Friday, March 20, 2009

A constant source of frustration

For anyone considering starting a business one of the biggest challenges is how to get prospects. For years this problem has disturbed me. I know that I have a valuable service to offer but I need to meet with owners of companies or decision makers to present my consulting and seminar services. For many years my primary focus, other than referral, obviously the best method, has been telemarketing.

There is nothing more frustrating than making hundreds, even thousands of calls, and not being able to speak to one qualified buyer. Woody Allen once said that "Hell is being trapped in a cell with an Insurance salesman." I believe that having to do telemarketing is even worse. I just can't take it and I'm really good at it.

In order to deal with my distaste I have hired people to do this work. I feel sorry for them; this makes it difficult for me to motivate and train them. Last year I hired three intelligent, well-spoken individuals, all of whom needed extra money, to contact companies and try to make appointments for me. The results were less than spectacular My pain in watching them and questioning them about their results was greater than their pain in having to deal with people who did not take them seriously, showed no respect, whose only goal was to get rid of them as quickly as possible.

After three months with only one appointment I decided that I needed to get on the phone myself and let them watch me struggle and make a fool of myself. Within two hours I had made three appointments (one of which turned into a consulting deal worth $108,000.00). I was more depressed than ever upon realizing that I could do this, but it would be nearly impossible to find someone else who was as good at it as me.

Within the last two hours I just learned that a deal I was working on to market 401k plans had suffered a critical blow. One of the partners in the deal, who had a base of 500 401k clients decided they did not want to continue in the deal. It seemed that a conversation that I had with one of their key employees was misinterpreted and the twenty-seven year old president of the company concluded that I was disrespecting him and that he could no longer trust me. Our source of appointments was now gone and I am now faced with this same dilemma that has plagued me throughout my business career, how to make appointments.

I think I am going to drink some vodka and play poker.

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