Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Now Leaving the Comfort Zone

I started a cold calling campaign today.

This is completely out of character for me. I'm strictly a sales-by-the-written-word kind of gal. I can cold-email til the sun goes down, til my fingertips are bloody stumps. But actually talking to a real, live human being who's never met me before, and trying to convince them to hire me? That's my idea of hell.

But I've been thinking lately about getting out of my comfort zone--and how good that would be for my business. I hold myself back from engaging in certain marketing activities for reasons that have nothing to do with solid business thinking and everything to do with the fact that they give me the willies--and most of them, like cold calling and networking, can actually be extremely effective if used right.

Cold calling would be good for my business in several ways. First, it will get me out from behind the keyboard and into a more personal-sales mentality--useful in networking situations, too. It gets you business fast--and it makes your business seem more legitimate than a random email. And the more personal your contact with a prospect, the more likely they'll be to hire you.

Cold calling still isn't my favorite way to spend a morning, but here are a few things to remember that made it possible for me.

These people you're calling? They get cold calls all the time. Seriously, you're not going to be seen as a total weirdo for calling them. Vendors and freelancers call marketing directors, creative directors and other people in hiring positions at companies of all sizes all the time. I mentioned to a very good friend of mine in marketing for a publishing house that I was starting a cold call campaign, and her response was this: "I get cold calls ALL THE TIME. Here's how to get my attention." She then proceeded to give me some great tips on when to call, what to say, and the tone to take to make sure the conversation turns out profitably. The lesson? These people get cold calls all the time and what you're doing isn't out of the ordinary.

Some of them might be actively looking for someone like you right now. Forget the intrusive telemarketer stereotype. You have something valuable to offer, something the people you're calling need--marketing expertise in a very specialized field. Some of the people you're calling might be wracking their brains, right that minute, to figure out how to word that headline. They won't be annoyed to hear from you; they'll be glad you called.

You ARE qualified. I think much of my trepidation about cold calling comes from when I first started my business--when I hadn't handled a large project on my own; when I didn't have a load of good samples; and when I didn't have a long client list. I have to remind myself that I'm not that person anymore. My writing has gotten people real results, and marketing pros in vendor hiring situations should know about me--I'm a legitimate resource.

What's holding YOU back from trying cold calling?


Lori said...

Great post! What's holding me back? Time. I have no time right now. The worst excuse on the planet - and one I preach endlessly about on my own blog. I need to schedule it or it's not going to happen. Thanks for the kick in the pants. :)

Jennifer Williamson said...

It doesn't take that much time, actually! My goal for today was five calls. When I can get through five calls without feeling like I need a drink, I'll up it to ten. Or maybe seven. Small steps. I think even a small effort is better than none.

AnnaLisa Michalski said...

I admire your initiative and willingness to step out of the comfort zone, Jennifer.

May I ask how you define "cold call"? I suspect my strong negative reaction to cold calling comes from my impression of the cold call as totally unsolicited, from a stranger whose company has no history with me and no reason on earth to believe I'm anything other than a $ waiting to happen.

I think that's probably not what you're doing. I suspect if you're finding success with your calls, they're actually warm calls or simply good customer service follow-ups that naturally grow into new sales. "I'm calling to follow up on ABC. How's that working out for you?" or "This is Jennifer. We met at the X conference last week. How are you doing?" leads to a new assignment more subtly, and far more humanely, than a truly cold call--no?

To me as a customer (or "mark" as it feels to me with a cold call) the intrusive phone call is not a stereotype. It is 100% real. I have never, N-E-V-E-R gotten an unsolicited sales call, either at home or at work, that didn't cause me to respond in immediate deal's-off mode.

If I need a service or product, I look for it, take the time to do the research to find the one that's right for me, and then buy it. I don't expect the salesman to come to me, and I don't like having to make a decision on the spot, which I feel obligated to do in a phone call situation. I've never gotten a sales call that came at any other than a completely inconvenient time, either--right on a hot deadline, while the kids are talking loudly in the background, while I'm fighting with my hardware or Internet connection, when I have a mouthful of something crunchy, at the same moment the doorbell rings, etc. Somehow these calls ALWAYS interrupt something else.

Then again, I pre-schedule my work-related phone calls as a matter of course and leave the phone on VM at all other times. Could be just that I really don't like talking on the phone!

Jennifer Williamson said...

Hi AnnaLisa,

Nope, these are cold calls...not warm ones. Warm ones would be easy, comparatively. Although in general, yes, I do hate to talk on the phone and would usually much rather send over an email, and in the past I've pre-scheduled my calls as well.

I know they have a bad reputation, but they also get great results for people who use them consistently. So far I've left a lot of messages and given out my website address to a lot of people, but gotten no "you're hired!''s" off the bat. Still, maybe one of them will grow into something. I'm using cold calling as part of a larger marketing campaign; I'm using email and direct mail as well. We'll see where it takes me--and which method gets results first.

Kimberly Ben said...

I did a lot of cold calling for my old job. Another good thing about cold-calling is that it's yet another way to initiate relationships. I did a lot of cold calling when I first started and was often asked to email or mail info even if they weren't ready to do business then and there. Persistence is key. Good luck, Jenn, and keep us posted on your progress!

Jennifer Williamson said...

Thanks, I will!