How to know if your phone campaign is working

I recently received an intriguing comment on my blog. It raised a question I’ve asked myself many times over the years, and I continue to fine-tune my answer.

First, an excerpt from the comment:

Based on call results, how do you know you’re either working with the wrong list or giving the wrong pitch?

I’ve just started using your methods and have done only 20 calls. I left about 19 voicemails. I don’t know how many will call back. If I get one callback, or none, or a bunch—what does that tell me? Should I modify the pitch? Is 100 calls enough to know?

Three steps to success

Before I get into specific answers, let’s review the three steps of the Stand Up 8 Times system:

1.    Go after assignments similar to your last good job
2.    Approach the best prospects directly, most likely by phone
3.    Get real! Define “quickly” as 30 days, not 30 minutes.

Going for the large numbers

For this system to be most successful, it depends on large numbers.

That’s because the system is proactive. You select people to call because they meet your criteria, not because you know that they need your service at this time.

You select the best person at the best company in your industry to call. But that in no way means that they hire freelancers or consultants to provide your service. And even if they do, it does not mean they need your service at this time.

The specific large number I recommend is 1,000. That’s right. Three zeros!

The way to accomplish this is to call 50 people per day for five business days per week for four weeks. In other words, it’s 20 days of calling. The system also works as an ongoing business builder, but the fewer calls per day, the slower the results.

In practice, I have never made this many calls. Work always kicked in long before I reached that number, at which time I modified my calling routine to fit it into my busy workload.

Still, when you extend your time horizon to 30 days, you inject an element of reality into your expectations. In fact, your results may well exceed your expectations.

It’s like when the airlines improve their odds for on-time arrival by extending the scheduled time slot for the flight.

The 1,000 number is for those who are highly motivated to earn money quickly. Alternatively, it is for those who are desperate. (The two situations can be pretty similar in real life.) Either way, it is a course of intense action to obtain paying results soon.

The two questions you should ask

Here are two better questions to ask in evaluating your efforts:

1.    How long in calendar time will it take to get results?
2.    What else would you do with your time to get work if you were not making these phone calls?

How long in calendar time will it take to get results?

We would like to think that potential hirers are sitting at their desks shuffling papers until we call. When we suggest our services, they spring to action, relieved to find the answer to their prayers. So of course, they take our call. Unless they are not at their desk. In which case they call immediately after their 3 p.m. run to Starbucks.

Believe it or not, the people we call do not have returning our call as their top priority. A few are curious and will call back immediately. Some are interested, but having no need now, they file our names away without getting back to us. Some are out of the office for two weeks and won’t pick up our message until the following week. Some may refer us to others who need our services without letting us know. (Yes, it has happened to me. The person I was referred to called about a year and a half later.)

The first days of phoning are the most frustrating. You mostly talk to voice mail and no one calls back. Several days into the process, you start to get a few callbacks, soothing your fears that your calls are not landing with anyone at all.

So it takes days or even weeks to get positive responses, regardless of how many calls you make on Day 1.

What else would you do with your time to get work if you were not making these phone calls?

If you have something more effective in mind, take a break from phoning and try it out.

Or are you considering any of the following?

Giving up on freelancing / consulting and getting a “real” job. If you hate marketing of any sort, this may be just right for you. Face it. Freelancing and consulting will require eternal marketing. Or until you retire. Whichever comes first.

But what if you are trying to freelance because you can’t get a job? Giving up on freelancing / consulting doesn’t automatically solve your employment problem.

Instead, if you want a regular job, keep applying while you phone. There’s no conflict between the two.

Networking, either in person or online through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

I assume that if you have started on any of these or similar services, you’ve already used these channels to publicize your freelancing / consulting. Maybe not for hours every day, but you have emailed family and friends and posted update notes to your online profiles, haven’t you?

These channels are built on know, like and trust. They’ll take much longer than 30 days to generate income, most likely.

And if you are going to switch over totally to these channels, what are you going to do differently to get business and convert social connections into paying assignments?

Watch TV?

Many people have taken this route. I confess, I’ve done it too.

My favorite diversion is America’s Next Top Model marathons. What’s yours?

The days will pass whether you phone or not. If you don’t have a more effective marketing technique, stay with the phoning.


Now let’s back up to the original question:


How do you know you’re either working with the wrong list or giving the wrong pitch?

You know if you are working with the wrong list or giving the wrong pitch because you are going after assignments similar to your last good job. You don’t have to talk to prospects to determine their needs because you have spent years toiling in their industries and in their functional areas.

You already know what they need and how they perceive their problems and what keeps them up at night. Sit back and remember what your boss used to complain about over coffee. What he or she requested more of in performance reviews and annual objective-writing sessions.

The voice mail messages you leave and to which no one has responded teach you nothing. Unless you are a mind reader.

There are a few people who will talk to you but do not need your services. Because this number is small and because they have talked to you, it is very possible to put too much credence in what they tell you and overly rely on it. And since their answer contains a “no” or at least a “not now,” it is easy to become unreasonably discouraged.

They may say they don’t need you because they do the work themselves. Or they laid people off so why would they hire a freelancer. Or they have no business coming in. Or they can’t spend the money.

However, the next person you phone may hire you because they are too busy doing the work themselves. Or they need a freelancer because they had to let their employees go. Or they want to expand their marketing, product development, etc. to generate more business. Or they have to spend the money because they have an intense need for your services.

You will get assignments, or at least questions about services they may need within a few months. This is the input that most helps you shape future marketing.

I know, kind of frustrating that you don’t get the input you need until you get assignments that somewhat relieve the intensity of your questions. That’s life.

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