Hundred Dollar Cold Calling

If you walk down the street and find a hundred dollar bill, and you’re mentally healthy, you probably think about your good fortune and then spend the money, or save it, or look for the owner, or contribute it to charity. But I doubt that you give up your livelihood and begin spending all your days searching for hundred collar bills on the streets.

Just because you may make a totally cold call, or meet someone on an airplane, or send a stranger a letter which results in eventual business, doesn’t mean that you can build a career that way. Most of those people will find such intrusions annoying, not interesting. You’re not selling Fuller Brushes door-to-door (for those of you who can even remember such things).

If someone “pitched” me on an elevator, I’d stop it at the next floor and throw him out. In the rare event my first class seat mate may try to converse about what she sells, I shut her down. (“Yo no hablo inglés.”)

Consulting is a relationship business. The primary buying habit of senior executives is through peer referrals. The best way to get their attention is to draw them to you, through intellectual property, referrals, books, speeches, pro bono work, teleconferences, videos, interviews, and so forth. You can reach them through networking, or through breakfasts and other events that you host.

There are “sales experts” around pushing “elevator pitches” and all kinds of nonsense. There are more people trying to coach consultants than there are successful consultants!

I am NOT talking about anything other than high level, corporate consulting services. And someone, I’m sure, is already composing a letter to cite me an exception.

If you want to assume the exception is the rule, fine. Have fun trying to feed your family on that single hundred dollar bill you found.

© Alan Weiss 2013

6 thoughts on “Hundred Dollar Cold Calling

  1. I love the analogy between hunting for $100 bills and cold calling as a futile “success strategy”. Great point.

    An aside: If you are still in St. Thomas and have the time, consider taking the ferry to St. Johns and renting a jeep. St. John’s used to be nicknamed “love island” because the only thing to do there was to make love. It’s a little busier today but with 2/3rds of it still a national park it is still a special place.

  2. Hi Alan.

    Interesting post – thank you. Are you saying that direct marketing is futile? “Getting Started in Consulting” has been my start-up Bible and, in that book, you recommended researching prospects, sending a carefully written letter and then following-up with call to arrange appointments. Has your experience since writing that book been that this is not a good tactic to try? I’m interested to know whether there are any “outbound” tactics that you think are worthwhile?

    Andrew Shaw,
    Business Services Growth

  3. Andrew,

    If you’re “getting started in consulting” sometimes you have to cold call. But as soon as you can get away from it you should, because it’s very labor intensive and not very successful.

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