Rotary phone for cold calling“A miserable, soul-sucking experience.”

That’s how speaker Steve Slaunwhite described cold calling at a meeting of IABC/Toronto’s Professional Independent Communicators.

Sure, calling up complete strangers can be successful, eventually. But this “sales-getting” approach puts you in an “uncomfortable and undignified position” that doesn’t come naturally to most freelancers and frankly doesn’t work anymore.

Instead, try the relationship-building approach. The intent is to get on the prospect’s radar screen and then build a relationship rather than land a client. That makes prospecting easier, and you’ll get better results. You’ll also feel more comfortable doing it, so you’ll do it more. The result will be “a growing base of prospects who are getting to know, like, and trust you,” Steve said.

There are many ways to prospect – email, phone, social media (Steve especially likes LinkedIn), networking, snail mail, getting an introduction – but the PIC session focused on email.

Steve’s 6 guidelines for email prospecting:

1. Adopt a new definition of prospecting.
Steve defines his approach as “introducing yourself to people who are likely to be interested in your services. And then building those relationships, so when prospects have a need, they’ll contact you.” Key is that it’s an introduction, not a sale, to a selected group, for the future.

2. Be selective.
You get to cherry-pick who to contact, so create your dream list of clients. Who is your ideal client? Who has the highest need for your services? Who is most likely to be interested and receptive?

3. Do your homework first so you can make your introduction personal and relevant.
Check your LinkedIn network for a common connection who might be able to introduce you. Check the company website for new products, a promotion, a  new agency account or other information that might be top of mind for your prospect.

4. Create a personal message.
Your email should look like it’s written to that person alone, not sent as a mass mailing. Keep it short, maybe 100 words. People take just seconds to decide to read or delete an email, so make yours worth the time.

5. Suggest an “easy to say yes to” next step.
Offer an article, tip sheet or special report (don’t attach it or include a link; you want to start a conversation). This also positions you as an expert. Focus on one aspect of what you do rather than listing all your specialties.

6. Focus on actions, not results.
Create a sheet to track each week how many times you identify a prospect, send an email, call, and so on. Set a goal of 25 to 30 actions a week to grow your business, 10 to 15 to maintain. Spend at least one hour a day on business building, including prospecting. The results will come.

Your prospects should be potential clients, of course, but just as important are people who might refer you.

“If you’re getting referrals organically, just a little effort will help you double your referrals,” Steve said.

One of the biggest mistakes Steve sees is people who aren’t doing as much prospecting as they think, and wondering why they don’t see results. “That’s like saying I followed Weight Watchers for one day in the past three weeks and I’m not getting results,” he said.

Read Steve’s blog post on prospecting, or email him (Steve AT SteveSlaunwhite DOT com) for more information.