How to sell your product: What I’ve learned during my first month of cold calling

by Jun Loayza on August 3, 2010

cold calling

“Startups don’t fail because the product sucks; startups fail because of a failure to sell the product.”

If you’re the founder of a B2B startup with a SaaS product, then this post is for you.  As the Chief Marketing Officer of Viralogy, it is my primary objective to sell our product to companies.  In this post, I will describe my current selling techniques, processes, and what I’ve learned from trial and error.  This is how to sell your product.

What we’re selling and who we’re selling it to

Viralogy is a Social Commerce platform that utilizes the Facebook Social Graph to personalize the shopping experience for ecommerce stores. We are targeting companies that fit the following criteria:

  1. Industry: Ecommerce
  2. Niche: Beauty Retail
  3. Annual Revenue: $1M – $10M

Know exactly who your target market is.  We went as far as to purchase the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide 2010 Edition so that we could better understand our target market.

Twitter won’t bring you the clients – You’ll need to grow some balls and pick up the phone

I am cold-calling potential clients.

I’m not trying to Tweet them or message them via Facebook.  I’m not trying to comment on their blogs in hopes that they’ll respond.  If I had a year to sell the product, then perhaps I would employ these methods; however, a young internet startup needs clients as soon as possible, and the best way to do that is to get my ass on the phone and start selling directly to my target market.

Cold-calling will grow hair on your chest.  It’s definitely not for the faint of heart – just ask my Co-Founder Yu-kai.  So if you don’t have what it takes, then you better find someone who does.

The most effective selling method for a young unknown company with an extremely small budget is to get on the phone and make sales calls.

Your mindset before you begin

Selling is a numbers game.  At the same time, you don’t want to “waste” potential prospects by selling completely unprepared.  Before you begin, do the following:

  1. Read Cold Calling Techniques that Really Work
  2. Practice with your Co-Founders for a whole day straight
  3. Have a solid base of 75 target companies to call each week

The key is to be persistent and patient.  You will not make an appointment with a potential client the first week – I didn’t.  But during my second week, I was able to make 4 appointments.  I stay persistent and patient and make 15 cold-calls to new potential prospects every single weekday.

Rejoice every time that someone rejects you because it means you’re getting that much closer to a sale.  Seek out the rejections!  I’m serious here; you have to completely lose your mind and hunt for the rejections because the more times that you get rejected, the more sales that you’re making.

The tools that I use

I use a particular set of tools that every bootstrapped startup can afford.

1. Skype to make calls

I pay $2.99/month to make unlimited calls to the US and Canada via Skype.  This means I don’t have to worry about my cell phone bill or the horrible reception we have at the apartment.  With this plan, the calls you make show up as 0123456… on caller ID.  This is bad because if a person sees this unknown number, she is unlikely to pick up the phone.

I therefore pay $30/year for a Skype number so that I have a real number when making Skype calls.

2. Alexa to look up target companies

I use the Browse by Category feature on Alexa to find my target ecommerce stores.  I look for top sites in the Beauty category on Alexa and make sure to target the top 100 sites.

3. The CRM

Stephen, our CTO, built a custom CRM for me to use.

If I didn’t have Stephen’s CRM, I would use Sales Force since it only costs $5/month for the basic plan.  One of the most important elements of sales is to stay organized.  Write down everything from the date you first contact the potential client to the details of the last conversation you had with them.

4. Jigsaw + LinkedIn to look up names and numbers

To find the names and numbers of the professionals I need to contact, I use a combination of Linkedin and Jigsaw.

I first use Jigsaw to find the corporate number of the company and the names of people involved with marketing or ecommerce.  I then use LinkedIn to cross reference the names and make sure they still work at the company.  I also use LinkedIn to find out more details about the professional and to find any information that I can use to my advantage.

5. PB Works to host all potential client materials

I use PB Works to manage and share all of the following documents:

  1. Detailed notes of calls I’ve had with potential clients
  2. The Power Point Presentation for potential clients
  3. Agreements that clients have signed

Elements of the cold call

Now that you have your tools, you’re ready to start making calls.

Important: During the first call, you’re selling the appointment – not the product

Your goal is to get the potential client interested in what you have to offer.  Don’t try to sell the potential client your product and all of the great features you have – they don’t want to hear about it.  All you can do is hopefully catch their attention by solving a pain that they have, and moving them to commit to an appointment call with you.

1. The opener

Open with the following sequence:

  1. Introduce yourself
  2. Introduce your company
  3. Establish credibility
  4. Tell them specifically why you’re calling
  5. Push for the appointment

This is exactly how I open every time:

Hi David, this is Jun Loayza from Viralogy and my team has worked on social campaigns for Levi’s, LG, and Victoria Secret.  I’m calling specifically today to set up a call to tell you about how our social platform can increase your sales revenue and provide detailed social analytics about your shoppers.  Are you available next Tuesday at 10am EST to set up a call?

2. How to react when they respond

The person you are calling will most likely not want to set up a call.  This is how you can bypass the most common responses:

“I’m sorry, I’m just not interested right now.”

Your response: You know what David, that is exactly what some of our customers said before they heard what I had to say.  That’s why I really feel we should get together next week.

I’m sorry, I’m really busy right now and can’t talk on the phone.  Can you send me something via email.

Your response: Yes of course I can.  [Get their email address].  I will go ahead and send you a detailed presentation by the end of the day.  I’ll follow through with you next Tuesday at 10am EST to talk to you about the presentation in further detail.  Does this time work for you?

“We’re already using a similar product.”

Your response: David, may I ask you what product you’re currently using?  [He tells you the product].  That’s great because we’ve actually worked alongside this product in the past and have had great success.  That’s why I really feel we should get together next week.

Do everything in your power to get to the appointment!  Don’t let a simple “No” turn you away.  As a sales person, it is your duty… no, it’s your purpose to get the appointment.

3. How to leave a voice mail

I never expect someone to call me after I leave a voicemail.  It very rarely happens. Instead, the purpose of my voicemail is to get them thinking about my company and me.  It must be short, sweet, and to the point.

Hi David, this is Jun Loayza from Viralogy and my team has worked on social campaigns for Levi’s, LG, and Victoria Secret.  I’m calling specifically today to set up a call to tell you about how our social platform can increase your sales revenue and provide detailed social analytics about your shoppers.  You can give me a call at 714-657-9332.  Thanks and I look forward to speaking with you.

Remember, don’t expect someone to return your voicemail.  However, a good voicemail gets them interested in your product and what you have to offer.  I have had 2 potential clients recognize me from my message when I call them again and say that they’re interested and would like to set up a follow up call.

4. Get past the Gatekeeper

Gatekeepers usually aren’t that bad.  Just be confident and pretend like you’re suppose to talk to the potential client.  The following line gets me through about 75% of the time with no questions asked:

Hi Stephanie.  This is Jun Loayza calling for David Scott

That’s it.  It really is that simple.

Should the gatekeeper ask “What is this regarding?“, I respond with:

My company recently completed a successful campaign with XYZ company and David would be very interested to learn about how we can do the same for your company.

Should the gate keep ask “Is he expecting your call?“, I respond with:

No he’s not actually, but my company recently completed a successful campaign with XYZ company and David would be very interested to learn about how we can do the same for your company.

If the gatekeeper just won’t let you through, try to get the potential client’s voicemail.

You got them to want the appointment

You got them to say “Yes, I’d like to set up a call.”  That’s great!  Now it’s time to move fast so that they don’t forget.

1. Use Google Calendar to invite them to a Calendar Invite

After a successful call, I immediately invite the potential client to the agreed upon date and time using Google Calendar.  In this way, I know that he has it on his calendar and am notified when he accepts the invite.

2. Send the Power Point Presentation the night before the call

I send it the night before the call for the following reasons:

  1. The potential client is reminded about our call when he sees the email the following morning
  2. If I send it more than 2 days before our call, the presentation will get buried in a pile of emails.  By sending it the night before, I make sure that it is the top email in his inbox

3. Do your research the night before

Make sure you’ve looked up the potential client’s information on LinkedIn.  Make sure you have thoroughly looked over the company website and searched for the company on Google.  Come as prepared as you can possibly be.

The day has come.  The day of the call and how to WOW them

This is it.  It’s time to go in for the close – or at least get to the next step.  Your goal on this sales call is to get another meeting with the decision makers, or get another meeting to discuss the terms of the contract.

1. How to start off the call

Introduce yourself and your company.  Drop big names of clients you have worked with before to establish credibility.  And above all else, sound confident and as if you know what you’re doing.

2. Before you walk them through your presentation

Before you jump into the pitch, you need to find out what they want and need.  I always start with the following question:

Before we get started, I’d like to find out more about your online digital goals.  I’ve looked through your store and noticed that you’re using A, B, and C.  What social media goals to you have in the next 6-12 months?

There answer will tell me exactly how to tailor my pitch.

3. The pitch

Practice, practice, and practice some more with your founders.  If you’ve practiced enough, then your pitch should go very smoothly and you’ll sound very confident the entire way.  People make emotional decisions, so the potential client needs to feel that they can trust you with their money.

4. How to close the deal

Allow the potential client to ask you questions and make sure that you have awesome answers.  Once the potential client is done with all of his questions, end with the following:

David, now that I know more about your goals and I’ve explained how the Viralogy platform will help you hit those goals, this social campaign just makes sense to me.  What do you think?

That’s it.  Wait to hear what he has to say and respond accordingly.  Remember, your goal is to get to the next meeting, and not to get them to sign right then and there.

If the potential client wants to talk it over with his team before he makes a decision, ask him when is a great time for you to present to his entire team.

If the potential client wants to think it over for a while, set up a call with him next week with an exact date and time.

Don’t hang up the phone without having the next meeting established.

Always learning and iterating

I’m still in the early stages of sales.  I’m constantly learning from my mistakes and trying to get better with each potential client that I call.  This post summarizes what I’ve learned in the past month of cold-calling.

If you have any questions about cold-calling or tips of your own, please leave them in the comment section.

Lets sell our products together!!!

About the author

Jun Loayza Jun Loayza is the President of Ecommerce Rules. In his entrepreneurial experience, Jun has sold 2 internet companies, raised over $1,000,000 in Angel funding, and lead social media technology campaigns for Sephora, Whole Foods Market, Levi's, LG, and Activision. Find Jun on Google or Twitter

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  • http://www.venutemixx.com Tony Ruiz

    Hey Jun,

    The art of cold calling. No fun in the beginging stages.

    But it must be done. Once you get it down its not bad at all (I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that). I’ve been doing cold calls and calls in general for the consultancy I’m running with my partners.

    Skype is a complete lifesaver!! Been thinking about getting a MagicJack (uneasy about it with the reviews) but Skype is getting the job done.

    One technique I’ve been doing is “framing” the potential clients I’ve been calling. Which is a term my partners and I use.

    I basically ask them a series of questions to get them agree to the results I know they need and want to hear…the when they agree to a certain amount of framing questions…I introduce our product or service and how it will benefit them based off the questions they just agreed too. Been working out well.

    Bottom line is we can’t be afraid of picking up the phone.

    • http://JunLoayza.com Jun Loayza

      Tony, lets talk soon. Would love to brainstorm about ways to improve our sales techniques

  • http://howtobeextraordinary.com cameron plommer

    Thanks for the detailed post Jun. This is what more bloggers should be striving for in the detail and usefulness of their posts.

    I did cold calls for a few weeks in my last job. I thought I would hate it, but I was actually a fun little game, or challenge. After playing sports all my life, cold calling was a competitive activity and I liked it.

    I’m glad you mentioned that you aren’t tweeting or commenting on client blogs, but you are actually doing the real, hard work by calling potential clients. Nothing beats the effectiveness of a good cold caller.

  • http://www.olinaqian.com olina

    Very informational blogpost about the cold call. It is common that we collect lots of nos before we got yes. I guess persistent and patient is the key!

    Happy Birthday again to you and hope you enjoyed the chocolate. :)

    • http://JunLoayza.com Jun Loayza

      Thanks so much Olina! Yes, I don’t eat too much chocolate, but this one is very good!

  • jujubean

    I read every single post you write, we are a startup in Asia working on a B2B product. This article is just excellent and it’s better than just reading some business book.

    • http://JunLoayza.com Jun Loayza

      Thank you so much for the compliment Juju Bean. Shoot me your email or Twitter and lets chat.

  • http://www.financialsamurai.com Financial Samurai

    Jun, this is a VERY insightful post. All about persistence, courtesy, and thick headedness.

    Don’t take anything personally, and just keep going. Your strategies are very sound!

    • http://JunLoayza.com Jun Loayza

      I’m going to keep refining my strategies and consistently post them here on the blog. Newsletter to come soon!

      Can’t wait :)

  • http://www.alefocardi.com Alessandro Focardi

    Hey Jun,

    What I have come to realize after grinding it out with cold calls that tone is one of the most important factors.

    It’s not a lot about what you say but how you say it. I’ve had friends that are salesmen that swear by tonality and I have to agree.

    Good luck with your cold calling efforts, telephone is by far the most effective medium to contact people, you get a direct line of contact with a human being and can elaborate endlessly and quickly. No other medium gives you such power. At least in sales

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  • http://www.opheliaswebb.com Elisa

    Jun – I Tweeted a couple times on this post with you and a couple others, but obviously 140 characters is just not enough to say what I was trying to say! :)

    I have worked for the past 3 years as a sales manager, teaching people how to sell and cold call. And this post is probably one of the best resources I’ve seen on the subject!

    When I said that sales are “easy” and people make it much harder than it needs to be, I didn’t mean that the entire act was easy. Moreso the fact that sales is a game of processes and numbers. The more people you call, the better your chances of talking to someone interested. The more persistent and strategic you are, the less you can be thrown during a conversation.

    And truly, the more you practice at this, the better you become and the easier it gets. Many people give up because they lack the discipline to be successful at sales. And truly, most any sales person will tell you that they would rather attend sales appointments barefoot on broken glass than have to cold call for everything. It’s where you start, but eventually other marketing/advertising/referrals come into play.

    The happiest month I had when I worked sales (for 4.5 years before I was a manager) and pulled my full commission and then some without a single cold call!

  • http://amiranzur.com/ Amir Anzur

    Patience is required but the real key is how you sell it. People tend to get more attracted to what you are saying then what you are selling and that’s the marketing secret.

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  • http://www.mumumio.com/ Isabel

    Hey Jun,

    thanks for the post. I´m starting my own company in Spain and lately I´ve been reading about selling and the best strategies to get good results.
    You have helped me a lot and I will definitely use some of your advices.

    I agree to being persistent and patient but I will also add the importance about being passionate about what you are selling. I believe everyone who is starting a business should think he will help people to have a better life thanks to his product/idea.

    I will keep reading you!

  • http://hertaste.com rob

    Thanks for a great post. Do you have a script for getting the right person on the line? This seems like an appropriate script to speak with a decision maker, but rarely do we find that this is the person picking up the phone. Any actual scripts would be great..

    • http://junloayza.com JunLoayza

      Hey Rob, I just say the following:

      “Hi this is Jun for *Persons Name*”

      I make it seem like the person is expecting my call. Most of the time the call gets put through.

      If they ask, “What is this regarding?” I reply with the following: “Tell him it’s about the *recent news article that I read that is relevant to this person*”

  • http://www.philcampbelldesign.com/index.php/member/14170/ Renee Cardejon

    Thanks very a lot for this flawless put up;this is the phrases that keeps me on monitor through out the day. I have been wanting round for your web site after I heard about them from a buddy and was thrilled after I was capable of finding it after searching for long time. Being a avid blogger, I’m glad to see others taking initivative and contributing to the community. Simply needed to comment to point out my appreciation to your web site as it is very difficult to do, and lots of writers don’t get credit score they deserve. I am sure I’ll go to once more and will spread the word to my friends.

  • sid

    You guys are the best resource I’ve ever encountered on internet. I am in process of starting mobile commerce business in Singapore and about to start sales process. I have no idea how to sell. But now I’ve got great direction and confidence from your blog.

    Thanks you for sharing your most valuable asset ‘Experience’.

  • sid

    Hi Jun, would you tell me how did you pitch to first few clients when you had no paid customers?

    I guess getting first couple of client is most challenging.

  • http://junloayza.com JunLoayza

    Sid, thanks for the comment. I recommend you read the following articles for the answer to your question:

    - http://www.junloayza.com/sales/how-to-get-your-first-customers-to-pay-for-your-product/

    - http://www.junloayza.com/sales/how-to-identify-a-first-mover/

    Send me your questions after reading those 2 articles.

  • http://seriouslyseriousblog.blogspot.com/ Indra

    Hi Jun,

    thanks for this, I’ve just started cold calling.

    How I started was I targeted the companies I needed to call, searched on linked in for key members I should speaking to, got the general line number and requested to speak to them.
    About 90% of the time the receptionist didn’t really bother finding out who I was and would immediately transfer the line
    (great for me)
    other times, I would probe for a direct line number if the person was out of the office.

    Initially, I can say I was afraid, but after having done two days of cold calling, it’s been good and now I’ve gotta allot time to follow up emails.
    Definitely looking for the next session of cold calls.

    Keep up the great work with this blog, really loving it! still trying to catch up on other posts!

  • http://www.lotusmarketing.ca Conception Web Sherbrooke

    Great post. Thanks for covering the entire process. Cold Calling to the final sales meeting.

    I need to practice now ;)

  • queen madonsela

    wud love to know how to sell,although i get the basics right, would love to perfect the skill of selling.

  • Jonathan

    Hi Jun

    I did some work for my dad some time back, my job was to setup meetings with clients and then the director would close the deals.

    The product was Majuda Voice – http://www.majuda.com – voice recording solutions for quality control and risk mitigation and so forth.

    I had never cold called in my life before and after a couple of tries I just got the feeling that people are busy and they are receiving many cold calls a day and I found it wasn’t the best strategy for me at that time. I do think cold calling is really effective if you can master yourself and perfect the art.

    I went for cold emailing.

    I mastered the art of cold emailing.. here goes.

    Email the CEO of the company directly creating interest and making yourself sound important obviously, this tactic is more effective than emailing info@ or the company sales team or what not because once the CEO cc’s the right department and requests they carry on the conversation to setup the meeting and so forth “the other team players listen since its direct orders from the King himself.”

    Here are some pointers in this process.

    1. Find out who the CEO of company X is by doing a google search or having a look on the companies website.

    2. Once you have his name you can google search hisname@company and google should not always but a lot of the time present you with some workable variables to play with.

    3. If you are unable to work out the CEO’s email address move on to option 4.

    4. Email the company directly info@ or you can go to the website directly and right click on contact which should give you the companies email address, which ever way you prefer it’s not that difficult.

    Email should look something like this to info@company

    Subject – “Greetings” or whatever you can come up with

    Good Afternoon,

    Could you please put me in contact with your CEO/or name of CEO in relation to potential synergies.

    Kind Regards,

    Jonathan Sack

    I setup over 40 meetings with some of the top companies in South Africa – some listed on the stock exchange so forth and so on. To name a few – Microsoft Southern Africa, Pick n Pay, Woolworths, Neotel..

    Bottom line is when the company secretary or who ever receives an email like that of someone who is presenting them self as somewhat important she/he has no option but to pass on this message to the CEO/Director “They can’t just dismiss an email like that and consider it spam or a cold email, they usually don’t want to take the risk and they pass it on.

    If you run into a hurdle of “What is this regarding.. “use your creativity ;) and make a plan!

    Cheers
    Jonathan

    • http://www.junloayza.com Jun Loayza

      This is an awesome approach Jonathan! Will implement it into my techniques.

      • http://www.web4retail.com Denise Kenison

        Jun,
        Thanks for the blog post. In the book, ‘Cold Calling Techniques that Really Work’ (the book you referenced, Stephan Schiffman talks about making appointments. Do you consider appointments to be calls or actual visits to the location? Do you do your presentations via skype or gotomeeting? Are you saying you close clients without ever pitching them at their physical location? In short, I’m trying to discern what is the definition of an appointment? Online appointment or appointment in person? Thanks, Denise

      • http://www.junloayza.com Jun Loayza

        An appointment for me is any meeting scheduled with a prospective client: either on phone or in person.

        I do lots of meetings via Skype.

        No, I’ve closed clients while meeting them in person as well. But most of my clients come from all over the US, so I’m usually on the phone closing deals.

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  • http://www.lifecoverpedia.com Andy

    I’m selling design products. So, I used to contact my clients via Skype. This post is good for me to improve my calling skills and as well as my knowledge too. Thanks for sharing it. :)

  • http://www.aee.my Esther Ann

    Hi Jun!
    Thanks for the detailed post. Your article helped a lot! We are a startup company call Asiaeuro Energy in Malaysia working on distributing oil and gas products. What you shared was excellent and it provides really good guidance. Much appreciated.

  • Jeff

    Another helpful article for future dreams, though I have to ask out of amusement:

    What has followed the latter question in “Getting past the Gatekeeper”?

    That sounds like an entire blog post on its own.

    • http://www.junloayza.com/ JunLoayza

      There are many ways to get past a gatekeeper. Here are the steps to take:

      1. Find out who they are: search there Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook for clues

      2. Call them and tell them that you want their feedback — gatekeepers are not used to feeling valuable, they always feel like a stepping stone

      3. Send them an email letting them know you appreciate their feedback

      4. Send them a t-shirt of your company (company logo on the t-shirt)

      5. Ask them: “Now that you know what my company does, who do you recommend that I speak with?”

      If all works well, they will intro you to the person you were trying to get to all along.

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