Konstantin Zvereff 3CO

My new promotion as a Chief Cold Call Officer!

It happened last week, so I apologize for the late notice, but hey, a promotion is a promotion! For those of you confused about my position, I started as a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and was just self-promoted to Chief Cold Call Officer (3CO) (with Jag’s blessing!). There are enormous differences in these two positions. Some of these differences reside in the obvious glamour of the title, but more importantly in the amount of resilience and conviction you must have. One must have a deep understanding of their customers’ needs and values to continue on this path and know the service you provide is for their benefit, despite the continuous pushback.

As you know, we launched Improvonia last month. A software company designed to change the way we do business.  Much like how we all transitioned from smoke signals to postal mail, and from postal mail to emails, we are now transitioning to micro-social media messages. Improvonia is built to become the very next Improvement in the hospitality industry. Transitioning the hospitality industry from placing orders with suppliers via phone calls, visits, emails and faxes, to smart electronic ordering sheets synchronized with a constantly adapting web portal.

In any case, back to my PROMOTION!  Over the last weeks we have divided the sales team into the restaurant focus team and the supplier/vendor focused team. I work with both teams, but I particularly ENJOY the portion pertaining to calling suppliers. I have a healthy level of self-confidence and determination, but cold calling requires an inner strength and fast recovery from call to call that I did not know could exist.  To all of you who are currently involved in cold calling or have cold called in the past CHAPEAU!

I am particularly sensitive to the fast erosion of cold calls because I am exposing my own baby(Improvonia). Jag and I bet our life savings on it, we invested an enormous number of sunk cost hours, and we gave up jobs we absolutely loved. To the point, there is something I learned in this process that I could have never learned otherwise: our customers’ needs and wants!Through school, we all learned about developing the famous “MVP” (Minimum Viable Product), but when you have bills rolling in and the clock ticking, you have to make some serious assumptions and hope for the best.  Yesterday, I tallied the number of calls I made over the last 4 weeks: slightly over 2,340 calls. Some of these are follow ups, but they are all pretty cold the very first time. The biggest challenge in these conversations is to highlight to our clients that the status quo is a disaster, but we can help! No one needs to send orders via smoke signals as it is not efficient, convenient or accurate.

One of clients, a major supplier of produce on the East Coast with millions of dollars in monthly revenue, receives over 600 phone calls per day!

Of course, this much revenues is an obvious sign of success, but this means that every new sale comes with a new daily phone call/fax/email, which dramatically constrains the supplier’s growth and increases operational costs.

Over the last 4 weeks, as some of my cold calls graduate to more “warm” calls and then into product demos, we have gained tremendous insight into the real needs and fears of ;our customers.  Particularly important has been to do as much listening as talking. 97% of our 15 min Product demos result in a signed client. Yet getting a prospective client to agree to a 15min demo is a painful process. They have real fears when it comes to a new way of doing business, and ALL of them have worked very hard to build their companies (restaurants & suppliers) and many struggle to stay in business. Signing up for a new way of business seems like an unnecessary risk.

Fortunately as a Chief Cold Call Officer, I gained insight into these issues, and compile a running list to address our prospective client’s top fears and our top value proposition.

Needless to say, as painful as these sales strategies are, I strongly encourage all of you to spend time on your company’s front lines and get the critical insights to develop your companies and better understand the challenges your own team faces in their day to day activities. Minimizing the hierarchy and “distance” between top management and your customers should be every manager’s top priority. I have seen this method work in very different business environments from New York based investment banks to NGOs in East Africa. You will gain significant insight into your company and your team’s challenges, your client needs, and it will allow you to react and redirect your company as risks and opportunities arise.

Thank you Improvonia Stunning Colleagues for helping Improvonia grow! Outstanding job!!

Konstantin - Chief Cold Call Officer and part-time CEO.