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Cold calling has become something of an "evil" in recent years. No one has ever really appreciated being interrupted by someone calling them to ask if they would be interested in buying a box of oat crunchies or a magazine subscription. And most of us have had our fill of calls from people trying to convince us that we can save money by switching long distance carriers or insurance companies. But, cold calling is still one of the best ways to find new customers. It just has to be done right.

Cold calling is really nothing more than contacting someone to make them aware that we exist and can provide them with something they need or want. So the first thing you need to do is make sure that the person you are calling actually does need what you have to offer. It's called "qualifying" and it takes a little more effort that just picking someone's number at random and calling them on the phone. For those of us in the woodworking business, that means contractors, architects, designers, galleries and other possible outlets.

The next thing you want to think about is how this person you are trying to introduce yourself to is going to feel about your effort when all you are willing to do is pick up the phone. If you are going to cold call, go there! Walk in armed with a resume, letters of recommendation or contact information for satisfied customers who are willing to provide a reference (don't forget to ask them first). You should also have a portfolio or some good pictures of your work as well as information on how to find your Web site (you don't have a Web site???… get one! That's a topic for another day).

Have all of this information organized and in a presentable form. And be prepared to drop the materials on the desk and leave if it becomes obvious that you timing is bad. Understand that you are probably not the only guy who is going to walk into this office trying to sell something. You can say something like, "I don't want to take up your time and I know I don't have an appointment. I can see you guys are really busy so I'll just leave this stuff with you and you can look at it when you get a chance." You might even get some time right then and there.

But if you don't, the next time you contact the same people, you are no longer cold calling because you have already had a previous contact with them. I usually follow up on a call like this after a week. Then I'll call them and say, "Hi, I was at your office last week and left some materials for you to look at. I was just wondering if anyone had a minute to look at my work." From there I can usually get a dialog going, maybe get an appointment to meet with someone, maybe ask them if they had any projects I could offer them a price on. But even if I don't get any specific immediate sales out of a call like this, I have made contact with a potential new customer. And I have done it in a way that has at least left a better impression than if I had just called them up out of the blue to ask if they wanted to buy some cabinets or woodwork.


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