Today’s post is a guest post by one of our readers, Chris Vanasdalan, a freelance writer. Chris shares his tips for increasing your success with cold calling prospects — a “traditional” but still effective way for freelancers to get clients.
Cold calling can be a daunting and terrifying prospect for freelancers. No one wants to spend the day getting screamed at, hung-up on or being called a parasitic worm unworthy of human interaction or basic kindness.
It’s tough to check your pride at the door and prepare yourself to get flatly rejected by dozens of strangers, and a variety of thoughts run through your head as you face “no” after “no” after “no.” But if you’re determined and have a thick skin, cold calling can pay off.
Here are a few tips that can boost your chances of cold-calling success:
Call at The Right Time
The timing of your call is one of the most important factors when it comes to getting through to a potential client. Avoid making cold calls on Monday. Most people are still getting caught up after the weekend and don’t want to be bothered as they get back into the groove of an upcoming work week.
The same goes for Fridays. Most folks are checking out and trying to wrap up what they need to get done for the week. They won’t be receptive to an unsolicited pitch.
The best times to call are Tuesday through Thursday, early in the morning and later in the evening. Shoot for 8 – 9 a.m. and 5-6 p.m. Many of the decision makers got where they are by coming to work early and staying late. This is a good time to reach them when the office is calmer and they have more time to listen to your pitch. Plus, you can avoid having to convince a receptionist or secretary to send an unsolicited call through to their boss.
Do Your Homework
It helps if you research your target’s contact info before you make the call. Having the name of a specific person (hopefully the boss or head of PR) will help ensure you get through to the right person and you aren’t pitching to a company intern.
It’s also important to keep a record of who you’re calling and when. Make a simple chart so you can fill in important info. I record the company name, contact person, address, phone/fax, e-mail, date of contact and any info or samples they’ve requested.
Knowing who you’ve called helps you avoid targeting the same people too often. It also helps you when it comes time to follow up on those killer samples they’ve asked you to send.
Don’t Send Clips Unless They Ask
These days potential clients will likely ask for an e-mail with links to your portfolio, blog or other samples, but some still prefer you send hard copies via snail mail. In this case, it’s important not to offer to send your portfolio unless they ask. If you offer first they might say yes just to get you off the phone. You can’t afford to send out high quality clips just to have them end up in the trash.
Know Whom You’re Pitching To
Make it easy on yourself by targeting one specific industry per day. Start by making lists of all the graphic designers in your market, then all the PR firms, banks, web developers, etc.
Having a comprehensive list for each industry will streamline the process and keep you organized. Spend a morning calling all the local banks. The next day call the PR firms. The next day call the graphic designers. Get the idea?
Stay on Message With a Script
As cheesy as it sounds, having a simple script will make things go a whole lot easier on you. I have two different versions of a 10 to 15 second script written on a 3 x 5 card. One side is for when I reach a live person, the other is for when I’m leaving a voice mail message.
Mine goes something like this…
“Hello, My name is Chris Vanasdalan. I’m a freelance writer calling local __(insert industry)___ today to see if you have any temporary or on-going needs for a professional writer to help with copy, advertising or marketing material.”
When leaving a voice mail the message is the same, followed by my phone number, website and/or e-mail address.
If they’re interested you continue the conversation from there. If not, politely say “thank you” and move on.
Don’t Take “No” Personally
Nobody likes being hung up on, having a call sent to voice mail, or being escorted out of the building by security, but it happens. (Hopefully not the last example.) The key is not to dwell on it. It isn’t personal.
Getting rejected can sting like a family of scorpions living inside your colon but there’s not much you can do. Most folks won’t be interested in your services and it’s tough not to scream, “I’m trying to make your life easier! Why don’t you get that?”
There’s no point to getting frustrated or angry. That won’t get you anywhere. Especially in the business world where everyone you talk to is a potential client. You never know where the next job might come from, so there’s no sense in burning bridges before you’ve had a chance to cross.
Always remember that just by calling you’ve done something very important. You’ve made them aware of you and your brand. At least now they know you exist and you’ve planted a little seed in the back of their mind.
Plus, if you’ve done your research you have a whole list of contact info you can use during your next direct mail campaign or e-mail newsletter. That’s another opportunity to get your name in front of them.
Who knows, maybe you’ll get lucky and the person on the other end of the phone is interested in your services and wants to set up a meeting on the spot. It doesn’t happen often but it does happen.
Just remember, the more times you hear “no” the closer you are to a “yes.”
Have you tried cold calling to get clients before? What was your experience like? Please share your experience in the comments below.
Chris Vanasdalan is a freelance writer based in Indiana. He’s got more than a decade of professional writing and reporting under his belt having written for various newspaper, radio and television outlets in central PA, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis. Currently he’s the owner of Write Now Indy, offering copywriting, photography, social media help, PR services and media training.
In his spare time Chris is a husband, a referee with USA Hockey, an environmental advocate and political junkie.