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Hey guys,
I honestly hate making cold calls, simply because I don't like to talk on the phone. However it is most effective for my company. So my question is when your calling a shop in hopes of making an appointment to show your line what do you say on the phone? Do you ask for the buyer? What is your introduction on the phone basically? I already searched the form about cold calling but have yet to hear what people actually say on the phone. Whats works best when making cold calls basically?
 

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a cold call can be in person, but generally it's calling people on the phone.

you're probably going to get a lot of different advice. i would sit down and work out what you're going to say on paper, then practice it with a friend over the phone. then practice the meeting, too. if i called, i would ask for the person in charge of purchasing. remember that they're only people, too, and perhaps pretty busy, so make the call as succinct as you can while sounding natural (not like you're reading from a script).
 

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a cold call can be in person, but generally it's calling people on the phone.

you're probably going to get a lot of different advice. i would sit down and work out what you're going to say on paper, then practice it with a friend over the phone. then practice the meeting, too. if i called, i would ask for the person in charge of purchasing. remember that they're only people, too, and perhaps pretty busy, so make the call as succinct as you can while sounding natural (not like you're reading from a script).
Totally agree
 

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I have done some cold calling. I usually state my name, my business name, and the nature of my business.

In my experience, the manager/shop owner will say, "we're not interested" before I can really explain my services and before I can ask for an appointment. I often hang up the phone wondering if they even heard me say that I can create custom shirts for them. :(

Has anyone else had more progress?
 

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Not specifically t-shirt related, but our standard response to cold calls is "please take us off your list" and immediate termination of the call if the salesman protests. Nastier things happen to those who don't back off, or claim "We're not calling to sell you anything".

My opinion both as an administrative assistant and a business owner myself is that if I want a service, whether it be merchant processing, insurance, private jet rentals (we've been getting a lot of these lately for some reason) or custom flavored jellybeans, is that we are going to look ourselves. We are not going to respond to some stranger that cold calls. We want to find a company other people have used, that have a good reputation, bonus points if we get referrals from people we know personally. We are going to hunt for the best price, and unless you're Progressive Insurance, I'm sure you don't have some magical perky chick named Flo that can call up real-time quotes from all your competitors (not that I believe that said quotes would be honest anyway). One of the former bosses could be caught up in the moment by walk-in salespeople but would always be dissuaded by the co-owner and the rest of the staff.

Now, as someone selling your own branded t-shirts and not t-shirts as a service, going into businesses and pitching your product may be a good idea. I find that much more refreshing than some unknown calling me about our fleet of nonexistent Xerox machines and how they can save us money on junky aftermarket toner but only if we sign a 3 year contract. However, when we were retail, we would also reject those kinds of salespeople. Every product in the store was so well-known that you had to go to the manufacturer and prove that you were worthy to sell their products. Some were easier than others, you were cleared as a distributor/reseller with a few referrals and proof that you have a store. Others were far more difficult, some were unobtainable at our size and sales records (some were shamed into selling to us when we found them in even smaller companies) and some were even pulled when our sales for their products were not high enough.

I often wonder just who does respond to a cold call for something like credit card processing, from a company that you've never heard of before. Worse, the ones who pretend to be your company just to try to force the call through to your boss. For all of us here, it's an instant phone slam. Clearly, however, enough people buy to make it worth it for them to call us twelve times a month. :mad:

My own personal business (service related) has been spread entirely by word of mouth. No, I don't have a large enough customer base to be self-supporting yet. I also have not aggressively tried to get current customers to find work for me, especially since I have limited time due to personal issues right now. I tried cold calling once, but found that I don't have the personality for it. It grates on me to no end to do it since I hate getting them so much, and I never got anywhere because of that when my boss would have me do it for my main job.
 

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yep, i'd say cold calling is very much a game of percentages, just like direct mail.

the people who know someone or is buddies with, you probably won't get that business.

the guy who has shirts made somewhere else is probably looking for a better price. it seems to me that screen printing customers aren't the most loyal of clients.

the trick is just to get their attention so you can make your sales pitch. as mentioned, some have the personality for it, others can't abide it.
 

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It has been years since I did much "cold calling".....But I do lots of "warm calling"....

When I am doing a delivery or have a stop at a client I ask the client if they know the names of owners of close by businesses......I then stop in to introduce myself....No sales pitch unless the new prospect initiates.....And most do.....
 

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Well Fenrir is right in the fact that some business are annoyed by cold calls. And then he goes on to say that is own business cannot support him yet. I wonder why? Could it be he is waiting for others to find customers for him? At least that is the way I read what he posted.

Cold calls are never fun unless you are a the used car salesman type and get you kicks that way but introducing yourself to other businesses is not really cold call selling. Just stop in, ask to see the person in charge, do a quick "I know you are busy so thank you for seeing me. My name is with your company name. If you ever need a service such as our I would be honored to give you a quote.", hand them your card and thank them for their time. If they wish to carry on the conversion then let them. If not, thank them and walk out. They will remember how respectful of their time you where and if they do need a product or service you offer they may just call you.

I have walked away with some very large customers doing just that.
 

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see, that's a good thing to take note of: when you talk to someone, you can say, 'i was just at bill's shop and we were talking, said to stop by,' or mention somehow casually who referred you. as an aside, whenever i refer someone to a competitor's shop, i always ask that they mention us. i feel it just makes for good relations.
 

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Well Fenrir is right in the fact that some business are annoyed by cold calls. And then he goes on to say that is own business cannot support him yet. I wonder why? Could it be he is waiting for others to find customers for him? At least that is the way I read what he posted.
I said that I have not actively tried to expand my business, mainly due to issues in my private life. I have actually had to tell people to stop giving referrals for periods of time when I had zero time to do work outside of my regular full time job. Part of the reason I'm looking at shirt printing and graphic design work again is because I can do it at home, my current side job is entirely on-site and it is very hard to schedule sometimes between my own crazy hours and the customer's availability.

Be very polite when you go to a customer's neighbors. We had the water cooler salesman come over from the business next door. I tried to be polite about it for about ten seconds, but when he refused to leave (I had actually caught him looking over my monitor at the papers on my desk as I had stepped into the next office when he came in) I had to threaten him with trespassing and police action to get him out of the office. We were not on good terms with our neighbor for awhile after that. Another cold salesman started screaming at me that I was "destroying the economy" for refusing to listen to him.
 

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Well Fenrir is right in the fact that some business are annoyed by cold calls. And then he goes on to say that is own business cannot support him yet. I wonder why? Could it be he is waiting for others to find customers for him? At least that is the way I read what he posted.

Cold calls are never fun unless you are a the used car salesman type and get you kicks that way but introducing yourself to other businesses is not really cold call selling. Just stop in, ask to see the person in charge, do a quick "I know you are busy so thank you for seeing me. My name is with your company name. If you ever need a service such as our I would be honored to give you a quote.", hand them your card and thank them for their time. If they wish to carry on the conversion then let them. If not, thank them and walk out. They will remember how respectful of their time you where and if they do need a product or service you offer they may just call you.

I have walked away with some very large customers doing just that.

That's a good idea Preston! I will try that.
 

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heh heh. that's when i would have explained that the economy is based entirely on the velocity of money. and that by virtue of being a small business, i'm far more apt to put money back into the system, generating revenue for other businesses, taxes for the gov't to misspend and jobs. therefore, *he* should be ordering shirts from me, not me giving money to some company to squander by whatever means the CEO and CFO decide will make them millions that will sit in a bank or slumber idle by some financial instrument, further undermining the financial infrastructure. that, indeed!, money saved is jobs lost!

then again, i have to be in the mood for that kind of rant....
 

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Also make sure you will be relevant to the business. Right now we run warehouse storage for business equipment. We had Penske come in and try to sell us truck rental services. "Everyone needs it. Great way to make money on the side!" Doing what!? Running around in half a semi for kicks? We couldn't even offer truck rentals to a customer moving in... why would they re-rent a Penske truck from us when they could go straight to Penske? The same goes for the insane amount of "private jet rental" calls we've been getting for a tiny business that has zero need for such a thing. At least t-shirt printing is a lot more "universal" but franchises and larger chain stores are very unlikely to even be allowed to use someone outside the "approved vendors" list for shirts, they probably get them direct from corporate.

Of course a large part of the reason cold callers are generally hung up on these days is because of the huge amount of scams. "(Insert Name) Imaging" wants to sell you toner? "We're with your merchant processing service" to talk to you about your account? IP Relay for the deaf wants to buy $3000 worth of shirts? Scams, the lot of them. Front desk workers and anyone with check writing capabilities need to be trained very very well before they sign up for 3 years of $300/pc remanufactured toner cartridges. In our area, there are a lot of very unethical "Fire Extinguisher Services" (not your regular company) will come in and just do the work and then expect a check on the spot. They read the tags when you're not looking then come back when it's time.

On a more constructive note: gaining a customer base. You want word of mouth but don't rely on family and close friends. They won't tell you what you're doing wrong, and if they secretly think you're doing badly but don't want to say it to your face, they still won't be handing out your cards very much. You want casual acquaintances to know what you're doing. They'll be more likely to actually talk to their own friends if they like what they see. Lukewarm calling. That coffee shop you're in all the time? Don't know the staff well enough to call them friends but they recognize you when they come in? Keep an ear out for what's going on with their business. Chat them up and somehow steer the conversation to what you do. Don't just give out random "freebies" like pens or letter openers, do something that proves you can do a good job. The local bagel place I go to every week had a few numbers falling off their front door. I put new ones up for them for free. I did a lot of the signage for work at cost as a learning experience. My boss' nephew is starting his own lawn business. I was going to make them a few shirts but he couldn't decide on what color he wanted and then a screen printer he knows did it for him anyway (dark green lettering over medium green shirts and the wrong length sleeves). But I did do a full color printed vinyl banner and single color vinyl lettering for his trailer. I'm not trying to undercut local shops (although I did start learning sign installation because of our regular shop raising their prices to outrageous levels to try to get rid of us as a customer - maybe we didn't give them enough work in the last few years we were open retail - but now it means we will never recommend them to anyone else), I'm learning how to do it with people I know who can give me referrals when I'm ready to launch. What if I did a bad job with an actual paying customer (both jobs are holding up fine after 8 and 3 months)? At least this way I won't have some stranger pounding on my door because their logo flew off while on the highway if something did go wrong. Your mechanic, your dentist, your dog groomer, the lady you know by name at the grocery store. Don't make it a sales pitch. Make it fit in with the conversation naturally. You're not selling to them, you want them to know what you do. So when another customer happens to complain that they bought a bunch of shirts from their idiot cousin who uses puffy paint from Walmart, they'll just happen to remember "oh, I was just talking to someone who prints t-shirts!" Some people are terrible at this, I know. It's not easy for everyone to turn the charm on and off at a moment's notice, and it still fails for me if I try to push it into a hardcore sales pitch.

For my current side business one of the things I used to do - not so often anymore - was hang out in the department of a store that sold products related to it. If a customer looked completely lost and was being ignored by the staff, I would ask them if I could help them find anything... and if they were looking for recommendations, spend time discussing their options, sound more professional than the average McTeen trying to sell something they don't even give a crap about. When they inevitably ask "how do you know so much about this?" then tell them what you do for a living. You generally don't want to offer them a card, you want them to ask for one. Be prepared to be thrown out for soliciting but this only happened twice in three years of this tactic. Unpaid time spent? Yes. Customer base growing? Worth it. I'm not quite sure how you would apply this to the t-shirt industry, however.
 

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No need to explain Fenrir, we all have different situations.

I agree with the cold calling, but just hate to do it as most of you.

Advertising is the same thing. We're sending it to people we don't know. We need to do all of the things everyone mentioned. We get a few orders from each of the things we do.

One big is to network. I don't mean emailing all your friends, but that doesn't hurt either. What I mean is joining the Chamber of Commerce, LeTip, BNI, and many local Small Business Networking Groups. There's many free ones out there, and you can start your own.

The tip to networking is give them some of your business too. You need Auto Insurance, car repairs, new tires, doctors appointments, advertising, business cards, Financial managment, Mortgages, New car, etc. Pass that around to your networking group.

We actually picked our dentist from our networking group.

If you don't do that, you can also ask all the people you purchase things from to buy t-shirts from you. We buy lunch or dinner from one restaurant once we like a week. They're our customer and buy polo shirts from us. My wife and daughter go to another two breakfast/brunch spots once a week. Sometimes twice. I know cause I get the left overs, lol.

Don't be afraid to ask them. They're not afraid to ask if you want something else. If you ask you for dessert, say it depends. Wait a second then say, do you want to order some t-shirts? Lol. Okay just kidding on that one. You should always ask to talk to the person that makes the decision or their spouse.

Remember, the boss of a male run company is always their spouse. LOL.

You don't know how many call backs I got to change orders cause there wife wants something else.
 

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One thing to watch out for with those business groups is not to get too deeply involved with them or they get offended if you don't exclusively use people within the group. Which may or may not be a bad thing, depending on competency. Cliques tend to attract drama. It's a useful tool, don't let it become more than that.
 

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In my opinion only way to get noticed by cold calling is you really need to offer them great deal. Like offer to print them custom t-shirts for blank t-shirt price. If that wont impress them - nothing will. If you got that, you can really show your quality and prove you are pro.
 

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In my opinion only way to get noticed by cold calling is you really need to offer them great deal. Like offer to print them custom t-shirts for blank t-shirt price. If that wont impress them - nothing will. If you got that, you can really show your quality and prove you are pro.

Again, I disagree with you. Low price is not a good motivator that will get you a good customer. It is a motivator that will get you a bad customer.

Personal service with a quality product will get you good customers. If a customer feels you have their best interest at heart and you are offering a fair price, not the cheapest, they will usually buy from you. This does not mean you can charge outrageous prices, just a fair price.

On one of my cold calls a few years back I stopped at a custom chopper place. They had just moved from another small town into a new location on a state highway near me. I stopped and went in. I asked to see the person who ordered their shirts. I gave the person my quick "Hi, thank you for your time" speech, asked if I could bid their next order and was prepared to walk out at that point. She told me that about to place a large order for shirts with their company logo on them and she would be more than happy to look at my quote. She told me she would email me to order details. I asked if I could see one of their current shirts so she gave me one to take so I could use it to help me give her the quote. At this time I thanked her and left.

I drove back to my shop and recreated the art off the shirt she gave me, separated it out, made the screens and printed about 6 samples in various sizes. I then got the order details and repaired the quote. The next day I drove back to their store and handed her the quote along with the samples. She immediately got the owner and I saw them looking at my prints next to the ones they had gotten in the past. She told me she would look at the numbers and let me know. I got in my car and started back to my shop that was about 5 miles away. I did not even get halfway back when they called me and told me I had the order.

To make a longer story short. We did tens of thousands worth of business with that customer that even included another business they owned. We would still have that customer today if it were not for the financial crash in 08 that finally put them out of business in 09 because banks quit loaning money for people to buy custom choppers.

Bottom line is if anyone thinks low price is the only way to get customers then they have no business being in this business.

Even if you hate selling I would suggest to anyone that they need to read Jeffrey Gotimer's "Little Red Book of Selling" and his book "The Sales Bible".
 
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