Prospecting is prospecting. Leads are leads. Cold calls are cold calls.
So when veteran independent insurance broker John Petrowski recently decided to take a 180-degree career turn and devote himself completely to web design services, it’s not surprising that he chose to stick with the same sales productivity tools.
Petrowski, who runs The Website Shoppe out of his South Carolina home, had long relied on the Mojo Triple Line Power Dialer to log 250-300 calls an hour to sell health insurance. As the founder of the Independent Health Insurance Agent Association (IHIAA), he shared his Mojo Math with us back in 2011, noting that he used to only be able to manually dial 40 prospects an hour. “I no longer have to spend half a week on the phone to land one deal,” he explained.
But drastic changes in the commission structure, enacted by the Affordable Care Act, motivated him to leave the health insurance field and devote all his efforts to his side business. Initially, Petrowski had helped mostly fellow insurance brokers upgrade their websites, but now he caters to all small business owners (four employees or less), including restaurants, beauty salons, florists, opticians, creative professionals and consultants.
“Cold calling is by far the most effective way to target small businesses,” says Petrowski. “If I could succeed with selling insurance, I was sure I could do it with websites. So far, it’s been working tremendously well. Many small businesses still have these ancient GeoCities websites from 15 years ago. And they’re not mobile or tablet friendly. They’re losing a lot of traffic and a lot of customers without even realizing it.”
Petrowski’s niche is designing WordPress themes — customizing layout, logos, colors, headers, graphics, etc. — so that businesses aren’t using cheap-looking, cookie-cutter sites. His major pitch is affordability, offering most design packages for $600-$800 with an average $1,200 rate for e-commerce sites.
“Most of my competitors advertise as if they were based in the United States or are U.S. companies that farm the work out to affiliates overseas,” he says. “They typically charge $2,500, pay about $300 for labor, and keep the rest.”
“Many clients want to meet with me face-t0-face because they have been burned in the past by their web designers. When you say you are local, it matters,” Petrowski adds.
As a one-person operation, The Website Shoppe does not have the luxury of having a huge marketing budget for outreach and advertising. Growing and sustaining the business means making cold calls, period.
“People think that when you run your own small business that your phone rings. It doesn’t. You have to call your customers,” he says. “And it’s easy to get clients from cold calling, believe it or not. I like working from home and being with my family. I’m a very independent thinker. I’m not a corporate person. I’d rather not have 3 or 4 people working over me.”
Petrowski started using the Mojo Triple Line Dialer back in 2007 after becoming extremely frustrated with the quality of the leads he was buying at $7 to $8 a pop. They were shared leads, meaning that he had to be the first to make the call.
“It used to be that 75 percent of the people I dialed would answer the phone and were real. It eventually dwindled down to where only 5 percent would pick up. Now if you buy 100 leads today, you’ll only get that same 5 percent. More customers are putting in their real email addresses and fake phone numbers when they visit a website now. I’d say that 70-80 percent of commercially available leads are completely fake,” he says.
When he was still in the insurance business, Petrowski would pay telemarketers $10 an hour to mine exclusive leads for him. With the help of the Mojo dialer, tripling the amount of their calls, his exclusive leads cost $5 each instead of $8 for a shared one. A meticulous keeper of records, Petrowski used to share his call and sales date on his personal blog.
Based on the lessons of his health insurance sales days, Petrowski now generates all his leads for free through ReferenceUSA.com, a service he accesses through his local public library. The “premier source of business and residential information for reference and research” requires that you enter your library card number through your library’s website. (Ask the reference desk at your library if they subscribe to the service.)
Petrowski uses ReferenceUSA to download all the small business listings in a particular town, filtered by business type, state and zip codes. Then he scrubs the list of all chain-stores, banks, supermarkets and doctor’s offices — places where is unlikely to get the chief decision maker on the phone. He then imports those cold leads into Mojo.
“Mojo is a very simple, user-friendly dialer,” says Petrowski. “And now that everything is web based, you can make calls from every computer instead of installing the software each time. You can go online and make calls from anywhere.”
“Everyone needs a marketing plan,” he adds. “If you’re one guy working out of your house, you don’t have the luxury of spending thousands of dollars on advertising and waiting for your phone to ring. For a very reasonable cost, you can pretty much control your own destiny.”