If you’re cold pitching – you’re pitching your story (or your product) to someone you don’t already have a connection with, with the hope that they’ll run your story, or buy your product. Maybe you don’t want them to buy your product right this second, but you want them to attend a webinar or schedule a demo, so you can try to sell them later.
These days, it seems everywhere you look, there’s someone bashing the cold call or pitch. But, I’m here to tell you – it’s not dead. Just like with anything else in marketing, it won’t work if you don’t do it right. It’s the art of good communication that’s keeping it alive.
Let’s take a look at how you can make the cold pitch part of your approach and get those leads rolling in.
It Still Works
Don’t believe me? A survey from DisoverOrg revealed 75% of decision-makers in a business will attend events or take appointment from an unexpected sales call or email. While outbound marketing may be more expensive than inbound, it’s certainly worth considering as part of your strategy.
How to Make Cold Pitching Work for You
Know Who You’re Pitching
Don’t just write a generalized email or phone script and use it for every person you write or call. Take the time to figure out who the best person to speak to is – an editor or a decision-maker in the business is usually your best bet. Use LinkedIn to find their contact information. Spending a bit of time on research allows you to be better prepared – increasing the likelihood that you’ll get a response from the person you’re pitching.
Now’s the time to write that email or phone script.
If you’re writing an email, keep your copy clean, short, and to the point. Skip the industry jargon – and definitely avoid attachments. Despite the fact that many email providers now include automatic virus scanners on all attachments, lessons of the past have taught us not to trust attachments from people we don’t know. Keep the email fairly generalized for template purposes, so it’s easy to edit and personalize for each recipient. If grammar and spelling aren’t your strong suits, have someone proofread the email copy for you before sending it out to a single person.
If you’re writing a phone script, you want to write something that’s easy for you to read in a conversational tone, without sounding like you’re reading from a script once you’re on the phone or leaving a voicemail for someone. Leave room in the script to have a conversation with the person on the other end, because you’re not just an advertisement. Prepare responses for their possible rejections, so you’re not left wondering what to say next, or fumbling over your words. Prepare responses for when they accept your pitch, and prepare messages for when you don’t get an answer. Rehearse it a few times before each call, if necessary.
Find the People You Need
Instead of finding one person at a time, build out a database of the important people who may be interested it what it is you have to offer. Options include:
Attending networking events – exchange those business cards and follow up! Face-to-face networking is still important. There’s something about physically being able to connect a name to a face, read body language, and hear one another’s voices that makes it easier to connect. Even if you’re the more introverted type who would rather make connections online first, and meet face-to-face later, I encourage you to find at least one relevant industry event to attend this year, and see what you can make happen.
If you’re not sure where to find events worth attending, start with Google. Search phrases like: “[city] business networking”, “[city] networking events”. You can also search Facebook for events, and ask your friends there if they know of any relevant events that may be worth attending.
Beyond this, dig through sites like MeetUp, NetParty, EventBrite, and Eventful. You can find all kinds of lesser advertised events in these places – making them a great option if you want to avoid large crowds.
Consider not only events where you’d find people in your industry, but the events where you’d most likely find your target audience. If you want to connect with bloggers and social media influencers across a number of niches, then conferences like Type A-Parent and BlogHer would be worth investigating.
Looking through phone and business directories. Thanks to websites like WhitePages and YellowPages, there’s no need to go looking for a phone book. (Do they even make those things anymore?) But if you want to go beyond phone directories, there are plenty of other places you can look, such as:
- Angie’s List
- Trip Advisor
- Better Business Bureau (BBB)
- Merchant Circle
- Home Advisor (if you’re in this niche, of course)
- Porch (also niche)
- Chamber of Commerce
Harnessing the power of the Twitter search. Twitter has some fairly advanced search features you can use to target just about any user you want. You can search for specific tweets, accounts, and even in ongoing conversations.
Type your search into the box at the top of the page. You’ll be given a lot of results, including tweets, photos, and accounts. You can filter those results by clicking through your choice of “Top,” “Latest,” “Accounts,” “Photos,” or “Videos.”
Clicking on the “More options” drop down will give you those options in addition to “News.” You can pick and choose to see results from all Twitter users, or from only users you follow. You can also choose to search tweets from everywhere, or only those near you. This is particularly helpful if you’re interested in working with local users.
To make things easier for the next time you’re looking for people, you can save your Twitter searches. Just enter your search in the search box, and then click “More options.” Then choose “Save this search.” The next time you click the search box, a menu will pop-up with all your saved searches. This is especially great for seeing the latest activity on a hashtag.
Looking through your competitor’s social media followers. Pick your top three to five competitors and look at their Twitter accounts. You can use a tool like Crowdfire to see people you follow, but aren’t following back. But, another awesome thing it can do is allow you to copy followers from any user name. And, if you’ve already followed someone, you can hide those usernames, if you upgrade to a paid account. This approach lets you grow your following with targeted followers. A word of caution, however, manually look through the followers a bit to make sure they are the kind you want on your account before you copy followers en mass.
No matter how many of these methods you use, do it frequently as contacts often change. You want to keep everything as up to date as possible to save time and make the most of your efforts.
While your first instinct may be to use a spreadsheet, I’m begging you not to. It may seem like it’s the easiest option at first, and maybe it really is. I mean, sure, it only takes opening a file and typing a few things in columns. But, as you scale your database and include more contacts, it’s going to become more complex and harder to manage with just a spreadsheet – even if you have multiple sheets within a single workbook.
I recommend you use a customer relationship management (CRM) platform – there are many out there to choose from, like Insightly, Zoho CRM, Freshsales and Marketing 360. Why? Because not only does it make it easier to keep track of contacts, but it also makes it incredibly easy to do the next step, too. I’m a fan of efficiency, so killing two birds with one stone? Give me some of that. Simply create an account with the CRM of your choice, and enter all the contacts into the system before you get started with the pitches. This way, you already have the bulk of the work done before starting the pitch process, and can come back to add more (or delete) contacts each time you update your database.
Here comes the fun part – sending the emails or actually picking up the phone and making the call. Personalize the scripts you prepared, based on what you know about the person you’re pitching. Have a list of phone numbers ready to go so you can make several calls at once.
Be prepared to spend a bit of time on the phone with someone who expresses interest right away. But, if the conversation gets to be too long, invite them to schedule a time to talk more in-depth, so they can get on with the other things they have to accomplish for the day, and you can move on to your next call.
A few days after the pitch, follow up with anyone who didn’t return your call or email. See if you can schedule a time to speak with them in more detail about the product or service you’re offering. If after the first follow up, you still don’t hear anything, move on – for now. You can circle back around with them in a few months, if you so choose, but you don’t want to bother them too much. If you do, you’ll never be able to close the sale.
Track Your Results
This way you’re not calling the same person 15 times to no avail, but you can keep track of whom you’ve called and left messages for, how many of those people have returned your calls, and how many you need to follow up with again.
You can totally use a spreadsheet here, too, but if you’ve taken the initial time to setup that CRM, all you have to do is make a note in each contact with the date and details of what happened. You can keep details of conversations, so if Jane asks you to call back in two weeks at 2 pm, you can leave yourself a note to do just that – and refresh her memory of the conversation when it’s time to speak again.
Don’t Give Up
Obviously, you’re not going to be able to close every single person you reach out to. Some will outright ignore you – they are busy people and they don’t know who you are. Some will take a few follow ups. The point is, you shouldn’t get discouraged. Keep at it, and you’ll eventually find someone who’s interested in what you have to say.
Practice makes perfect, so keep fine-tuning those scripts and emails based on feedback you get. Over time, you may find small improvements make a big difference in the positive responses you get.
Outbound May Get a Bad Rap, But… It Doesn’t Have To
It’s not exactly easy to start cold pitching complete strangers – and for many people who are doing it ineffectively, it’s much simpler to completely abandon outbound marketing in favor of something with more “guaranteed” odds of working. But with the right research and approach, outbound marketing can bring in a decent number of leads to help boost your profits.
Do you use cold pitching of any sort? Why or why not? Share your thoughts below.