Cats, Burritos and Art. Creativity Gets Sales Calls Returned!

Carl Landau famously (or infamously) offered to send “cats in the mail” to his advertising clients. I’m known for sending burritos to get calls back.

Every salesperson faces the same dilemma: how to get noticed by the decision-makers.

A new friend of mine, Lee Hancock, a Business Development Executive with Proxios, has really taken it to the next level—by using custom artwork to get through to the C-suite and get the meeting.

Lee says he reads about one business book a month. He picked up a copy of “How to Get a Meeting with Anyone: The Untapped Selling Power of Contact Marketing” by Stu Heinecke.

Then Lee developed a plan:

  • He finds the prospect – and then researches everything about the company and the leader he wants to connect with.
  • Lee then hires a local artist Doug Orleski to create custom artwork tailored to his prospect.

Here’s an example: One prospect works in trucking litigation and defense. So the artwork included a truck with the law firm’s logo on the side. The contact’s name was on the cab. Lee also worked in subtle nods to where the prospect went to college, (since he’d done his research.) He had the artwork created on a canvas, ready to hang on the prospect’s office wall, and placed a copy of the art in the mail with an introductory letter.

Lee was sure this approach would work.

His CEO, to his credit, gave him the latitude to try it. But he was so sure it wouldn’t work, he placed a bet that Lee’s campaign would not get a single reply. When Lee called the prospect to follow-up, the receptionist said “Hold on, he really wants to speak with you.” The prospect took the call and wanted to thank him for such awesome outreach.

The CEO was happy to have lost the bet.

After that, another of Lee’s target prospects said, “I don’t even know what you are selling – I want to meet with you anyway.” Lee has repeated his success several times now. So far only one company failed to respond. Otherwise, everyone has at least taken his call – most agreed to a meeting.

Here’s why Lee’s outreach plan works:

  1. He does his research. This plan wouldn’t work if the artwork wasn’t personalized. It shows that Lee has done his homework and knows the prospect. He isn’t a stranger.
  2. Lee is giving a gift. In this case, a really nice one. Once the gift is given the prospect feels obligated to at least take his call.
  3. This approach is creative. Doing the unexpected to break through is key. Lee’s prospects likely field dozens, if not hundreds of calls a day from people trying to sell them something. Lee found a way to stand out and break through the noise.
  4. It has shelf life. Most of Lee’s prospects hang the art up in the office. Every time they see it they think about who gave it to them.

Most of us have access to art departments – either in-house or via contracts. Why not reach out to your friends on the creative side of publishing and see if you, too, can’t create custom art to get your top prospect’s attention?

P.S. If you’d like to hear the story in Lee’s own words, you can listen to a podcast interview with him and his CEO here:

How contact marketing helped me win a bet with my CEO


More about Christopher: Christopher Ware is Vice President of Business Development for NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association. He’s an association event pro with expertise in making niche events profitable through creative corporate sponsorships that benefit both the association and the industry it serves. Inspired by Carl’s giving away cats, Chris has a history of giving away free burritos to get his calls returned.


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