31 May 2010

The unsexy,old-fashioned, boring call cycle

In the past month I have bought a case of wine, 6 printer cartridges and had my car serviced. Nothing unusual about that you might think, and you’d be right.

The common denominator of these purchases was that each purchase decision was triggered by a telemarketing call. Not just any old telemarketing call but a regular one.

None of those three purchases was either critical or urgent. None of those companies to which I gave my business are ones that I have any particular loyalty to.

The decision to buy what was on offer from each of the three telemarketers was mostly based on ‘may as well do it now and get it over with’ rather than any carefully considered decision-making process about who I should use and when.

In my mind, the respective products and services on offer were generic and each telemarketer called at the right time, or called back if it wasn’t the right time, and they each won the order … and my cash.

The tactic being practised by each of those companies is a very, very old one – sticking to a call cycle.

A call cycle is deciding upon a frequency of contact with each subset of customers and then, come hell or high water, sticking to that call cycle. It’s unsexy, it’s old fashioned, it’s often boring but, guess what … it works.

The call cycle was the absolute bedrock of my early success as a recruiter. There was nothing especially fabulous or unique about me as a recruiter when I was a relatively green recruiter in my mid-20s.

There was no clear differentiating factor as to why I would be selected by various Financial Controllers or CFOs to recruit temp accounting staff ahead of my competitors at Hays, Michael Page or Morgan & Banks, except I kept calling my clients and prospects, regularly.

This is broadly how my call cycle as a temp recruiter, operated:


Customer type

Frequency

Key client

Once a week (at least)

Client

Once a fortnight

Hot prospect

Once a month

Prospect

Once every 6 weeks

Sacked or blacklisted clients or prospects

Once every 6 months (to see if anything had changed and they are now worth pursuing again)

It seems lame to say that the call cycle is in some way the ‘secret’ to success in prospecting for new business but the sobering reality is that sticking to a call cycle is one of the most reliable ways to keep current business and win new business.

Here are 4 tips to help your call cycle work for you:
  1. Schedule your calls - every week. Stick to your schedule - every week.
  2. Have a different WIIFM (what’s in it for me) angle when you call each time. Calling to ‘touch base’ is clich├ęd, just plain lazy and will be the quickest way to ensure that people won’t want to waste their time talking to you.
  3. Ensure your state is positive. Your voice will quickly portray boredom, distraction or nerves.
  4. Keep detailed notes in your CRM system. Referring back to topics or issues from previous conversations provides credibility and ease of conversation.
As recruiters, we all like to think that what we offer is not generic and that clients make careful decisions about using recruiters based on reputation and track record. That’s true some of the time, but often it’s not.

I would love to know how many times I heard the comment ‘Oh Ross. Good timing - I was just about to call you’ from a client or prospect.

Rubbish they were about to call me. If it had been one of my competitors on the phone they would have, most likely, said exactly the same thing.

One of the biggest, but well-intentioned lies you will hear in recruitment is when your client or prospect says ‘If I need your help with a job I will call you’. Hah! Don’t believe it for a second.

Sure, I was a good recruiter and I had solid relationships with many clients and prospects but I was never under the illusion that I was anything more than a supplier and if I stopped calling, there was always going to be another recruiter who was sticking to their call cycle and was ‘lucky’ to make the call just when the client needed a recruiter’s services.

The call cycle; unsexy, old-fashioned and boring.

But it works.

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