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Who needs cold calling? Warm them up first!

The new clients you’d most like to reach are inundated with ads and calls to action all day long. How are you going to break through and get their attention?

If you can afford to outspend your competitors in search engine marketing, then happy hunting. But if every dollar needs to count, you need to get creative and be direct.
I employ a five-step process when I really want to land a new client. You can divert to an actual meeting at any time during this process if your prospect requests one. But it often takes all five steps to get someone to that point.

Step 1: Identify Your Prospect

Do you know who your best client is? Usually that’s the person who sends you referrals, enjoys talking with you on the phone and pays you on time.

You can categorize these best clients to help you decide what kind of people you really want to reach out to. Your best clients could be:

  • Female
  • Aged 35 – 45
  • Company owners or leaders
  • Graduates of Ivy League schools

Once you know the common attributes of your best clients, you can search online for new prospects. Try Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media sites.

Let’s say you identify Sally Smith as a prime prospect. She is the 38-year-old CEO of a tech firm that she founded. She graduated from Harvard, has two children and enjoys scuba diving. Keep in mind that we obtained this information from public sources such as Facebook, Twitter, newspaper articles and Google searches.

Step 2: Advertise on Facebook

Most companies use Facebook to build brand awareness, not to make direct sales. I use Facebook in much the same way.

While Facebook advertising often yields a very low return on investment, it does allow you to micro-target your campaign to a specific group of members, based on gender, race, age, company and job. That means your ad will be displayed to the right people.

Since we know Sally owns Acme Tech Co., we can build an ad that will be seen only by Facebook members associated with Acme Tech.

Facebook’s ad creation pages are intuitive and easy to set up. Select the advanced options and enter the company name where the interface asks for “workplaces.”


You could go as far as creating a specific landing page on your website for Facebook members associated with Acme. I usually just link to my home page.

At this point, Sally has no idea that we’re targeting her. The Facebook ad will alert her to my firm, and perhaps even persuade her to click. If you don’t have a website, you can link the ad to your Facebook page, your LinkedIn profile or AboutUs.org profile.

Your tightly targeted Facebook ad won’t cost much. Facebook charges for each click, but since the ad is shown only to people at Acme, you won’t get many clicks.

Step 3: Send a LinkedIn Message

If you have connections on LinkedIn who know Sally, you could ask them to introduce you. When you can pull off direct introductions, they are quite effective. However, these can be difficult to arrange, and I feel awkward asking for them.

InMail, which allows you to send a personal message to a LinkedIn member you’re not connected to, is quite effective. To use it, you need to sign up for a monthly service. There are three different levels; the basic service is $25 per month and gives you three InMail sends.

The great thing about InMail is that responses are guaranteed: You get your money back if you don’t get one. Response rates are extremely high because LinkedIn has done such a great job of blocking spam.

Don’t write about yourself when you send an InMail. Offer your prospect something of value, such as a quick tip. Let Sally know you have more information that will benefit her. For example, I've received responses when I’ve offered a white paper. Here is an example of how I might initiate a conversation about search engine optimization:

Dear Sally,

I came across your website last night, AcmeTech.com, and noticed that your site has a technical issue that is inhibiting its ability to rank well in the search engines. There are two versions of your site at the www and non-www version of the domain. This creates duplicate content issues that will filter out your site in some search results. I can provide you with more information on how to fix this error. Also, you might enjoy my white paper covering the basics of search engine optimization.

Jason Capshaw

Check out how search engines see your own site.

Step 4: Send Snail Mail

It’s old-fashioned, but direct mail marketing really does work, especially if you write a letter directly to your prospect. The key is getting her to actually read the letter.

Recently, I mailed a letter to the CEO of a hardware company with more than $100 million in annual sales. If you have ever tried to make it through the corporate firewall to reach decision makers at a company like this, you know how difficult it can be.

I discovered that the CEO had graduated from a college that was having a big football game the following weekend. I began the letter by referring to his team and its chances in the upcoming game. Then I moved on to the purpose of the letter, and my sales pitch.

Then there’s the envelope. I knew the name his college classmates used for each other in affectionate banter. Let’s say it was “war eagle.” I hand-wrote the CEO’s name and address on the envelope, and below his name, I wrote, “War Eagle.” I figured that would get his attention.

I soon received an email from the CEO’s vice president of marketing, requesting a phone interview. The CEO had read the letter and passed it along to the right decision maker.

I’ve found that using graphs and other visual aids can really help you make your point. Make sure you offer all relevant information that will keep your prospect interested and reading further. I’ve found a letter of 700 words or less works best.

Step 5: Pick up the Phone

Cold calling may chill your blood. I know it does mine. But by the time I reach this step, and have invested this much time and energy in a prospect, I feel like I actually know her.

You’ll probably have to get past a gatekeeper (also referred to as an executive assistant) when you call. This can be difficult. The key is to be respectful and confident.

I usually ask for the prospect by first name. When the assistant asks who I am and what the call is about, I offer my name and company: “I am Jason Capshaw with MyWebtronics. Sally will know why I’m calling.” By this time, she really does know.

More often than not, I end up speaking to the prospect, or at least I get to leave a voicemail. It’s a good idea to start off by letting Sally know you respect her time. This helps when it’s time to set an appointment.

From Cold Call to Warm Handshake

When you’ve put this much time into reaching your prospects with a well-crafted message, and you’ve approached them with respect, most business people will believe you’ve got something important to say. And you do.

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