Updated: Jun 4, 2019
There is only one reason small businesses fail — NO SALES. Without sales there is no cashflow and without cashflow there is no business. Most small business owners and entrepreneurs are not professional sales people, they are better at doing what they are selling, not selling what they do.
Since contractors need to work on their projects they cannot be in 'sales' mode all the time, which results in a feast and famine existence. Creating connections with people who are amazing at sales, connecting people, and referring business is vital to their long term success.
Smile n Dial
My wonky career path has included professional sales, the smile and dial numbers game sales. I was kicking butt good at smilin and dialin, finding the decision maker, and getting in the door to meet. I had no problem making 40-60 dials a day, regardless if the product was Advertising, Online Review Platform, Financial Planning products, or Chinese Pump Jacks and Oil Pipe. I built qualified lists, found business, and even closed sales.
When I was selling pipe & pump jacks, I entered an industry where I had no connections, little knowledge, and no support system. Still, in six months, I had brought 3 multi-million dollar opportunities to the company and completed a sale to an International Oil Company, which I found out later was a rare accomplishment.
Today, I am standing on the cliff edge knowing that the only way my business will succeed is if I get on the phone and make appointments. I know what my ideal audience looks like, I know where to find them, and I know how to build a CRM database to manage these cold leads and guess what —
It’s not the sub zero temperatures that have gripped the Vancouver area that have me covered in ice… It’s fear. OMG – I’m scared to pick up the phone and ask someone to meet me.
How did I go from a kick butt cold calling appointment setter to frozen solid on a cliff’s edge? What’s different?
Well, the product I am now selling is – me – and I’m not confident enough. My confidence took a hit from rejection, broken promises, disappointment, and the other crap life heaped on me in four short years. It started with not being able to find a job and spiralled as my life fell apart in the aftermath. In the end, I had to lose everything I was scared to lose, before I found the path I was meant to be on. As long as I refused to listen to God, fate, life, the Universe, whomever you call that force, and kept fighting to find the security I wanted to give my children, I failed to find it. In the end, my children had enough of all my failure and financial uncertainty, so they went to find it for themselves, leaving me to find my own path.
That path was self employment and since I found it, doors have been opening instead of closing. Still, I have to sell myself.
Selling myself, sounds so dirty, like I should have a 1-900 number or be working some corner in the DT Eastside of Vancouver. I know I’m not the only woman to have an issue with self confidence and selling her services in a crowded marketplace. It’s one of those things we were taught not to do as young girls – “Don’t be too loud.” “Don’t toot your own horn.” “Don’t be so full of yourself.” Little boys were to cultivate confidence, we were to cultivate coyness and virtue.
I know I’m good at what I do. I know I’m smart enough. I know I’m qualified. I know I have the credentials. I know that I work hard to ensure my clients succeed. I know I have a service Independent Professionals need at a price they can afford - I know all of this and more –
Yet, I don’t want to hear “NO” when it comes to selling myself, because what I hear is, "you aren't good enough." When those who love you have left you floundering alone, have thrown you aside, and abandoned you to your fate, you tend to build a wall so high and so thick you cannot interact with the world around you, because you trust no one.
Sales takes trust in others. You have to trust that others will hear you, will want to see you, and will chose to walk with you. When your product is you, the rejection becomes personal and that wall gets higher, thicker, and lonelier.
The Big Thaw.
It's time to get over myself and stop coming up with excuses about why I can’t get on the phone and start calling my target market. It’s the only way small businesses can start, by knocking on doors and making calls. By making connections with others.
The first step is identifying who I want to meet, briefly researching them to determine why I want to meet them, finding their contact information, and then entering it into a CRM. The key to getting an appointment is to not sell myself or my services on the phone, the only thing I want to sell is the appointment, so I have to have a good reason to meet with me.
Researching to find out why I want to meet someone is easy, figuring out what benefit they would get from meeting me can be tricker. I don't want to insult them by saying I can do a better job of their website, they might have done it themselves. I don't want come across as arrogant by saying they should know me because I'm great.
This is where social media and research come in. Who do they know? What events do they go to? What are they posting on social media? What do their reviews say about them? Did they get a bad review about something I can fix for them? In my case, I can help them manage their online reputation, so if they are getting lots of bad reviews, they may be interested in talking to me about how to fix that issue.
Too often sales professionals and business owners hide behind researching and dive too deep to avoid picking up the phone. As soon as you find common ground, a reason for them to talk to you, - pick up the phone. If you can't find anything within 5 minutes, pick up the phone and ask if they have time to connect.
Cold Calling Tips
To be successful at smiling and dialing, the best thing you can do is warm up the lead.
Leave a voicemail with your name and say you'll call them back. You don't want them to call you back because they will always call when you're doing something else and if you're making a lot of calls, you won't remember who they are when they call, not a good first impression.
Tell them you'd like to talk to them about something you know their company is doing or a point you read in a press release or blog post.
Connect with them on social media by commenting on their posts. Liking is not enough to get noticed.
Connect with people who might know them. You never know who will be able to introduce you to your next ideal client.
Send an email to their business - but only one - don't spam the hell out of them. Find a reason to email them, like asking a question. I found your email address at -- and I was wondering if you could help me find the person in your company who is responsible for --. Follow up a with a call a few days later.
SMILE. Stand up walk around and smile. Be happy. People want to talk to people who make them feel good, don't over do it, be authentic and friendly.
What problems have you encountered cold calling? Post them in the forum and I'll see if I can find you an answer to help you.
The Time is Now and Now is the Time.
Other ideas to connect with your ideal audience:
I advertised free brainstorming sessions on certain days through social media and event sites. People came to me to talk about their marketing obstacles. This increased my confidence and helped me to find cheerleaders and champions who introduced me to people and opened up doors that I never knew existed.
I started going to networking groups, events, and organizing my own events to find connectors who love putting people together.
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Shannon Peel is a Professional Marketing Manager and Storyteller. Her company, MarketAPeel, helps Professionals define their personal brands and tell their story through different channels, including writing their book.