Starting in summer holiday high season doesn’t really help me get a lot of calls. In a lot of them I am told the person I’m looking for is on holidays. In other calls I’m told the owner is preparing for holidays. Since I just got started I think I should continue calling anyway and learn more.
After a few rejections I wanted to learn about other people’s experiences and started Googling. Especially Pascal Wagner and Geordie Wardman have terrific information on their experience hustling their way through to decision makers.
Refer to your e-mail when calling
I read about Sam Owen’s case and checked out his e-mail template. I also read how other Foundation members managed to get up to 90% success rate going past gatekeepers and reaching decision makers. The trick is to send an introduction e-mail. Once the gatekeeper asks you what you are calling for, tell them it’s about an e-mail you sent.
This will make it hard for the gatekeeper to stop you. The not so sharp gatekeepers will put you through right away. It’s because you had a smooth answer that, unlike some weird description about your research will not trigger their blocker-alarms. Sharper gatekeepers would want to know the subject of your e-mail. But since it might be something personal as well, they can’t go much deeper. I did have had gatekeepers who asked me straight up about my e-mail contents though. When I told them it was about ‘a question I asked’ they did not ask me anything further as it would make them the nosey secretary.
Writing the e-mail
I wanted to give people two days to respond to my e-mail and then call them. Sending them out on thursday or friday would make any follow-up call be after a weekend. Not the perfect timing I thought, as the e-mail would certainly not be top-of-mind anymore (if it ever was). So I took my time to dissect Sam’s intro e-mail and wrote a Dutch one for my security market.
Creating a list for stats
I wanted to create a high quality list of exactly 100 business owners that I could contact so I can measure success. A company would qualify for the list if I can find the decision maker’s name and his direct e-mail address. Business owners where I can find their mobile phone number get a higher priority.
Finding the business owner name
I used a few different techniques to find a business owner’s name:
- I took a quick look on the company website. About Us, Information and Contact page in particular
- I tried LinkedIn to search for the company hoping to find employees and business owner as a result. Unfortunately LinkedIn will give you a lot of irrelevant results as well. Also I often found companies from different countries with the same name
- Very successful was using the Google search term ‘linkedin <company name> owner’ or founder or partner or something similar. This usually got me more relevant results straight to the business owner’s LinkedIn page. For 3rd line connections this also gives you the full first name and first character of the last name to dig further on.
- For small businesses I sometimes was able to get the business owner name from WHOIS domain registration records. You can use checkdomain.com or any other WHOIS search website to search for the company domain name. For Dutch domain names I used SIDN. Unfortunately they only give you the exact registration details for 15 domains a day.
Finding the email address
In most cases the main email address is email@example.com. Especially for sole proprietors and some smaller businesses the info@ address is the one address in use. Great to go straight to the decision makers inbox. As businesses grow larger, they tend to have a person responsible for dealing with general emailing. So for those companies it’s important to find out the direct email address to your decision maker.
Most people are really careful with their direct email address and do not advertise, so you will need some tricks. It’s all about finding the formatting used. The most used formattings I found were firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org (smaller companies), email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Construct these email addresses for your prospect and try a Google search to see if it’s been published anywhere. If you find a co-worker’s name on LinkedIn, try the same on their name, just to figure out the right formatting.
Finding their mobile number
In the end I did a quick search to find their mobile number. I found a lot of small business owners and sole proprietors list their mobile number on their website. This might especially be so in the security market where people often have to be stand-by in case of emergencies. Only if their mobile phone number is listed for enquiries I would use it. I wouldn’t abuse the number listed for emergencies.
Creating the email list
Because I did not want my email to trigger any spam filters I sent out every email manually. This involved copy/pasting my boilerplate email into my mail client, pasting the email address, name and changing the first name in my greeting. To make the email look less like a mass email I entered their email and name as ‘Firstname Lastname <email@example.com>’. Your email client will then show the name and email address combined, like when you add people to your address book. Sending out 100 emails as fast as I could still cost me over 90 minutes. I will definitely look into mailing list software next time to save time. Preparing my Excel sheet also cost me a lot of time.