• http://www.jamiemchale.co.uk Jamie McHale

    This is exactly what I’m doing today! 

    I think calling personally really helps. It means that you have to have developed an answer to tough questions about what you are doing. It forces you to boil down your core proposition to a few key points that are in line with the customer requirements.

  • Nomnom

    Ah ha, I thought I remembered this from a few months back. Nice article, though.


    • http://www.whitetailsoftware.com Rgraham

      Yeah, you’ve got the right article. This one is from a different perspective and adds some thinking that is further removed from that one experience. I hope you got some new ideas out of it.

      • http://www.johnmcfarlane.me.uk/ John McFarlane

        Robert, out of curiosity, did anyone hang up on you or maybe take your call but appear hostile?

        Was making the connections with those people more important to you at the time? I mean more important than selling at that time.

        • http://www.whitetailsoftware.com Rgraham

          I never got real hostility. I’ve talked to a few people who made it clear that they weren’t interested and did so in a hurry, but no one was rude.

          I was doing customer development for a new product idea in that industry.

          • http://www.johnmcfarlane.me.uk/ John McFarlane

            I imagine that it helped somewhat because i think that even just one person being rude could scare some people from making more calls temporarily.

  • Chris

    Best and most cost effective advertising I’ve ever done was cold calls… I’ve done it maybe three times in my life and had more than eight years worth of work from it…

  • http://twitter.com/SmartSoftMarket Smart Soft Market

    Robert, great to see your approach getting more coverage here.

    It’s refreshing to see “old-school” techniques still work. A post-modern approach to social network… Pick up the phone and talk

    And I love the honesty about creating excuses to yourself

  • Billsahiker

    “Some niches are perfect for AdWords, but many are not.” How to determine if my niche is suitable for AdWords.

    • http://www.whitetailsoftware.com Rgraham

      You’ll probably have to test it to know for sure. Reading http://blog.asmartbear.com/get-first-customers.html is a good starting point.

      If you know your ideal customer, they are online, they search for the problem you are solving, you know your life time value of a customer, the competition for your keywords is low, your product can be sold solely online, and you can afford consistently using AdWords as a channel for months…your niche is about perfect for AdWords.

      • Billsahiker

        If I know all those things I should be able to get high positions through SEO alone. I am on page 2, occasionally on page 1 so I am thinking I dont need AdWords

        • http://www.johnmcfarlane.me.uk/ John McFarlane

          As long as good rankings are for keywords that work, keywords that bring in the right traffic that actually converts at some point.

          The keywords could be spot on, then the landing page could let you down, similar situation in PPC.

          So much experimentation necessary i would say.

          • Billsahiker

            “experimentation” is spot on I think. And the amount of resources that consumes may be what kills a lot of AdWord campaigns. My guess is that hiring a highly experienced and skilled AdWords consultant (I am not one, but am looking for one) pays off, provided basic criteria are met as Rgraham pointed out

  • Anonymous

    Robert, thanks for sharing this – really liked the way you changed your approach with the experience from every call you made!

  • aleks barilko

    This approach sounds like a great leveraging of personal and business ego. Any good sources for structuring these types of effective cold call scripts?  

  • http://twitter.com/TheDaveCollins Dave Collins

    I agree that AdWords is hellishly complex, but we make it work very well for our clients. Saying that B is better than A based on your own experience of A is far from accurate. If we handled your A you’d feel quite different!

    • http://www.whitetailsoftware.com Rgraham

      You do realize that you just claimed A was better than B based on your experience of B, right?

      That aside, I’m happy to admit that AdWords can work great and I’m not the best person to make it work for you (or me). I think people should try lots of things. Who knows what will stick? Most startup founders these days are probably trying AdWords before cold calls.

    • Anonymous

      Adwords is way too complex and managing it correctly takes a lot of analysis and research and time. In certain contexts, its the best thing to try. However, in certain contexts, cold-calling is the best thing to try. If you want to develop a really personal relationship with customers and your product is geared towards that type of personal relationship, its great to call people directly. A lot of companies also focus on SEO efforts or social media. I know that a lot of businesses are using some of the services listed at http://www.buyfacebookfansreviews.com to try and reach out to potential customers because of how important Facebook has gotten in peoples lives. Regardless of what you choose, you should measure the ROI and figure out if something is actually worth it or not. Cold calling can be great, and its relatively cheap (if you already have leads) but it can also be stressful if you haven’t got the personality type for it and that might not make for a successful business strategy. I think that the idea of calling people and offering them something for free is a good strategy because often-times when you get a call from somebody asking for money you think of telemarketers and are likely to hang up. That is the best approach I have but its still not always a great one. Still, depending on what business you’re in, it may very well be the best possible strategy.

  • http://erica.biz ericabiz

    For further reading on this topic, here is the best book I have ever read on cold calling. Sounds like the author of the post in particular (and anyone else who wants to cold call for success) would get a lot out of this book:


    • SFBay11

      Thanks, I just bought it on Amazon and downloaded to my iPhone.

      • http://www.VanToai.com/ Alan VanToai

        Nice try, Erica ;)

  • http://clicktoast.com DP

    Thanks for sharing your experiences.  I think you make a good point in that startups shouldn’t overlook picking up the phone and speaking with potential customers.  There’s a lot to learn there and the time investment might very well make sense at that early stage.  

    As a PPC consultant, I have built numerous Adwords campaigns.  I know that some products/services may be more suitable to convert through PPC, and I work with my clients to set those expectations.  My initial reaction to your article is … why silo these two specific tactics against one another as an either/or?  Use your cold call learnings to optimize your PPC keywords, ads, and landing pages.  Stick with PPC long enough to use the conversion data to refine your cold call approach.  Over time PPC will show you what phrases, locations, and topics tend to convert better.  Use that information to alter your call scripts, prepare for certain objections, or even determine what areas of the country to call first. 

    Structuring an Adwords account correctly upfront is extremely important, but I’ve found that it’s the optimization of the account over time that allows you to eventually achieve a CPA/CPO number that makes sense for your business.  And, you can use the data you collect through PPC to potentially improve your other channels … email, display, print, etc..

    Thanks again for sharing!


  • http://www.johnmcfarlane.me.uk/ John McFarlane

    On the subject of cold calling, do you Robert or anyone else worry about any negative effects of it? Like the risk of annoying enough people with unwanted calls to the point that it could create a bad reputation for a product/service that is in the very early stages.

    I read your results as positive, but i imagine that cold calling although very different to using PPC could be done quite badly by some people and you only get one chance to make a first impression.

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  • Peter Borden

    “After some dismal results and a $150 spend I had nothing to show for it.”

    $150 is not nearly enough to properly test the viability of your adwords efforts. For statistically significant results, I usually aim to spend $500 at least on testing.

  • Robert Cavezza

    I don’t subscribe to any blog, but I just subscribed to this one.  What a great post – it goes to the the importance of qualitative feedback in a startup’s early stages.  To be honest, a startup should not be doing activities that scale at this stage, they should be doing activities to see what they are doing wrong and get as much customer validation as possible.  

    You really need to work your ass off to get the first 5-10 customers.  If you can’t do that, you have problems and you may need to pivot.  

  • http://twitter.com/jpJeremy Jeremy Powers

    I learned the value of scripting introductions and voicemails the hard way. You quickly memorize the basic message, and it sounds natural within a day. 

    Great article. Add a series of personalized letters before you make the call, and your sales rate will improve. 

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  • http://www.facebook.com/randy.zeitman Randy Zeitman

    You learned a hard lesson fast, that ‘offering’ isn’t about giving them (objective) value but about (subjective) validating because you’re in a service-niche, you’re selling trust, not trinkets.

    When you wanted to find out more you were essentially playing a customer role.   Same if you were calling seeking folks to become beta testers – big potential payoff for them, easy access to whatever you wanted to put in the survey for you.

  • http://giffconstable.com giffc

    enjoyed the post Robert. I remember back to a sales training class when we each had to practice a 30-second voice mail and then give it to the rest. We all thought we, as individuals, sounded artificial, but then realized that no one else did — they just sounded organized. Then we realized that we probably sounded organized and not artificial too.

    and thumbs up on the blog strategy. that has worked well for me too.

  • http://www.web-hosting-service.in/ web hosting service india

    I never got real hostility. I’ve talked to a few people who made it clear that they weren’t interested and did so in a hurry, but no one was rude.

  • Anonymous

    Really great article.  I’ve previously had a similar problem with Adwords and I even paid someone to set them up.  Despite an odd day one spike the meaningful traffic always tailed off and because there was no customer interaction it was hard to understand what was happening.  Adwords can seem easy but it’s not and as you rightly point out there are other options that well executed can be of real value to your business for more than just sales.  Is Adwords too saturated to work without deep pockets?  Are we entering a post Adwords world?

    • http://blog.asmartbear.com Jason Cohen

      AdWords can still work for some people. Also as the gross profit of a customer increases — and therefore the cost of customer acquisition is allowed to increase — they become plausible even if they’re not particularly efficient.
      But it seems that by definition it will become harder and harder to find a “deal” on AdWords because more people enter and bid. There are other factors at work, but in general the average price of a keyword will go up.

      • Anonymous

        Perhaps another way to say it is that we might be at the end of seeing the hype around Adwords being the magic marketing solution.  I’ve been at seminars were some pretty well known entrepreneurs basically said that key word advertising (adwords etc) were the be all and end all of marketing and there wasn’t any need to look much further.  Oh and it was the cheapest method possible.

        What I liked about your article is that it grounded the discussion.  And it reminds startups that there are other reasons to get out and do some face to face relationship building. 

        • http://www.johnmcfarlane.me.uk/ John McFarlane

          Are those, including yourself Startup_Lunchbox using any paid tools for keyword research when experimenting with adwords or are you only using googles free tools?

  • http://twitter.com/reflectionsoft Manoj Shinde

    Cold calling is the only thing I have not tried yet for my invoicing software. But after reading this post, I am sure to make it happen.

    Thank you for the post!

  • http://twitter.com/99launches 99Launches

    I have lot’s to say but in the my short time I will just have to say Great Post!! I can not say nearly enough about how important personal relationship is! Business success is secondary.  We need to develop personal relationships because these are the things that can also help us when times are bad! Nice out of the traditional box approach…A+!

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  • Roger Hamilton

    Roger Hamilton
    Nice article, i would like to add that in these ever evolving times people need
    to learn from how  Social entraprenures bring about a real change to real issues by
    recognising the opportunities that lie within failures

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  • Anonymous

    I am about to start doing cold calls for my first time ever. I am not sure how much of this is immediately useful other than the obvious script, measure, rethink process. That said, I imagine I can come back to this in about a week and learn a bunch about how I screwed up.

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  • http://www.adamlehman.us AdamLehman

    Fantastic post, not just for start-ups but for sales pros. I’m in sales & marketing and the key compaint is often that hot-leads aren’t pouring in the doors. Too often we don’t see cold-calling as an ultra-personal lead-generation-mechanism. We can learn so much from prospects and the market that simply isn’t possible via online interactions. 

    FWIW: I’d suggest both. Our company leverages a “push-pull” methodology of “pushing” with cold-calls alongside strong internet marketing “pulls.” 

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  • SFBay11

    This was the perfect post at the perfect time for me.  I spent the past 3 weeks building out the ideal landing page for site that sells an an online technical training program for sales operations analysts.  The earlier feedback I received from a survey I hosted on a LinkedIn group for sales operations managers indicated that this could be a needed service that is currently under-utilized. 

    Over the past few days of intensive analysis of my AdWords and AdCenter campaigns, there is just no getting around the fact that this type of training is so ahead of the curve and has such limited search impressions, that no amount of tweaking my AdWords “quality score” or maximum CPC is going to produce the immediate income I need.  Thank you for confirming my suspicion.

    I have also licensed a telemarketing list from the Silicon Valley Business Journal and can filter it by relevant industry and begin a highly targeted telemarketing campaign.  I’m quite sure that by using your suggestions in this article, that the telemarketing effort will be much more successful than AdWords could ever become.  In addition to telemarketing, I’m also going to place ads in eZines that are specific to sales executives; publish a YouTube demo on my training that will link to my landing page.  All of these efforts will be supported by Google search – just not AdWords.

    I guess the point is that if you have a specialized product or service with very little search activity, you may be much better off by using telemarketing or other highly targeted method. Google AdWords and Microsoft AdCenter position themselves as the end-all, be-all of generating business on the Web. Given how expensive it has become to use AdWords, the increasing complexity with “Quality Score” calculations, and the poor ROI in time and effort, I’m now considering shorting GOOG, which is currently at $621.

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  • http://www.bookmorebrides.com/ Steph at Book More Brides

    Love this insight into thinking like a customer!  I absolutely hate the sales pitch, but I love the win-win relationship.

    Thanks for sharing in a clear, actionable way.

    By the way, we’d love to feature some of your business tips on our blog.  :)  Seriously!

  • http://www.pedraopvc.com.br/ Construcao

    Very nice post. This encouraged me to start cold calling again!

  • http://twitter.com/lylemckeany Lyle McKeany

    Cold calls can be tough to make yourself commit to, but they can provide some rewarding results. When you convert a sale from start to finish on your own, it feels great.

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  • http://www.techship2038.com/ Lap @ techship2038.com

    Great post.  You went through the same realizations that I did when I did cold calling!  Great to know someone else out there went through the same thing. 

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  • Rickyh

    So how did your product turn out?

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  • Jon

    Cold calls are as ridiculous as sending out postcards or advertising in the newspaper. They have the same problem — the customer is not actively looking for your product or service; if they were, they would have already found more than enough people to sell it to them. As you alluded to, Adwords must be done properly to work. And yes, it is very complex these days. $150 trial, got a nice laugh on that one ;)

    • wfjackson3

      I have to completely disagree with you. When you are trying to evaluate a new product, cold calls are one effective way to do it. In the context of a startup that is trying to learn, cold calls can be incredibly useful in the search for meaningful feedback and early users.

      Nobody here is advocating aggressive sales techniques or shady scripts meant to manipulate people. On the contrary, in the rare instance that someone doesn’t want to talk to me at all, I just apologize for interrupting them and move on.

  • Pankaj

    I can attest to your results as I too found this to be a fantastic strategy.

    To connect with certain people in my target market, I wanted to get to know them first. So I started a blog (professional design) and populated it with some excellent content. Then I contacted people I wanted to connect with for a telephone interview (mostly via email) in return for exposure to their business or the personal brand on my website. Acceptance rate: very high.

    This allowed me to talk to them before the interview (preparation), during the interview of course and then afterwards (to thank them). In many cases, I also got their direct line & personal email address etc so I can contact them direct in future, hence bypassing any gatekeeper.

    So, in my experience a couple hours spent ‘paying forward by helping others’ can be one of the smartest marketing strategies one can use.

    Thinking aloud, this can be an excellent strategy if you want to gain insights into your target market, rather than just to connect for marketing purposes as most people love to share their knowledge and expertise.

  • Liza Smith

    I think calling personally gives a major effect. When I read the blog I put myself as a customer. So I thinks these poits are really worth.

  • Matthew

    This is a great post.

    I don’t think telemarketing is something that will ever stop being relevant any time soon.

    We always need to get from behind our desks and actually TALK TO SOMEONE once in a while if we want to make the sales.

    The phone in the hands of an inexperienced cold caller is a deadly weapon. Never forget it!

    We talk about this more on our forums at http://telecloser.com check us out!

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