Cold calling was easier ten years ago when everyone still had a receptionist taking the first call.  Nowadays, it’s likely that you won’t speak to anyone until your prospect chooses to call you back.  I think this makes cold calling even more interesting, by the way.  It requires you to hone your strategy, be *even more* consistent and develop sound messaging for voicemail.  In the same way that newspapers and magazines recommend you advertise six consecutive issues in a row, leaving interesting messages when cold calling allows the prospect to recognize your company – potentially keeping you top of mind; and if you’re leaving the right messages, anticipating your next call.  And if you’re extremely lucky (right message, right person, right time), your message generates a returned call.

So nowadays, we go right to a machine more often than not.  And sometimes you don’t have a contact name.   What do you do?

Here are a few things you can try – first, you would try zeroing out for the receptionist.  (Just press the zero key when the message begins.)

Second, if your campaign is small enough, and the company is big enough, check the internet.  This will unfortunately add a lot of time on to your campaign.  If you’re contracting a lead generation expert to do your cold calling, consider also contracting someone to build that list for you before the campaign starts.  I charge 50/hour to call.  I charge 20/hour to build lists.  You can probably find someone to build it for less – if you’re a small company with a tight budget, you can do it yourself at home on the internet while you watch Season 3 of The Wire.  I recommend using a piece of software called egrabber for data capture, this eliminates a lot of the copy, paste, copy, paste, copy, paste.  You can pull data right into your CRM system or spreadsheet.  Easy, and cheap.  You can build entire prospecting lists using this – some of the tools they offer will pull data right out of tradeshow directory pages.   LinkedIn is a terrific source of contact names.  Remember, you don’t necessarily need the name of the person you want to speak to, you can dig in starting anywhere.

If you have the budget for it, use a company like Jigsaw to get contact names – the closest to the one you need, you only need one, so don’t waste your money buying 8 contacts at the same company. The best thing about Jigsaw is that they are now owned by, so if you’re using you can pull that information right into your database.   Jigsaw also allows you to earn free contacts by collaborating to create a bigger database.  So it can be far less expensive than buying a list.

The best thing about building your list over buying a list?  Aside from it being cost effective, you now OWN the data for multiple uses, until the end of time.

Now, here are some of the things I do when none of those options work:

1.  Leave a message in a different contacts voicemail box.  Type out a common last name, or a random combination of numbers.  I always try spelling my last name first — it makes it a lot easier for the contact to remember YOUR name if it’s the same as yours.  (If your name is Judy Wasylycia-Leis, however, you likely can’t use this.  Judy for Mayor!)

“Hi Joe Simpson, this is Carrie Simpson calling from – I was actually looking for the Director of Business Development.  Could you please let him know I’m trying to reach him and pass on my phone number?”

The less detail the better.   Don’t be sneaky, but don’t offer up any more information than is necessary.

2.  Call in to Human Resources if there is a dial-by-department directory.  HR usually picks up the phone, and they have a company directory at their fingertips.  If you’re calling HR be concise, use your elevator pitch, and ask them for direction.

“Hi Janet.  This is Carrie calling from  I help companies build their sales pipelines.  I’m trying to reach the Director of Marketing.  Can you tell me who that is?  Bob Smith?  Thanks.  Do you have his email address?”

3.  Last resort – leave a message in the general delivery voice mail.  Your name, who you’re looking for, what your company does, the best time to reach you,  and your phone number.  If this is your only option, I recommend making a call every couple of days with the same message.  Only an option if you’re running short on leads.  Don’t waste your dials if there’s thousands more in the pipe.

Happy Selling!