Ask an MSP ExpertQ: Our recurring revenue continues to grow, but we are struggling to maintain a steady pipeline. This year, we want to implement a stable cold calling plan. Do you have any suggestions to help us be successful? Should we warm up our leads before reaching out to them?

Cold calling is a great strategy to help you build and maintain a healthy sales pipeline. Often, businesses forego this process and instead rely solely on email marketing. With email marketing, it can be difficult to catch your prospective customer at a good time. Not to mention reaching the right person, with the right messaging, at the right time. However, when done correctly, cold calling can help you build rapport with prospective clients, understand their unique needs, and ultimately cut to the chase.

To dive deeper, we spoke to Carrie Simpson, the founder and CEO of Managed Sales Pros. Managed Sales Pros is a lead generation firm dedicated to providing new business opportunities for MSPs. Drawing from her extensive background and experience within the IT channel, Carrie shared some best practices and advice to help you achieve better results with your cold calling efforts.

You don’t need to warm up a cold call

The beauty of cold calling is that you don’t need to warm up your leads before reaching out. You might feel compelled to send an email beforehand, but if you think about the security space, we are educating people to be wary of emails from someone they don’t know.

For example, at Managed Sales Pros, we work with a company that provides security awareness training. They vigorously train our team to not open unsolicited emails, because that’s often how bad things happen. As IT providers continue to train their customers to not open emails, email marketing is becoming less and less effective. However, one thing is for sure, it’s much harder to get a computer virus from picking up the phone.

Cold calling is about finding the opportunities you didn’t know you wanted. If you look at any market that cold calling would work in, there’s multiple opportunities waiting to be uncovered. Often, prospects are not coming looking for you. However, if you plant the seed in their head, they are more amenable to the idea when a problem arises.

It takes a lot of calls to make an appointment

To find these ‘hidden’ customers, it takes a little bit of luck and a lot of volume. When I started my telemarketing career, it used to be 100 calls for every deal, but now you need to make close to a thousand calls to get the same result. Phone calls don’t connect to contacts as often, so it goes a lot faster. You might be making a lot of calls, but you aren’t having as many conversations.

At Managed Sales Pros, we measure our team’s effectiveness daily. To get better results, we look at the number of calls made each day, the time between dials, the number of appointments, and how many people attended the appointment. Based on this, we have a score card to incentivize our employees based on their successes — rather than bad meetings or wasted dials.

Cold Calling is getting harder — it takes more dials, conversations, and meetings to convert customers. One thing that we noticed when analyzing our data is that the people we were cold calling weren’t on our radar to begin with.

So, what does this really entail? Suppose that you need to make 3,000 calls to win a deal. If you can make 20 calls each hour, that’s 150 hours of calling. Divided by four weeks, that’s a full-time job. What type of business owner has that kind of time? None of us.

That’s just to get one opportunity. So how can you get more? It is important to figure out what simple things you can automate that won’t affect your personal relationships. For example, you might look for something that can help you dial faster, so instead of making 20 calls an hour you can make 25 — rather than looking for something to automate your emails. There is nothing worse than having a personal conversation with someone and then being put into a templated email.

Stand out from your competition with personalization

There are moments that can set you apart from other companies. Personalizing an email after having an interaction, shows your prospects that this wasn’t just a conversation for you — it was a connection. To take this one step further, I often send people gifts in the mail. For example, I once sent a wheelbarrow because it came up in our conversation. While it may seem unconventional, these are the kinds of things that can help you win business!

Let’s be honest, no one wants to share personal information with you — like a family member being sick — and then the next thing they see from you is generic email about backup. Instead of having a conversation and adding them to the drip campaign, look for moments that make you human.

Some companies have become great with personalization, but even with this you need to be careful. I recently got an email that was personalized, and the subject line said something to the effect of “Carrie look at this picture of this cute dog.” I have known this business contact for years and I thought it was funny that he was sending me a dog picture. Naturally I was curious and opened the email — it was a long-form email that was sent to the entire database.

I felt tricked; I send him referrals all the time. I don’t want to keep sending him business if that’s what he does now. Yes, you may have gotten me to open the email, but shouldn’t you be more concerned about how your customer feels at the end of that process?

Part of the challenge is that most marketing teams have benchmarks that they are trying to achieve. I don’t know who set these targets, but people can visit your website 50 times — it doesn’t mean that they are interested in what you do. Instead, focus on making the buying journey more memorable.

The first call can make a good first impression

Often in cold calling, you run into people who don’t like being sold to. They want to be in control of the sales process and tell you that they will reach out when they are ready. The thing is, selling managed services is a hands-on process. Someone needs to eventually go to their office and sit down with them. They are going to have to like you, trust you, and let you look around the office, so you can quote them effectively.

There isn’t a way to automate selling managed services — it is an involved process. It isn’t like selling software, where the customer can learn about the product, enter in their credit card information, and be done. With managed services, there needs to be an interaction. The more charismatic you are and engaged you sound on the phone, the funnier you are, and the easier the process will be. This all starts with the first call!

With a little effort and injecting personality into your approach, cold calling can be a great way to build better business relationships. By following Carrie’s advice, you can take something that could be robotic and monotonous and turn it into an enjoyable and memorable experience.

Photo: Gift Habeshaw / Unsplash

Lauren Beliveau

Posted by Lauren Beliveau

Lauren is a content and product marketer with several years of experience in the IT channel. She has created and developed content that helps managed service providers grow their business, and has written many articles featured in SmarterMSP’s The MSP’s Bookshelf and Ask an MSP Expert series.

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