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Our goal for the day was to rekindle some contacts the previous sales manager had been pursuing last spring.  It got frustrating quickly.  About half of the emails we sent bounced back within seconds.  We were obviously working with stale data.  Many of the contacts were gone.  We nearly abandoned the project but then thought about it from a different perspective.  Our marketing manager ran a report from the company newsletter and created a spreadsheet listing the names and companies of all the recent mailings that had bounced.

Rather than cull the names from the list, we decided to use it as a prospecting tool.  We switched from the cranking out emails to using the phone in an effort to get updated information.  We realized that the bad addresses gave us a perfect reason to call — a person’s name.   Using a list of bounced email addresses we were able to work our way into conversation with key decision makers.

Here’s how we did it:

First we called the number associated with the out-of-date (bounced ) contact as listed in Salesforce.   In many cases this ended up at the switchboard and pressing 0 to speak with the receptionist. We’d use a script like this:

Hi. My name is Rusty Williams and I’m calling from ABC Incorporated.  I had previously been in touch with John Smith about the services we provide to companies like Widgets Unlimited.  I understand that John recently left the company.  Do you know who’s taken  his place?

I know a lot of people think cold calling is dead and that interruptive sales techniques aren’t effective.  That’s simply not true.  While the boiler room approach of yesteryear doesn’t work, conducting some research so you have some level of familiarity with a company prior to a call can pay big dividends.  If you have some background information you’ll be at least cordially received by people you reach on the phone.   In this case, the previous person’s name was the key to illustrating that we had been working with the company.  We also decided not to give them any type of pitch or push for a time to schedule a demo.  Our goal was simple:  to tap the internal knowledge of the organization structure to find out who is the best person to use as a contact going forward.  In some cases the people we reached by phone said “wait, tell me again what you do?” and that opened up the opportunity to elaborate on our services and describe the titles of the people we typically work with at other client companies.

I should point out that we got a lot of voice mails.  In that case we left a message noting that I had been referred to the as the most likely replacement for the bounced contact.  With luck we could get the new name from the greeting and locate their email address.  In all cases — voice mail or live conversation — we sent a follow-up email with more details about our services — but still with the only call-to-action being “can you confirm that you’re the appropriate contact?”

To our surprise we even had a few people we hadn’t contacted directly call or email back.  We could see using Yesware’s tracking report that some of the follow up emails had been opened multiple times — a clear sign that the follow-up messages had been forwarded internally.

Sales is hard work.  With a little extra research and a non-pushy approach we were able to identify new contacts reasonably quickly .

In this exercise, we found that using bad email addresses as a prospecting tool can indeed be a lucky bounce.