The People Person

The People Person

Monday, 30 May 2011 16:23

Cold calling versus networking: Which path should you tread?

Competition is fierce. You need to be on your game, ready and nimble as a start-up. The best technology, the greatest processes all means nothing unless you’re willing to network and be known. A start-up requires a great communicator and a person that can tell the story. There is an audience willing to listen if you know how to find it.

 

I have always believed that the head of the business should be the strongest sales person, brand ambassador and the person so well connected to the outside world that the business should never need to make a cold call.

 

How do you spend the valuable time you have generating business interest and sales? I network and I learn and I listen. I meet people and listen to their stories and I listen to their business strategies. I also always make sure I share my story.

 

There is no longer six degrees of separation in business. It’s one or maybe two. The power of technology has ensured we are all only one click away from becoming friends with the most powerful people in business.

 

But is this networking? The answer to this is a resounding no. Connecting to a businessperson on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook doesn’t mean I have successfully networked.

 

Likewise, inviting someone to connect doesn’t mean I am networked. This is one form of enabling and cannot guarantee another thing; other than you now share information on a directory.

 

One of my peers told me he receives at least five to 10 cold calls per day from recruiters who want to flick him CVs or want to meet about an opportunity.

 

He doesn’t mind the approach, but what he finds infuriating is the time he wastes because the caller has simply looked him up on LinkedIn and recited his bio back to him on the phone.

 

The comical part then is that once they have done this, the conversation stops dead. No other research done. End of call. Goodbye.

 

Very embarrassing for the brand of the recruiter and a surefire way he will never engage them in the future.

 

Job Capital doesn’t make cold calls. Ever. I do not like being cold called and I will never cold call. I was forced to do this in a previous company as an employee.

 

It actually made me feel sick because I didn’t even know the person I was supposed to be selling to. The results were abysmal, but I had to keep doing it. I did however make my call KPIs.

 

My team does not make cold calls. Yet we have grown sales by 152% this year to date. Firstly, the many calls I receive are filtered through my gatekeeper.

 

I like people. But we are in business, so I want to engage with those that bring value to the business, my team or my time and vice versa (where I can add value to theirs).

 

Secondly, the calls I used to receive were empty sales pitches. Scripted, lifeless and clearly done out of necessity to make KPIs and often with little or no research done on me, the business or really with much understanding or comprehension of Job Capital or my other businesses. Why do companies set their sales people up to fail like this?

 

Networking for me is the art of face-to-face communication. Each week I ensure I make new connections face-to-face.

 

Last week I had six face-to-face meetings with people I had met at functions the previous week. I met another four people at events and functions I would like to meet with next week. It’s not about the number, it’s about the quality and it’s about consistency. All were people I respect and have very good reputations.

 

All have successful careers and businesses and all were willing to hear my story. They are people that are very well networked and, like me, believe the art of communication is paramount to growing business.

 

These people all know people that make decisions, have influence and will refer my business services to those that may need it now or in the future.

 

Likewise I would absolutely refer their services and businesses to my peers and my network. In, fact it would be a pleasure to do so.

 

I asked around my office today. One of my managers told me 95% of May’s billings are from people that have referred our services to their peers. People he has never met but know him through his networks. Brilliant!

 

My golden rules of networking are:

  1. At events and functions know who you want to meet and why – otherwise don’t go. I never ever go to an event without a game plan.
  2. If you are not passionate about what you do and your business – you cannot expect someone else to love your story.
  3. Follow up, follow up, follow up – immediately after meeting someone you find interesting or would like to meet again.
  4. Be courteous, respectful and be willing to give your time and knowledge to help your peers with no expectation. The wheel always turns!
  5. Probably the most important – healthy self-esteem and confidence will ensure an audience is willing to listen to your story and willing to share theirs.

Networking is part of my business that I am absolutely passionate about. And let’s face it, you are good at the things you love doing in your business!

Jo Burston is the founder of Job Capital, a company that manages the financial affairs of contractors. The business was named the Officeworks Fastest Growing Start-up at the 2011 StartupSmart Awards. http://www.jobcapital.com.au/

Comments (2)

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GoGrabLunch
Jo

Love your article.

Cold calling is a necessary evil for some professions, however it is terribly ineffective. Networking that leads to referral relationships is the best way to grow a business.

In August of last year I realized that while social media helps you screen potential contacts without having to commit time it rarely leads to trusting relationships. And trust is key in business, particularly referral relationships.

Because of my beliefs I created and launched GoGrabLunch.com in November of 2010. Our site connects like minded business professionals over lunch based on parameters each member sets. So we blend the speed of connecting through social media with the importance of face to face connections.

I know people still believe in meeting face to face because we already have members in over 40 countries.
GoGrabLunch , May 31, 2011
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ChristineSutherland
Jo, sorry to hear that you had the typical cold calling experience. It's quite incredible how many people (and companies) still think that cold calling is about pitching. A cold calling campaign should start with enough quality research that you can comprehensively nail a dire need of the callee, and can offer something without strings that provides tremendous value in terms of that need. A second, similar call within 90 days will further cement the budding relationship, and so on. Each document or resource provided has a call to action (which is generally to meet, or to view an online presentation).

When I consulted to a recruitment agency several years ago I discovered they had basically just been calling employers and offering their services on the basis of "do you need anyone at the moment". I devised a telemarketing strategy that actually resulted in a 5:7 appointment rate and which in turn led to record placements.

So cold calling can be very successful, and also very satisfying for all parties. Done professionally it is a whole different ball game.

Jo I also started a networking group, Speed Business Networking, in 2003. What I found was that people joined because they didn't know how to do self-generated networking. What I also found was that they were not willing to learn effective, ethical, networking methods. A survey of the membership exposed the unpleasant fact that the overwhelming majority were there strictly as entertainment and were specifically not interested in learning or developing themselves as networkers or as business people.

At that point it was out of integrity with the very mission of the project and I shut down live meetings immediately and put the whole program online for people to do with as they would. And I got on with my own networking.

Now once each week I take a colleague to lunch and we brainstorm ways we can help grow our businesses. The aim is to learn how to identify the perfect client for each other, and exactly how to pre-sell that prospect so that we can give the highest-quality, and warmest, introduction possible.

I hardly ever attend networking events any more, and I do use cold calling for my business, with very satisfying results.
a guest , May 31, 2011
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