The art of cold calling. Strategic advice to fellow translators and others.
Written by Aga Gordon
Most translators, especially beginners, send a large number of CVs to translation agencies to try to get work. This will surely be successful, but at the price of sacrificing the lion’s share of the payment to the agencies for finding this work. I would advise more proactive approach; a bit more challenging perhaps, but as a result more self-fulfilling.
This strategy requires a change in your mindset from passive jobseeker to active enrepreneur. In short, you take your business destiny in your own hands, and start looking for DIRECT CLIENTS.
There are several techniques to achieve your vision, one of these being old fashioned COLD CALLING. I can hear some of you shrugging and thinking: ‘But I am not a sales person!’. You might be proved wrong, if you have a chance to read Pawel Grabowski’s book which contains excellent advice on this. Pawel shows how every small business owner is effectively a sales person, and how to maximize your client database. It is certainly worth having a look at this book.
I would challenge you on changing your mindset about cold calling. It is a fantastic technique, used by many successful entrepreneurs, which we all are, aren’t we? In brief, it is a meaningful, professional approach to clients, presenting them with a valuable proposition.
Depending on your attitude, cold calling can be either an incredibly successful strategy or a necessary chore. Do not think that cold calling is a hopeless exercise, bringing only a small percentage of customers. Such an approach does put it on a par with junk mail. On the contrary, it is an empowering method, enabling you to achieve what you want through gaining new business. It enables you to take control of who and how much you work for (the sky is a limit). It also determines your future in accordance with your own VISION.
Cold calling will give you FREEDOM – you will not depend on anyone. What is more, you will decide on your RATES.
This approach is challenging the status quo, which is the translation industry culture of initially working through agencies – ‘we always have done it like that’. Doing it your own way is truly a trait of an entrepreneur, and I would strongly advocate that every translator behaves in this manner. I have noticed that Judy Jenner from Twintranslations also advocates an entrepreneurial approach, and even published the book ‘Entrepreneurial linguist’, which I have not yet had the opportunity to read.
Here are a few tips to ensure you cold call efficiently and effectively:
- Make sure you know exactly what you want to achieve.
- Be flexible.
- Be proactive in seeking business.
Of course effective cold calling is not easy, as otherwise everyone would do it, and you would not be able to differentiate yourself and achieve a competitive advantage.
Here are some more tips about how to behave while cold calling:
- Be interesting and helpful – nobody likes boring, pressurizing and repetitive sales pitches.
- Prepare a straightforward, informative, and professional business proposition.
- Be enthusiastic about what you do.
- Be creative and innovative.
In short it is all about changing style and attitude from perceiving a cold call as a necessary chore, to seeing it as an empowering strategy aimed at achieving your vision and goals. You do not deliver junk, you are a strategic enabler.
Tips on cold calling strategy:
- Ensure your translation services meet the organisation’s needs, and ethical, social, political and cultural standards.
- See cold calling as a strategic and empowering process, and aim to excel at it.
- Make sure you are relaxed when you are cold calling
- Understand your services and environment extremely well. Of course you know what you offering, your strong points, your excellent knowledge and expertise, but you also need to have a deep understanding about the industry specifics, competitors, new entrants, barriers to entry, issues etc.
- Research the organisation you are cold calling in depth in order to be able to address their needs properly. This also means exploring possible issues related to your proposition, and the ways to address them properly.
- Prepare a concise introductory speech about your translation services, but do not make it sound like a fixed script, remember to be flexible.
- Do not try to push or sell. This is the tricky bit. I am sure you also do not like to be forced to buy anything. Therefore, behave more like an advisor to help the supplier to make an informed decision. Naturally, your product needs to be of a superb quality.
- Educate the client gently and slowly. The ultimate aim is to find the fit between your translation services and the client’s needs.
- Engage the client in discussion to help them to make a decision.
- Make sure you have a deep understanding of the whole process right from the beginning (keep notes if necessary) and show a genuine interest in the prospective client.
An example of cold calling could look like this:
‘Good morning, Mr Smith. This is Dr Agnieszka Gordon of acgtranslation. I read in the local paper that you are planning a strategic move into Eastern European markets. I am a professional English to Polish translator, specialising in business translations. I hold an MBA and have an extensive knowledge about Polish culture and market. I’d like to ask a few questions to determine whether my services and experience will help you to achieve your vision’
As you can see there is none of the old technique of pushing the client to take on your services. Do not be tempted to do so. I personally never accept any offer carried out in such a manner.
And finally, be patient and persevere. Most of your potential clients will not take your offer immediately, but make sure you contact them periodically to see if their needs have changed. You might even need several calls, but take your time to build a strong and long-lasting relationship.
Finally, I realize I have not exhausted all the possibilities so I would be interested in the tips and the strategies you use. Please share!