — who is a professional at this and who knows what they’re talking about).
Alternately, you could package much the same information as you’d put into the book into a webinar, and offer that.
There are advantages and disadvantages to a webinar, but they can be very effective. (You can also then transcribe and edit the webinar into a short book!)
Whether you’re doing a book, a webinar, or some other piece of content, I recommend mapping it to the PAISA formula: Problem, Agitate, Invalidate, Solve, Ask. It’s a natural narrative arc that starts with the problem they want to have solved, and ends with the fact that you have a great offer that can solve it for them.
You can also supplement the core narrative with content that follows these basic ideas:
— ## Traps/Pitfalls/Mistakes
— ## Best Practices
— Real Secret Behind X
— #1 Trick/Tip to get X Result
— Origin Story
— “Find Yourself Here” Case Studies
One area to highlight: the Tools, Guides, and Checklists…
If you build, for example, a scorecard to help someone self-evaluate, let’s say, the quality of copy on their web pages… Don’t leave that buried on page 63 of your book. You can make that available separately, and offer it in the first email, with the book.
People LOVE instant-use tools like this, and it engages them with your message in another way that doesn’t require them to read a book or sit through a webinar. It’s a great first point of engagement, and it should be built in a way that makes your ideal clients want to go deeper.
The tool can refer to the book, which you’ve just offered for free, and all of it points toward you as the leading service provider for services like yours, serving businesses like theirs.
One more layer: don’t forget to make it personal…
The additional layer that you can add to offering your educational piece, when approaching high-value clients, is to make an actual observation based on their business, industry, personal online posts, etc., depending on what’s relevant and public. This lets them know you actually did your homework. Since most people don’t do the work, this immediately sets you apart!
Now, at this point, I’ve already fully delivered on how to cold-call without sounding like all those other chumps…
But can I take it a little bit further? I have two more points, and I promise I’ll make them quick…
Don’t push, pull…
If you’ve done it right, your best prospects will engage with your education-based marketing, and really start to see a need for your services.
They will need, want, and desire what it is you offer.
Because your education-based marketing:
- Showed them that you understand their problem,
- Really agitated the feeling around leaving that problem unsolved or addressed in an inferior way,
- Invalidated other solutions that didn’t solve the problem as well as your highest-and-best solution,
- Presented the criteria for an ideal solution, that also serve as buying criteria to choose you over all the other options they have available to them in the marketplace, and
- Asked them to take action by reaching out to you.
This last bit is about the ask. At this point, if you’ve done it right, you’ve positioned yourself as a leading expert on solving that one problem. You’ve established your authority clearly and completely.
If they have the problem, they probably want you to solve it.
Now, the last thing you want to do at this point, is chase them around trying to sell them over and over and over again. Because if you managed to succeed before in not looking like the chumps, switching to full-on pestering-salesperson mode will put you straight back into the chump camp.
So, the “ask” in your education-based marketing piece and in any follow-up communications MUST be around a consultation…
NOT to determine whether you are a fit for them…
TO MAKE THEM PROVE THAT THEY ARE WORTHY OF DOING BUSINESS WITH YOU!
(Sorry for yelling, but this is important — and I needed to shock you out of your reading trance!)
If they went through all of the above and they’re still interested in you, they think they’re a fit — that they need you to solve their problem.
Now, you need to have a consultation in place where you have a set of questions you ask them, to make sure they are a fit for your services.
Make them get on the phone with you. You’re in charge. You ask the questions, to help you figure out if they’re an ideal client. And then, at the end, you dictate (like a doctor making a prescription) what next steps they need to take to move forward. (Including, for those who are not qualified, that they need to not work with you for now.)
Done right, this is the most natural process in the world. You’re the authority. You know what you’re doing. You have a process that will lead to a better business result for them. They need to follow your prescription if they want a better business. When you deliver that message with confidence and integrity, they have a natural drive and desire to want to simply do what they’ve been told.
But that’s as deep as I want to go there. Because this essay isn’t about closing the sale in the consultation, it’s about how to not look like a chump when cold-calling.
So let me rewind to that one very important point where you specifically ask them to get on the phone for the consultation. And reiterate…
Don’t go for the sale, go for the appointment…
One of the biggest flubs I see people make when they cold-call prospects (or cold-email, or cold-whatever) for high-end services is assuming the prospect is a fit. Selling and selling and selling, without first figuring out whether or not a sale should even take place.
They might NOT be a fit for you. Even if you’ve done your homework and think they are.
And, even more importantly, they’ve already dealt with 1,000 high-pressure chumps with whom they didn’t feel like they had a fit, so even if you are a perfect fit they’re naturally inclined to think you’re not.
So instead of going for the sale right away, make it about finding a fit.
The gist of the conversation is this, “I know I have a ton of value to provide IF I’m dealing with the right business. From what I can tell, I think you’re the right business. BUT, I don’t know. What I do know is that if we get on the phone for 30 minutes, we can get a really good idea as to whether we’re a fit or not. And by the end of that 30 minutes, we’ll have a clear picture as to what to do next.”
You’re not selling them on doing business with you. In fact, you’re telling them NOT to do business with you right away. Which has a strange attraction. And definitely sets you apart from the chumps.
How do you do this?
Well, I’ve run out of room here, but I teach a variation on this kind of appointment-setting in my Networking Secret training that is included with a BTMSinsiders All-Access Pass.
It’s straightforward. It’s easy. And, it’s the most effective way I know to move someone from “good prospect” to “engaged buyer” when selling your professional services including copywriting and consulting.
Integrate the appointment-setting trick I teach there with education-based marketing and a consultative selling approach, and you’ll be booked out as far as you want…
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,