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When I first started in sales after college, I had no idea what the “best” or “right” customer looked like. I just knew there was power in numbers. It might take 100 calls, but eventually, I would convert a lead. Looking back on that mindset, although it may be true to an extent, I’ve realized that I don’t want to spend hours of my life being wasted on outreach that yields small results. Instead I would rather develop a system to find the absolute best customer for what I’m trying to sell.
For the past six months I’ve been traveling all over the United States selling- well, myself.
I’m working a different hourly job in every state as part of a documentary called Hourly America. I cold call businesses a few days in advance and ask them to let me come to work for them for one day, interview their employees, and film the entire process. Easy sell, right?
When I first started this trip I would send out a ton of emails or make 10 calls that ended being relayed “higher ups” who apparently forgot to call me back. If someone was feeling particularly honest they would just leave me with a flat out “No”, click.
I was tired of calling people who clearly didn’t understand my mission, so I made a change and figured out a better way to narrow down my search field.
After six months of doing the same kind of outreach, I’ve actually figured out a system that leaves me with only 1-2 rejections per city/town, 50% success rate. I’ve found a way to narrow down my “customer” (businesses who hire me for the day) into truly the absolute best fit possible.
These are businesses who I cold call and ask if I can come work for them for one day’s shift, film them, and interview their employees. Even with such a crazy request, I have gotten to a point to where I have to only make a couple of these phone calls before landing a job.
Here’s what I do.
- Facebook search for “Businesses in (insert name of town or city)
- Narrow search results based on Facebook reviews, activity, and how attractive and hip their default logo is
- Once I’ve narrowed the field, I look through and see who is the most active on social media and has a very genuine, fun voice
- Eliminate any businesses that look boring or stagnant
- With remaining choices, I explore their website to look for a core value or message that resonates with me personally
- Usually only left with a few options at this point
- Call them before or after hours (preferably) and leave a voicemail
- Send follow up email with links and info
It’s taken me almost all of six months to refine this method enough to where it works almost every time. I’ve tried everything from searching by genre of business, to google review and even walking into businesses- but nothing works as well as what I’ve listed out above.
Breaking it down
Why do a Facebook search for businesses, instead of a Google search? A couple reasons.
First, Facebook has an infinite scroll when searching for businesses that doesn’t force me to click an arrow every ten business names. Believe it or not when you search through hundreds of businesses this makes a big difference.
Second, the Facebook algorithm brings up businesses with more relevancy based on reviews and location than I’ve had luck with on Google (who would have thought).
What does being active on social media have to do with them hiring me for a day? Businesses that have a fun and engaging online presence often have a more young and open minded belief system. They not only see the value in connecting with customers, but see the value in our project because they understand the importance of social media. Lastly, they are more likely to take a look at our Hourly America Facebook page and realize we are legitimate.
Why call before or after hours to leave a voicemail? This isn’t necessarily the best tactic for everyone, but for me it’s proved extremely helpful. My message or “pitch,” if you will, is so unique and “out there” that sometimes it’s hard to comprehend in a short phone call.
I can leave them a detailed message, follow up via email, and they don’t feel pressure to give me an answer right away. They can look up our website, read all about us, and then feel comfortable with having us come in for the day. Also, when calling businesses with storefronts who have a lot of customers and things going on, it’s difficult for them to jump on a five-ten minute phone call with a stranger making an odd request. Voicemails work better for me.
Why find a core message that resonates? I find a message that resonates because I want to be real with businesses when I tell them WHY I want to work with them for the day.
For example, one of my latest jobs was at New Scooters for Less in Gainesville, FL. They have 12 core values and their most important one is called “Creating the Ultimate Customer Experience.” They have a goal to blow away customers by how awesome they treat them. They hide balloons in new scooter purchases, take pictures with customers, and sing when someone comes into the store. It’s awesome. I knew this was something I wanted to be involved in so I made sure to tell them the reason why I wanted to work for them for the day, and it worked.
I recently read about a Harvard psychologist who conducted an experiment in 1978 called “The Copy Machine.” While standing in line at the copier, she asked people if she could cut in front of them to make copies, and surprisingly 60% of the people said yes. However, she realized that if she gave them a clear why for cutting in front of them- she could get 94% of people to say yes. Instead of simply asking, “Can I cut in front of you?” she would ask, “Can I cut in front of you? I’m in a rush.”
Having a strong why up front assures potential customers you have a clear and decisive reason for reaching out to them, and it makes a BIG difference.
I never would have imagined that working a different hourly wage job in all 50 states would teach me a lesson about customer acquisition, but it certainly has. The best part about narrowing your search field when looking for customers is you realize that you don’t have to please every, more importantly you will NEVER please everyone. When just getting started I was constantly getting discouraged by all the no’s. But after investigating and intentionally seeking out the right people to work with, it’s made me realize that when it comes to sales or advocating for a cause- it truly is all about finding the right customer.