Cold calling is not dead, it just smells funny

cold calling

How to pick up the phone and make it work for you

Cold calling is definitely on the nose these days. Most business development gurus will tell you that in 2017 we shouldn’t practice the art of the cold call, ever again. We must focus on attraction marketing and adding value and building relationships instead.

And that’s all very well and there’s nothing wrong with the idea that we should offer solutions and take the trouble to get to know our customers and they us, all well and good. But cold calling as a practice is far from dead. It still remains a highly effective method of developing your business.

Just the other day, I did some cold calling myself, with a great result. I connected with two prospects, made each of them an offer and one of whom took up my offer.

Not bad for half an hour’s work spent identifying two prospects and another 15 minutes writing two short emails.

And it’s certainly not the first time I’ve used this process.

The reach of LinkedIn

In this case I used LinkedIn to start the process. LinkedIn allows us to search for a narrow category of people in our direct or indirect connections and then allows us to send those people a personal email.

By being strategic about the people I approach and the emails I write them, I often have great success opening a business opportunity. My LinkedIn connections will usually read the email I have sent them and more often than not respond in a positive manner.

There’s one crucial bit of information I haven’t told you yet though.

What I’ve neglected to tell you so far is that these “cold calls”, these approaches I make are not actually positioned for myself. The cold calls I make, are on behalf of friends of mine.

Helping a friend

This is how it happened two weeks ago: Kim is a friend of mine and we are both members of a group of business owners who meet every week for the purpose of referring business to each other. We have made a commitment to helping each other and so I sat down with Kim the other day and I asked how I could best help her grow her business.

Kim runs a bookkeeping business and she told me she wants to be introduced to CEO’s of not-for-profit organisations that are based around membership, with a head office in Sydney.

I went to my LinkedIn database and found 5 people who looked like they just might be the kind of people Kim wanted to talk to. She confirmed that two of them, John and Michael were indeed perfect. I then wrote a succinct personal email to John and Michael and asked if I could connect them with my good friend Kim. I explained Kim’s reasons for wanting to be introduced and assured them I believed Kim to be a perfect fit.

Immediate response

Both John and Michael responded to the emails within a few hours. John declined the introduction but thanked me for the email and confirmed that he felt completely comfortable with being approached like this on LinkedIn and Michael said yes, here is my number and direct email, and happy to have a coffee with Kim.

Kim has since had a meeting with Michael, submitted a proposal for ongoing bookkeeping work for Michael’s organisation and everyone is happy.

Cold calling isn’t dead… far from it. Don’t believe everything you’re told. Instead, figure out how you can use cold calling in conjunction with new marketing strategies. Michael needed a good bookkeeper, Kim needed a good client. I wanted to help Kim and Kim’s going to help me next.

For more resources, and reading on strategies for growing your business follow this link to the first of The 7 Big Questions that all small business owners want answered

Driving your business forward by getting under the bonnet

under the bonnet KPI

Guest post by James Bright, details below.

bright and co get under the bonnet kpi

How KPIs and Happy Meals fit together

Business Drivers or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are critical information to running successful businesses.  They are used by all levels of management in large business to monitor and identify trends in the business and make ongoing adjustments. But understanding KPIs and using them to manage your business is just as important in small business as it is in large organisations.

Typically, KPIs consist of both financial and non-financial numbers.

The key to establishing them in any business however, lies in intimately understanding the business and narrowing down to the critical indicators of the health of your business. The indicators that really tell you what’s going on and how the business is tracking against its strategies.

A course I did recently outlined McDonalds Australia’s business drivers and what their CFO tracked to get an overview of the business.  The KPI “dashboard” contained approximately 25 business drivers such as:

  • Gross Margin
  • Staff Turnover %
  • Total Sales per Store
  • Customer Satisfaction

One number to rule them all

All pretty dry and unexceptional numbers, but one stood out. Amongst the list of classical accountancy numbers was a single, surprising and simple KPI that summarised the overall health of the business.

So what was this magical KPI?

The number of Happy Meals sold that week….

When you consider this, it makes perfect sense. If Happy Meals are selling well it means many other things must also be true:

  • Advertising is obviously working as the kids are pestering their parents to go to McDonalds.
  • If Happy Meals are being sold you can bet that other products were sold on that same order as the parents or older children ordered something as well.  This means higher top line sales, and higher $ value per total order.  All impacting positively on Gross Margins.
  • Customer satisfaction is obviously positive as what kid doesn’t love a Happy Meal, and what parent doesn’t enjoy 15 minutes of peace and quiet?

It was an interesting lesson, most specifically because many small and medium businesses use financial data such as gross sales or profit to review performance and look for trends.  Perhaps there are non-financial KPI’s that you can use to get a deeper insight in your business. Maybe you can identify your own “Happy Meal” KPI.

Get under the bonnet

The biggest opportunity in the development of your small business is to work out what the critical KPIs for your business are. Finding your KPI’s starts by conducting an objective review of your business from the outside looking in.  It forces you to really get under the bonnet.

Ask yourself questions, such as:

  • Why do my customers buy my product or service?
  • Do they generally come back?
  • Do they recommend me or my product to their own networks?
  • What is my sales pipeline and how does it connect to my delivery and ongoing service or support pipeline?
  • If I am making products what are the elements in this process that set me apart from the competition?
  • Are my employees satisfied and is that being conveyed to my customers?

Ultimately conducting this analysis of your business would yield a few critical business drivers that are aligned with your strategy.  These can be used to establish the same insights as the largest businesses that will allow you to monitor and review the trends and make the necessary adjustments to ensure your ongoing success.

What’s also important to consider is your ability to obtain and synthesise data from your systems, ultimately turning it into information for decision-making.

Do you know what your business critical KPI’s are and are you tracking them in a consistent manner in order to gain the right insight into your business?

Read all about Money, Profit, cash flow and keeping your fingers on the pulse here

bright and co KPI Guest post

This article was written by James Bright of Brightandco Pty Ltd Virtual CFOs and Accountants in Sydney.

James and his partner Alex are accountants and financial management experts and are passionate about helping small business owners take control of their business, by getting under the bonnet.

www.brightandco.com.au

Virtual CFOs and Accountants

My Brain in Full Trickster Mode is a Sight to Behold

Tricks of the brain illusions

Emotional roller coasters as the facts of life in Sydney catch up with us

Lady D and I have lived in an amazing apartment in Sydney with sweeping views over the harbour for the past 7 years. Besides enjoying the space, the light and the view, I’ve felt at home there and possibly even “house proud”. As I was want to say to various friends and acquaintances: “They’ll have to carry me out of here in a box”. But the harsh realities of Sydney real estate and tenancy laws meant we’ve had to move a bit sooner than that, and on our own two feet.

We found a nice place in a new suburb and we’ve settled down again, three months since being confronted with the facts of life in Sydney. The past three months have been a bit of an emotional roller coaster, as you might imagine, and it’s been fascinating to observe my brain in action during this time.

One of the first things I noticed, was that my whole outlook and appreciation of what had been our home for the past 7 years changed.

  • Suddenly, the apartment became just 4 walls and a roof.
  • Suddenly, I stopped looking at the view and where previously I’d always opened the doors to the balcony, whenever I could, now I couldn’t be bothered half the time.
  • For years I made a point of waking up around sunrise to see the sun come up over the water, but suddenly, I started sleeping in most mornings.
  • Suddenly, I felt out of place in the suburb and even Sydney lost some of its gloss.

Once the decision was made to move, I couldn’t get out fast enough.

Looking beyond Sydney

Beyond the short-term move we’ve now made, we also decided it’s time to look beyond Sydney for the next stage of our lives. The house we’ve moved into a month ago will only be our home for only a year or so.

And again, I’ve noticed my brain scrambling into action. Because we know we’re only going to be here for a year or so, I’m finding it difficult to get emotionally connected to this place. It doesn’t feel like home and where previously I would have gone out of my way to make our place feel homely, now I’m not even motivated to hang up any pictures. I have this sense of having moved into a furnished apartment.

Self-preservation

It’s a fascinating process my brain is taking me through these months. It seems to me that it’s all about self-preservation. My brain is intent on protecting me from being hurt. Having to leave the apartment, having to move again in a year and having to leave Sydney, potentially involves a lot of pain, but if I don’t like the apartment, if I’m bored with the view or with the pretentiousness of the suburb… Everything changes, doesn’t it? I won’t grieve for something I don’t like anyway. And as long as I’m not emotionally attached to the new place, well it won’t matter so much to leave that behind later either.

It’s a neat trick really.

A con trick, but a neat one nevertheless. Especially when bundled with the other trick the brain plays to minimise pain. The trick of blaming the rest of the world.

Landlords and Carlords

I found myself getting incredibly angry with the rental property managers, with the government’s mis-management of the Sydney property market, with the pre-historic state of Sydney tenancy laws and with the property owners (I refuse to call them landlords by the way, as if I would refer to the owners of Hertz car rentals as “Carlords”).

Red hot angry.

Those moronic &%$**$% and corrupt @#%^$&& etc etc etc, you get the picture.

(Don’t get me started, I can work myself into a right frenzy here.)

But of course, it’s just my brain doing more self-preservation. It stops me from focusing on what’s really going on.

Righteous anger

My anger may indeed be righteous and justified, as I firmly believe it is, but it doesn’t alter the fact that I could have seen this thing coming for years. The Tenancy laws haven’t changed in any recent past and I made good use of the insanity of Sydney real estate myself, some years back.

Really what’s going on is frustration with myself for not having prepared better and possibly even some embarrassment that my business hasn’t become so successful that a little thing like a 40% rent hike is of no consequence.

The primary function our brain has, is to keep us alive and to protect us from any and all possible attacks. It all goes back to cavemen days in fact. If a sabretooth tiger is about to pounce, you don’t have the luxury to check in with your deepest feelings, to feel the disappointment in yourself for not being more careful in your choice of camp site. The only thing that matters is to preserve your life and the lives of those that are dependent on you. Time enough for recriminations and learning the lessons and feeling the pain later… As long as you make it out of there alive first.

A hundred thousand years on

And so it goes with our brains still, 100,000 years later. Our stresses and pains have different causes, but our brains behave in the only way they know how: preserve life, minimise pain, get out of there and live to fight another day.

I’ve found it really useful to realise that that is what my brain has been doing over these past few months. It’s allowed me to calm down more easily and it’s allowed me to make cleaner decisions.

Of course I can’t know what tricks your brain plays on you from time to time, but rest assured it does. I suggest you be on the lookout for them and see if you can’t catch your brain out some time. It’s quite wonderful to behold your brain in action… I promise you.


The high’s and lows of employing people overseas

inida outsourced worker

Your best employees may not all eat bacon and eggs for breakfast

The Shipbreakers of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh became famous after a documentary showed the other worldly scenes of the places in the subcontinent where the ships go to die. Here is an amazing video showing what goes on.

Shipbreaking is just one of the many professions that get outsourced all round the world. International outsourcing is big business in Australia too. More and more of the work we used to do here in Australia is being done in other countries where wage rates are lower.

A client of mine is a tax accountant and he has outsourced part of his operations to India. Another client of mine is an architect and he has started to outsource a lot of drafting work to the Philippines. It’s the way of the world whether we like it or not and I’d encourage you to put your toe in the water as well.

I have engaged various assistants and specialists overseas for the past 3.5 years.

  • I’ve hired a designer/ illustrator in India to help me with a couple of my books.
  • I have had various SEO specialists in India work on the ranking of my website in Google.
  • I have had someone translate one of my books into Dutch. (In the Philippines of all places)
  • And I currently engage a marketing specialist to help me with my content marketing and engagement strategy.

Some have been great and some haven’t been so wonderful and some could have been great, if only I’d understood the challenges better. Those challenges are what I’d like to talk about:

BRIDGING THE CULTURAL GAP

India, Pakistan, Indonesia, the Philippines are overflowing with highly skilled people who want to work. Some of them are incredibly cheap (like scary cheap) and some less so. You know this already of course. But here’s what you may not have considered. The gap in cultural understanding between you and a freelance contractor in the northwest of India, is real. Very much so. You need to be aware of that and you need to set your engagement structure up to suit.

A couple of years ago, I engaged Rajiv in India to do the typesetting and layout of my third book. Part of the project was to create 36 illustrations to be dispersed throughout the book. This caused me no end of trouble for a while, because I simply hadn’t foreseen that my visual reference points were so very different to Rajiv’s.

One example still makes me smile. For a particular illustration, I had in mind an image of a classic strong man in a circus, except instead of being dressed in a Hercules costume he was dressed in a business suit and instead of carrying a big weight above his head he would have a pyramid of office workers standing on his shoulders.

THERE’S NO CIRCUS IN NORTH INDIA

To me it was an obvious image. Rajiv didn’t get it. I had to send his drawings back several times, it just didn’t make any sense until I suddenly realised that Rajiv, who was born and raised in the country in north India, had probably never seen a circus nor a classic circus strong man. So I found a bunch of photos of strong men and old circuses and sent them to him and then he got it. The end result was great I think.

THE LESSONS I’VE LEARNT

So here’s a few of the lessons I’ve learned in engaging Rajiv, Jasmin, Aanchal, Sridhar, Oleg and various others over the past 4 years:

  1. Understand that even if your employee speaks English, they won’t necessarily have the same understanding of a situation that you have.
  2. Set out your expectations excessively clearly. When you’re working with someone who is 10,000 km and 6 time zones away from you, you can’t walk past their desk and look over their shoulder to see how they’re going. Agree how often you are going to talk in what format. Agree on what the key deliverables are, weekly, and how you measure and report on them.
  3. Before you hire someone, pay them to do a specific test job and see how they go. I recently got 4 new marketing assistants to rewrite an old article of mine to see how they went and I paid them 2 hrs each for the article.
  4. And then after you select someone based on the test job, still only engage them for two weeks and ask them to perform specific jobs in those two weeks and again compare.
  5. Accept that your first hire is probably not going to work out well. It’s ok. Freelancers are generally engaged on a week by week basis and you can simply let them go and find someone else and apply the lessons you’ve learned.

Outsourcing to overseas contractors can work like a charm and it can allow you to do things you might otherwise never consider. But if you want it to work, you have to start by accepting that not everyone in the world has bacon and eggs for breakfast.

For more resources, and reading on strategies for growing your business follow this link to the first of The 7 Big Questions that all small business owners want answered