When I started my business, I knew the most important thing I could do was find lots of clients. You don't have to be genius to figure out that zero clients equals zero income.
So I Googled, "how do I get clients?" Results were mixed.
One answer was cold-calling. I figured I'd try it. I quickly wished for a guided process or a step-by-step guide but I didn't really come up with much. So I created my own.
I documented my process. Feel free to use it if you think it might be helpful.
Does cold-calling work?
I worked in a call center for a couple of years in college, asking alumni for donations to the university. We called in "pools" organized by schools and people's donation history. Calls cycled through by time zone so we wouldn't interrupt anybody's dinner.
Calling alumni who had donated previously was fun. We usually had great conversations and they knew what we were calling for.
Calling alumni who had no history of donating was terrible. There was no relationship established, so they were usually annoyed.
Most of the year, our focus was on getting people to donate for the first time. Statistically, if people donated a small amount just once, they were more likely to continue donating in the future.
Cold-calling obviously works. Why else would so many businesses and organizations spend so much time on it? But the truth is, it didn't work for me.
There are two reasons why this is:
1. Cold calling is the opposite of permission marketing. Calling people up out of the blue and offering a service they may or may not need is a hard thing to do. It's interruptive and sort of odd. Imagine how you'd react if a stranger walked up to you on the street and started pitching you.
2. I didn't stick with it very long. It felt weird and it wasn't natural for me. I felt rude more often than not. I will admit, I got a couple of leads out of it, but I failed to convert them to paying clients.
Cold-calling is a numbers game. You have to be willing to cycle through a lot of 'nos' before you get a yes.
But I will say this: Just because I wasn't successful with it, doesn't mean you won't be. In fact, I hope it works for you.
In case looking to get started in the cold-calling game, here's the process I used.
1. I researched an industry I had some experience with and wanted to work in.
I had written a website for a 3D printing and prototyping company, so I targeted that industry.
2. I targeted specific companies within that industry.
After Googling a few topics, I found a list of hundreds of companies, saving me some effort.
3. I turned that list into a spreadsheet, manually sorting through each and entering their information.
Columns included: Company name, contact name, email address, phone number, date of initial contact, notes. Keep meticulous records for follow-ups.
4. I started at the top of the list and worked my way down, going to their site and identifying the person in charge of marketing. I added this information to my spreadsheet.
I set a goal of 7 contacts a day (remember, this is a numbers game).If you can’t tell who the marketing person is, call anyway. Someone will answer. Then ask for the person in charge of marketing.
5. I reviewed the company's website before calling, then wrote a script of what I wanted to say, making sure to mention something positive about their website.
I read this aloud to myself before each call. (Yes, aloud. Why are other people in the room? Kick them out!).
6. With my spreadsheet (for notes) and the company’s website open on my computer (as a reference point), I took 3 deep breaths.
You can also try that Matthew McConaughey chest pound thing.
9. When the person answered, I'd say, “Hi, my name is Chris Cooper. I'm the owner of Real Good Writing. I’m wondering if I can speak to the person in charge of your marketing.”
*If they say they're in charge of marketing, move to step #10. If they pass you along to someone else, proceed to step #11.
10. I'd introduce myself again, saying who I was and what I do.
Open by saying something about their company or their website (i.e. “I want to start by saying you guys have a great blog”).
Or mention something that might be a pain point for them (i.e. “I see you have a blog, but your last post was 6 months ago. Do you write those yourself or does someone else do that for you?”).
Either way, you’ve got their attention.
11. I'd let the conversation move from there, knowing I had to "sell myself" quickly.
(I assume you’ve spoken to other humans before and no longer need guidance for next steps).
12. No matter what they'd say, I'd end by asking for their email address.
More often than not, they'd give it to me. I immediately added it to my spreadsheet so I could follow up with my contact information.
13. As soon as we hung up, I'd send a follow up email thanking them for their time.
Make sure to recap the conversation and link to your business site.
A note about “selling yourself"
You don't have to make a "hard sell", but cold-calling is interruptive by nature, so try to be as natural as possible.
Have a normal conversation and talk to the other person like you're meeting at a party for the first time. Conduct yourself on the phone as you would in person. You’ll get a better response by being authentic than by being pushy.
There you go. A step-by-step process for cold-calling. It's not for the faint of heart. But if you've already started a business, you've already got more gumption than most.
Again, I wasn't super successful with this. I'm not even suggesting you do what I did, but I knew I wanted to try it. If this is even a little helpful to you, than sharing this process is worth it.
Whether you get an immediate response, one of the positives of cold-calling is that you’ve opened a door. And you do a good job of following up (you took notes, right?) than you’ve left them with a good feeling about working with you when they’re ready.