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Freelancing and Consulting: If it’s all about relationships, phoning is the way to go

Seems to me that the marketing experts have set up phoning as the most disgusting way in the world to land freelance and consulting clients.

They call it “cold calling,” and rather than explain any problems with the process to convince us that it is ineffective, they use the label itself to terrify solopros away from even considering it. They imply that “cold calling” is so scary that any other marketing tool has it beat by a mile.

All that “rejection” is unbearable. Better get going on LinkedIn, Twitter, networking at the Chamber of Commerce or even direct mail rather than risk heartbreak.

At the same time, I’m fascinated by marketers’ emphasis on relationships. It’s all about building relationships.

Yes, I’m OK with the concept of relationship development. But to me, relationships require two-way communications. Therefore, for me, no way of developing of-service relationships makes more sense than phoning.

As a marketing copywriter and market researcher, I’m interested in helping the people I phone to achieve success. I love to listen to them and I love to talk with them. Since I ask them to talk about themselves and their businesses, they, in turn, love to converse with me.

Certainly there is a numbers element in phoning people for solopro assignments. I often get voicemail. Many of these messages are not returned. My feelings are not hurt.

Some people say, “No, not interested.” That’s fine. I called them—there’s no reason to assume they require my services at this time.

Whenever possible, I ask them why they are not interested.

Most answer gladly. They do the work themselves. They have in-house staff. They don’t do any marketing at all. They already have too much business. They’ve used the same freelancer for years and don’t intend to change. They have retired and closed shop. (Some of these reasons apply only to very small businesses.)

No one has ever said they won’t work with me because they HATE cold callers. Certainly no one has refused to work with me because they HATE ME.

No one has ever threatened to turn me in to regulators. (B2B phoning is not regulated by do-not-call restrictions.)

If marketing is about building relationships, the phone is one of the best channels for building relationships.

I make the call myself. I love to talk to the people I call. I listen to their problems, suggest preliminary solutions, throw out ideas, sympathize with their problems, provide further information and free-associate ideas for articles, newsletters, etc. I enjoy following up by sending them emails written especially for them, links to informational websites and even proposals.

I’m not always a scintillating conversationalist. I am not even an extrovert.

But when you are listening to people talk about one of the most important things in their lives—their work—and suggesting answers to their problems, that’s interesting to them. That’s the start of a relationship.

And marketing is about a building a relationship, right?


Originally posted 8-4-13

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