Cold calling doesn’t suck! (Pursuing the first idea)

Who would have thunk it?

Initially, I assumed cold calling would be the worst thing ever. With this in mind, where better to start searching for the first idea than your own friends? Facebook friend culling is a pretty common practice. I knew that not partaking in this would lead to something good eventually. With contacts from school to uni to business, it could potentially be a goldmine for business ideas.

Going through 624 Facebook contacts, I ended up with a total of 31 contacts who were either

  • A business owner
  • Are a manager
  • In a position where they are involved in some kind of management

Not bad.

Sending out Facebook messages or emails to the 10 that seemed most in a position to benefit, there were a mixed bag of responses. Everything from having no awful activities through to doing through to wanting to start a business with me.

The most notable response looked a little like this:

Read a little about —– systems brother. F**king Bane of my existence. So much paperwork and so many checks. If someone could make a decent and standard system for dealing with —– they would be a rich motherf**ker indeed

Wow. Sounds painful right?

After a bit of research, I learned a little about the systems he spoke of. Basically, it came down to almost any business in the food industry. The most prevalent small business in this industry is of course restaurants.

Now there’s an obvious downside here. Restaurants are almost always on a super fine margin, meaning they aren’t going to be as willing to shell out $100/month unless you can really prove you’re going to save them a lot. Still, there’s nothing lost to call a few of them and gauge interest.


Yay, cold calling time…

I didn’t want a script, because I know I’d just end up reading it, and sounding like a robot. Still, I felt there should be something I could glance at in case of getting lost or running out of stuff to say. A fair middle ground was a cheat sheet I could glance at if required.

It looked like this. I’ve replaced specifics with XXXX and YYYY so you can see how these same lines could be used in any industry.

Can I please speak to the person in charge of XXXX

Have a bit of a strange question for you. I’m from Aktura Technology and am reaching out to find some ways to improve XXXX

Do you have a minute for a really quick question on XXXX and YYYY

Basically we’ve identified a bit of a pain point. From what we’ve been told, people hate the reporting and paperwork involved

Just wondering how you manage your XXXX and YYYY

It sounds like it’s something we could seriously improve with a software solution. Something involving tablets or PCs to record data, create schedule, generate reports etc

Is that something you would be interested in?

How much time do you think it would save you a week?

How much would you be willing to pay for something that removed this pain

Ten calls was the goal. So, I found 10 restaurants in the middle to high priced range on Urbanspoon in my area. Then, just started calling.

Call results

  • 1 sounded very interested
  • 1 sounded a little interested but were mostly streamlined already
  • 4 requested more info via email
  • 4 not interested as they didn’t spend much time on it thus didn’t have any associated pain

The biggest takeaway was that clearly the smaller restaurants had no need for the angle I was coming from.

At the end of the day, the best part of all of this was the realisation that cold calling is nowhere near as bad as I expected.

Cold Emails and Email Follow Ups

So there were 4 above that asked for more info. On top of this, I pulled 40 email addresses and contact form URLs for higher priced restaurants using Urbanspoon. I used the “strange question” template popularised by the Foundation. It looked like this:

My name is James, and I am currently doing research on making restaurant management more fun, productive and profitable.
During the management of XXXX, what are the biggest problems you face on a day-to-day basis?
As an example, at least one pain point I have identified is XXX YYY.
This is not spam and I am not going to try to sell you anything. I’d just like to learn about the pain points you experience.
I’d love to hear back from you, even if it is only one sentence!
Real Name, Real Email
I personalised each of these with the name of the restaurant, and used this method to do a mail merge with gmail. For the contact form ones, I manually personalised and set each one.
The results were nothing short of shite.
Two weeks later and I’ve received a single response from a lady who said that the biggest problem she had was paying wages.


Simply put, I’ve decided to stop pursuing this idea for now, for a few reasons – low response rate, I’m already losing excitement for the product idea, and low margins in restaurants.

Forty emails is not huge, but I definitely expected a better response rate. The calls seemed far better, but took a lot longer. This is probably due to the nature of the hospitality industry with people trying to spend as little time on computers as possible (a common theme during the phone calls I made).

I also don’t like the email template. It doesn’t feel like ‘me’. Apparently this template has achieved some great response rates, but next time I’ll modify it a bit.

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