Archive for July, 2013

Pre-Week 2: Sending introduction e-mails

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 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 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,, (smaller companies), and

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 <>’. 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.

Pre-Week 1: The first calls

Ready. Set. Pfffffff. That’s intense. It actually took me a few minutes to start my first call. Thoughts about possible outcomes are racing through my mind. Because it’s so tough, I tried to trick myself into the call by building up the confidence to just click the call button so there was no way back. And it worked… As soon as the phone starts ringing, there’s nothing else you can do but hustle through the call.

Skype click call

I had no idea what I was talking about though. It was kind of awkward. But I didn’t care. 1-0 for me because I had made my first call.

Because we’re in the middle of high season holidays it took me a long time to get through to a business owner. Most were gone or preparing to leave. Pretty demotivating. I also had a call transferred to a sole proprietors cell phone abroad. Obviously not the right time. And talking to gatekeepers did not feel like hustling because they simply told me their boss was gone.

I continued calling the next day, and got into a few longer calls. People did either not understand what I was talking about, or they told me they were busy. But I did manage to get a 28 minutes call where a business owner described his business! Hurray.

Although I tried to ask about problems, I noticed most of my questions were about the actual market and the security business in general. I learned more about quoting, making a security plan and the official security certificate guidelines they need to work with.

No pain found yet, but not a bad first two days.

Pre-Week 1: How I built my list of prospects

So as I wrote earlier, I will concentrate on the Security Installation market (Dutch: beveiligingstechniek) until I either invalidate it or would be able to learn faster in another market.

Looking for an industry organisation

Using Google within half an hour I found the trade organisation in The Netherlands: VEB (Vereniging Europese Beveiligingsbedrijven). They actually call themselves a European organisation but it looks like they operate in Dutch only.  On their website I found their memberlist of over 400 companies. Nicely cut-and-pastable into my Numbers spreadsheet to add extra details later.

Close-by or far away?

Later on it might be helpful to go for some face-to-face meetings. Because I was quite certain I would screw-up the first few calls, I did not want to burn through the companies closest to Amsterdam. I also thought further from Amsterdam people become more open.

So far it all went nice and smooth, so I was up for the first call!

Setting up for the calls

I am using Skype for Mac with headphones for my calls. Audio Hijack Pro to record the Skype audio and Pen and A4 paper for notes. I prepared by creating a high level call script on paper, which I continuously updated in between calls.

Call script notes

Pre-Week 1: Picking a market

Last minute learning

There is so much new stuff to learn. Learning is addictive and you’ve only got so much time and energy for it. So it’s important to channel your learning into the right direction. Take some preparation time to ask yourself: what’s my most important next step right now, and what do I want to learn about it? Then make sure whatever you do will get you there. Be drastic about it.

Pick the market that helps YOU grow

Step one was to pick a market. I wasn’t sure about picking a market in the US or UK or in my home country The Netherlands. With only 17 million people, the markets here are a lot smaller, which might seriously decrease my chances of success. But I expect the obvious advantage of language and culture to help me get started though. And because it would be pretty stupid to disqualify the Dutch market for business as a whole. There is plenty of business here. So because for now it’s all about learning the skills of Idea Extraction and pushing outside of my comfort zone, a Dutch market is going to be perfect.

Comparing growing and shrinking markets

I did not really care about the market itself. It doesn’t really matter because I believe there are problems in any market, growing or shrinking. Picking a growing market over a shrinking one will of course increase my chances of success later on. But spending too much time on market selection will only postpone my growth in cold calling. So I decided quickly.

My bank ABN AMRO is publishing sector growth reports on markets in The Netherlands. Useful as inspiration, and with a quick glance it allows you to pre-select a market that is at least growing. Once again, the idea was not to do market research, but to have a tiny little bit of backup on my selected market.

Based on a few criteria and quotes I selected the Security Installation market:

  • Moderate increase of revenue (there is money)
  • Revenue is under pressure by competition (companies are looking to outsmart their competition?)
  • Revenue per employee is shrinking (efficiency needed here!)

So Security Installation are the guys installing alarms and security camera’s. Sounds not too complicated, but we’ll see what it really is about.

Starting the ‘Pre-Foundation’

So it’s July. That’s 3 more months until the next round of The Foundation. Valuable time not to be wasted. I expect the first month of Idea Extraction to be hardest, so I’d best get started learning. Now.

As a freelance designer, I’ve been able to create a week schedule that allows me the full thursday and friday to take action. Every single week. So this blog is where I’m documenting my experience Pre-Foundation.

Stuff it going to be tough. Pushing it. We’ll see :-)

Get in touch if you’re doing something similar.