When I started 5 Fingers Creative in 2007 I never once considered cold calling as a viable option to reaching potential clients. I suppose this is because of the fact that I don’t like receiving cold calls. No one likes having his or her dinner interrupted to hear about the latest satellite television technology. In fact I’ve become pretty good about the “big hang up.”
However, after about a year of scraping for clients just short of dumpster diving and much vexation I joined the Cold Calling Club. I wish I could say that the early beginnings of my cold calling venture was a big success but the fact of the matter is was one mistake after another. I learned a lot during those first calls.
Be prepared. Get as much information as you can about whom you’re calling before you make the call. Be prepared to ask questions about their business. And most importantly know whom you are calling. Try not to call and ask for the “person in charge of xxx.” If you don’t know the name of the person you need, call for the name of the person and how to reach them. Then call back another time asking for them directly. Nothing says “buffoon” like ignorance.
You’re not selling vacuum cleaners. Get past the selling mindset. In the beginning I always tried too hard to sell myself. This isn’t retail and we aren’t selling vacuum cleaners. The initial call is merely an introduction call. The majority of people I call appreciate the fact that I made the time to make a personal contact instead of simply emailing them.
Follow-up. Like milk, the contacts you make through cold calling have an expiration date. The longer you let it sit on your desk the more spoiled it gets. Have a plan for your calls.
Follow up each call with a quick email and note that thanks them for their time. This little act says a lot about how much you respect their time. Have several self-promotion pieces available for quick turn around. Drop them in the mail the same day or within 48 hours. The longer you wait to follow-up the frostier the contact gets and when you call back it is less likely that the potential client will remember you.
I‘ve always compared cold calling to dating. Although it’s been a few years since I’ve been on the playing field I still remember the rules of the game. If you know someone you want to get to know better and have him or her get to know you better you have to first introduce yourself. No one is going to know that you exist until you let him or her know you are available and have a lot of great qualities to offer. I had to ask a lot of girls to dance before I finally found one that rocked my world.
Clients are the same. The more you are out there introducing yourself and getting to know people the better chance you have of getting one or two that will want to shimmy with you.
As creative people we have a service that people want and need. Unlike the calls we get at dinner, there are a lot of potential clients out there that are just waiting for us to contact them. What we have is a gift; cold calling is just one of a hundred ways to share it with world.
BTW: Listen to this podcast with illustrator, Tim Read, about how he uses LinkedIn to find prospects to call. And if you need a plan to keep you on track, check out the one Tim uses: The Marketing Mentor Marketing Plan + Calendar.