There’s nothing quite like the thrill of having an unexpected new business lead land in your inbox. But keep in mind that the best leads tend to come from contacts you already know and trust or someone they know. As many communications freelancers will tell you, referrals that come from trusted sources tend to be more profitable and fun.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t promote your business and presence online, or that an inbound inquiry from a stranger can’t lead to a great opportunity. In many instances, it’s resulted in solid clients that have opened up new connections and opportunities for freelancers. However, it’s advised to more carefully vet cold call leads before committing to anything. Here are questions to ask.
How did you find me?
A second degree connection or your previous experience with a competitor lets you know the contact is smart and savvy. In these cases, it’s easy to conduct due diligence through your network. But if they found you by running a random search on LinkedIn or Google, definitely ask the next question.
What are your marketing goals?
The answer to this question allows you to accurately can gauge if the goals are realistic given the size of the company, its differentiators, and its competitors.
What is your budget?
Based on what the prospect says, gauge if the goals are realistic given the size of the company, its differentiators, and its competitors.
This can be a tricky question for both the freelancer and the client. If the prospect responds to your question with something along the lines of “what do you think it will cost?” you could quickly fall into a circular conversation. One way to respond is to repeat what you heard about what they hope to accomplish with their communications program. Then, provide a realistic budget range instead of a fixed number. Keep the range relatively tight.
For example, the requirements might work out to be within a $4-$7K per month range and include modular communications programs such as media relations, awards, content, or social media management that can be scaled up or down. If the prospect says that your numbers are too high, you can remove specific communications programs to further decrease the budget, though let them know this will impact results.
In the event that the prospect says the budget will start small but can increase later, probe a bit more. There could be potential to raise the retainer if the prospect is waiting for another round of funding or a big deal to close. In these situations, work with the client but don’t over service or overpromise.
Overall, when you feel good about the prospect’s answers, continue moving forward yet be sure to get more information about their business goals. Ideally, ask for a product demo or a deck that they’ve presented to investors or analysts. This will give you additional insight into how the company views itself as you flesh out your recommendations.