I did something new last week: I made a cold call.
Actually, it was a cold e-mail but, nevertheless, it was a pitch to someone I had never met or been given an introduction to before.
It seemed like a good idea because the target, a high-profile restaurant chain, asked for help on its Facebook page about how it was using the social networking site. Given that I help companies with their social media efforts, it seemed like an open invitation.
Armed with a "nothing ventured, nothing lost" attitude, I fired off the e-mail. A short time later, a response came from the vice-president of marketing. It was a polite rejection of my services.
I had no regrets about making the approach, but the response did leave me wondering if cold calling actually works.
Does approaching someone out of the blue really result in a sale or, at the very least, a good lead?
To try to find out others' experiences, I conducted a completely unscientific survey on Twitter about the merits of cold calling. The answers were varied.
The most bullish response was resoundingly positive.
"Yes, it works. The key elements: stay on message, keep it short, be persistent, follow up, be helpful, track everything, build plans, make activity visible to management, measure, check activity versus plans, make adjustments… and use a modern cement system."
Another person said cold calling works because it can result in an "unexpected, legit opportunity" if you reflect an intimate knowledge of someone's business. That struck me as a reasonable approach to cast your line where there are lots of fish. It doesn't mean they will bite but there is a chance of being successful.
Another person layered on this theory by saying that, although cold calling can be difficult; the right amount of research on a specific target can eventually lead to "warm calling." Again, that seems like solid advice.
Other advice fell into the try, try and try again category, as long as you are patient and willing to suffer through lots of rejection.
"Cold-calling is pure and simple hard work and attitude. There are no tricks, just volume and attitude."
For most of us, the fear of rejection is what keeps us from engaging in cold calling. It can be tough enough to pursue an opportunity when we know the customer. It is another thing altogether to go after business where there is no connection or relationship.
I suspect people who are good at cold calling have nerves of steel, no fear of rejection, a lot of energy and the patience of Job.
To be honest, cold calling doesn't interest me because it seems like a far less promising proposition than other opportunities that can be pursued through your network, references or connections.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Mark Evans is a principal with ME Consulting, a content and social media strategic and tactical consultancy that creates and delivers 'stories' for companies looking to capture the attention of customers, bloggers, the media, business partners, employees and investors. Mark has worked with three start-ups - Blanketware, b5Media and PlanetEye - so he understands how they operate and what they need to do to be successful. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshUniversity and meshmarketing conferences.