Welcome to guest writer, Sara Thurston, who provides some helpful tips on how to successfully undertake that most dreaded of tasks: cold calling.
OK, so I’m staring at the phone, knowing that I just have to do it.
And I don’t want to. I really, really don’t.
I have to call a total stranger to ask if they have freelance copywriting work.
I know they’ll scream curses at me and hang up. They’ll tell me to leave them alone. They’ll send the police to arrest me. There will be a trial. I’ll be a pariah throughout the world, and I’ll never, ever get work again.
So, being the masochist that I am (I’m a freelancer, after all), I pick up the phone and call anyway. “Good morning,” I say, smiling, “I’m Sara Thurston, and I wanted to introduce myself to you. I’m an award-winning freelance copywriter and I love the work your agency does. If you need freelance help, I hope you’ll call on me.”
Then I brace myself for the curses and police sirens.
“Sure!” says the creative director on the other end. “We’re always interested in good creative. Send us your resume and some samples, and check in with us now and then to see if we have anything. Thanks for calling – nice talking with you!”
OK, that one had to be a fluke. The next call is the one where they’ll scream curses at me and hang up on me….
Why is it so darn hard to make cold calls, anyway?
I’m not the only one who feels this way. Chances are you do, too. Cold calls force us to go outside of our comfort zone, raising your anxiety. So we exaggerate the negative until we’re convinced we’ll never succeed. And then we don’t even try.
What can we do to make cold calls easier?
First, remember this: What’s really the worst that can happen?
“Thanks for your interest, but we don’t use freelancers.”
There – that isn’t so bad, is it? So let’s get started!
All you need is a plan
- Commit at least 30 minutes each day or week to new business calls. When I worked in-house, I was more available to callers on Tuesdays and Thursdays, usually late mornings and early afternoons.
- Make a list of agencies or companies you’d like to work for and the reasons for your interest. Is it their great creative? Are they hiring? (Offer to fill in until they find their full-time writer.) Do their clients match your own expertise?
- Send an introductory e-mail first. This lets the recipient know you’re available, but doesn’t put them on the spot. Follow up with a phone call a few days later. (If you don’t have the name or e-mail of the person you need to contact, you’re better off calling first.)
- Write down what you want to say. Then rehearse! Try your opening on friends, colleagues, and family members. Refine, revise, and practice some more. Use bullet points to keep you from sounding stilted while reminding you of what you need to say.
- Make your first call to the LEAST important prospect. This will help you refine your pitch before you try the companies that really matter to you.
- Landing an interview is scoring 100 points! If they don’t need immediate help, you may not get one. But you surely won’t if you don’t ask.
- Follow up by promptly sending a thank-you e-mail with any other information they’ve requested. If they weren’t interested, send a thank-you anyway, expressing the hope that, should things change, they may need you after all.
- Start the process over again the next day – or the next week, depending on how you’ve set up your schedule.
You have to do this. You really do.
So make your list, check it twice – and remember to put a smile in your voice!
About the author
Sara Thurston has been a freelance copywriter for many years, creating compelling ads, brochures, newsletters, and websites that talk directly to readers. The result? Marketing materials that delight, inform, and persuade. Her website is www.sarawriter.com and she blogs at: http://sarathurston.wordpress.com