Shop Talk

Ask the experts: Valerie Fields says to do research before cold calling potential clients

Valerie Fields
Valerie Fields

If picking up the phone and calling a business prospect leaves you cold, reconsider. Cold calling actually can be an enjoyable and productive way to build relationships and expand your business.

“When I was younger, I took rejection personally, then I realized marketing is a numbers game and with every step, each ‘no’ gets me closer to a ‘yes,’ ” said Valerie Fields, founder of public relations and copywriting agency VK Fields & Co.

Those calls can lead to rewarding opportunities and new business relationships, Fields said. However, she recommends that owners research prospective clients in advance and be professional, courteous and helpful.

When making cold calls, she said, perseverance is key.

“People say no for different reasons,” Fields said. “Sometimes the timing is off. A ‘no’ in January may become a ‘yes’ in March.”

Here are some of Fields’ guidelines:

• Network with a purpose. Permission-based referrals from a mutual colleague greatly increase cold-call conversion rates.

• Send emails containing newsworthy or useful industry information. Include an offer to follow up with a visit or phone call.

• Collect business cards from potential clients at trade shows or conferences. Contact those people and offer them promotional incentives.

Fields also says to be courteous when reaching out to prospects.

“Busy professionals often view cold calling as an intrusion,” she said. “So marketers must go the extra mile to be viewed as a solution, rather than another problem.”

• Reserve your pitch for the decision maker, who is often in the office and easier to reach before and after normal business hours.

• Find common ground and use it to build a stronger connection. Learn about potential clients from their websites, social media profiles and industry or market statistics.

• Offer a solution to a common challenge or problem in your prospect’s line of work and ask for time to explain it.

Cold calling can be daunting, but if done right, it is another tool owners can use to expand their customer bases and professional networks.

And that’s good business.

Teri Saylor is a freelance writer who owns Open Water Communications.