I got in touch with a few people some weeks back – a cold outreach for a service offering.
The details aren’t important – the point is that I was making a cold contact.
What are the success rates for that kind of thing?
Let’s look at what mailchimp says about email – it looks like open rates hover around 20% and click rates around 2%.
This approach had a 71.43% response.
Which was kind of a holy crap moment.
It also got me to thinking about what happens next. Clearly, when someone is courteous enough to acknowledge you then you have a responsibility to go back with something that is relevant to them.
This is something professional salespeople disagree with violently. On some social media platforms anyway.
They argue that it isn’t their job to do any research into a customer. No – once someone puts up their hand and expresses an interest, the salesperson’s job is to engage with that customer, have a conversation, understand their needs and move towards a close.
I think the real reason for their displeasure is simpler.
Doing research is hard work. It’s boring and time consuming.
Wouldn’t it be easier to have a research assistant go out and collate all that boring stuff and highlight the good bits so you can flick through it while waiting in the reception for your prospect to come and get you?
Let them do the hard work of educating you?
I did the research instead. And it took an hour for just one prospect. Multiply that by the number in your pipeline and the hours stack up pretty quickly.
which finally brings us to the idea of force multiplication.
It’s very much a military concept, the idea that you can “fight with limited resources and win”.
What do you think a consultant setting up a sales function would advise me to do?
Well – they’d probably say we needed resources. A CRM to track the prospects and everything associated with them. Trained salespeople to engage with prospects. Admin and research staff to help the salespeople.
You’d need a budget – probably a few 100k.
That’s sound strategy. It’s the application of overwhelming resource to the specific problem that you have. And it will fail.
It will fail because big strategies need a number of things to go right – as explained here – and the changes of that are slim.
A better strategy is to look for force multipliers. And there are three that stand out.
Systems that automate the right stuff
What do we do when we carry out research?
These days, it’s all about Google. Type in the term, read the first page of results and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what the prospect is all about.
You could do this manually – click, read, click back.
That’s how I spent the first hour.
Then, I wrote some code.
That goes off, gets the results and pages and sticks everything into a single file, which I can read quickly and pick out the main bits.
The result – research time down from an hour to around 5 minutes.
Cost = $0.
The right kind of information
Information is the key to winning these days, not resources.
Take the response rate I started with.
The only reason for that is because I reached out to the right segment. A group of people that had a good chance of being interested in what I put in front of them.
And the problem many of us face is that we’re swimming in information and don’t know how to extract the important from the rest.
But again, that’s possible with the right systems. With a little bit of code I can figure out which companies are similar, which ones are worth going after and who is the right person to contact.
All that stuff is available now – often for free.
Anyone who doesn’t bother to spend the time getting the information they need is going to going to the next stage much harder.
Network based operations
Networks are interesting. Very interesting.
Take a typical large company. It’s going to be hierarchical – mostly. Orders come down. People do what they are told to do.
The typical company ossifies as it grows – it becomes slower, less responsive, less receptive to feedback.
A network operates differently – and many professional services firms use a model where they bring together the right group of people to work on a project, rather than just giving it to a department where it’s probably going to be done badly.
Modern armies do this – operate with a mission based approach rather than an orders and directives based one.
Let’s say you’re a graphic designer. If you team up with a copywriter and reach out to marketing directors, you’ll probably be much more effective than if you’re trying to do it all by yourself.
If you want to scale, then perhaps you need to bulk up your team with artists on Upwork, and focus on designing and selling propositions and outsourcing the artwork.
You could, all on your own, have the same impact as a large agency, but with a fraction of the overhead.
That’s a force multiplier.
The aim is to win
The problem with many strategies is that they’re about getting in position, getting resources aligned and deployed.
But that’s not the point.
The point is that you want to win – win your battle with the fewest casualties and fewest resources deployed.
The first approach is just the mindless application of force.
What you want to do is to look for opportunities where you can multiply what forces you have already.