Small Business and Cold Calling – Some Cold Facts

cold calling

Cold Calling - Should We Be So Dismissive?

Cold Calling - Most of us hate Cold Calls - Should We?

Last week, I decided to place my finger on the pulse of small business by doing some cold calling. I'm an engineer and manager by profession and inclination, so I always find cold calling hard on my psyche. I always get through it though by using the following rules:

Rules for Cold Calling

  1. 1
    Always make sure to have a specific offer for a specific client type - never, ever call anyone blindly.
  2. 2
    Be brief, professional and to the point
  3. 3
    Research each lead so that you are familiar with the nature of the business and why it needs what you offer
  4. 4
    Always be polite and respectful
  5. 5
    Always be crystal clear - rehearse your call until a friend or colleague tells you it's good to go
  6. 6
    If you irritate someone - apologize sincerely and sign off. Never call that business again. 

My Cold Calling Preparation for Hairdressers

Choosing the niche for cold calls

I decided that instead of my usual customer base of professionals (builders, architects, tech companies etc), I would focus on one type of local business. To that end I chose hairdressers because they are often passionate about their business,  have a very localised operation and competition can be tough.

Choosing the Offer

We have currently offered a one-off set of 24 unique, custom built websites with hosting for a year, SSl and 4 pages all included. We will also install Google Maps, contact forms etc.  We think that this is  a great deal.

Choosing the subniche for cold calls

Clearly, we need not to call hairdressers who already have good web presence and websites - that's just being an unwanted pest. So we decided to call only hairdressers who have no website at all. We found 25 such businesses, all represented on GMB - Google My Business.

Getting the Business Information before cold calling

Before making each call, we extracted information from GMB - the address, the owner's name if possible, the number of reviews and star review rating, and how long ago the last review was made. Here's a typical display I work from (click for full size):

Cold Calling gmb business check

Cold Calling GMB Check Data

Warning for Wannabe Reluctant Cold Callers

Set yourself a time frame to make your calls. Like you, I find it daunting and my brain is enormously creative in the ways it gets me to delay starting - there's always yet another technical task to complete or some aspect of preparation not ready nand suddenly - 'I'll do it tomorrow'! remember - procrastination is the thief of opportunity.

Why We Hate Receiving Cold Calls

The fact is, we hate cold calls because the majority of them are concerned with something we never wanted, don't want and will never want. For instance, we are a reputable and experienced SEO provider and yet we get at least 6 calls and two dozen emails every week selling us services we sell ourselves- irritating.  That's why we do research before calling anyone!

The Cold Calling Scam Alert Radar

We remain receptive to calls offering things that might really be useful for our business - but because our scam-radars are always on high alert, whoever calls needs to be crisp, professional and fast to get back our automated response 'go away' (politely). The fate of a call to us or a call we make to someone else is decided inside two seconds.

Our Findings on a Sample set of  25 Cold Calls to Hairdressing Businesses

  • 25% of the business listed without websites had gone out of business (!!)
  • The mere mention of 'Website' or 'SEO' was toxic and caused very pleasant people to get rid of the phone as though it burned! 
  • Five percent of businesses told us they were 'very busy' and would never need online help

So - we weren't able to find any business on that round of cold calling, but having said that:

  • Normal success rates for cold calling activities are 1% to 2.5% so on a sample of 25 we were not likely to find any business
  • All the people were polite and open to talking until we mentioned the dread word 'website'
  • We had not pre-warmed these leads in any way - more on that later.

This quotation really says it all: 

"“Doing cold calls is like taking your suitcase and going door to door trying to sell something. There’s always someone crazy enough to buy, but most of the doors are not opened” - Leadfeeder

So Why did I make Those Cold Calls?

That's easy to answer. I wanted to get a feel for some local businesses that have definitely suffered through Covid, to see what their awareness of online business was. I did not expect much but  did convey my excitement at the offer I was making and how much they might benefit. The calls kept me in touch.

Will I be Making More Cold Calls?

Yes, but only about ten per day or 200 per month in various industries. That should give me two convertible leads per month from cold calling. It take a little time to prepare for each call, so as a main method of marketing, in the sector we are in, it's not the best investment in time.

Why Should I Tolerate Cold Calls at All?

Because a small percentage of those calls might be really useful for you and the people making the calls are also just trying, like you, to make a living.  Believe me, for some unknown reason that defies logic, it takes a deep breath and some courage for most people to pick up that phone and start calling. At least show a little kindness- and I am pleased to say that most people do.

I sincerely believe that the fact that 25% of the businesses we called were no longer operating had no website or SEO - they could have been helped at a very modest cost. This applies to many businesses.

Putting Cold Calling in Context

Cold calling is said to be 'dead' by many, but that really depends how you look on it. In many of our marketing activities, we use email and monitor the link clicks, which are often a good indication of interest - and only then do we cold call, so the lead may be said to be warm rather than cold.

The amount if time it takes to prepare properly for cold calling can be restrictive, and the more effort it takes, the bigger the psychological toll is taken when the methods fail. However, cold calling instills a sense of reality in the marketer, an experience that cannot be obtained from the detached process of emailing. As such, it's a very important training tool when it comes to understanding customers and the market.

The Toxic marketplace for Cold Calling

If you are going to try cold calling for your business (and we recommend you do for the reasons given above), then do see if you can construct a narrative avoiding toxic words and modes of expression. 

Final Words

All we can say is - good luck and God Bless!


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About the author 

Rowley Keith MBA BSc (Hons)

A qualified business manager and design engineer with many years of real-world business experience.

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