Blake Snow

content advisor, recognized journalist, bodacious writer-for-hire

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Cold calling works (or how I’ve stayed in business all these years)

I just got done reading this great story on a no-name musician landing a big break after “cold calling” a headliner on Twitter. In my opinion, the deal went through because of the following:

  1. The solicitor has talent. Chris James obviously knows how to make hi-fi music. After ripping Deadmau5’s work-in-progress track, he laid down what sounds like release-ready vocals in demo form. Give them a listen. You don’t have to like electronic music to appreciate how professional his demo sounds.
  2. He used an inexpensive promotional item to get in the door. In this case, it was a minute-long demo of his work. Yes, the demo took time, but not “break the bank” amounts of time.
  3. He soft sold his product. “Hope you enjoy my work” was all the guy said. It doesn’t get any softer than that.
  4. He respected the “buyer’s” time. In selling his work, the solicitor used only 14 words. His demo was a minute short. Obviously you can use more than 14 words and 1 minute, depending on the medium. But a preliminary pitch should never be more than a few minutes; no more than 200 words. In short: Be brief. Show what it is you do. Ask the buyer to review your work. Likewise, keep the reviewable work or promo brief.
  5. He was a good fit. Both the buyer and the seller and fans of The Veldt. The buyer put the story to music. The seller proposed putting lyrics and a voice to the music, a discipline which the seller just so happens to outsource for much of his work.
  6. He got lucky. Truer words are rarely spoken: “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” Hard work coupled with persistant sales calls and networking increases the chance of luck. Granted, good fortune is often awarded to underserving people. It’s a fact of life. But varying degrees of luck, including jackpots, are always within the grasp of The Persistance.

Some of the best cold callers I know don’t even realize that they’re effective salesmen. The above Chris James is seemingly one of them. Sadly, thanks to agressive telemarketers, “cold calling” or blind contacting is often looked down upon in business or viewed as a sleazy practice, when in fact it’s not. It’s how hard-working people usually make a name for themselves.

In my experience, the evolution of cold calling worked like this. In the first four months of starting my business, I personally placed thousands of cold calls. The work sucks, is mostly rejection, and makes you doubt yourself like you wouldn’t believe. But because of that work, I was able to get in the door of some compatible accounts and I built a business from there.

In the next several months, I continued to make cold calls, just not as often. In my second year, I was able to stop mass cold calling altogether to focus instead on strategic cold calling, which I still do to this day. Basically, when you’re short on business contacts, mass cold calling is the only way to go. As you broaden your work contacts, however, you can resort to strategic cold calls and become increasingly selective with them.

For example, I made 2-3 “cold” emails last week. Keep in mind, “cold calling” can and should include in-person first meetings, phone calls, emails, tweets—whatever it is your buyer uses to talk to people. In the nine years I’ve been in business for myself, I’ve been rejected far more often than accepted. It simply a part of the sales process.

But I’ve never let that rejection get in the way of the 10-30% of the time that buyers say “yes.” It’s one of the most exhilarating feelings in life. Whether selling a used car, home, yourself, or your business, persistent cold calling directly increases your chances of hearing “yes” more often. And who doesn’t want that?

That being the case, cold calling is just something I do. I don’t even consciously realize when I’m doing it. I see a business or personal contact that I might be compatible with, and I email, phone them, or ask them to lunch. And it pays, whether financial or experiential.

It always pays.

See also: Cold calling tips for newbs and experts alike

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