Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Adventures in Cold Calling

When I worked in advertising sales for the local newspaper fresh out of college, I was introduced to cold calling. And I hated it with a passion. Part of my job was to solicit new advertisers. In the beginning, no one trained me how to do this. I was expected to make at least 25 calls a day, and show some sort of results for my efforts when I sat down each month to discuss my goals and performance with my supervisor.

After stalling for a couple of hours each morning to avoid the task at hand, I would get started. I was pitiful, and the rejection cut me like a knife. I would listen to my cubicle neighbors making their calls. Some reps were more successful than others. I tried copying some of their techniques. Eventually I learned a few important things:

  • Cold calling is a numbers game, so consistency is the key.
  • You'll get a lot more people saying "no" than yes.
  • It's important to get to the decision maker, so it helps to do some research beforehand.
  • Even if the person you call says "no" today, it's important to follow up at a later date.
  • Don't take it personal when someone says "no." They don't hate you.
  • In order to sell your service, you have to believe in it implicitly.

    Long story short
    , I got better at it, even though I never really learned to like it. So imagine my surprise when I finally decide to take the leap and start my own freelance writing business, only to learn that cold calling is one of the top marketing techniques recommended. "Ugh, not again!" was my first reaction. Naturally I avoided doing it for as long as I could. But then as I began to realize the importance of establishing a strong marketing plan.

    Freelance copywriters commanding much higher rates than I did were cold calling with abandon – and getting positive results! Everywhere I turned, successful freelancers would mention cold calling as an important marketing strategy. No one said they loved it, but it did seem to get results.

    I bit the bullet. I drafted a script to help me out, and made a couple of calls. And it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I know my service like the back of my hand. I research each company before calling, so I know what I have to offer. Bingo! I was hired to write some direct response material after my fifth call – not too shabby!

    I still don't enjoy cold calling. Deep down I tend to think of it as a distant cousin to telemarketing (they always call during the dinner hour…) and I feel like I'm being a pest. But these companies are in business just like me. And I have something important to offer that can help their business. Why, I'm doing them a disservice by NOT calling! See, this what you need to believe about your business EVERY time you make that call.

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