Brainstorming ideas for cold calls

I am not a sales guy, never played one on TV, and have no ambitions to be one – too tough a job for me! But I’ve done enough bus dev work to know a few things about getting meetings without having a warm introduction: one, figure out what’s in it for the person you want to meet with; two, your objective should be to get the meeting and learn, not to try to sell (“one call closes” are very rare); three, be interesting/intriguing/different; and four, in general people like sharing their expertise – a whole lot more than fending off a sales pitch..

Any business decision maker gets bombarded with sales and marketing calls, emails, texts, etc. so you are going to have to be very creative, very persuasive, and very persistent to connect with them.

I recently got an email from an old friend asking how he could get a C-Suite exec to talk with him about the product he was selling. So totally  uninhibited by a total lack of sales training or experience, I fired off an email with a list of ideas off the top of my head for how to attract the attention of a C-Suite exec. To my surprise he replied to the effect that the list could be useful. So here it is, in somewhat upgraded form.

1. Show up in person and try to worm your way in for a 10-minute talk. Be patient and willing to wait for some time, or come back later,  or follow them to their favorite coffee shop. You may well have to become best friends with the CXO’s assistant to pull this off.

2. Try sending a fax – no one but lawyers and accountants use fax machines any more, so that might get their attention. But make the content interesting or they or more likely their assistant won’t even bother to  read it. Remember, you are not trying to sell anything, you are just trying to get their attention/capture their imagination and get a meeting or at least a phone call.

3. Try sending them a personal letter – marked “personal and confidential” – asking for an informational interview on a subject you need to learn about and one they will have expertise on that they just might be willing to share. Again, personal letters are so rare it might get their attention. 

4. If they have an assistant, make friends with them and find out where the crevices are in the CXO’s schedule. See if you can’t convince them to slip you in for 10 minutes.

5. Follow them on Twitter, try to connect on LinkedIn, and otherwise use social media. But in a helpful way. Say it’s the CMO of sail boat company, see if you can find a really cool Instagram photo, or better yet a sailor/photographer with a stunning Instagram feed, and try DM or email or some other way get it to them them. Or send something else on social media they will find helpful or interesting.

6. Study up on the background of the exec you are trying to connect with. Web site bios, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google – whatever you have to do to see what you two may have in common that increases the likelihood of their being willing to talk with you.

7. Is there someone at a level below the CXO who is easier to get to? Can work your way up?

8. Where do the CXOs you want to connect with hangout? Conferences? Trade shows? Alumni groups? Charitable events? Certain golf courses or health clubs? Try to connect with them outside the office.

9. Who do you work for? Do they have a Strategic Advisory Board? Can you get a prominent CXO of the type you are trying to connect with on it?

10. Obviously try to network your way to them, as nothing is better than a warm introduction, especially from another CXO.

11. In the spirit of Spinal Tap, here’s one more: find a great new book on whatever the CXO’s domain is – say they are a CFO, so make it a book on finance, and send it to them with a short personal note saying you thought this might interest them and could they spare 10 minutes for chat about a question you have about financial services?

My standard customer service warranty applies: double your money back if you are not 100% satisfied with this list of ideas.

Author: Mentorphile

Mentor, coach, and advisor to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. General manager with significant experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Focus on media and information. On founding team of four venture-backed companies. Currently Chairman of Popsleuth, Inc., maker of the Endorfyn app for keeping fans updated on new stuff from their favorite artists.

One thought on “Brainstorming ideas for cold calls”

  1. I managed to leave out one of the simplest and easiest to implement techniques. One I used myself many times successfully. Back in the old days VPs, Directors, and even Managers had “secretaries” or administrative assistants who screened all their calls. However, these screeners almost always worked non-exempt hours, as HR put it: 9 to 5, Monday through Friday. So the trick is to make your cold calls early in the morning, before the AA arrives, or at the close of business, after 5 pm. Or even on a Saturday, Sunday or holiday when the workaholics were in their offices with no staff support. At those times execs tend to answer their own phones and often you can get through to them directly. One key technique I was taught, however, was never leave messages on their voice mail. If they don’t answer, just hang up and call again later. Leaving messages proabably marks you as a potential nuisance caller, ensuring your calls won’t be returned. Just keep calling during off hours. As so many things entrepreneurial, persistence often wins out. I heard the story, perhaps apocryphal, that Don Chiofaro, a major Boston developer, called the office of Fred Salvucci, then an important Boston official Don needed to talk with, something like 90 straight days until he finally connected with him.


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