5 Steps to Cold Calling Your Way to More Business

by Deborah Ager on March 9, 2011

PhoneTo call or not?

As someone who cold called her way to a job during the spaghetti days of graduate school, I can say that this technique can work if you do it right.

Recently, I read a 51-page e-book by Martha Retallick, a Tucson, Arizona-based freelance photographer and graphic designer.

As her business started to slide along with the economy, she tried a number of tactics—including advertising, direct mail, mentoring, networking, and publicity—to get new clients. When those ideas failed for various reasons, she turned to the often-dreaded task of cold calling.

And it worked.

In the Freelancer’s Guide to Finding New Clients—her how-to guide on cold calling—Retallick outlines a five-step process for growing your business.

Step 1: Create Your Ideal Client Profile

Step 2: Find Lead Lists

Step 3: Script Calls

Step 4: Make Calls

Step 5: Follow Up

I’ll share some of her suggestions from each section so you can get an idea if this is a book you need to build your own business.

Step 1: Create Your Ideal Client Profile

In the first step, Retallick suggests that readers determine characteristics of their ideal clients. These details can include any of the following:

  • a target company’s annual revenues,
  • whether the organization is a start-up or mature,
  • location of the company,
  • the company’s industry,
  • whether the company is privately held or publicly traded, and more.

Creating an ideal client profile early in the process can save you from contacting companies that can’t afford, or aren’t interested in, certain services or products.

Most importantly, identifying your target market can increase your conversion rate while saving you precious business-building time.

Step 2: Find Lead Lists

Lists of potential leads can be found in association and Chamber of Commerce directories, on websites, and in the news.

Retallick suggests setting up Google Alerts to track specific target industries that interest you and contain your potential clients. Once you get your materials ready and the names gathered, it’s time to figure out what to say.

Step 3: Script Calls

To get ready for cold calls, write up a short script that introduces yourself and your service or product. The book provides specific examples for a variety of situations. For example, Retallick provides this likely situation followed by a sample script:


Tom. You met him at a business event, and you think you can help create a better online ordering system for his company. He asked you to call next week. Once you reach Tom, here’s what to say:

Sample Script:

You: “Tom, this is Shirley Shopping Cart. We met at the Business-to- Business Mixer last Thursday, and you mentioned that your company needed a better online ordering system.”

A script can help prevent you from fumbling out of nervousness during a call and encourage you to hone your elevator pitch.

Even if you don’t need to use it when you make the actual call, writing a script can help you narrow your focus so you can connect with your target market.

Step 4: Make Calls

With your ideal client identified, your call list ready, and your script written, you are steps closer to reaching the right person and converting them into a client. However, making the phone calls is the step most business owners dread. Calling someone you’ve never met in order to get new business can be scary, dull, or frightening.

The bad news is, although the numbers can change, roughly 90% of the people you contact will not contact you back. The good news is that you do not need a 100% response rate to achieve success.

A small percentage of those you contact will express interest and could become profitable long-term clients.

If calling someone scares you, this book about feeling the fear and doing it anyway might help.

Step 5: Follow Up

To succeed at this step, it’s important to have contact management software or, at the very least, a system. If you are a bootstrapping startup, an Excel spreadsheet may work well until you can afford more sophisticated software.

One business owner I know prefers to conduct call-mail-call campaigns.

At first, she’ll make a phone call and see if she can speak with the contact. If not, she’ll leave a message. Then, she’ll snail mail a relevant item (filled with informational value) to the contact. After a certain period of time, she’ll call the contact back to follow up.

You’d be surprised how many people will take the call after receiving the item.

The item can be a book (my preference) or something else that the prospect will find useful to their work.

What are you supposed to do after making the initial cold call?

If you receive a positive response—even if it’s not an immediate yes—Retallick suggests using the following ideas for keeping in touch:

1.   Adding them to your e-mail newsletter or podcast lists. (Ask for permission first!)

2.   Making periodic “keep-in-touch” phone calls and e-mails.

3.   Inviting them to attend events with you.

4.   Including them in your direct mailings.

5.   Sharing if you see a useful article or website link.

6.   Adding them to your Twitter feed.

7.   Adding them to the RSS feed for your blog.

8.   Inviting them to join your LinkedIn network and/or Facebook friends.

Although I might change the word “freelance” to “consultant” or “small business owner” in the title, this book provides a comprehensive outline of what you need to do to succeed in growing your business with a cold calling plan.

More from Women Grow Business:

Image: Pete Prodoehl via Flickr, Creative Commons

Deborah Ager manages niche affiliate websites, publishes a nationally known poetry magazine, owns ClickWisdom, and authored a book of poetry (Midnight Voices). She likes connecting on Twitter.

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