How can I find the right person when I cold call?

Q & A by C.J. HaydenIf cold calling businesses and organizations is an approach that makes sense for your business, you’ll find this activity more productive when you do some advance research before placing your call. You’ll often have more success speaking to someone live if you already have the name of a decision maker before you get on the phone.

First, determine the most likely job titles for people who are likely to need your service. Is it the IT Director, Training Manager, Marketing Director, Benefits Manager, etc? Then try to get the name of whoever fills that role before you call.

Make your first stop the company’s website. Visit their contact page, staff directory page, and press room page, looking for references to the roles and departments that interest you. A short cut to looking through the whole site can be to use Google’s site search feature. Let’s say you wanted to find out who was VP of Finance at the Association of American Colleges and Universities. Type into Google “vice president finance” and the first link will tell you her name, direct extension, and email address.

Here are some other suggestions for finding names (and sometimes contact information) to go with job titles:

  • Look in professional association member directories, alumni directories, and local business directories (e.g. those published by Chambers of Commerce).
  • Search trade publication websites for articles by or about people who work for the companies you want to reach.
  • Buy a list from a mailing list vendor (e.g. Acculeads or Zapdata). Depending on your market, you can often obtain a list of people with specific job titles in particular industries or regions.
  • Visit the business section of the public library, and ask a librarian to help you search print resources like company annual reports.

If you really can’t find out the right name before you call, ask the receptionist. On most voice mail systems, there is an option to exit and reach a live person. If the system doesn’t give you such an option, try pressing zero or zero#. Many receptionists will happily answer questions like “what is the name of your Payroll Manager, please?” or “who would I speak to about graphic design services at your company?”

If you can’t reach a live operator or the receptionist won’t help you, just start dialing extensions at random. Eventually, you will reach someone live, and when you explain that you must have dialed the wrong number, they will often be pleased to give you the right one.

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