9 Step Plan To Use Social Media To Hack Your Cold-Calling Nightmare

I just don’t know why cold calling is necessary. I don’t understand why you would make a phone call to someone you don’t know, who isn’t expecting your call, and expect to advance a sale as a result.

I know it works…if you believe a response rate of one percent “works.”

First, my definition of cold calling: When you call through a phone list of (unqualified) leads, and they don’t know you, and have no idea who you are or why you are calling (other than to harass them and try to potentially sell them something).

I thank my lucky Gods that I have never had to cold call in my work. Because I wouldn’t do it. I’d prefer inserting toothpicks into my eyes.

But there is opportunity in those lists of leads. Here is how I would hack the cold-calling process:

1. Get the list of leads. Whatever the list. Whether you are responsible for procurring the list, or whether your sales manager gives you a list, perhaps marketing provides them, or maybe you have to bribe the boss to get the Glengarry leads. I don’t care. Get your hands on your list.

2. Google them. Find out what you can. In my mind, you are looking for a few things. Find their LinkedIn profile. See if they are on Facebook. Are they on Twitter? And most importantly, see if they have a website and/or blog. And keep an eye open for anything else interesting, such as your lead being quoted in an article somewhere.

3. Set up a Google Alert. This is especially true for any leads that look promising. This way, you can capture any online mention of these people, and from this, you might find a bit of information that you can use to your advantage, as well as simply getting to learn more about them. Finding an excuse to contact someone is much easier than the traditional cold call, such as reaching out to comment on their mention in a news article.

4. If they are active on Twitter, set up a Twitter Search query. Here is how to do this. Monitor the Twitter stream of the people on your list. What are they tweeting? What films are they seeing? Where are they going to dinner? Where are they going on vacation? Here are 14 ways to strike up a conversation on Twitter.

5. Find common interests on Facebook. Facebook is trickier, since the person must give you permission to formally connect. And it also depends on your security settings. But when I search a lot of people that are not my “friends” on Facebook, their profiles still provide me with a lot of information about who this person is by providing the list of people and organizations they are fans of. You can very likely find some sort of common interest by reviewing these lists. File this away, it will be helpful later.

6. See where they engage on LinkedIn. LinkedIn, like Facebook, requires this person to formally agree to connect with you. But most likely, you are able to review their profile and can look for bits on their resume that can be helpful, or more importantly, show you what LinkedIn groups they are active in. Here, you can also join those groups and look for a way to connect.

7. Yes, you can even use Foursquare to your advantage. What? Really? Yes really. See if any of the names on your list have Foursquare profiles. If they do, they are probably also active on Twitter, and you can likely see where they check-in on either their Foursquare profile or on Twitter. Why does this matter? Because if you monitor their stream, you can strike up a conversation. How? Well, if they check into a bookstore on Foursquare, in addition to now knowing they like to read, you can also reach out and ask what book they got, and did they like it. You have just started conversation, and also a new relationship.

8. Do they have a blog? If they do, this is the best news yet. You can get a peek into their mind, their thought process, their interests. And you can read their posts, and comment on them! This is the best way to connect with someone. They will appreciate you taking the time to comment on their blog, and this will do more to advance your relationship that virtually anything else.

9. ENGAGE! This is obviously the most important step. After the preliminary work you have done with steps one through eight, you now have knowledge. You have details. You have data. You can now make strategic moves to connect with this once unknown name on a list. They are no longer a name. They are now a person with a history. You have things in common (most likely). The GREAT thing about the social web is that it is accepted to reach out to people and connect and dialog.

No, people don’t like to be cold called. But they don’t mind you reaching out on Twitter. Take advantage of this phenomenon.

You see, in the film clip from Glengarry Glen Ross above, the lead sales guy talks about AIDA (Attention, Interest, Decision, Action). Think how much easier this process would be if you could do a little advance work using social media to connect with those leads? Using the internet to get to know these people a bit more, see what they are interested in, seeing what they write, seeing how they work.

Can you now see how much easier it would be to gain attention and interest, using the tactics described above? You have the beginnings of a relationship now.

With your new friendship, you can suggest a quiet cup of coffee. Or make arrangements to chat by phone to discuss common interests. And the miserable existence that is cold-calling will soon become a distant memory…

What do you think? What are some other ways to hack cold-calling that I missed?


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  • LisaN

    FANTASTIC advice Todd! thank you!

  • Todd Schnick

    thanks for stopping by lisa!

  • http://twitter.com/KevenElliff Keven Elliff

    Terrific post Todd. I think some salespeople treat coldcalling as an ‘autopilot’ chore – you have the list and the script – just start dialing. What you describe here is a much more engaged relationship with potential customers. Considerably more value over the long term.

  • Todd Schnick

    autopilot, that’s the perfect way to describe the monotony and unpleasantness associated with cold-calling. and why so many just trudge through ’til 5pm…

    thanks for stopping by!

  • http://twitter.com/joshuamillburn Joshua Millburn

    Love that scene from GGGR. Second place?…a set of steak knives!

  • Todd Schnick

    yeah, that video didn’t really need to be in this post. i just look for any chance i can to use it… ;-)

    thanks for stopping by!

  • Kelly

    I think this is a fantastic article. Definitely gave some great advice and gave me some good ideas. I would like to add something to the Foursquare part. Thinking on it, if someone broached a conversation with me due to some ‘great info’ I posted on Twitter, or something interesting I contributed in a LinkedIn group, I would be flattered and would probably engage. However, if someone said they knew what books I read b/c they were viewing my Foursquare profile, I might be a little put off by that. I think your suggestion of Foursquare is a great and innovative way to create a relationship, but maybe in a different way? This may sound stalkerish (but isn’t that the beauty of social media these days, it basically all is), but perhaps if you notice a pattern, i.e. always goes to the same coffee shop at the same time, you may be able to ‘accidentally’ bump into them one day, strike up a casual conversation and amazingly recognize them ‘oh, gee, you’re the one who wrote that article….”. Though, now that I write it, it seems a little deceptive and creepy. What do you think?

  • Kdonovan

    Its funny, I am putting the finishing touches on an eBook for Career Investment and just about all of your points about selling with social media instead of cold calling are in the piece…(instead of selling something a person uses their talents to show their passions and interests to a manager at a company they would like to explore for future career possibilities…) Excellent list – but after #9 the talents of the salesperson will really be relied on to do their thing and get a sales presentation appt and close the sale…

  • Todd Schnick

    lots of different feelings about the creepy factor with foursquare. but i wouldn’t over think it. if people didn’t want you to monitor their activities online, they wouldn’t join foursquare and link it to twitter in the first place.

    but asking what book they purchase when you noticed they checked-in at barnes + noble seems ok to me. asking what movie they saw if they check-in at an AMC seems ok to me. asking how the food was after they checked into a restaurant seems ok to me.

    you’d ask those questions if they mentioned those same three things at a networking meeting!

    what do you think?

  • Todd Schnick

    oh, these tactics are merely to deepen the relationship, on a more meaningful level. you will still have to close the deal face-to-face.

    these ideas just kill cold calling. still got to be a closer!

  • Kdonovan

    No doubt, but I do have to share that I could have been one of those guys on GGGR – in fact back in the day we used to compare people we worked with – with those characters…here I am warm calling still! Pretty pathetic when I am advocating very similar activity as in your post for advanced SM networking…argh!

    Thanks very much for turning me around on this – I’m giving the phone a rest and getting with it!!

  • Todd Schnick

    well, integrating the social web into our sales process stretches the day, and allows us to sell 24/7. which is cool. but still, the ability to “know” someone before you ever meet is what fires me up…

    appreciate you conversing on this!

  • Todd

    You outdid yourself on this one, TS. THIS is the maybe the best “how to prospect in the 21st century” piece I’ve seen – seriously! Take it one more step though, and add “step 10″ that you’ve already blogged about – Use a podcast to Engage. – TY

  • Kdonovan

    Hmm.. I never thought about the 24/7 aspect – we do a lot of commenting just like this at all hours (call it or “Crush It” time…yeah GaryVee speak:) – but why couldn’t we be introducing ourselves through blog comments, Twitter engagement, etc. to prospects too…sounds like a Sheen moment coming…Duh!
    :)) – thanks Todd

  • Todd Schnick

    yeah, you are right. podcasting should be a part of this list…

  • Todd Schnick

    it has been fun chatting today… thanks for participating!

  • http://theswiftcurrent.com Jaq Baldwin

    Third place is YOU’RE FIRED.

  • http://theswiftcurrent.com Jaq Baldwin

    As someone who cold calls every day I don’t think it’s unnecessary. It’s how I sell and I’m good at generating new prospects through it and I’m also good at closing sales I get from cold calling. I still get the feeling of dread from time to time when I sit down to call (because I’m human) but I don’t view it as a waste of time.

    However, for my profession I use a lot of the tools you mentioned above to warm up the calls so it’s not quite such a waste of time and I stand a much better chance of getting those appointments.

    For example I use our company’s BusinessWise account to get those “Glengarry” leads. I also make a point of connecting on twitter and especially on LinkedIn and if I can, Foursquare. It’s just putting the personal and local touch on what I’m presenting as a salesperson but more importantly as a fellow professional in Atlanta.

  • Todd Schnick

    ok, but the key here is that you are warming up the calls. most people are not doing that. which is why a life of cold-calling is such a miserable existence for so many…

  • http://theswiftcurrent.com Jaq Baldwin

    I think what you’re describing in the post can still be defined as “cold calling” if by “cold” you simply mean the recipient isn’t expecting the call. That’s all a cold call is. However, the frustration comes in large part from what I would call “blind calling”. No prequalification, no attempt to connect, no research just dialing until you get a bite.

    You did clarify how you defined cold calling yourself in the post but I would expand the definition to say even after I’ve prequalified and researched, as long as they don’t expect my call or don’t know me yet, it’s cold.

  • http://www.flexmarketingsolutions.com Jeff Wolfe

    Excellent post, clearly illustrating how social media tools can help in positioning the right product, to the right prospect, at the right time. The tools are definitely there for everyone interested in doing a little homework. Cold calls then become luke warm, given the fact that you now have some background information on the prospect.

    Great job, once again, of putting the information in one place and providing a solid plan!

  • Todd Schnick

    thanks jeff… the key is finding “people interested in a little homework.” this i fear, is the true reason why so many people don’t utilize the social web…

    thanks for stopping by!