How to cold-call clients for work as a technologist

I never cold-call clients for work. Cold calling can include, physical telephone calls, Skype, WhatsApp, Telegram and LinkedIn. My belief is, a lot of companies may get success cold-calling potential clients. Cold calling still works and may give better ROI than we find with Search Engine algorithms and an ever-increasing number of platforms charging you to advertise on.

My feeling is, we should cold-call clients when we;

  • Have clearly understood a lead's needs.
  • Clearly understand how our product matches their needs.
  • Know that it is unlikely they will have heard about our product.

Many technologists think - my product is so great, why should I cold call people? Or, I have set up my Google Adwords, so the customers should just flood in. Or, my friends and family tell me they like what as been created, so business should start to pick up. The market research tells me this product is great. All of these premises are false.

To be able to cold-call, your products should be ready. Checklist on making sure you appear credible professionally;

  • Don't ask friends or family for advice or opinion on anything. They aren't product people, aren't business experts, and some secretly hate you because you are trying to do something different to the mainstream.
  • Focus on the outcome customers want to achieve. Just because you are building a website does not mean those users want to log into your website.
  • Provide reference material.
  • Create as many potential products from your original focus. This is contentious, but after this 14 month period on my platforms, there will be multiple software solutions that can be independently sold in addition to the property platform.
  • Don't listen to the MVP recommendations. Minimum Viable Products tends to suck unless you get huge amounts of investment to redevelop the platforms.
  • Remember the risks of running a business are real. Once both my sites are officially relaunched, there will have to be a clear data protection policy in place.
  • Use a referral scheme. I have developed my own because I found other schemes far too expensive.
  • Try to create meaningful, non-technical content, and start to appear on relevant forums to gain extra attention.
  • Keep a running commentary of your progress - good and bad.

How to approach customers offering services?

Research your prospect

Most people contacting me on LinkedIn and via email do the following;

  • Try to engender some form of contact.
  • Expect me to spend significant time determining whether their offering matches what I need.
  • Does nothing to align what they are offering to my business focus.
  • Have not looked at any social media publications created by my company - so, no comment on Tweets, or articles posted on LinkedIn.
  • If they are individuals, there are no to few links to personal projects, and few skills coverage.
  • If they are companies - they think just contacting me with a link to their website is enough.

On what planet do people think, just sending some cold-call contact without explaining anything about what they do will help you works?

Have genuine skin in the game - don't charge customers for possibilities

This sounds rich, coming from a developer in business intelligence - a fairly generic term, but will try to explain it like this.

Developing software products takes a really long time. We use technology to make our business more efficient,  more compliant, and more profitable. Many service providers claim to be able to add traffic to your site, but that matters zero if your website doesn't appeal to customers. Naturally, if you can get 1000 unique visits a day, versus 10, you would assume there is a higher chance of getting business - but maybe not.

This is exactly what I found with Info Rhino's website. I gave the site a huge facelift and rebrand, and still the site delivers almost nothing. What I do know is, if I engaged many of the snake oil salesmen to add their SEO, Content Marketing, paid features, advertising, pay-per-click advertising - I don't think it will make much difference. Indeed spending time on these fruitless efforts may harm the brand further.

So when you contact a company, who has already spent a huge amount of time working on a rebrand, don't contact the company with an offer to build them a website! Fundamentally, what Info Rhino needs (and I am working on it) is customer focus, clear products, clear services, and reference material on expertise.

Not a single company contacting me, offering website development services, tries to understand what I am doing and discusses on a solutions approach.

Create white papers

White papers does work. Having spent quite a bit of time involved in cryptocurrency, one of the things I am likely to do, before buying into a cryptocurrency is to read the white paper. The successful technology based white paper seems to fulfil these intentions;

  • Identify a problem.
  • Suggest a solution.
  • Cover some perspectives on existing approaches.
  • Cover their approach to solving the problem.
  • Provide some non-technical insight into how this field works.

Creating white papers lets different audiences get an idea on your intentions and vision.

Understand that it takes time to understand your product, and even longer to integrate it into your platform

Being a technologist, this is generally the way to get things done.

  1. Recognise a problem.
  2. Search for a solution.
  3. Implement the solution.

Point 2, is the critical point. What we should always do, is to;

  • See if solutions already exist.
  • Work out their cost of purchase.
  • Understand how long you think it will take to use this solution in your platform and can include;
    • Evaluation and Testing.
    • Features analysis.
    • Licensing considerations.

The reason Point 2, "searching for a solution", is so important. Often, it takes so long to assess whether proposed solutions work - technologists end up creating their own solution.

Quick example;

As previously stated, findigl and info rhino's website are still not quite there yet. In planning for GDPR compliance and management of contact by all sorts of people, I have been realising the amount of contact (not just spam) will be overwhelming. So, I thought - "The last thing I want to do is to write my own software."

  • Researched existing platforms.
  • Tried to find documentation.
  • Spent time filling out forms to get access to trial versions.
  • Ran them against message boxes to find some doesn't work.
  • Realised that for many, the licensing costs could be huge (£10k-£50k) per annum.
  • Couldn't understand what reports I could get.
  • Found specific functionality I needed didn't exist.

We have to recognise, that the time spent on this got towards 2 days. I am pretty good at doing this kind of thing, because that is a lot of what software developers do - try and find shortcuts.

If I wasn't a developer, the next steps would be to;

  • Draw up a shortlist of potential providers.
  • Start talking to software vendors. A big challenge here is, the people in sales won't understand my questions and you will need to speak to more technical people.
  • Talk to existing product suppliers, hosting providers about how this new software can be integrated into my platform.

Value your prospect/lead's time

This point may have already been covered, but if you give a potential a fairly blank canvas expecting them to spend significant amounts of their time to then pay you for the honour of buying your product - go f'ck yourself. I had a guy call me yesterday promising to build the best website, the best search engine optimisation for a legal service provider website domain. I said, what do you, as an Indian software development provider understand about the UK Legal system and the client base of my client?

You need to make it easier for people to validate your product

It has taken me a long time to understand this. Good developers always have at least one solution to a problem, many developers will start writing code the minute they hear the problem. This is invariably the wrong approach.

Marketers think in terms of sales funnels and the customer journey, but if they make any of those steps complicated the customer will leave.

Some classic examples of making it hard for potential customers;

  • Extremely short trial periods. If your product takes time to learn - forcing customers to test it quickly will not work. Personally, if there is a trial period - at least three months.
  • Wanting the customer to speak to a sales guy. I don't give a shit about talking to sales guys.
  • Not fitting your product to their business - so give some examples of how it can work.
  • Wanting the customer to complete contact forms and provide email addresses. Let them sign-up for newletters, but don't block them from testing something.
  • Creating videos - there can be nothing more dull than watching walkthroughs on software. Some people may like it, but the bitrate is poor. You can read a synopsis in 5 minutes or watch a 30 minute video. Make a 5 minute video, but not demonstrating user interfaces and other dull things.
  • Not providing samples. One goal I have is to let somebody download - or view a quick example on how it works.
  • Not differentiaiting your product (Coming next).
  • Making false claims (Coming next).

Being honest and not making false claims

One of the key problems I have, trying to get my platforms operational is remaining patient. Some software can take a few days to write, a month to write, sometimes 6 months. It is hopefully less time when purchasing software, but there can be;

  • A large learning curve = time.
  • A bit of trial and error.
  • Bugs.
  • Time to set the software up within your organisation.
  • A need to train multiple staff.
  • Additional development required.

Once my software is in place as a marketable product - you have to say the lead time required to make it operational. Provide comparisons to other approaches.

Conclusion on advertising and selling products to prospective customers

It takes a lot of commitment to make other people's software work. They just want the easiest path to solve their problems. At the very least, explain why your approach is valid. I am erring towards stating that, sometimes a customer may need 2 or 3 solutions to solve a problem - so don't pretend your solution solves everything.

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