How to Warm a Cold Call (or Online Prospecting for Lenders)
I read so many articles and see so many books published every year that talk about tactics for successful cold calling. While it is true that cold calling is still a key skill to be developed in any sales organization, the way that we pre-plan for our calls has changed drastically in the past decade.
I have a LinkedIn profile. Most of my colleagues and friends do as well. But when I ask people how they use LinkedIn, most times I hear that it is used as a “Facebook for professional contacts”. While I think this might be a fair description to use in a very broad sense, it sells LinkedIn short on the things that really make it useful. After all, how much value can you get from congratulating people on work anniversaries and sharing links to articles from other news websites?
For me, LinkedIn has become a key tool as I research new prospects. I’m going to quickly outline the steps I take to research a prospect and I’ll use Florida resources as an example although every state has similar resources that can be used for this purpose.
Step One: Research
- Find a company name.
- This can be from anywhere – news article, heard it somewhere, saw a big truck with the name on it, etc.
- Search the company name on the Secretary of State/Division of Corporations website for your state. In FL, this is www.Sunbiz.org. Once you are there you can see the ownership of the entity which should give you the personal names of officers, directors, etc.
- Next thing I do is look to see what kind of outstanding debt the company has. I find this in a few places.
- First, I search the local county property appraiser website to see if they own their building. Often times it’s owned in another entity name (and I will search that entity on Sunbiz as well to see who owns it). While this step does not determine debt, it does tell you more about ownership of the real estate which is the first step.
- Next I search the county comptroller website for any records related to the company and the real estate holding entity (if applicable). You can find mortgages, security agreements, and other relevant documents here.
- Finally, I do a state UCC search – find your state’s UCC registry website on Google and search from there. If you find active filings then there is likely debt outstanding. If you find closed filings, then at least you know it’s likely that they do finance at least some cap ex.
- At this point, hopefully I’ve identified some debt that the company has outstanding which I can then look to refinance. If not, it may still be worth reaching out to find out if any purchases are planned or if there are other opportunities to help the company and earn some new business.
Step Two: Warm It Up!
Now it’s time to warm up your cold call. Go to LinkedIn and search for each of the owner names that you found on the Secretary of State website. Are they connected to anyone that you know? Can you ask that person to make an introduction? Review their LinkedIn profile in detail – where did they go to school? Do you have any common connections with them through organizations where they volunteer? These are all things that you can use to build a connection with the prospect. If you make a connection you can send a quick introduction on LinkedIn. Don’t talk about doing a loan and don’t talk too much about yourself – start off with a soft introduction and be brief. Ask for some time to talk on the phone and share just enough to entice the prospect to commit to a meeting. If you can’t get an intro from a common contact on LinkedIn, the next step is to reach out via email.
Some of you may be thinking right now that it’s time to make the first phone call. I would disagree. Unless you have a cell phone or direct line, you will likely be calling and speaking to a gatekeeper who is trained to prevent people just like you from getting through to the decision maker. Mailers are hit or miss…mostly miss as those generally do not reach your desired recipient.
The first thing nearly everyone does these days when they have a free moment is check their smartphone. If you can get through to a prospect in a way that reaches them on their phone, you will increase the chance of success. At worst, they see your name and your message and know that you exist. And at best, they read your message, respond, and you get the appointment!
Last, But Not Least: Email Hacking and Reaching Out
Finding emails has also gotten easier. The first thing I do is search on LinkedIn profiles and company websites. Most times though, the decision makers in a company will not have their emails published online so you’ll have to get creative. I typically search for ANY email address of any employee at the company. An easy way to do this is to look for press releases online. Once you see an email address for the given company, look at the format. If it’email@example.com then you know the likely format for your target’s email. Follow the format and give it a shot.
At this point, you know a little bit about the company, a little bit about the owners, and hopefully you’ve uncovered one or more effective ways to reach them. The next step should be much easier now – reach out to them, introduce yourself, and let them know how you can help them.