I want to extend my practice to an industry in which I have no experience, but for which I think I could provide good service. I have no contacts but would like to know if cold calling is an effective way to make myself known.
Cold calling, as traditionally defined, is generally a bad strategy for consultants. The idea of getting a name off a mailing list or the lobby directory and calling unannounced is likely to result in two things. First, you annoy the person, most likely a senior manager, you are trying to dazzle with your capabilities. Second, you leave an impression that you are somewhat desperate to get work, so much so that you are trying to shortcut the effort required to build a relationship. In essence, you are trying to make withdrawals from a business relationship "bank account" before you have made any deposits.
Recognizing that you are new to the industry and do not have a ready referral network, why not try a "modified cold call," that minimizes the downside of traditional cold calling. This does require some research and, although it is a "cold" route to get to prospects, you do arrive at a prospect's door armed with something valuable to offer.
You probably know enough about the industry that it is an attractive consulting target for you. So, you probably know enough to draft a white paper on key trends in the industry and, given your understanding of the companies, you will recognize several of those companies that are leading positive trends or are in serious trouble. These may well be your prospects, if you can prepare a cogent argument of how your services can bring value to their rise or reverse their decline. Tip:
Prepare a company specific plan of action or white paper targeted at the company or subsector in which the company works. Contact (this is a "cool" call) the appropriate executive with an offer to discuss a specific action they could take to improve their lot. You may have to send the piece ahead to get the appointment, but this should be sufficiently intriguing to land you a face to face conversation about a specific action for which you could provide value. Make sure you have a testimonial/referral or two to back up your claim you can deliver this service. © 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA