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The Project Call Strategy

Posted by Liam Curley on 28 December 2018

How I generated £268k in sales from a standing start

This article is about a sales technique that I call ‘The Project Call Strategy’. In just three months, and with no network of existing clients or contacts, this technique generated £286k for my small subcontracting business.

For most scenarios, I don’t think cold calling is a smart tactic

Nobody likes making a cold call. That’s probably because we all hate receiving a cold call. Most that we receive are terrible – Calls at 7.30pm trying to sell you on a new broadband contract, calls from a terrible stilted script where the caller blasts through into a 3-minute intro without giving you the chance to interrupt.

Cold calls have a bad name. Nobody likes receiving them, and yet…step into any subcontractor office across the country and people working there believe that you need to make cold calls to win new business.

I’m not a big believer in cold calls for many reasons, which I’ll explain later in the article. I can only recall one example where I purchased from a cold call (we’re talking cold calls, not including cold emails). I’m an advocate of Permission Marketing, earning trust and attention, having customers come to you and request updates rather than interrupting them.

That said, there are occasions where cold calls do work and could be used as part of your business development plan. After years of making cold calls in previous sales positions, failing miserably on many occasions, I figured out some of the key elements of a good cold call and how it can be applied to construction subcontracting. I call this the ‘Project Call’ strategy. I used it when managing my own small subcontracting business. With no network at the time, no reputation and just one referral customer, I managed to win £286,000 worth of business within the space of three months.

Perfect timing

I mentioned earlier that I have made a purchase on the back of a cold call. This was for a vehicle lease contract. Why did I make the purchase when I’d spent a lifetime turning cold calls away? Because I needed a new company car. The cold call was made at the perfect time. He called me and stated that he worked for a company selling lease contracts at highly competitive rates. I was immediately receptive because I was on the hunt for a lease vehicle. That’s the biggest challenge of making a cold call, engaging the prospect in a meaningful dialogue and not losing them in the first ten seconds.

Now as far as I can tell, this guy making the call used the tactic commonly used by other cold callers and companies. He played the numbers game. Don’t do this!

He got lucky. He was obviously calling high volumes of businesses, maybe in a certain category (construction, fewer than ten employees, etc.) hoping to find people that were looking for new lease contracts.

This is a really stupid tactic. It’s worse still if you run or work for a small business as you just don’t have the time or resource to randomly call hundreds of prospects, hoping that you’ve caught them at the opportune moment when they need your trade. You’re working through high volumes of calls without any real direction on thought to whether you’re targeting the right people.

Nevertheless, it highlights the critical point. Your cold call success rests on timing. You need to call the prospect at or just before the moment when they are actively looking to purchase your product or service.

The gatekeepers

Your other critical task is getting past the gatekeepers. Unless you’re going after domestic business, chances are you’re targeting Business to Business (B2B) clients that are probably medium or large main contractors. These companies have gatekeepers like receptionists. Their job is to send calls to the appropriate recipient and brush off nuisance callers. Cold callers fall into the nuisance category.

If you don’t have a tactic to get past these gatekeepers, you don’t get through to the Quantity Surveyor (QS) or Project Manager (PM) who you want to speak to. Obviously, this isn’t the case if you have a direct number or mobile number, but with cold calls, more often than not you just have an office number.

Don’t play the numbers game

Jacyn Heavens was 24 when he became a mobile phone salesman in 2007. It’s his second sales role, but he’s struggling. He is underperforming and of the 500 sales people in the firm, he is ranked 500th in sales performance.

Essentially, he is cold calling people in a B2B environment to try and sell them mobile contracts. He is working through a large list of names and numbers that his company has purchased and experiencing rejection after rejection. Then, something changes, a realisation.

Jacyn realises that when he makes a sale, it’s because the recipient needs a new phone contract. The existing contract is about to expire. He realises that if he makes every sales call at this moment, his results will change dramatically.

He changes his approach. Instead of cold calling people for the sale out of the blue from a randomly prepared list of targets, he calls them to ask when their mobile contract expires. He makes a note and schedules to make the call a month before expiration.

Jacyn went on to become the most successful sales person at the company, buying a Ferrari out of his yearly bonus. He then left the company, sold the Ferrari, remortgaged his house and set up Epos Now, a company which is now ranked by the Financial Times as the 46th fastest growing company in Europe that turns over more than £10 million yearly.

So, whilst I’m not a huge fan of cold calling, it’s hard to argue that it’s a tactic that can work in the right circumstances.

The Project Call Strategy

In the construction industry, particularly with New Build, we do work with a client base where we can identify when the client will need our services. I call this the Project Call Strategy.

First you need to gather the names of upcoming projects in your area, together with the names of the main contractor and if possible the QS or PM names. You can get this type of information from platforms like C-Link or Barbour ABI. Membership requires payment, but you’ll get a massive return on the subscription if you use this tactic.

I’ll create a fictional example for this with a script that you can use. Let’s say the project is called Meadow Fields. The main contractor is called Pepper Contracts and the QS is called Mike Skinner. I manage a roofing subcontractor business called Red Ticket Roofing. If you have a scenario where you don’t have the QS’ name, ask to speak to the procurement department, and when you get put through to the procurement department, ask to speak to the QS managing the project.

Call the main contractor’s office line:

Me: Good morning! Could I speak to Mike Skinner please.

Receptionist: Can I ask what it’s regarding?

Me: Yes it’s regarding the roofing package at Meadow Fields

If the QS is in the office, the receptionist will put you through immediately, no other questions asked. If the QS isn’t in, ask for their email address and make a note to call again. Also ask for their direct line number so that you can try again later (although the receptionist may not give you this information).

When you use this tactic, the receptionist doesn’t confuse your call for junk. You’ve named the project and confidently referred to the subject of the call (your trade package). You pass straight through the gatekeeper.

Next you move onto the QS. In this scenario, this is the person that decides who to award the package to. Use this script:

Me: “Hi Mike. I’m calling regarding the Meadow Fields project. Are there any opportunities to price for the roofing package on the project?”

If the package has already been let, they’ll tell you immediately and then, in my experience, ask you to send your details for the upcoming projects. You can ask what other projects are coming up and when would be a good time to contact them regarding the following project. They’ll give you an approximate date. You just need to make a note to follow up.

When I use this tactic, if the QS hasn’t let the package already, on every occasion they’ve asked me for my details to send the enquiry. After all, why wouldn’t they? They have a live project and they need your trade. Even if they already have subbies pricing, it’s in their interest to add another.

£268,000 of business in 3 months

Using this Project Call strategy directly lead to £286,000 worth of business from a standing start and no reputation as a subcontractor. It also directly lead to pricing opportunities further down the line from main contractors that had let the package on the project in question, but came back to me regarding other projects.

If you need opportunities to price for live projects, right now, this is a tactic that works!

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