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Danger: Marketers on Sales Calls
Crossing to the dark side
Running acquisition at an early stage startup is not for the faint of heart.
You can rely on what you know, sure. But mostly, you consistently push the boundaries of what makes you comfortable.
This may be designing roll-up banners to place at a high-ticket live event. This may be launching a Facebook Messenger strategy for a brand that gets 100,000s daily FBM messages. This may be exploring a brand new piece of software to animate SaaS-y videos of a product.
What challenges you, as they say, makes you grow.
And boy did this week's 'marketing' activities make our department grow.
This week, my dear friends, we entered the bleak, scary, and nerve-wracking territory of... cold calls.
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Why cold calls? Is it the 1990s again?
Just like the next guy, I'm not a fan of cold calls. When I receive them, they're usually obnoxious and abrasive. The average cold caller tries to back me in a corner and not let me speak, then consider it a success when I say I'll 'think about it'.
So why do it?
As the acquisition team of an early-stage startup, our only job is to raise awareness and interest in our product. We're already doing the usual stuff (content, social, ads, emails, etc.).
The only thing we hadn't tested was cold calling. Why? Mostly because of our personal experience with it. But also because, frankly, it's fucking scary to cold-call people. And we don't have hardened salespeople at hand to do these for us, so it would be us lonely, behind-the-scenes marketers doing the calling.
Still, I wanted to try it. It's an acquisition channel, right? I'm going to try and acquire, goddamn it. But not without a few rules.
If we're going to hop over to the dark side, I needed a few things in place. Here are my decisions.
1. We're not selling, we're helping
I know I know, but hear me out.
We've got the chance of marketing a product that, in fact, doesn't have a cost to our target audience. It's a SaaS partnership in which we and our 'client' work together to help them deliver a solution to their end client.
In essence, when we cold-call these people, we're not actually selling them anything. We're making them aware that, with us, they can start delivering new services they previously couldn't.
In our 'scripts', we make this important fact very obvious early on in the call.
2. Guidelines, not scripts
Nothing worse than hearing some guy run through an over-rehearsed script. I know, because I've heard it 100 times.
I also know because I've made that mistake in my first two cold calls. I wrote a short script and here's what happened:
Her: Hi, how can I help?
Me: [nice and relaxed] I'd love to have a minute of your time to run you through what I believe would be a good opportunity for you, if you have a moment?
Me: [furiously reading my 3-paragraph script, as fast as humanly possible so I can immediately escape the hell hole I found myself in, why did I do this to myself, why am I sweating, why is the world ending please make it stop]
So, new rule: no script. Write a few key points. Know what you're going to talk about. Then, talk like a human.
I'm a sucker for incremental improvements and quick iteration.
As we set up our call sheet (a simple Google Sheet), I added two important columns:
Angle: where the caller lays out the angle they took for the call. This can be anything they want. Try as many variations of that as possible, but write them down.
Mistakes: where the caller honestly writes down the mistakes they made on the call.
With these two columns, we're learning extremely fast and from each other. On top of that, I've made sure we go through regular check-ins over the phone to discuss our experience.
4. Limit the pain and make it fun
The last one is quite simple. We're marketers, not salespeople. I don't want my team spending hours every day cold-calling people.
I've limited calls to 20 per person per 2-week sprint. Not intrusive at all.
Finally, it has to remain fun. The debrief calls are good for that. We talk through our experiences, rejections, and successes openly, without judgement.
This whole cold calling bit is an ongoing experiment. I launched it two weeks ago and things are going ok-ish.
Obviously early days, but so far getting a 5% conversion rate from cold-calls to product demo. Not too shabby. I'll keep this experiment running for 90 days.