Effective Use of Voicemail in Ad Agency New Business Prospecting

September 22, 2009


Voicemail can be a very effective tool for new business prospecting when used correctly. Incorrectly used it quickly leads you to a dead end and high levels of frustration for both client and agency alike.

It’s becoming harder and harder to reach prospective clients through cold calling. Armed with defensive tools such as caller ID, personal assistants, and the dreaded voicemail box, most clients have become very adept at avoiding cold calls from agencies. According to the AAAA’s, most clients receive 8-9 unsolicited agency approaches every month. No wonder they are running for cover.

You can try calling during fringe hours to try and catch them of guard and try all the other tricks in the book. The reality is that most of your calls will go straight to the prospect’s voicemail box and, no matter how hard you try to avoid it, you will end up having to leave a voicemail message. However, this is not the end of the world.

Voicemail messages can be a very effective way of getting your message through to the client and peaking their interest in your agency. Sometimes, enough interest to actually get them to answer your call on your next attempt. Here are a few tips to help you deliver more effective cold calling voicemails:

  • Keep them short and do not leave one every time you call. (One new business person showed me their call log for a specific client. They had made over 150 phone calls over four months and left only 5 voicemails. She got through to the client after the fifth voicemail, secured an initial presentation and was subsequently awarded the business).
  • Develop a series of voicemails that each shares a different piece of information about your agency and how you might bring value to the client’s business. (Think of it as dropping a series of breadcrumbs for them to follow)
  • Practice leaving voicemails so that you sound confident and eloquent when the prospect listens to them. Avoid leaving confused and rambling voicemails full of Um’s. They end up being deleted within the first few seconds of playback.

Remember, clients hate receiving cold calls as much as you hate making them. So think your voicemails through before leaving them and make every one count.




Effective Ad Agency New Business Cold Calling

September 21, 2009

cold calling

With all the technology firepower available today to salespeople, it’s understandable why many of us don’t use the phone anymore. The problem is that it is so easy to delete, unsubscribe, and opt-out of our attempts to reach them, never mind even starting a relationship with them.

 With all the technology firepower available today to salespeople, it’s understandable why many of us don’t use the phone anymore.  With automated email deployment programs, lead scoring/nurturing systems, and “smart” video tracking software – much of the legwork can be done for us.  It is as simple as loading up your pipeline from a credible data source, developing smart emails with intriguing headlines, deploying your campaigns through one of the many off-the-shelf online CRM programs available – and then sitting back and watching your dashboards and alerts light-up.
As a new biz person, I know lots of agencies that use these automated lead generation programs to fill their pipeline.  I use them myself as a trolling tactic looking for hand-raisers who actually open and read one of my messages.
But I often wonder if our prospects feel automated as well?  With a constant stream of unsolicited emails in their inbox from people and companies they don’t know, it is so easy to delete, unsubscribe, and opt-out to our attempts to reach, not to mention, starting a relationship with them.  
At the risk of sounding old school, I must admit that the phone is my primary tool that I use to reach my most-desirable prospects. And yes, I make cold-calls – about 30-40 attempts a day (an attempt is the number of times you actually pick up the phone and dial the number).   Over the years, I have found that a disciplined approach to professional persistence can pay-off (so to speak) and help you make your numbers.  
Cold calling is typically not a skill most agencies teach their new business people.  The phrase itself conjures up visions of a sleazy used car salesperson.  But with practice, one can become good on the phone and start to break through the clutter of automated prospecting.  Here are some tips to help you make the phone your friend:
Find a reliable data source that has direct phone numbers of the contacts you need to reach.  Lots of people who claim to make cold-calls are simply spending their time tracking down the information they need vs. making the actual call. (Access Confidential is a great support resource for this)

  • Do your homework. Research your prospects’ industry, their company, their competition, identify what might be their business challenges, be aware of current campaigns they are running, their target consumer, new product launches, new personnel, etc.
  • Develop a list of open-ended questions based on your research.  Write down smart, open-ended questions that will help you guide the conversation and hopefully reveal the opportunity for the agency.  Make cheat sheets of the questions and display them prominently so you can be quick on your feet.  
  • Articulate your relevancy.  Be able to very quickly articulate why your agency is relevant to their business. Never forget you are interrupting their day so make it as worthwhile to them as possible.
  • Role-play.  You really only have one chance to make a good impression so I encourage people to role-play phone calls.  Ask a co-worker, friend, peer, to be the prospect and practice calling into them. Ask them to be tough – but fair – and be open to constructive criticism. It is better to practice on someone you know vs. the prospect.
  • Keep call records.  There are lots of products available that can help you maintain and schedule your call activity.
  • Use strategic, relationship-building voicemail. The key to voicemail is to keep them short and to not leave one every time you call.  Practice leaving voicemails for yourself and critique them.   Develop a series of voicemails per prospect that leaves a different piece of information about your agency per message (think of dropping breadcrumbs) that will build upon the last messages. If the prospect starts to become interested in you and listens to your voicemails (vs. just deleting) then when you do connect on the phone they will know a bit more about you and the conversation won’t be as cold. 



Fear of the Cold Call. Rx for Ad Agencies

July 10, 2009

cold callFor most individuals within an advertising agency, there is nothing more feared than the new business cold call. Well, if you have done your homework, are mentally prepared, and know what to expect then it’s not that hard. Here is a suggested cure for that dreaded ‘cold call’!

In a recent new business presentation, Cleve Langdon shared the following statistics about cold calling. He said that 20% say “go away as I am happy with my agency”. 20% will tell you that they are about to fire their agency, and 60% are not sure. That means a full 80% of the people you call could possibly end up being a new business opportunity. That cold call is starting look a less intimidating.

While not everyone has the mindset or ability to be successful at cold calling, here are a few tips to help make it easier for you and help improve your hit ratio:

  • Do your homework and prepare before calling. It’s a lot easier if you prepare yourself mentally, do your homework and run through the available research. Decide what it is you want to say and what‘s the key message you want to communicate. Less is more, focus your words and listen for clues at the same time. You are not delivering a public service message.
  • Use sales management software and keep a contact log. Keep track of all your calls. Limit leaving voice messages to no more than two a week. Keep trying to call and if you get VM all the time just hang up and try again.(I have known instances where it took no less than 150 calls to finally make contact with the client and get the first meeting set up)  Avoid Mondays and Fridays as Tuesday through Thursdays are usually better. There seem to be less distractions and its is generally easier to contact them.
  •  Experiment with shoulder hours. I have had good success calling during shoulder hours. (7.30 -9.00am and 5 – 6.30pm) Often the person is alone and at their desk and the more senior person tends to answer their own phones during those hours.
  • Get to know the Gatekeeper. Personal assistants are very influential and can either make your life easier or impossible. Getting to know then on a first name basis often helps.
  • Establish a routine. Rather than haphazard calling, set yourself a routine and stick to it. The discipline will help you focus and be more consistent in your efforts.
  • If you get the opportunity, get off your butt and get on a plane. At the slightest hint of an opportunity get on a plane and go and meet with them. It’s much easier to do business with someone you have met and like. It’s also harder to turn away the same person. Technology is great, personal relationships are even greater.
  • Follow through and call back. So many agencies send out materials, say that they will follow up and then never do. Always follow through and do not give up until you are told to do so. Tenacity pays.