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  • Diana Schneidman

Freelancers and consultants: What do you say when a prospect asks where you got their name?

I recommend that freelancers and consultants connect with prospects for their services through targeted phoning (sometimes called “cold calling” by others, though they are not quite the same thing). I do phoning myself and find it quite effective in landing the right clients for me.

However, it can be a bit awkward when someone we phone asks where we got their name if we aren’t comfortable with our source.

That’s an important reason why I stick to sources I can cite with pride . . . and the one of which I am proudest is a professional association to which I pay dues.

Belonging to a dues-collecting organization demonstrates how we self-identify and shows our commitment to the niche we have selected. It sets us apart from those with little experience who are simply testing the waters.

Explaining the membership directory as our source never fails to generate a positive response. People understand that paid members ensure the existence of their associations.

Other ways to find people to contact

Paid memberships are not my only source of phone leads. When I know the name of the company in which I am interested, I look at their website or call the main number for more information.

I also favor industry directories, many of which are readily available—for free—online. When people ask where I got their name, they find it quite acceptable that I’ve delved into resources that the general public would not know about and that are specific to their industry.

I’ve seen databases of contact information online for which you either pay to receive a number of entries or you submit people to the database in return for free retrieval for yourself. I don’t feel comfortable telling someone I submit names to these databases for use by others and therefore I don’t use them.

Of course, referrals are the best and I love to use the names of others in the industry who gave me the lead.

Sometimes I get the name when I call someone in the company and they share who is a better contact. That works too.

Is LinkedIn your source of names to phone?

How we use LinkedIn is still in a state of experimentation, and some participants have very strict criteria for connecting. While LinkedIn instructions say to identify ourselves and common interests when we approach others to connect, this may not be enough for others. For instance, some will only connect with those they would feel comfortable recommending for a job.

I am not at all uncomfortable about how I’ve connected with others on LinkedIn, including my full disclosure that I am a freelancer (but not asking for assignments!) in my initial contact. Still, it appears that some have reported me to LinkedIn as a spammer and I see no way to appeal this label to LinkedIn management.

Still, if you pay money to LinkedIn to send emails to people you don’t know, that is not spam. Ever. I specifically contacted LinkedIn to ask them about this. They responded that It is “legal” to say anything you wish via a paid InMail email without risk of being designated as spam. Guess money is the ultimate deodorant.

One of the reasons I feel so comfortable about phoning for assignments is that I’m comfortable with the resources I use to find names and contact information.

Originally posted 8-13-12

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