What should I say when I phone a prospect?
Telephoning for freelance or consulting assignments is a straight-forward task. You ask if they use freelancers and offer your services.
Yes, it’s that simple. There is no magic phrase or word that opens all doors and transforms people into putty in your hand.
You dial. Someone answers. You ask for the person unless they identified themselves upon answering.
Then you introduce yourself and briefly present your qualifications. This is typically half a sentence showing that you know them, belong to the same professional organization, share a friend, or simply that you have expertise in their industry, perhaps developed while working at a competitor or attaining a specific license or professional designation. Explain that you freelance in whatever service you offer and ask if they use freelancers.
Here is a typical script I use in calling prospects in my niche, which is copywriting for the marketing departments of U.S. insurance companies:
Hi, Chuck, This is Diana Schneidman. I’m an experienced insurance copywriter with a CLU and CPCU and I’m calling to see if you use freelancers for your writing needs. (CLU stands for Chartered Life Underwriter and CPCU stands for Chartered Property / Casualty Underwriter, well-known industry designations indicating years of insurance-industry experience.)
If they say yes, they use freelancers, explain that you are interested in assignments with them and ask how to proceed.
If they say no, they’ll probably say why. Thank them and hang up if you are quaking in your boots. Or if the conversation isn’t going too badly, ask if they have considered using freelancers.
Or maybe they’ll ask a different question, such as what kind of work you do or if you have samples available.
You continue the conversation as it develops, obviously without a script. This may seem scary at first, but after decades of phone experience dating back to your toddler years, you’ll quickly develop answers to their questions.
Try to give prospects the link to your website, LinkedIn profile or other representations of who you are so they can keep you on file.
If they suggest a possibility but are unready to proceed at this time, ask when they may be ready to go ahead with it and note this for callback in your calendar.
Soon you’ll have a feel for the expectations of your industry. For instance, the marketing executives in the insurance industry whom I call go prickly if you offer a slick USP (Unique Selling Proposition). They detest perky and sales-y, especially if I suggest meeting with them in person to propose a new marketing idea that will “improve the bottom line.” (They have decades of experience and don’t expect to hear anything they haven’t heard before. They want to get down to business and prevent unnecessary meetings.)
Originally posted 5-27-09