When was the last time you called prospects and they thanked you for calling? Maybe they even asked when you could come in and see them?
Never, maybe? Stu Heinecke has a method that he says can give you a 100 percent response rate. How? Through audacity.
That means the kind of approach that gets prospects to say, “I just have to meet this person!” Stu does it through cartoons, because that is his special talent.
He is a cartoonist for The Wall Street Journal and uses suitable-for-framing illustrations depicting his prospects, and gets the door thrown wide open for him.
You are not a cartoonist, you say? Stu says in his book, How to Get a Meeting With Anyone, that you do not need a talent like that, but with some VIP cred and a clever device, you can get on any prospect’s calendar.
In his book, he talks about how you can develop VIP credibility. But many insurance producers and financial advisors already have a high profile in their community. What they might not have is the surefire meeting-getter.
In this interview with Publisher Paul Feldman, Stu tells how you can find your superpower to meet anyone.
FELDMAN: How does a cartoonist end up writing a book about marketing?
HEINECKE: Well, actually, I’m not just a cartoonist. I’m very proud of being a cartoonist and proud of being one of the Wall Street Journal cartoonists.
But I’m also a marketer. When I started out, I was creating direct-mail campaigns, and I wanted to marry cartoons and personalization to direct marketing.
One problem that I encountered was that David Ogilvy and his disciples were all saying, “Don’t use humor. It doesn’t work.” Ogilvy had a lot of different things he said about humor, but it turned out that he changed his mind about it.
He should have, because as I sat there in the audience listening to some of these experts talking, a lot of times they get on stage and they say, “Well, here are things you should avoid,” or, “Here are 10 things you should avoid (or 10 things you should do) to have a successful campaign.” And humor was always up there as something you should avoid.
I’d think, “Gosh, these guys don’t understand it,” because I knew that cartoons were, according to readership surveys sent by magazines and newspapers, almost always the best read and remembered part of the magazines and newspapers.
FELDMAN: Doesn’t humor help connect a salesperson to a prospect?
HEINECKE: If you think about the nature of humor, humor is about truth being revealed in a twist, which is why when we laugh at something, we often find ourselves saying, “That’s so true.”
There’s always some point of agreement, which makes them really powerful devices.
That’s what I set out to do. My first two clients for creating direct-mail campaigns were Rolling Stone and Bon Appétit magazines.
At the time they were doing a lot of direct mail to either acquire new customers or get them to renew. They were relentless and very sophisticated direct marketers and testers.
My first two times out, I set the record for Bon Appétit and Rolling Stone.
FELDMAN: That’s pretty impressive. How did you build on that success?
HEINECKE: I thought, “Well, OK, now I want to spread this to the rest of the publishing industry.”
That meant I needed to reach about two dozen VPs and directors of circulation or consumer marketing at the big Manhattan-based media houses. I knew it was going to be a little bit of an interesting challenge.
One percent seems to be the number quoted by so many people saying, “Well, if you get a 1 percent response rate to a direct-mail campaign, you’re doing really well.” That’s the standard.
There actually is no such number, but if I applied it to my campaign to these 24, it would be a disaster even if I got a 10 percent response rate.
I thought, “I need to hit 100 percent,” even though I was told that 100 percent response rates were impossible.
My contact campaign was a suitable-for-framing, 8-by-10 print of a cartoon about each recipient, each of the VIP prospects I was going after. Then included was a letter that said, “This is the device I just used to create direct-mail campaigns that set records for Rolling Stone and Bon Appétit, and I think we should put this to the test for your titles.”
I reached all of them, a 100 percent response rate. Not only did I reach all of them, but all of them became clients.
So, it was worth millions of dollars to me, and it stemmed from a campaign that cost me less than $100. I consider that to be the nature of contact marketing, because I went out to a very small audience.
When that happened, I thought, “Well, that’s really interesting. How far can I go? Who else can I reach by sending these cartoons around?”
I ended up reaching a couple of presidents, a prime minister, celebrities, and just really countless CEOs and top decision-makers. In fact, it came to the point where I thought, “I have a secret weapon. I can break through to anyone.”
I finally came across this one format that I really, really liked, which is what I call a Big Board. It’s an 18-by-24-inch, quarter-inch-thick, really tough foam-core board. It’s a giant version of a postcard we sent through the mail many, many times in campaigns.
Then on the other side is all the branding and a message from the sender to the recipient, explaining who the sender is and why a meeting or a phone call should take place.
FELDMAN: You use your system to get executive assistants to help you. How do you do that?
HEINECKE: I know that a lot of salespeople say, “Oh my God, executive assistants, I hate ’em. They’re gatekeepers.”
Salespeople spend a lot of time thinking about how they can circumvent the gatekeepers. But actually, executive assistants are critical parts of these contact campaigns. You really want those assistants on your side.
Here is what the scripting sounds like when we’re using a Big Board to reach out to someone of great importance. I call up and ask for the executive assistant to the president of whoever it is I’m reaching out to. It’s usually a her.
So when I get her on the line, I say, “Hi, my name is Stu Heinecke. I’m one of the Wall Street Journal cartoonists, a Hall of Fame-nominated marketer, and I am sending a print of one of my cartoons. The cartoon is about your boss. While I want it to be a surprise to him, I don’t want it to be a surprise to you. So that’s why I’m reaching out to you. Would you mind if I send you an email with these details? Of course when I have a tracking number, I’d like to send that to you as well.”
They’re usually saying, “Oh my gosh, yes. Thank you so much. That’s wonderful. That sounds like a lot of fun. Yeah, I’ll make sure that he gets it.”
Then as soon as we’ve concluded, I send an email saying, “Thank you for your help. Again, this is who I am, and I’m sending this cartoon print to your boss. You should expect it on Friday, and I will send you a tracking number as soon as I have it. Thank you again so much for your help.”
Then I turn around and I send a greeting card with a cartoon about the assistant straight away to the assistant, with a note inside saying, “Barbara, thank you so much for your help on the phone. I greatly appreciate it.”
I have a little extra benefit in that when I sign the card, it’s actually my cartoonist autograph. The signature inside matches the signature on the artwork, and that’s kind of a nice effect.
FELDMAN: That process has to be a hit with the executive assistant.
HEINECKE: Yes. My whole goal with the executive assistants is to turn them into allies.
We should be allies because part of their job is to find important opportunities that their boss might have otherwise missed. Certainly, their job is to keep the wrong people out, but it’s also to let the right people in.
I think of them as talent scouts or VPs of access. If you think about it, they really are sort of stealth VPs. If they’re the executive assistant to the CEO, their work is more visible to the CEO than the rest of the C-suite members’ work is.
FELDMAN: Have you worked with insurance companies?
HEINECKE: I should share this one story with the test that we ran for a Fortune 300 company. They were selling through producers that sell a lot of lines of insurance. And the producers really didn’t want to talk to the company’s reps when they called.
They would say, “Look, I know what you guys do, and if I need something like that, I’ll let you know. Don’t call me — I’ll call you.”
We put together a test of 30 Big Boards to producers. These were producers with whom they either didn’t have relationships or had dormant relationships.
Producers were sending selfies with their Big Boards back to the company and lots and lots of thank-you notes and lots of lunches together. Basically a lot of open doors.
So within the first three months after those hit, the company saw about a 20,000 percent ROI. But because those are producer relationships, they continue to produce to this day. I have no idea what the ROI actually ended up being.
FELDMAN: If somebody’s not a cartoonist and looking for something creative to send in the mail, you suggested using visual metaphors. What are visual metaphors?
HEINECKE: Visual metaphors fall into a larger category of gifts.
There are a lot of gifts that you can send. You can send cupcakes or food or sports memorabilia. The list goes on and on. And then there are interesting kinds of gifts, subcategories of gifts.
People sometimes like to send half of a gift. So that would be like sending the left shoe of a really nice pair of shoes that’s actually the right size. It requires a little bit of help from the executive assistant to do that.
You send the left shoe with a note that says, “I’d like to get my foot in the door and meet with you about this. When we meet, I’ll bring the other shoe.”
Or it could be that they send a remote-controlled model of a Ferrari, but without the remote control. “I’ll bring the remote control unit in when we meet.” Those kinds of things.
Sellers do report successful meetings by doing that, but I don’t think there’s a highest form of giving a gift. I think the highest form is using visual metaphors. They are gifts, but they’re really visual demonstrations of the value you bring or the — or maybe the problem that you want to help them solve.
FELDMAN: What’s an example of a visual metaphor?
HEINECKE: One of my favorite stories was from Dan Waldschmidt, who is a turnaround specialist. Well, Dan is not just a turnaround specialist, but he’s also one of the top sales bloggers in the world.
His blog is called EDGY Conversations. He’s also a best-selling author with his book, EDGY Conversations. He’s an extreme athlete. He runs 100-mile races and wins. He’s an amazing guy.
He described to me his method for finding new clients and new prospects for his turnaround services. He combs business news every morning, looking for stories of missed earnings estimates.
When he finds one, he has this beautiful sword made up. They’re huge. They’re life-size, medieval swords made by the prop-maker who made all the swords for the movie Gladiator.
So they’re beautiful, really well done.
Then he has the CEO’s name engraved on the sword along with an inscription: “If you’re not all in, you’re not in at all,” which is one of Dan’s sayings.
This gets placed into a beautiful wooden box with a handwritten note that says, “Business is war, and I noticed you lost a battle recently. I just wanted to let you know that if you ever need a few extra hands in battle, we’ve got your back.”
Then he signs his name and puts his phone number in. That’s it. There’s no branding. It costs him $1,000 apiece to do this. I love the audacity of all this.
He reports that he’s getting essentially a 100 percent response rate with those swords, which is not to say that he sells to everyone that he breaks through to. Obviously that’s not the case in selling anyway.
But when he does sell, his assignments are worth $1 million and up. So he can afford to send a $1,000 item to several people and still have it pay off quite well. So that’s a great example.
FELDMAN: That’s a great example of a high-end campaign for large contracts. What about more modest campaigns?
HEINECKE: I’m designing new campaigns for clients right now. One of them is a box that has five metal spinning tops, and the letter says, “Quick, see if you can get all five tops spinning and keep them spinning during the time it takes to read this letter.”
I think that’s a great metaphor for what sales managers are going through because they’re always trying to keep those salespeople spinning. They’re always falling over and always falling off the table. It’s a lot of just detail work to keep them going.
So what a great way to say, “Do you find yourself too busy managing your sales team? I’ve got a solution I’d like to talk to you about.”
I think at that point they’re saying, “God, yeah, this is exactly what it’s like.” That’s what a visual metaphor is.
FELDMAN: Are there any visual metaphors that you use?
HEINECKE: Are you familiar with the Hoberman sphere? It’s a child’s toy that’s a sphere made up of a bunch of plastic pieces that are hinged together. You pull on any two points and that sphere expands like crazy.
I use that one as a visual metaphor because I want to tell people, “If you pull on any two points, that’s exactly what contact marketing does for your business. It doesn’t take more than two contact points and a little bit of pressure on the sphere, and suddenly the scale just goes up dramatically.”
It illustrates a central point of truth exactly the way cartoons do.
FELDMAN: The contact marketing techniques are infused with that audacity, and that makes them memorable. They talk about it to other people. Do you see this working on the insurance producer level?
HEINECKE: The last thing people want to do is take a call from an insurance salesperson and have their insurance reviewed. It’s kind of like, “Yeah, come on over and give me a root canal.”
They’re not sitting there waiting to do that. That’s not true of just insurance salespeople. That’s just true of salespeople in general. People are not waiting. They’re not sitting there waiting to be pitched. They don’t want to do that.
So your challenge as a seller is not only to break through to them, but how do you humanize yourself? How do you become a person of interest to the person on the other end of all this?
When we do this, what I really want to have happen on the other end is to have the recipient say, “Man, I love the way this person thinks. Wow, I have to meet this person. I just want him to infuse this kind of thinking into our business.”
That’s a far cry from what usually happens when you call cold and you say, “Hi, have you been thinking about your insurance today?”
When Contacting a CEO
• Any call to a CEO should be preceded by a few hours’ research to understand their world, issues and goals.
• When speaking with a CEO, you must have a clear objective for your call.
• If you’re seeking a meeting, why is it beneficial to the CEO, whom should attend and what will they gain?
• If you are proposing a strategic partnership, what’s in it for the CEO? What’s involved?
• Requesting a referral is one of the most effective ways to get the CEO to listen to your reason for calling.
• Top-down referrals produce several advantages, which can be your shortcut to new deals.
• When speaking with the CEO, make sure you get to the point quickly. How is it relevant to their situation, and how will it provide unique value to their enterprise?
• Never tell the CEO you already know there is a fit between their needs and your solution; always ask to explore whether there is a fit or not.
• People will be more engaged in calls that are informative and collaborative, rather than pitch-oriented, which can greatly improve your chances for a successful outcome.
• When speaking with the CEO, appreciate the value of the time they’re spending with you by not wasting it.
• You’re not in charge of the brevity of your call; the CEO is.
• A successful call with a CEO will be surprisingly short; an unsuccessful one will be even shorter.
• Never exit a meeting with a CEO without a specific set of next steps to carry your initiative forward.
Find out more about Stu and get a sneak preview of How to Get a Meeting With Anyone at www.stuheinecke.com