Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Cold Calling 101

Here's my reply (from another board) to the oft-asked question --

How do I get started cold calling? Explain in 100 words or less.

Here's my method in a nutshell. Anyone who has read Peter Bowerman's book will see I'm following his recommendations pretty closely.

I'm still working out the kinks and I'm sure other folks do it way better. If you have your own methods, please share in the comments!

1. Prospecting. Start by compiling a spreadsheet of potential prospects. I use Google and Chamber of Commerce directories to search my area. My favorites are universities, nonprofits, hospitals, graphic designers, marketing firms and Web designers. Briefly visit each prospect's website, try to identify the decision maker and get an email address if possible.

2. Script. Mine goes like this: "Hello. My name is Sarah Maurer and I'm a local freelance (copywriter, writer, health writer) checking in to see if you have any occasional or ongoing needs for a writer to help with (marketing materials, fundraising, publicity, Web content, etc.)."

If possible, group your prospects by type (graphic designers, event planners, nonprofits, etc.) and call them all on the same day. This allows you to adjust your script to the client type and refine your approach as you go. Also, it's easier to notice patterns -- e.g., what they're looking for, what types of project they're working on.

3. Call. If you're not sure who to ask for, read your script and say, "Who would be the best person to speak with?"

4. If you manage to reach a decision maker, read your script and wait.

5. If the prospect is THRILLED to hear from you (happens all the time), say you'll send a link to your online portfolio and resume (your website). Ask what types of clips/samples the prospect is most interested in seeing and if there are any questions.

6. If the prospect rarely use freelancers, or if the company already has a go-to writer, offer to send your info "just in case your regular freelancers are maxed out and you're looking for someone in a hurry." Prospects will almost always agree to this.

7. If the prospect has "no need now" or never uses writers, I personally just thank them and end the call. Peter Bowerman recommends asking if there are any colleagues or associates who might need a writer (can't hurt).

8. If the receptionist offers to put you to voice mail, ask for the decision maker's name and email address (sometimes you'll get it, sometimes you won't).

9. When leaving a voice mail (and you will leave many), read your script. If you have an email address for the prospect, say you'll send a link to your online portfolio and resume. If not, leave your website address.

10. Keep notes in your spreadsheet about who you talked to, who you left voice mail for, and any other details you can glean about the company.

11. After you do your daily round of calls, follow-up with a brief email and a link to your website. I have templates set up in Mail for:
- Really interested prospects
- Prospects who hire writers infrequently or already have a regular freelancer
- Voice mail / message follow-ups
- Prospects I couldn't reach of by phone (basically an LOI)

12. If you get a nibble, suggest a meeting (preferably in person) to discuss their writing needs.

And that's about it. Sounds complicated, but it all flows kind of naturally once you start doing it.

Regarding follow-up, that's a question I'm still figuring out myself. At this point, if they don't give me a nibble, I don't contact them again. After the initial 1,000 contacts are done, I do plan to follow-up with some prospects, but I haven't thought that far ahead.


  1. Heather Van DeestJune 1, 2011 at 11:32 PM

    Thanks for sharing your approach, very helpful stuff!

  2. What do you consider promotional writing? Press releases, and the like?