Hot Leads, Cold Calls


IT consultant finds new business by working the phone


John Keating relies on perhaps the most innovative yet overlooked technical tool invented in the 20th century to drive demand for Beacon Technologies: the telephone.

"Most guys who are really technical are afraid to pick up the phone, call someone and then be told 'No,' " said Keating, an account manager at the 86-person, Madison, Wis.-based consulting firm with 2006 revenue of $14.5 million. Keating, who joined the company a year and a half ago after a career selling financial services, mutual funds and insurance, has no such fear. As he pointed out, anyone employed in the financial services business lives or dies by his cold-calling abilities. And that's the skill he brings to Beacon.

THE VAR:
JOHN KEATING,
BEACON TECHNOLOGIES

THE CLIENT:
ANY MIDMARKET COMPANY THAT NEEDS IT CONSULTING SERVICES

THE PROJECT:
TO DRUM UP NEW BUSINESS. KEATING WORKS THE PHONE AND WON'T TAKE 'NO' FOR AN ANSWER.

Keating said he looks anywhere and everywhere for possible leads, most of which come from keeping his eyes and ears open and playing hunches rather than employing any high-tech, sophisticated lead-generation mechanism.

"I do a little research on the company, then I call to find out who is in charge of IT projects," he said. "As long as I have a name, I've got somewhere to start. Persistence definitely plays a part in this."

Keating said sometimes he gets to the right person right away, while other times it has taken repeated calls over a six-month period to find and connect with the person who makes IT decisions. But once he finds the decision maker, Keating knows the methodology for getting Beacon in the door with prospective new accounts. "If I can get someone on the phone, I find out if they've used consultants in the past and what types of projects they've used them for," he said. "I find out how they add companies to their vendor list and would they consider us. Then I try to find out what their needs are and explain to them who we are and what we do."

Beacon offers a broad menu of consulting services, including business process engineering, project planning and methodology, disaster recovery and continuity planning, application development and outsourcing to name a few. And Keating said Beacon comes to the table with a roster of name-brand Wisconsin clients, including Lands' End and Famous Footwear, that give the consulting firm instant credibility.

Still, over the 18 months Keating has been in the IT industry, he said he has learned to concentrate his cold calls on midmarket companies rather than large corporations. "Everyone goes after the big companies because they have more opportunities, but they are tougher to get into," he said. "The [IT] guy is bombarded with calls, and he doesn't want to hear from anyone else."

By contrast, Keating recently called on Generac Power Systems, a Waukesha, Wis., manufacturer of power generating systems, and landed work immediately. "When I called, the IT manager was in the process of trying to find a developer, and they were having a hard time finding the right person," he said. "I had the perfect guy for them. When we had the first meeting with them, the vice president of IT was there and he asked me how I got in the door and I said, 'I just called and asked what you needed.' "

As for future prospects, Trek Bicycle, Waterloo, Wis., and Schneider National, a trucking company in Green Bay, Wis., show promise for 2007. "I'm excited that 2007 will probably be the best year [Beacon] has ever had," he said.