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Not long ago, I had a client ask me some questions regarding cold calling techniques. Specifically, he said that he had conducted some market research and generated a list of medium to large size businesses he felt could benefit from his product and services. He wanted to reach out to them but was not sure about the best way to get a meeting with the prospects since they didn’t know him from Adam. He didn’t want to get off on the wrong foot by soliciting them right out of the gate. I believe this is a common problem for many small business owners that lack a silver bullet solution.

Having made hundreds of cold calls with various results, here are a few tips and ideas that have proven to be the most effective for me to get a meeting with an important prospect.

LinkedIn Method

If I have the name of the prospect that I want to target, I first see if the prospect has connections with anyone on my LinkedIn network. I add all of my current and past clients to my LinkedIn network, provided they have a LinkedIn account. I have discovered that many folks on LinkedIn connect with suppliers, vendors, and even competitors. If one of them has a connection with my prospect, I ask them for an introduction. If the prospect connects with me, great! Under their Contact Info, I can usually find their phone, email, and social media. I can also often find their birthday which comes in handy to maintain a quality connection into the future. I will often follow up with the newly connected prospect with a Kudo or video message that will make me stand out from the throng of other connections they have before I try to get a meeting with them.

If no LinkedIn introduction, and since I tend to aim high in an organization, I will attempt to reach out to the prospect through the prospect’s administrative assistant.

Simple Email Address Method

The simplest method to get the prospect’s email address to set up a face-to-face meeting is to tell the executive assistant that “I have a research paper that I’m sure {name here} would find very interesting and I would like to send it to them in an email message.” Sometimes, the prospect’s administrative assistant willingly gives out their boss’s email address, other times they give me their own email address to act as a gatekeeper. There is no fighting this. If you get the executive assistant’s email as opposed to the prospect’s email, I make sure to get the name of the executive assistant so I can do some research on them before I send them the research paper I promised.

In my case, I deal with companies who solicit high-net-worth investors, so I have synthesized some research from several different sources to create a three-page report about high-net-worth investors. Most prospects find this report extraordinarily useful. At the bottom of the report, I have what I call “the secret sauce message.” The report frames the problem and provides a solution. However, I always try to leave the reader with a “wow tell me more” message.

After I send the report, I wait a few days and call the executive assistant back. I make it clear to the prospect’s executive assistant that I’m following up on the report and that I’m expecting their boss’s feedback. Explaining that I’m following up on what I already sent the prospect often gets me to the prospect. This strategy of first providing something of value, and then trying to get feedback on it shows I have their best interest in mind and forces me not to launch into my sales pitch when I get an audience with the prospect.

If the prospect’s executive assistant only provided you their email and you feel they may not have forwarded the report to their boss, they may adopt a delay tactic. In this situation, I ask, “When is a better time to call back?” By anticipating this delay tactic, I also try to become friends with the executive assistant by doing some research on them, which is why I get their full name during my initial call. Before my call, I look them up in the Reference USA Lifestyle database to discover what we may have in common so that I can interject something into the discussion that may resonate with them.

Mystery Letter Method

Another tactic I have used is to simply tape a puzzle piece to a sheet of blank paper with the handwritten words “I have the missing piece of your puzzle” on the page and nothing else. I mail it in a handwritten envelope to the prospect. The bulkiness of the puzzle piece in the envelope and the handwritten address creates a degree of mystery to get the prospect to at least open the letter. Few people can resist opening something that feels like it may contain something other than just paper. Moreover, the bulkiness will make it more likely that if the letter ends up on the executive assistant’s desk, they will not open it and hand it unopened to the prospect.

When the prospect opens the letter and the fact that there is no contact information in the message and only the message indicating you have the missing piece of the puzzle, they will certainly think about the intent of the letter until you attempt to contact them again.

Then, a few days after I know that the letter has arrived, I will call the prospect and ask them if they received my letter with the puzzle piece, which turns out to be a great ice-breaker.

Personal Gift Method

Often, all you know is that you want to speak to a specific position such as Vice President of Marketing and the only thing that you have is the main company’s phone number. Of course, you can sometimes find the person’s name by searching the company’s website or other online sources, but when you can’t, a tactic that has worked for me is to call the operator and ask to be connected with the executive assistant to the VP of Marketing. I try to pick the times when the operator is the busiest to have the best chance of being patched directly through, without any questions. Also, when you ask the operator to speak to the executive assistant, the operator is far less likely to try to act as gatekeeper and more likely to connect you.

When you get the executive assistant on the phone, they will often answer with the prospect’s name. “Mr. Johnson’s office, this is Margie”. I tell them that I want to send their boss a personal gift. While I want it to be a surprise for their boss, I don’t want it to be a surprise for the assistant. I ask for the assistant’s email so I can send them an email to confirm the details of sending the gift to their boss.

If the executive assistant didn’t automatically provide the name of their boss when they picked up the phone, I use the email confirmation to get them to provide the proper spelling of the name of the prospect.

The gift you select must be personal. My son, who is a chef, has given a personally engraved Zwilling J.A. Henckels chef knife to prospects that he wanted to meet, Jeffrey Gitomer gives out author-signed copies of children’s books to prospects he wants to meet. I have sent customized Vermont Teddy Bears to prospects. Bulky items work best since nobody can resist opening something that feels like it may contain a gift.

I recommend sending the gift via FedEx. Even though it costs a bit more than US mail or UPS, I think it makes a better impression, and most of all, you can track it, so you know when it arrives. Don’t forget to also send the assistant a thank you card or gift certificate at the same time when you send their boss the gift that you selected.

Soon after the gift is delivered or the next day, call the executive assistant back and ask to speak to the boss about the gift that you sent them. Since you will have sent the executive assistant a little thank you as well, you have built up reciprocity and the probability is high that you will be connected to the prospect if they are available or get you scheduled on their calendar for a callback.

Once I connect with the prospect, I never launch into my pitch. I use the call to share my why story and ask for a face-to-face meeting. All I want from this call is to convince the prospect that I’m worthy enough to get a meeting with them.

The effort to get a meeting with an important prospect may take time. But the rewards will be worth it.

How do you get a meeting with a new prospect?

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