A colleague of mine recently shared an interesting tactic for instantly increasing cash flow.
It’s very low tech.
It’s the phone. And no, it’s not telemarketing.
Here’s what he did: During an afternoon lull in the workday not too long ago, my friend (let’s call him “Joe”) realized he had nothing urgent on his plate that required immediate attention.
So he picked up the phone and called a long-time customer who he’d been playing phone tag with over some minor matter. It was a “B” list kinda task.
During the chat that ensued, however, Joe happened to mention another project he was involved in… and his client expressed immediate interest.
Joe wasn’t pitching the event. Just bringing it up in conversation.
But it triggered a sale.
So Joe made another call, out of the blue, to another long-time customer… and after some brief small talk, brought up the project. That client, too, wanted in, at full price.
No pitch. No hard sell.
Just a casual mention of something coming up.
Joe sat back and considered things. Both of these clients should have already heard about this project… and should have had ample opportunity to sign up previously. There had been email, direct mail, blog postings, etc.
In fact, before the phone calls, Joe had taken it for granted that all his best clients had of course already heard about this upcoming project. He was very thorough with his marketing.
But no. The project hadn’t entered their attention span. Until he brought it up in a friendly phone call.
So Joe picked up the phone again…
Long story short… Joe spent the next couple of hours calling random numbers on his “hot list” of best customers… and grossed something like $51,000 in sales. For a few hours of soft work, just chatting with people he liked and alerting them to the upcoming event.
There’s a couple of lessons here.
The power of the phone — when done RIGHT — is astonishing. Most telemarketing sucks, because it’s impersonal and insulting. Many classic telemarkers live off a fraction of a percentage point in sales, and fully expect to piss off many times more prospects and prior customers doing it. It’s a numbers game… and in some markets (where filling up a list with new prospects isn’t a problem, and losing old customers isn’t a sin), it sorta makes economic sense.
I loathe impersonal telemarketing myself, and take great pride in foiling the best-laid plans of man and machine. (I’ve even said “Sure, I really want to hear about your deal! Hang on just a second…” and then left the phone on the counter while I went on with my day. When the calls really rile me up — cuz they interupt a nap or 30 Rock — I ask to speak to the supervisor, because I know that forces someone in the boiler room get off their fat ass and attend to the call. Then I hang up.)
I have nothing against people who work on phones for a living. I’ve had some great service lately from Delta (big surprise), Southwest (not a surprise), and even the hated cable company. It’s a tough job, because unless you’re just taking orders for product, then you’re dealing with unhappy people who need help or want to complain.
The phone can be a great tool for getting stuff done.
But outbound telemarketing is a vile thing, in my mind. Yes, it can work. So can armed extortion. Doesn’t make it a good marketing tactic.
(Side note: The concept of outbound telemarketing bounces around the small-biz/entrepreneurial scene every few years on a fairly predictable cycle… and suddenly, you start getting pre-recorded calls from your favorite guru’s. It’s interesting for about five seconds, and then it’s just annoying. And I’ve noticed, over the years, that marketers rarely invest in pre-recorded outbound calling for longer than a single project. I think the backlash is too vicious.) (Please leave a comment if your experience is different.)
What Joe did wasn’t telemarketing. Not by a long shot.
Instead, what he did was to reach out and touch a few folks. And it was him on the line, in person and full of personality… not one of his underlings or — shudder — some hired phone goon.
It was a real call.
And it discovered a kink in Joe’s marketing system.
I realize it’s a shock to learn that even your most devoted fans and customers don’t read all your email, direct mail, or blogs. But it’s true.
Every single time I’ve held a seminar… at some point soon after it sells out, I get notes from a few long-time customers disgruntled because they hadn’t caught wind of the event in time to sign up. Multiple emails, letters, blogs, etc… but often, your best customers are also among the busiest people you know… and they aren’t hanging around waiting for another email from you.
Makes you think.
Now, for most successful business owners, the idea of getting on the horn for even a short afternoon spurt is appalling. Especially if you “waste” time shooting the breeze with people.
That’s why the $51,000 in sales — for a little over two hours soft-work — is the punch line of this story.
The bottom line of all business transactions is that every sale you make is a kind of human-to-human interaction. It may be done online, virtually, without a word being uttered or two actual humans brushing up against each other during the entire process of ordering, downloading, and even refunding.
But savvy salesmen know that the human element is always there, regardless. Robots are efficient, but buying decisions are emotional… and last I heard, any empathy you percieve in that recorded voice (“afterward, you may hang up, OR press pound for more options”, like I need her friggin’ permission to hang up…) is completely phony.
If you have a list, you can probably identify the red-hot core of it — where your best and most loyal customers reside.
And if you can honestly say that you — as the owner — are a big part of the appeal of being on your list… then you should consider this lesson carefully.
No, you can’t spend every day chatting on the phone. That’s not Operation MoneySuck.
But every so often… perhaps even on a semi-regular basis… a few hours spent reaching out and touching could be very, very lucrative.
Something to consider.
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