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July 4, 2009

Consultants and the Cold Call

There has been a lot said about the consulting profession and the cold call. Some are vociferous in their contempt of the practice. Tending instead for an approach to pre-meeting prospects in networking events such as trade shows, or to draw prospects to them via their brand.

Strangely, the people who repeatedly make statements like that are not actually in the B2B marketing game at all, instead they are selling their own books and seminars to the public, or a slice thereof.

Others are effusive in their defense of the cold call, employing telemarketing services to drive up attendance at public seminars and training courses. This does work, I have used it myself. Although it tends to convert into future work less than attendees who were found through more traditional marketing means.

I returned to Australia after over a decade working around the globe. (15 years if you skip over the short break) My network is essentially outside of Australia in Europe and the US in particular.

I have had no option but to use lots of different versions of the cold call to generate work. But (and this is important) I never cold call with the hope of closing a sale. Selling consulting services, as with everything else, is all about scarcity, value and principally about trust.

Trust that you are a decent human being, and that you can deliver what you say you can deliver. Sales will not happen without trust in the equation.

However I always cold call with the hope of starting a relationship.

Here are some versions of the cold calls I frequently use, listed in order of efgfectiveness. (Or maybe it is just my own preferences)

1) The LinkedIn cold call.

Directly to the person in question, or via an introduction by an intermediary. These have been exceptionally useful for me and I recommend you check out the article I wrote a while ago about generating revenue via your LinkedIn LogIn.

Always a humble Inmail. followed by a short email, followed by a phone call / visit or whatever. There are other ways, connecting first followed by a contact Inmail some weeks later is often very successful also.

2) The Book cold call. 

I send a copy of one of my books on Engineering, accompanied with a brochure on the services and products our company offers, complete with client referrals. Always focused on the business sector associated with my prospects company.

I actually almost always get a reply from this approach. The combination of a trust based asset, the books and referrals, combined with the targeted information in the brochure is often enough to get me at least a hearing with the prospective clients.

Also works with unsolicited reports if they contain actionable and valuable data.

3)The Telephone cold call.

I love these. I really do enjoy making contact via the telephone, and particularly on cold calls. Call me masochistic....

Following up from a conference, chasing down information on a certain issue, reference checking or just to introduce your product. Once you have a good reason to speak to somebody, and they are willing to give you a hearing, you can often generate a lot of opportunities for near term discussions and to build a relationship.

4)The email cold call.

Less effective for me as their is so much garbage floating through everyones inbox every day. It is really hard to get noticed this way.

The times that I have it has been because my personal brand was already known to the prospect, making him or her at least interested in what this could be about. Not great unless you can back it up with some form of brand recognition. For me, only partly useful sometimes.

These are my methods of cold calling. Always personal, always to start a relationship - not to make a sale, and always done with the confidence that I am representing something that could fundamentally improve their lot in business life.

Good luck.

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