Thawing Out the Cold Call

Beau Conway (front left) and Stephen Shinnan (front right) lead a talented team of sales and marketing professionals.

In the numbers game of phone sales, Beacon Sales Professionals spends more time making connections and less dialing the next number

Beau Conway was a top corporate sales rep for 12 years before deciding to open up his own business, Beacon Sales Professionals, in 2010. He was prompted to venture out on his own by what he felt was a difference of opinion in the way sales reps and sales calls should be managed: a little less reliance and a little more attention to quality. He felt a shift in that approach would reap better results, and his hunch was right.

After one year of service offering demand generation, appointment setting, inside sales, and market research, Ottawa-based Beacon reported 10 percent connect rates on cold calls, with 20 percent of those turning into qualified appointments. With these results, Beacon doubled its first-year goal of wanting to have a half dozen clients by the year’s end. So what’s the secret?

“Our methodology is not about a sales pitch,” Conway says. “It’s about making a connection with someone and asking their permission.” One of the firm’s techniques is something Conway calls “mismatching.” Instead of asking, “Did we catch you at a good time?”—which gives the prospect the opportunity to say no—Beacon’s representatives say, “Did we catch you at a bad time?” This prompts the prospect to say, “No, not at all,” and opens up the door for a minute or two of opportunity. Beyond this, Beacon uses neuro-linguistic programming principles and incorporates buyer-seller psychology in the conversation.

Another differentiator is that Beacon embraces cold calling, a medium that some people feel is dying. To those doubters, Conway says they haven’t really tried. “When a client comes to us, they generally want to grow, but they don’t think that cold calling is the way to go,” he says. “I always ask them how much cold calling they have done. And the answer is usually ‘not much.’” When clients see that Beacon can generate 20–30 qualified leads in a month, it changes their perspective.

Beacon’s clients started out in the tech industry, but they are now moving more into the service industry, including companies in training and e-learning, as well as a web-optimization firm and a recruiting firm. “This shift is exciting news for us because, with service-based companies, the conversation is very customized,” Conway says. “It ends up being largely based around client needs rather than about what a product can do. That’s a great spot for us to be in.”

“Our competitive differentiator is now extended because we have a full suite of marketing services to offer,” says Conway.. “We’re not just about lead gen; we’re lead gen and sales support. We can produce more qualified leads through a blend of integrated telephone, online, social, and e-mail campaigns to ensure leads are nurtured to fruition.”

The company is now up to 7 employees and Beacon plans to double that number in 2012. Conway also sees the company adding products to its service line, such as a customized CRM (customer relationship management) solution customized to the client’s specific needs, and plans to target European companies that would like to break into the Canadian market.