Words that Sell: Is Your Message Strong Enough for Cold Calling?

By Nick Alter
April 12, 2019

Howdy folks, Nick here to talk about words that sell. Over the last 3 months, I have made the conscious choice to answer my phone every time I possibly could, whether I recognize the number or not. On average I receive 4-6 scam/robocalls per day, which I promptly discard, sometimes making a note to report them if they are especially dangerous. Side note, I have a special vendetta against the group posing as a government agency trying to get sensitive information about my business – I will find you, I will crush you.

Intermixed between those scam calls and my meetings, I do tend to get 1-2 actual sales calls from legitimate folks looking to drum up business. In most of these cases, the cold caller was following a script and extremely hard to understand, little better than a robocall. However, there were a few cases where I respected their approach and hustle. Categories of business for these sales calls ranged from commercial cleaning service and supply, various software technologies, a ton of cold calling services, a couple hungry commercial real estate new bloods trying to relocate us, a massive number of IT and marketing outsourcing groups, some healthcare and financial benefits for my employees, etc.

The Experiment

Of the 88 legitimate cold calls I have received in 2019 thus far, I have only allowed 7 to get more than 15 seconds into the call and only 3 have made it past the first minute of our conversation. Of those 3, I gave my email address to 2 and have only serious interest in 1 (I’ll tell you who in a minute). I rejected nearly 92.1% of those folks in less time than it takes me to put on my boots. That means only 7.9% of brands who took the time to identify me as a legitimate prospect made me pause for a few more seconds to consider their offer before whittling them down to the final 2%, who I allowed to email me more information.  And remember, my numbers are going to be skewed higher than the average business owner, as I willingly let down my walls to run this experiment.

The Results

So let’s talk about Termageddon for a minute – the one company who managed turn me into a customer. First, a shout out to Nessan for doing a great job prefacing what he was calling about and capturing my interest in less than 30 seconds. Second, Termageddon has done an incredible job with their messaging across its entire digital ecosystem. Go to their website and the first thing you read says, “Policies for your website that automatically update whenever the law changes. Written and updated by real software lawyers…not robots.” In two sentences, Termageddon communicates what they are about, the problem they solve, who they serve and the guarantee they provide. Donald Miller and the StoryBrand team would approve.

The Takeaway

But why am I talking about cold calling as my example of words that sell when, as a digital marketing expert, I should be leaning into website traffic, digital ads, or email marketing? It’s simple — cold calling represents one of the least effective sales tools currently available to business owners. Keep in mind that most telemarketing groups report a less than 1% success rate to even generate a lead, let alone make the sale. And if brands are not careful, cold calling can even prove damaging to them. The fact that I allowed even 1% of the 88 calls to get through my normal filters should make anyone pause and consider how focused and powerful Termageddon’s message has to be. They got me to stop, pay attention, and then buy into what they were selling. Furthermore, before they reached out to me, Termageddon made sure their platform (website in this case) was properly designed, positioned and built, driving me to trust the brand and then decide to buy from them.

Now let’s translate this level of messaging as it should apply to digital marketing, using one simple example — the subject line of your email blasts. At Alter Endeavors, we have run A/B tests with results increasing open rates by 37%; the only change we made was the subject line messaging. We have run similar tests for click-through rates where by just changing the text calling folks to take action has increased conversion goals by more than 20%. Our studies with websites, landing pages, digital ad campaigns, and other communication platforms prove the same thing. Messaging drives conversion. This isn’t news, and yet so many small to medium-sized brands think they can skip regularly investing in their own story. No matter what communication platform you harness, without solid, refined messaging, it will underperform if not fail outright.

So, ask yourself, is your messaging strong enough to make even cold calling work?

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