Contacting article authors

Sales contact by phone
In the post “Where do sales leads come from?“, contacting authors of relevant magazine and journal articles was pointed out as a path to new sales leads. We use this prospecting strategy quite heavily for the following four reasons.

  1. The author is obviously an expert in his field and is anxious to share his technical knowledge with the public – and you’re the public, so call and learn something from them.
  2. Authors are typically well known in their field – meaning that they have lots of contacts. If they don’t need your product or service, maybe one of their contacts do.
  3. The lead author is typically a senior technical person, so you’re hopefully starting the company prospecting at a high enough level.
  4. The lead author’s contact information is usually right there in the article – how easy is that?

When I come across a relevant article, I read it thoroughly and contact the author. They are almost always eager and proud to discuss their work. I explain what I do, give them my insights into their work and ask if I could have a few minutes of their time. The pitch goes something like this (assuming I’m selling titanium sheet).

Hi Dr. Schmo, I just read your “Properties of titanium sheet” article in Journal XYZ and was hoping that you’d have a few minutes to discuss it with me. [Sure, I’d be happy to.] Great, my name is Sam Salesman and I was intrigued by your correlations between sheet thickness and the structural modulus. I sell titanium sheet for a living and I never realized this correlation existed and would like to talk to my customers about this – so I’m hoping to get a better grip on your theories.

After talking with the technical team here, it looks like we have a product that would serve the customers that you alluded to. I thought it might be a nice project here to generate some data on our different offerings to supplement your research. [That would be fantastic, the more data the better.] If we provide some sheet samples, would you be able and willing to generate the data – you would have free and unlimited use of this data of course.

This is where the conversation ends for now. Note that I didn’t ask him to mail me his rolodex so that I could bombard his contacts with calls and brochures. I’m trying to build a solid relationship with him first. If it turns out that I’m correct and our material performs well, he will do two things: (1) write about it and mention that I provided the material to him, and (2) give me a list of people that would be interested in hearing from me.

Providing me with a contact list is now aligned with his best interest. He will help his contacts and he knows that what he will recommend to them will actually perform as promised. Asking for referrals before he has trust and confidence in me and my product is a much tougher sell – of course sometimes you have no choice.

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