First Person: A Simple and Personable Approach to Generate Business Leads

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I have found that cold calling on small business owners can effectively build relationships with prospective new clients. I contact companies for a firm that provides an array of business consulting services.

The following process has helped me turn unknown prospects into leads who show an interest in a product or service and then into paying clients.

Using a Zoning Map

The first step I took was downloading a city-zoning map to find the light industrial parks where small business manufacturers are likely to operate. My target market is companies that have three employees to twenty-five employees.

Zoning maps for the cities in the Inland Empire region of southern California are color-coded so I selected the areas that house industrial parks and business centers.

Dropping Off Information

Then I used a flyer that had a bold headline and supporting information addressing concerns for my target market. I attached a business card to it.

I walked into the businesses with a big smile and said to the first person I saw, "Hi, I'm dropping this off for the owner."

The person normally takes the flyer, glances over it, and says, "Okay, I'll pass it on."

My response is, "Do you happen to have a business card for the owner?" I get a card at least 75 percent of the time.

And then I ask, "Is this your only location?" I get an answer that confirms it's the only location or I get information on other locations.

As I turn to the door, I ask, "How many employees do you have?"

The answer lets me know what problem might be addressed for the business owner. Answers often have a number and an explanation.

"Oh, we have about eight employees. We used to have more but it's been slow recently."

The whole dialogue can take place in less than one minute. I thank them and leave. Once outside, I note the number of employees and other pertinent data on the business card or in a small notebook I carry.

Follow-up Calling

I don't try to set initial appointments while I'm dropping off information unless I meet the owner and the person asks probing questions.

I set aside a block of time the next day to call on the cards I've collected and ask to speak with the owner. I log the information into an Excel spreadsheet for a database. If I reach the owner I explain that I passed along information and was following up to introduce our business development services.

If the person sounds busy, I ask if they have a minute or if I may send an email. Almost half the time, I get an answer that the business owner has a minute. I then describe a few key points and ask for a 20-minute block of time to have our Senior Business Advisor learn about key challenges they may be facing and how we may help.

Results

This method has led to setting appointments for about 15 percent of the companies contacted. Four initial surveys were sold and one client project that will have upwards of $20,000 in revenue has been sold after six-weeks of activity.

The majority of business owners or their managers ask to be called back in the future while less than five percent have said they're not interested.

Only one out of almost four hundred business owners contacted had a strongly negative reaction during the initial canvassing.

Even companies that have No Soliciting signs on the door are usually accommodating because I'm not trying to sell anything on the initial contact.

This method requires getting into a rhythm of walking and greeting. I think of myself as a person who's delivering information and not as a salesperson. Cold calling on businesses this way puts me in contact with the end user quickly and allows me to make a personal connection that is often lost in today's digital world of crowded email inboxes and busy cell phones.

*Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Do you have a small business story that you'd like to share? Sign up with the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own finance articles.

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