If you ever start getting disheartened from constant knockbacks when you pitch, consider this: two-thirds of limousine companies cold-called by Travis Kalanick as he tried to kickstart ridesharing giant Uber hung up or turned him down.
“I was going into Google and typing in ‘limousine service San Francisco’,” Kalanick told the Dreamforce 15 conference in San Francisco.
He took the results of his Google search and collated them in an Excel spreadsheet. Then he went “old school” and hit the phones.
“The term is like dialling for dollars,” he said.
“I’m calling up every limo company I can in San Francisco, and your pitch in the beginning they just hang up on you right away. Then you start getting it.
“It was like, ‘I want to be your biggest customer. I can help you make 50 percent more in a week’. And that’s where Uber started.”
Not everyone was particularly receptive to Kalanick’s cold calls.
“A third of the calls basically hung up before I got up to the core pitch, and a third of the calls heard about a minute-and-a-half and then I got hung up on,” he said.
While he was rejected by two-thirds of the limousine companies he rang, Kalanick did strike gold with some.
“One-third were like, ‘This is interesting.’ And if you’ve got a third of the people you’re cold calling saying, ‘Yes please’, you’re in a good spot,” he said.
Kalanick came out of the enterprise software market and was “fine” with employing what he calls “some old-school, shoe leather sales” to get Uber off the ground.
“It was just a dream in the beginning,” he said. “We didn’t know this was going to work”.
A new way to meet high-flyers
If you need encouragement to try Uber – particularly if you find yourself in San Francisco – perhaps you should try the company’s Uber Pool option, where you could wind up sharing your trip with someone you could otherwise struggle to get a meeting with.
A young Goldman Sachs banker recently found this out when he shared a ride with none other than Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.
“I was in my office and I was like, ‘I’m going to try this Uber Pool,” Benioff said.
“Uber picked me up and a few blocks later we picked up another guy who worked for Goldman Sachs and so we had an interesting ride.
“It was a great experience but there was two things that happened. One was of course the ridesharing experience but the second thing was it was a great way to meet someone else [in] a really interesting environment.”
Disclosure: Ry Crozier travelled to Dreamforce 15 in San Francisco as a guest of Salesforce.