Cold calling—those two words alone are enough to send shivers down the spine of the most hardened Managed Service Provider (MSP) business owners. You can face a Windows Server rebuild or a total network meltdown with no problem, so why does picking up the phone spark fear for so many MSPs?
When you’re looking to acquire new clients for your MSP business, you have literally dozens of effective marketing strategies you can use.
Business networking and referrals, joint venture partnerships, direct mail campaigns, newsletters and free report distribution, website marketing and SEO promotion, social media… there really is no shortage of options when looking for tested, proven methods for marketing your business to prospective new customers.
However, one strategy stands apart from all others as being able to produce faster results and is capable of bringing in greater volumes of new prospects for far less money than any other marketing strategy available.
That marketing strategy is cold calling.
And yet, while it stands apart as being faster and cheaper than any other method, it’s also known to be almost universally feared.
In an informal survey of approximately 1,800 IT consultants and MSP business owners about which method of marketing was their least favorite, the vast majority responded, “cold calling”. When asked why, the answers were almost always the same:
However, when asked how many cold calls these respondents actually made, very few of them had made over 100 calls. Many never made a single cold call—not once, not EVER.
Clearly these are the excuses given not by experienced telemarketers, but by those who are afraid to try.
If you speak to anyone who’s actually done cold calling long enough to get past the initial fear (which doesn’t take long at all), they will tell you that while you can run into the occasional rude person, most folks are actually quite pleasant—even if they aren’t necessarily interested in what you’re offering.
Cold calling for MSPs doesn’t have to be uncomfortable at all. And if you give yourself the chance to discover this, you’ll find that the results you can achieve can be quite astounding.
All it takes is keeping in mind five basic strategies:
When you pick up the phone to cold call a local business owner, you are simply calling to let them know of a service you offer which may benefit them.
Your goal when making a call isn’t to twist someone’s arm into hearing you out or to talk until you're blue in the face trying to convince this prospect why you’re so fantastic. Your goal isn’t even to try to make a sale.
The goal of your initial cold call is simply to introduce yourself and determine if there’s enough interest from the prospect to continue the conversation or set an appointment for a later discussion.
If this person has any frustration with computer problems, there’s a good chance they’ll want to continue speaking with you. If this person isn’t 100% satisfied with his or her current consultant, they’ll speak with you. If they have someone in-house but are considering outsourcing their IT, they’ll speak with you.
If there’s an interest, the sales process will continue.
If not, at the end of the call it’s a good idea to ask their permission to stay in touch—would they mind if you sent them an occasional email that they’d find valuable, for instance. You can then continue the conversation another time, and base it on the information you’ve already gathered.
If they say no, you simply thank them, tell them to have a nice day, and move on. If they’re not interested then you should not waste time trying to convince them about anything you have to offer. You only want to spend time talking to prospects who want to speak with you. They’re out there. Just keep calling and you’ll find them.
If you want a better shot at finding prospects who are interested in speaking with you, start by identifying the types of clients you want to serve. What size of company? What vertical industries? What geographical locations?
A computer consultant cold calling an owner of a small accounting firm will have a much better chance of engaging in a conversation if he can specify that he’s a computer consultant specializing in supporting accounting firms with fewer than 50 employees and happens to be located just a few blocks away.
The best way to find highly targeted prospects is by acquiring a good list. You can purchase a list from many reputable list providers. If you’re located in the US, you can access the excellent ReferenceUSA database. It’s available free of charge at your local library, and contains statistics and contact information for over 18 million US-based businesses.
Cold calling prospects who are pre-sold
Wouldn’t it be great if you could cold call a prospect and before they ever answered the phone they already knew about your service, knew exactly how it could benefit them, and knew their interest level in speaking with you further?
This is very easily accomplished if you send a well written sales letter prior to making your first cold call.
Let’s stick with the example that you service accountants. You send local accountants a sales letter that describes the services you provide and nicely details all of the great benefits they’ll receive when using your services. If the accountant reading this letter has a potential need then perhaps he'll call you, or perhaps not.
But when you follow-up with your phone call a day or two later… they already know who you are. They know what you’re offering. And they know whether or not they are interested in speaking with you further.
So your follow-up phone call is a very simple, pressure-free one. You should quickly get to a response of either “Let’s talk” or “No, thank you.” Either way, your call moves along very efficiently.
Be honest and ask permission
How many times have you been cold called and the caller has said, “Don’t worry, this isn’t a sales call,” before they talk continuously and try to sell you something? How much do you trust that caller, and how quickly do you look for an opportunity to get them off the phone?
Don’t be that person. Try to be honest in your cold call and ask for permission to talk to them—people are much more receptive when you’re upfront and you set their expectations correctly.
It’s my experience that most people will happily give you their permission to take 20 seconds of their time knowing that you’ve given them full permission to end the call afterwards. What’s more, at the end of those 20 seconds most people are happy enough to talk to you a bit more!
Ask open questions
When asking questions, try to avoid those that involve black and white, yes/no answers. Instead ask for their response based on a scale of 1-10.
Using the right words allows your prospect to more easily answer your questions and feel less pressured.
For instance, instead of asking a prospect “Are you happy with your existing IT support provider?” ask “On a scale of 1-10, how happy are you with your current IT support provider?”
Typically, an 8-10 score means they are genuinely happy. But a score of 7 or below means there is definitely room for improvement. You can then ask further questions to understand why they aren’t as happy as they might be.
So now you’ve got yourself in the right mindset to do your cold calls, what else do you need?
There are two things essentially that you need for an effective cold calling campaign: first, as mentioned above, a list of potential clients; and second, a good script.
Getting a list of highly targeted prospective customers can be quite expensive, and there are plenty of reputable providers that will be glad to help you out... for a price. But you don't need to spend much money at all, as long as you're willing to spend a bit more time collecting your prospecting information.
You can visit a website such as manta.com, which provides free prospecting lists. However, you cannot export the lists, so the copy-and-paste process of collecting the information can be quite time consuming.
Another free technique that works well is simply doing a Google search for the industry you're targeting, plus your zip code. For example: law firm 10010. Assuming you live in a fairly populated area, you should easily find hundreds of potential client listings that include contact names, complete addresses, and phone numbers (plus, additional information that will give you a pretty good idea of how attractive the company might be as a client).
Putting your script together might be a challenge if you've never done any selling... and it's a bit of a bigger subject than can be covered in a short article.
However, the primary focus of your MSP cold calling script MUST be to focus exclusively on your prospects’ wants and needs. Find out what their pain is and what problems they want resolved… ask them. Do NOT go on and on about how great of a computer consultant you are. Don't be offended, but no one cares.
To get you started, a good opening line could be:
“Hi prospect’s name? This is Robert. I’m a computer consultant located a few blocks from you. I was just calling around letting some of my fellow local business owners know about our service and seeing if there might be a need… I was wondering if you have computers that you need to maintain and if you might be interested in getting them to operate more reliably.”
Once you invite a response, people want to talk about themselves. Ask questions about their environment, let them open up and they'll give you the queues about what their needs are and how you can help them.
Cold calling as an IT Marketing technique can be scary if you've never attempted it before. But if you allow yourself to break out of your comfort zone for just a little bit, you'll find you're capable of a whole lot more than you might realize. And the rewards are truly worthy of the challenge.
By preparing yourself and using the techniques above, your cold calls should be more fruitful.
By being honest with your caller and asking their permission upfront, you build trust to start conversations.
And by not selling to your callers, but focusing on gathering information, you’ll gain permission to continue the conversation through an appointment or a follow-up call.
However, the most important guideline when implementing cold calling as part of your marketing strategy is to remain persistent! There ARE potential new clients out there who are in need of your services right now, and they will be glad you’ve reached out to them. But you’ll never find them unless you keep calling!