Essential Tips to Cold Calling Your Design Services Like a Pro

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Many salespeople believe that cold calling is dead. However, done the right way and a cold call still works, even for designers. You just have to know how to cold call your design services like a pro.

Before we move on to the all-important tips below, let’s clarify a few things. A cold call traditionally refers to a phone call, although modern cold calling could also include initial face-to-face or digital contact, such as with an email or social media message. While many of the tips below refer specifically to cold calls over the phone, you can also use the points for other types of cold calling with just a few adjustments.

Cold Calling Tips for Designers

Another point to remember is that cold calls take time and energy to prepare and follow through to that final point of closing the sale. So if you have plenty of momentum going with the clients you already have with several projects looming ahead, you shouldn’t cold call. Your time is much better spent on the work you have and saving energy for upcoming projects.

If, however, your client list has run dry with no projects in the near future, you probably have plenty of down time to cold call and promote your design services. So if this is you, make sure to read through the following pointers before jumping in. Your cold calling will only be as successful as your professional, strategic approach. Let’s get started!

Cold Calling Tips for Designers

1. Research Your Target

By researching the businesses, the owners, and the managers that you plan to contact, you’ll better know how to approach them with your pitch. Knowing your contact means that you can better speak to their needs in a way that they understand.

All businesses are concerned with the obvious–making more money. But not every business approaches this in the same way. And not every business is at the same stage, which means that Company A might be in the initial stages of marketing but Company B has been in business for years but needs a fresh approach.

But don’t just know about the business. Find out about the manager or owner you plan to contact. Is he or she old-school or innovative, concerned with personal connections or concerned with numbers, a risk taker or a lover of stability? Knowing even a little about your contact’s personality and hobbies, such as if he or she is a goofball or likes golf, is another good way to make a connection.

A word of caution: don’t be creepy about knowing all of this information. You want to impress your contact with your knowledge of how you can solve their problem in a way that they would want it done. And knowing their personality and past times just gives you further insight into what kind of person they are.

But where do you find out all of this information? Here are a few ideas:

  • Social media for both the company and the person of contact
  • Company website
  • Google search for the company name and their name
  • Professional data services such as

2. Solve a Problem

No matter how refined your pitch is for the cold call, you will never convince someone to use your design services if they, first, don’t realize there is a problem, and second, don’t know you can solve this problem for them.

Because you have done your research, you already know if the company is already looking into design services. If this is the case, your cold call has a much higher chance of being successful. Even if they already know they need to make a change, you still have to convince them that you know better than any other designer how to meet their needs.

One of the best ways to convince a prospect of your ability to meet their needs is to be specific about what they need and how you can help them. For instance, let’s say that you contacted a business that wanted an updated logo. In your research, you also discover that this company seems to want to appear more personal and friendly to customers.

So you research their old design and notice the areas that need improving to modernize the logo and make it appear more friendly. These are the points you need to touch on in your cold call, but make sure to do so without giving any of your strategies away. For instance, you could say, “I noticed the edges of the font letters in your logo are very sharp and harsh. I would replace this with Ropa Soft Pro to keep the look professional yet approachable.” But this not only gives away too much detail but also would probably annoy the contact because he or she has no visual of the new font you mentioned.

A better line would be, “I noticed that your current logo needs an update to help your company appear more approachable and customer-friendly. There are just a few changes in the design that I could make to give your company an instant boost in its appearance.” And even better is if you can also add in an example from your previous work: “I helped Company A do just this by updating their look while keeping the logo recognizable by current customers. Their sales increased by x% after they release their new look.”

3. Refine Your Elevator Pitch

If you aren’t quick to the point right away, most business people will cut you off. They simply don’t have time to listen to more than a 30-second elevator pitch if it’s something they don’t see a need for. But if you can smoothly wrap your entire presentation in an elevator pitch and in that same moment convince them that they may actually need your services, then they will want to listen to the rest of the details either now or at a later point in time.

So begin with a friendly greeting that explains who you are and what you do, such as, “Hi, Cindy. This is Bob from Happy Design Services. How are you today?” After waiting for their response, launch into your elevator pitch, making sure to include both the problem you noticed, how you can solve it, benefits to them, and an example of previous work in which you solved a similar problem successfully.

You can then pause briefly and decide on your next move after their response. If they say they have already found a designer but don’t hang up, you could then offer your prices or to send them a quote via email. Personally, I would never ask your contact to reveal their current designer’s prices as this could make the contact uncomfortable enough to not want to even consider seeing a quote.

If the contact either responds positively or remains silent, you can then go into your call to action. Make sure you know this ahead of time. It could be to email them a quote and your portfolio along with a follow up call later in the week. Or it could be to meet with them face-to-face at an agreed upon date and time. Again, knowing your contact will help you better choose the most appropriate call to action for them.

4. Follow Up

What happens after the phone call ends? Well, hopefully your call to action nailed them down on a semi-permanent plan. Never should you just wait for your prospect to take that next step in the deal. Because they won’t. Most of your contacts are incredibly busy, so if you want a firm committment, you have to do all the work.

Also, be sure to have a follow-up plan for both those who have said “maybe” and only wanted you to email them your quote and portfolio. Give them time to read the email and browse your information, but if you don’t hear back from them within a day or so, give them another call.

Don’t feel rude by keeping up with your prospect. If they truly want your services and as long as you give them an appropriate amount of time between contact, they will appreciate your attention and get the feeling that you care about their success.

5. Know Your Numbers

Know how much you charge per project, per hour, or whatever your design costs are. Often if a prospective client is interested, he or she will ask for numbers right away to help them determine if you fit in their budget.

Just as importantly though, know how low you are willing to go because some prospects may want to negotiate then and there. You may want to start a hair high–not too high to scare someone off right away but high enough to leave room for negotiating, especially if your prospect is known for negotiating (which your research may have revealed).

Another huge benefit: if you knock down your prices, the prospect feels like they have a “win” and are much more likely to hire you. Plus, it’s always nice when the contact accepts your original quote and you can put a little extra time into the project and not feel so rushed.

6. Practice

Practice really does make perfect. The more you practice your pitch, the more confident and smooth your pitch. Imagine what responses the prospect might have to each part of your pitch and practice all of these scenarios, such as price negotiations and follow up questions and even hostility.

And don’t just practice alone. Call friends, family, business partners for some “real life” practice. Give them permission to improvise different scenarios. Or ask your helpers to respond just as they would if a designer cold called them. Practice until you are sick of hearing yourself talk and can make a pitch in your sleep…or at least until you feel confident enough to handle both foreseen and unforeseen scenarios.

7. Keep Track

Keep a notepad and pen next to your phone and take notes. While on the phone call, of course stay focused on the call, especially if you aren’t great at talking and writing at the same time. Just jot down key ideas very briefly as you go along. But immediately after the call ends, write down everything from the conversation. All of it can be used in the future. Even better, keep it all organized in a document, such as Excel, for easy searches later.

It can be difficult to keep track if you make a lot of phone calls in a day. Even keep notes of which contacts are a dead end so that you don’t accidentally call them again. And don’t forget to set reminders for when you plan to follow up with the promising prospects.

8. Cold Call with Confidence

Although I’ve mentioned this above, it’s important enough to mention again: you must own the cold call. Exude the type of confidence that has no need to be that annoying, pushy sales person. Instead have the confidence that wins over clients with your knowledge of their needs and cool ease of which you walk them through your solution for their problems. This is why researching and practicing ahead of time is so very important and should be where you spend the majority of your time. Only then will you be able to cold call your design services like a pro.

What are your thoughts on cold calling? Have you ever used cold calls for your design services? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

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