home about/faq features tutorials resources members search

Start: Friday, July 14, 2000 2:54 AM

Wise-Women List Archive File

Subject:Cold Calling and Marketing

I've been doing web design and publishing for clients for nearly two years now, and I'm in the midst of a dry spell. Hence, I must do some "marketing" of my business.
Currently, I am making a list of businesses in my area, especially (for the moment) those at which I am aquainted with the owner or a management employee. Some of these businesses are ones for which I have imagined/fantasized about how I would build their site and what it would do to improve their business. I then take a "package, including an introduction page (stating how a website can benefit every business), a price list and my business card, and walk in to the listed businesses and introduce myself to the person in charge and hand them my "package". The package has my business site up, with some of the sites I've built, and I tell them that they can go there to look at my work. After a few days, I call back and ask if they have any questions and if I could make an appointment with them to discuss it further. So far, nothing has come of it.

I know that until my business really takes off, I will have to get good at this kind of selling, but I'm really not much of a sales person. My first instinct is to hand the person the sales package and turn tail for the door. I make sure that I concentrate on a firm handshake, looking the person in the eyes and speaking clearly. I usually try to get one of that person's business cards, so I have the correct info when I call back.
Any hints or tips from seasoned pros? Please?!?

This is almost exactly what I just did this week...I found a restaurant that I REALLY thought I could do a great job on a site for them, got a package together too, and set up an appt to see the owner/manager. (This was my first cold call)
So far, I haven't heard anything, but the manager there told me that she had received a couple faxes offering a FREE website to the first 10 responders. I have a feeling they're going to forget me and go with that. Then again, maybe if the site that gets done for them is really garbage, they'll end up giving me a call some day in the future.
I've recieved some really GREAT advice from some listmembers on this topic, so I'm sure you'll get a lot of really good ideas.
(Now we've just got to figure out how to make prospective clients understand the difference between FREE sites and a GOOD site.) :-)

Most people do understand the concept of "you get what you pay for" Of course you can not aggressively put down the Free offers, but you can leave your card, wish them well, and invite them to contact you if they need your services in the future. Most free offers come from people new to the web design business and looking to add to their portfolio, or hoping that their name on a commercial web site will bring them business. Much the same as going to a beauty school to get your hair done - it is cheaper - and sometimes it shows. Also continued maintence and changing as the web site will need are not usually included in the free offer. If they are really new to web design does the client wish to be their first experiment in building a web presence? Will they be there later when the client needs them, or will they have folded their tents and went on to something else?

I think the fact that you have been designing for local firms, and you are local and not going anywhere is a real plus. Stress your dependability.

I have had prospective clients tell me about those [free] types of sites as well. I've even received the same, or similar info in my email. So, I researched them and discovered how costly "free" is in those cases. Usually, it is a pre-packaged site used to sell hosting space. One may get the website done for free, but they will pay through the nose for all of the hosting fees and set up costs.

I keep this information, printed out, with me. I have shown it to clients and asked them to compare, and emphasized the benefits of dealing with a local designer (especially since I know the client base and for updates, etc.). I feel that part of my responsibility as a service provider is to inform and educate my clients, potential or not, regarding anything web-oriented. Having been "dabbling" with computers, and via university, the "internet" since 1983 (I know, it was seriously basic back then), I even help with some software and hardware problems. It builds trust in most cases.

You should expand your horizons to include businesses you don't know. While it is an easier foot in the door to know someone in a prospect company, you are limiting your horizons.
You should also consider exploring networking opportunities. Maybe targeting business in specific industries or of a particular type might be a good idea. And even more effective than cold calling could be mailings in the form of postcards/letters.

[Before you call], do you prequalify your visit by finding out if the prospects have been considering a site, have enough money to pay for one, etc.? Going in without a little background is like shooting blindfolded. As much background as you can get on their business will enable you to go in armed with effective ammunition to address objections and roadblocks.

In addition to why every business should have a website, you should come prepared with something customized about why "their" business in particular would benefit from a website. Do you have testimonials from clients about how your work has benefitted them? Think about getting some.

IMHO, don't give your prices away until you've determined that there is some interest. You can say something like "packages start at XYZ," but tossing out a price list before you've determined interest and seen what budgets might be could be shooting yourself in the foot. Once they are interested, then you can talk.

Think about asking us for a critique of your business site. We've got a great group of varied talents and experience that always seems to come up with helpful and imaginative suggestions. And I've incorporated lots of tips and pointers I've received here.

I know [calling on potential customers] is hard, but try to think of this as stage fright. And put the energy you would spend in running into convincing. Again, walking in cold is often inviting disaster. I'd start with an appointment first, and have some specific materials prepared.

Other WW have taught seminars/classes, which seems to have worked well for them.

I know it's hard, but persistance pays off.

In my former life, (9-5 world) I worked for 25 years with sales firms.

We had a method for contacting new customers, it was call, mail, call. For someone following up in person, that would be
1. Call the business. Qualify the business -- need, and want, for a web site. Find out a little about the business so you can present a package aimed at them. Keep control of the conversation, but talk on their level, and if they mention an interest talk a little about that to establish a rapport.

2. Mail, e-mail or fax information. I would not include any prices in this package only basic information. I would state that the prices vary with each job depending on many factors, such as time involved and difficulty level. I would include the fact that I will be around to do maintained and upgrades and changes as needed or desired.

3. Call for the appointment and reaction to your information. Get as much information at this time as you can about the business, and set a date to discuss what you can do for them. Remember they are much more interested in what you can do to help their business than they are in you or how many degrees you have.

Customize your service for your target market, and know your market. You will have problems selling a slick upscale big city web site to a local mom and pop business.

4. When you meet with the boss, at the business site, look around you and take a clue from the office decor. Are there large fish tanks? Are there signs of some hobby of sport? Are there signs of a special cause? Is the office warm and inviting, bright with colors, drab and plain, somber, classic, ?? These are clues as to the type of web site that will appeal to the customer, and also a basis to establish a rapport with them. Use buzz words, --this means words that will appeal to the customer's pride, desire,make them feel comfortable--etc. Never Never waste your time putting anyone else down. Inform in a business like manner of the reason some people offer to do the site for free, but do not spend a great deal of time putting these people down, it makes you look insecure. Make good use of the language, your work is not cheep, it is affordable, an ugly business site is not ugly, it is unprofessional and does not present as good a picture of the business as it could. etc.

5. ASK FOR THE SALE----This is so important, as so many do great up to this point, then are timid about closing. The customer is waiting for you to ask for his business, so ASK. Like: When would be best for you to review my draft of your web site? Or When can I pick up the pictures you would like on your web site? or some question that commits them to a time frame and commits them to the project.

6. ASK FOR REFERRALS ---This also is one of the most important parts of completing a transaction with your customer. Word of mouth is still the best advertising you can get. Get referral letters also when possible.

I have also done cold walk ins, and they are the hardest and least effective. First the business is not expecting you and they have their normal flow going on, and you are interrupting that. They don't know anything about you or what you do, so you will have to use some of their time explaining. Their time means money, so you are taking someone away from the task of making money for that business. I have also found friends are sometimes the hardest to sell, and when you do sell them they expect all kinds of favors and little extras you would charge someone else for.

Look and act professional. Even if you are shaking inside, stay cool outside. Have your material well organized, go over your presentation at home on a family member or the mirror, but be clear in your mind of what you are going to say and do. Keep control of the meeting -- if the customer starts to drift off into other areas, bring him back to the topic you are presenting.

And still after all your planning you will find sometimes it just all falls apart, if this happens, go with it, and try your best to maintain a professional attitude.

What good information you've offered us! Thank you. I do have a few questions, however, and hope you or someone else might be able to answer them.

Re: Call the Business
What if you're terrified of calling them? It's so very, very hard to make that first move, especially when it's a sales call. Most people hate telemarketing, especially when it's done to a business.

Last summer I was working for a temporary firm that was supposed to be hiring me to help them get their IT division (both IT recruiting and web design/development) off the ground. To jump-start things, I designed a flyer, a business card, and a general information sheet to mail out to those I'd contacted via phone. Now I abhor sales and couldn't sell a heater to an Eskimo, but I was bound and determined to make this work. I started with a couple of people I knew, to boost my ego and make things go a little easier. One was receptive, the other wished me luck but said he wasn't interested and didn't know of anyone else who would be. I never have been able to speak with him again and I fear I lost some of my credibility when I cold-called him.

Anyway, I had a huge list of contacts for cold-call purposes. I began calling them and was met largely with disinterest, rejection, and statements of, "This is a business and we do not appreciate telemarketing. If you have something to sell, send us information and we will decide what to do with it." GULP!


I've always assumed others were like me -- if I wanted you to do something, I'd say so. Do not presume that I'm waiting to be asked. If I haven't asked, I'm not interested. I have met many others like me, many in decision-making positions. [some things] seem so presumptuous and... invasive. No?

Maybe I make a mistake when I think that people have the same attitude I do. I consider that sort of sales tactic to be rude, obnoxious and inconsiderate, though it's the same advice I've seen and heard time and time again.

Personally, in a situation that required me to close the sales of a site, I would say something like, "So what do you think? Do you have any questions? Do you think a website would fit your needs?" I would then leave it up to the potential client, as it is his or her decision, to let me know if they're truly interested. If not, I would never even do the suggested thing and "meet their objections." I would take no for an answer, thank them for their time, let them know that I am available should they change their mind, and politely take my leave, making sure they at least had my business card in hand.

I've always felt that respect held an edge over what some may perceive as force. I've felt that when a potential client is pushed, even ever so slightly, into making a decision NOW, chances are they won't continue to do business with you even if the initial sale does take place.

Then again, I've never done very well at sales so I could be wrong. If so, why doesn't the respect angle work and why must the client be asked for his business instead of telling you he wants to give it to you?


Also, I have often heard that if a potential client turns you down, ask her/him if s/he knows of anyone else who may need your services.

Any tips for someone who has a tendency to stutter and ramble when she is nervous?

I will deliberately not buy something from someone who is trying to force me into doing so even if I like their product. I will go find someone else to get it from if it is one I want. I also have a tendency to start getting nasty with people who are trying to "close that sale" that way.

Personally, I'd rather have the info in the mail and if I'm interested, I will call them. If I'm not, they haven't interupted my work or life and aggravated me into disliking them or their company. Well designed andinformative info of a product or service that is or might be useful to me and or my business gets my attention even if I save it for later.

Point in fact...I took my car to a shop that I got a coupon in the mail from ....I won't be going back :) but that is another story. They got my business the first time from a snail mail ad/coupon. If they had called me on the phone, I'd have never went near them. Maybe I'm in the minority here...dunno :)

[Re: cold calling]
Yes it is hard to make the first move, but unless you can afford a very large advt. budget someone has to make the first move, and who is more interested in seeing your business grow?

Also I do wonder which is more intrusive a phone call which is usually much quicker than a walk in? You are taking them away from their normal business either way and wishing them to focus on you and what you offer. You can not expect to make a sale every time you call on the phone or in person - you will only get a small percent on any type of a cold pitch weather in person on the phone. Rude pushy was never and is never my way. How do you suppose John Doe with Big Co. X gets an appointment to see Mr. Buyer with Co, B ?-- There has to be some form of initial contact weather it be by phone, letter, fax, e-mail, or in person.

I stated (we had a method then) I did not state when then was -- it was in the 70's and 80's. Things have changed and people including myself are really tired of phone salespeople. Telephone sales has got such a bad reputation due to fraud, and very intrusive calls during both business and personal hours.

There are still companies who cold call, but now I am wondering how many completed calls you would get by cold calling and how many hang ups.. Today we have fax and e-mail and of course as always snail mail. Perhaps today it would be much better to prepare an information package (not too big) maybe with a coupon, or special offer with a time limit, place it in a bright colored envelope and mail it in. On the other had a quick call asking permission to mail the information would eliminate people not interested at all, and those interested would be expecting your information. Then if you followed up with a phone call to set up an appointment or to check to see if they had received your information package, at least they would know who you are and what you do.

I was never one of the pushy ones in phone sales. Some of [my male colleagues] would go to any lengths to make the sale, and of course sometimes that sale was later canceled, or returned. Not a good idea to try to force someone to do something they don't want to do even to buying your service or product.

When I was talking about closing I meant after the prospective client has shown a definite interest in wanting a web site--then you need to firm up the sale--and get some dates down and get the client to commit to a time frame if possible at all. I do not believe the old sales saying of( a No never means No - it means the customer needs more information.) That is intrusive, presumptuous, and rude. Excuse me, but most of the time, if not always when I say No I do mean No, and I am not asking for more information. I think the only courteous thing you can do then is to ask them to keep you in mind if their needs change.

However, there are a lot of indecisive people out there, who need a bit of leading and really saying so, what do you think? is another way of getting the client involved in the discussion and leading toward a close of the sale. What ever works for you, but at some point a close has to take place or there is no sale, and some people will continue to talk about this and that, and even talk so much they talk themselves right out of the sale. The real point I was trying to make is get the customer involved, committed, and stick to the topic, keep it on a business level, and don't go wondering down memory lane, or off onto some other subject at great length and end up with a wonderful visit, but No Sale. Your time is money also, so you need to get some dates down in order to proceed - If there is no interest, if you are told no- then arm twisting and pressure tactics are really a waste of your time as well as the customer.

The word Sales brings unattractive images to mind, but without sales how are we to be paid? After all you are not on a social call, you are not even there really to become fast friends, you are there to sale yourself and your service so you can ultimately get paid. That is a fact, and no amount of dressing it up can change that -- you are there to offer a service, and you wish to be paid.

I fail to see how asking the customer when would be the best day or what would be the best time to get back to them is rude.

Know your product, and practice your presentation till you are comfortable with it, and (spin around 3 times with an orange on your forehead before entering the building.) (G) Most people have stage freight--as you are on stage and presenting an act of one staring yourself. I try to be as prepared as I can be, and then take a deep breath and fake an attitude of competence and self-confidence.

If you do not call on the phone, if you do not walk in off the street, if you don't do a mailer, then how do you go about getting new business? Once you are established you will receive referrals - I know that - but say you are just starting, or trying to expand - what method would you recommend using to obtain new business? do you depend on your listing in the phone book? Spend money on newspaper, TV or radio adds? I welcome any and all suggestions on how to obtain new clients.

What I do is this: Call the company and ask if they have a website. They don't know if you're a salesperson, a web designer or just a potential customer wondering if they have one or not. If they say no, then you can ask if they plan on it in the near future. (still acting like a potential customer here)

Then, when you've got the scoop.....you can ask who would be in charge of making a decision to HAVE a website.

I'm really good on the phone, so I call people and can sound like I'm their long lost friend and get a good raport going.

It's the in-person stuff I have a hard time with. :-)

I agree that an initial contact needs to be made :) I prefer snail mail for cold sales by me or towards me :). I can design a colorful, informative postcard or package with my "offer", Net URL and real life contact info.

I love the idea of a bright colored envelope to make it stand out if you're sending a package! :) My ideas along this line is that businesses want/need a website and are in the stages of getting one {grin}.

Stage 1: I have no website - I do not need one right now {I'm not ready to deal with this technology yet}

Stage 2: I have no website but I need one {I'll get around to it one of these days but I'm too busy}

Stage 3: I need a website and I am actively looking for someone to do it or it is already in progress of being done.

Stage 4: I have a website and I do not need it redesigned right now but it will need it in the future.

Stage 5: I have a website and it needs a redesign.

All of these stages have the potential to be customers. Cover these points in your package without being obvious of course. :) Find a "hook" that works for you to get people interested such as special offers or extra services - digital camera photos {one of your online portfolio highlights for example}.

Something I receive in the mail that is colorful and attention getting while also being informative is something that I and many business people keep around in files for future needs. Snail mail from a local business gives me the "first impression" of legitimacy & "future reference" fileability. It is costly to do, so on a very small budget you can send out 10 or 20 twice a month or even once a month to local businesses until you have solicited all of them. :)

If you can showcase yourself on the printed page/postcard well and in your online portfolio, it gives you credibility with the customer-to-be. If there is no local business advertisement website for local businesses, consider starting one and press release it in local papers. Offer internet graphic ads without websites to them :). Send out a press release to the local newspaper about it's availability for local Net advertising. Send out a press release about your business. Join the local chamber of commerce, volunteer to do a website for a local strawberry festival and press release it when it is done and let them advertise it in the newspaper or on radio and/or TV locally.

Be prepared to work lots of hours {grin}.

Thank you all for the great ideas... I even enjoyed reading the debate!

M - I plan on expanding my business horizons, but for the moment I will concentrate on the businesses that I know in order to build up confidence, a bigger portfolio and a reliable reputation. Most of the businesses that I am "hitting" are very visible within this community and I hope (I hope I don't sound rash or cold...) to ride up on some of that "fame". Once I am better established (and if successful, have more "fundage" to spend on advertising!) it will be easier to expand my horizons. As for prequalifying each business, I have been doing research into the ones that I know very little about, but considering the overall size of this community, where everyone knows almost everyone (or they are related iin some way... sheesh!), almost all of the businesses are either well established cornerstones of the community or they are profiled in the local newspaper or both. I further qualify them when I visit by asking if they have a web site. If they do, I leave them my info and let them know that I do updates. If they don't have one, I ask them to look over the information and let me know when I can come back to discuss it with them.

Recently the local paper ran an article concerning the fact that almost every business, including those that do not require selling a product via the 'net, will have to have a website to compete. My landlord, who owns a pest control service contacted me the next day about making a site for his business. Many other businesses in this area are jumping on that wagon, and I want to be there to give them that hand up.

As far as mailings/letters/postcards... it has been my experience that businesses will toss out mail, no matter how attractive, if they don't recognize a need for that particular service. My walking in with the info puts a face (sometimes familiar one) on the business and may make the person in charge take an extra minute to think about what service I provide.

Well, after reading all of the responses, here are my results over the last few days:

Out of twenty-six potential clients, I visited twelve. Of those twelve, only three of those businesses' owners/managers were available. I left my information package at all twelve. I waited a few days and then called them all back and asked if they had looked over the information left with them. Of those twelve, five had looked it over and three told me that they are interested in a site and will call me back (how long should I wait before I call THEM back?), and I have an appointment (today!) with another out of those five who has three websites that require updating and they are starting a new business and they understand that a website would be essential to it's success. I'll let you know how that turns out, if you'd like.

And here comes the comparison part of this lengthy tale:

Of the remaining twelve businesses, I called six of them yesterday. three of them already have websites. Of those three, two need their sites updated and would like to see my information and qualifications. The other three acted flustered that I had the nerve to call them, but one was still interested and asked if I would drop off my information. One man actually told me that he has too much business as it is and a website would stretch him even thinner, so no, he didn't want one.

I would like to add that, one of the ways that I am promoting my business is this: I give three or four business cards to just about anyone I know (including people who I've built sites for or aren't interested in one) and tell them that if they give those cards out to people THEY know who may be interested in a website, and they write their name on the back of the card and the prospective client brings it in, I will pay the person named a finders fee. Real Estate agents and car salesmen do it, I figure, what's to lose?

Thank you, Ladies (and Gents!) for this site... it's sure got me thinking!

Some people are good with the cold calls face to face. Others are good with cold phone calls. I'm not :) and I know it. If I'm nervous, I stammer, stutter, repeat myself, forget to say important stuff, and chitter-chatter stupid stuff - MUCH worse in front of a crowd - I do not do public speaking well and no amount of classes is going to change that. I've tried that and failed miserably. {grin}

I'm good with writing first through 500 if needed rough drafts to get to the final send it out the door copy that tells why they need me up front in their face immediately and graphics to go with it. I'm very direct. I do have a reputation for honesty, integrity, and ethics too as well as being extremely customer service oriented and quite geekish though very friendly. {grin}

Many regular people cannot help themselves the minute they see a web URL in print - they have to go check it out and having it written down so handy for them is a good thing - that is part of why you leave your business card and info but they have a face to go with your info. On mine, they will have a personal, hand-written "invitation" to check me out at their convenience and the choice to contact me or not to contact me when it is convenient for them and not at my convenience. {G} Besides, when was the last time you received anything handwritten from someone wanting to sell you something these days? I want them to know right up front that I am different, uniquely me. I want them to know they are important enough to me for me to think about their business convenience and to take the time to invite them personally by hand.

After I send them out, I'll let you know what if any response I get. {G} This is my latest brilliant idea to try for marketing myself as a freelancer. I'm targeting local people who advertise without a URL in their ad. I figure anyone who has one is gonna put it in there and if it isn't there...that makes them a candidate for an invitation. I also live in a very huge city with a ton of businesses. {S}

The permanent link for this article is: http://www.wise-women.org/resources/listarchives/marketing1/.

Related article on the Wise-Women site: MOUs (Memorandum of Understanding)




Recommendations and Reviews for web professionals.

List Archives

Project WW Archive: how you can help us to build up a treasure trove of useful information.

List of available archives

Alphabet Soup

Essential terminology for the serious web professional.


Printable version of this page

Link to us

Join the discussion lists

passionate about the web