In “Is ‘Cold Calling’ For You”, I express some of my philosophical issues with cold calling. However, there are many business people who confuse cold calling with what I am about to describe. That’s unfortunate because incorrect terminology can get in the way of understanding concepts and put up barriers to acceptance.
I was once asked to go out and make cold calls to generate some business. After listening to me go on and on for a few minutes about why I absolutely would not, he said, no no no, that’s not what I meant! He explained what he had in mind and finished by asking me what I call that. I told him I call it a form of marketing but I like to think of it as sowing seeds and planting flags.
Sowing seeds is all about a proactive activity aimed at getting useful and relevant information out to people that lets them know what you do and what differentiates you.
Planting flags is about getting your name out there. Every time you hand out a business card, run an advertisement, sponsor some kind of event or hand out informational literature, you are planting flags.
Here are some examples of sowing seeds and planting flags.
The Young Acupuncturist
On a beautiful sunny Saturday last July, I was out in my yard mowing the lawn. Many of my neighbors were doing the same thing. I noticed a young man dressed in a sharp track suit riding his bicycle up our road. He had a basket on the back of the bike filled with pamphlets. Every few hundred feet, he would park his bike, take a few pamphlets with him and walk up driveways placing them in mail boxes. He did not knock on any doors.
When he walked up my driveway, I stopped my mower and went to greet him. He smiled and handed me the brochure and told me he had just set up a new acupuncture clinic in town and was just letting people know. The pamphlet had some useful and interesting information on acupuncture in general. His contact information was printed in an understated manner at the bottom of it. I thanked him. He smiled, wished me a nice day and carried on. I noticed he spoke to about 4 or 5 people before he was done on my street. He was not cold calling. He was sowing seeds and planting flags. If I ever consider acupuncture as a treatment, you can rest assured he will be at the top of my list.
The Copier Sales Rep Re-Visited
In “Is ‘Cold Calling’ For You”, I mention the business I owned with the constant and annoying stream of copier sales people hoping to sell me something. If they had done their homework, they would have noticed that we were a Professional Business Center with 21 offices sharing a few copiers. A bit of entrepreneurial thinking might have led them to think that cost savings is something any sound business looks for. Had a sales person walked in and simply dropped of a generic article describing ways to save on costs per copy and extend the life of our copiers, I would really have appreciated that and would have placed that sales representative at the top of my list. I would have felt much more inclined to call him if I had questions about copiers or fax machines mainly because I would not feel that he would pounce on me for a sale. It’s called sowing seeds and planting flags.
A Personal Example
In the mid 90s, I was the Sales Manager for Western Canada for one of the largest computer companies in the world. Intel had just released a new class of Pentium processors. Many companies and public sector agencies needed to upgrade their servers to this architecture. This is no small thing. When upgrading servers that provide data and applications to hundreds or thousands of workers, one needs to have a solid and well thought out migration plan. Part of that plan included Data Migration and Application Migration. For many, these were new and scary terms!
I decided to pen a generic article titled “Simplifying Your Data and Application Migration Challenges”. My company was not mentioned once in the article. Only at the end of the article where I had written in very small print; Courtesy of Gil Namur, my phone number, e-mail address and finally the company name. I then made sure these got into the hands of potential clients. I started with about 10. Within a week I had 4 calls thanking me and asking for additional information. Since these clients knew each other, I offered to set up a “lunch and learn” for them and brought in a Systems Engineer to talk about the subject. Three of the four who attended the lunch and learn became customers within 2 months. The fourth did as well one year later. These new customers purchased hundreds of servers, thousands of PC’s and all needed additional services representing millions of dollars of net new revenue.
If you did the math, you might be wondering what happened to the other six. They were all revisited with similar strategies but this time, we were well referenced. When we started, the territory was generating 3 million a year in revenue. In just under two years, we grew the business to 60 million dollars.
If I make cold calls, using the metrics I described in “Is ‘Cold Calling’ For You”, I am rejected at least 7 out of 10 times. It is my opinion that I am also closing many doors or burning many bridges. None of us like rejection and burning bridges is a terrible idea. If on the other hand I sow seeds and plant flags, like our young Acupuncturist, there is no rejection. He set out to sow seeds and plant flags and succeeded in doing so. Some will have fallen onto fertile ground and will blossom. The ground upon which the seeds do not germinate can be revisited, unlike the closed doors or burned bridges.
If your company is looking to increase sales, an excellent strategy is to be sure that when your sales reps make their calls on existing customers, they are armed with some informative literature that is useful to the marketplace you are looking to penetrate. As they make calls, they can take a few minutes to drop off the literature addressed to the intended recipient, preferably a decision maker. In my experience, this has often led to a conversation, just like it did for the young Acupuncturist.
Good luck and good selling!
First Published at synaptici.com