Yearly Archives: 2013

Lead Generator #13 – Cold/warm calls…

Not my favorite approach, but when times are desperate…

I’m with luminaries like Alan Weiss, Howard Shenson, and Perry Marshal on this method. Much better to have potential clients call you, rather than the other way around. As Shenson once said, your marketing goal should be have clients clamoring for you.

Think about it. As a professional, does you doctor call you to see if you want to buy a penicillin shot today? Does your lawyer call you to see if you want to buy a will today? No, they create both the credibility and visibility so you will first call them.

But there are times when cold calling can help. If you are just starting out, for example, you could (and should) call everyone you know to announce your new business. You can ask if they know anyone who might need your services. Just don’t push your services on them — if interested, they will let you know.

One important suggestion. Don’t rely on e-mails alone for the initial contact. Most of us get a hundred or more cold-call e-mails every day, and we are all good at zapping them to the delete folder. That is, if the spam filters don’t catch them first.

Consider a personal letter. No, snail mail is not dead, and a well written personal letter will stand out. Use it to break the ice, and then follow up with a personal phone call. I think you will be pleased with the results from this two step process.

Pick a number – say 20 per week – and work your way through your list. It is said that most of us know around 200 people. Make 4 calls per day, and in ten weeks you’ve personally contacted all of them. If lucky, you may even have snagged a project.

But don’t stop there. If you publish a newsletter, ask to add them on your list. You’re not publishing a newsletter? Well, time is a wasting. Consider a short e-mail letter. Now that you’ve made the personal contact, the e-mail follow up is fine and very inexpensive. You want to keep in touch.

Technically, the cold calls above are really warm calls.
Since you already know the person, you have a reason to call. But what about complete strangers?

This is where targeted cold calls can work. For example, you just read that the XYZ company just won a contract where your area of expertise could help. Get on the phone and find out who would be a good contact. Check out your contacts on LinkedIn too.

When you find the right person, give them a call or send a letter. But do your research first.  Don’t waste their time “exploring what keeps them up a night” or other similar nonsense.  Rather, offer some ideas or examples of how you have helped others. After all, that is what consultants do.

Here are two examples of cold/warm calling..

The first is Dr. Gary Blank, a fellow consulting engineer. He tells a great story of how he quickly transitioned from corporate employment to full employment as a consulting engineer.

When told of an impending job change, he decided it was time to hang out his consulting shingle. Highly motivated, but not sure where to start, he sent out personal letters to everyone he knew.  Within a month he landed his first project.

Dr. Blank shared that story many times with prospective consulting engineers through his activities with the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Consulting Engineers Network. As a result of his hard work and visibility, he was recently elected the President of IEEE-USA, a capstone to his fulfilling career.

The second is Your Truly. Thirty five years ago as a young sales engineer, I tried a similar approach with some success. Involved with the launch of a new design system, I scoured the want ads (remember those?) for companies seeking design engineers who might use our system.

It only took a few minutes of searching every week, followed up by a short letter with a brochure, and later a phone call. Although not my main source of leads, it did result in a couple of sales. Not only that, my boss even commended me in my next review.

Finally, most people shy away from cold calls. But highly targeted cold calls work, with both acquaintances and strangers. They work best when you first warm them up, and they can be very effective when you start out.

© 2013, All rights reserved.

Starting a consulting practice is easy…

The tough part is making it a success.

Recently ran across a blog post on business startups. The author suggested consulting, since it was so easy that anybody could do it. Of course, the author had never started and run a full time consulting practice himself. Go figure.

So, time for a short rant…

But the author is right. You can start a consulting practice right this instant. Just call yourself a consultant, order some business cards, and you’re in business. The telephone should start ringing any minute, right?

It really is that simple. Except it isn’t.

Unfortunately, this is a common misperception, particularly by those with lots of credentials (letters that can be put after their name.)  Having already achieved some career success and prestige, they assume the rest of the world will immediately recognize their expertise and abilities.

It is the mousetrap syndrome. You know, “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.” Wonder who cooked up that piece of fiction?

No, it doesn’t work that way. You need customers. Furthermore, you need customers who are willing to pay you, too. For solutions. Not ivory tower lectures or esoteric theories, but real world solutions to their real world concerns.

So how do you get those customers? You market. You sell. You peddle your butt off. Hmmm, not so simple anymore.

Maybe, like any business venture, it takes some plotting, planning, and old fashioned hard work. Sorry, THIS blogger is not offering any magic miracles today.

At the fundamental level, all businesses have three components:

  • Products or services to sell
  • Customers or clients who will buy those products and services.
  • A way to connect the parties (aka a marketplace.)

Really, that’s it. Congratulations, you’ve just earned your One-Minute MBA.

Now let’s dig a little deeper, using the old reporter’s method of 5W/H – what, who, why, where, when, and how.

  • WHAT do you have to sell? As a consultant, it is your expertise and advice. So what do you have that others might want and be willing to pay for? What are you really good at, AND that has value in the marketplace?
  • WHO might buy your expertise? Ah, now you are starting to identify your market or markets. Can you identify niches? i.e. – business/consumer, local/national, demographic, etc.
  • WHY would they buy your services? Do they have problems to solve? Or prevent? Do they have dreams to pursue?
  • WHERE do your customers hang out? Can you identify groups or organizations do they belong to? Media they read – magazines, newspapers, web? Do they use social media?
  • WHEN do they buy? Short or long sales cycle? Seasonal? Impulse?
  • HOW do you reach them? Having answered the 5W questions, you may already have a good idea HOW to start. But starting is not enough — you need plan, and then you need to execute the plan, over and over. Wash, rinse, REPEAT.

Ride along here and I’ll do my best to help you understand and address these questions. Ultimately, however, the specific answers will be yours. Incidentally, I’ve been at it this game for over 30 years, and I still ask these questions myself.

Thus ends the rant.

Yes, it IS easy to START a consulting practice, and anybody can do it. The real question is can you BUILD and MAINTAIN a successful consulting practice? It takes time and effort. Just like anything else worthwhile in life.

Happy New Year! Is 2013 the year you make your JumpToConsulting?

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© 2013, All rights reserved.