How One Cold Email Landed Me A $15K Consulting Project

August 27, 2014

This post was written by Marco Massaro, the founder of


I run a web consultancy that works with internet startups and high growth companies. We provide strategic UX, design and front-end development services.

Most of the projects we receive are referrals from happy customers who told others about the great work we did for them. Those referrals then come to us with a similar project or needs and the cycle repeats. This has been the main way my consultancy brought in new work and clients.

But as anyone who runs a web consultancy may know, this industry can be feast or famine. One month you might have project inquiries piling up and another month might be very slow.

When this happened to my consultancy recently, I needed to find a new method to bring in projects without relying on just referrals.

I was recently chatting about consulting with my friend Neal Kemp, a YC S14 alum who used to run a development consultancy. He mentioned how he was having a great deal of success generating new project leads using cold email marketing. After hearing from Neal about his success with this marketing tactic, I decided to give it a shot for my consultancy.

In the rest of this post I will detail how I closed a $15,000 consulting project with my very first cold email campaign. I’ve outlined my entire process from beginning to end, including what worked, what didn’t, improvements that I could have made, my results, tools I used, resources and more.

Note: To respect confidentiality agreements and the privacy of the client, I will not go into much detail about the client or project.

Start With A Plan

To start my cold email campaign, I needed to have a plan. Who was I going to cold email and how would I get them to hire my consultancy? Where would I find the right companies who needed my services?

Identify Your Ideal Client

As I mentioned earlier, my consultancy works with internet companies. I love working with these types of companies because they move fast, have little to no bureaucratic structure (until much later) and are obviously tech savvy.

7-Day Email Crash Course on Getting More Clients

Calling all freelancers, consultants and agencies. First lesson delivered immediately!

That means no hand-holding, rarely having to explain a certain technology or trend and getting paid upon completion of the project (I’m very much against Net D terms).

Normally, we work directly with a CEO, CTO, co-founder, product lead or a marketing head. These people usually “own” the product, from UX and design to strategy and development. They are also normally the key decision maker who can greenlight a project.

Make sure you can identify your ideal client. What types of companies do you want to work with? Who are the people at these companies that can say “yes” to you?

Create A Company Profile

The next step, after identifying your ideal client, is to come up with a company profile. The company profile is a detailed breakdown of the types of companies you want to target.

I’ve outlined my company profile below with explanations. You can also download the template to create your own. I highly recommend using this template as it will make the process of finding companies much easier.

Internet: technology, SaaS, B2B, B2C, social

Industry of companies you want to target. I also used some popular keywords here to specify the types of internet businesses

Company Location
USA, UK and Europe. English only.

The location of the company. I avoided companies who didn’t conduct business in English (as depicted by their website or product).

At least $200,000 in funding and no round later than a Series A.

In order to make sure companies could afford my consultancy, they needed to have funding (or revenue).

I focused on seed and Series A companies for a few reasons.

In my experience, seed companies were very developer focused and lacked any design or product lead. This is where my consultancy could really help by providing design and UX support.

The Series A companies I’ve approached or worked with in the past usually had raised a big round and were on a hiring spree. I found that these companies also had a lot of new projects they needed to start right away.

In my experience, companies that had raised a later round weren’t a good fit for my consultancy because they usually had internal design and development teams to handle all of their projects.

$500,000 to $1,000,000 in revenue (if no funding)

If the company had no funding, that was OK, as long as they had some revenue. Its important that the company had some type of cash flow so they could afford my consultancy and weren’t operating on a shoestring budget.

Company Size
1-20 employees

I targeted smaller companies who didn’t have a lot of employees. Companies with many employees normally had in-house teams to cover design and development.

Person To Email
CEO, co-founder, CTO, CMO, Head of product

These are the types of people within the company that I wanted to send my cold email to and who I normally worked with in the past.



Finding Your Ideal Client

Now that I had my company profile complete, I needed a place to easily find companies that matched the company profile I put together.

I chose CrunchBase because its one of the most comprehensive and well-known resources for internet companies. You can see funding, revenue, employees, keywords, websites and much more. There are also a ton of other market research resources available out there.

A great thing about CrunchBase is that you can see newly funded companies. This meant I could see companies who recently received funding, which meant there was a good chance they needed some form of help.

Extracting The Leads

Now for the hard part. Browsing through each company on CrunchBase, viewing their website and finding the right email address takes a really long time.

Instead of doing all of this manually, I decided to outsource the entire data extraction and data entry process.

Remember the template above that I said would come in handy? Here’s where you’ll need it. If you hire someone like I did, you’ll want to provide them with this template so they know exactly what to look for.

I began searching on Freelancer, oDesk and Elance to find a virtual assistant or someone with lead generation/data entry experience. That’s when my luck kicked in…

A person from AngelList (we’ll call him James) found my consultancy listed and emailed me pitching his lead generation, email and marketing services. Yes, it was a cold email…oh the irony.

The timing couldn’t have been any better. He had the exact experience I was looking for including data entry, lead generation and cold emailing.

I hopped on a quick call with James and took him through my company profile so he’d know exactly the types of companies to extract from CrunchBase.

Next, I setup a Google Spreadsheet (download the template) where James would be required to input the company name, website, full name, email, position and revenue or funding of the company.

His process went something like this:

  1. Find companies on Crunchbase that fit the company profile
  2. Click through to the company website to make sure it was live, they were still in business and they were a potential fit.
  3. Navigate to an about, company, team or contact page to find the person and their email (if there was no email James would figure out the email format and use Rapportive, or skip)
  4. Head over to the Google Spreadsheet and fill out each field with the company name, URL, email, etc.
  5. Rinse and repeat for 500 leads

The total cost for outsourcing this data entry process and sending the emails (explained later) was .50 cents per lead, or $250. This was my total investment, besides my time. We capped it at 500 leads to start for this first campaign.

Once the spreadsheet was populated with the leads, I reviewed it for accuracy and made sure I didn’t already have a relationship with any of the companies James had found.

Sending Cold Emails

The next step was to write up the cold email pitch and send it to each lead from our spreadsheet.

First, I gave James an email address at my company so he could send out emails from our domain.

Next, I crafted a short email with the purpose of grabbing the recipient’s attention and getting them interested in my consultancy.

Here’s the email copy that was used:


What’s Good About This Email

  1. A short email subject that pulls the recipient in (a short subject also worked well for Alex from Groove)
  2. Address the recipient by their first name to make it personal (avoid sir/madam, to whom it may concern, etc.)
  3. Ask a question or touch on a potential need in the first sentence. Don’t open the email by introducing yourself or your company, instead put the attention on them and focus on their business. As Neville Medhora puts it: no one cares about you, they care about themselves.
  4. Hook them by creating value, rather than pitching your “services”. If you can help their bottom line or business grow, they’ll listen.
  5. Close the email by creating urgency and making them reply to get more information.


Some Positive Email Responses


For each response, James would reply with a friendly note and then CC/intro me. I would then come in to take over the discussion and sales process.

Email Breakdown By The Numbers

Sent: 500
Replies: 67
Response rate: 13.4%

Out of 500 sent, 67 people replied. 14 were interested and the other 53 were not interested, would keep us on file or had an autoresponder reply.

What Could Be Improved

After reviewing my sent email campaign, I was happy with the numbers for my first attempt, but could definitely improve my process next time. Here’s what could have been improved:

A/B Testing
I used one subject and body for all 500 emails. Next time, I plan to A/B test subject headlines and the body to see what yields better open and response rates.

Integrate with a CRM
We didn’t use a CRM to track leads or help us manage the sales process. Everything was done in Gmail which meant things got hairy at times when trying to visualize where we were in the sales process.

Detailed Reporting
Since we just used Gmail, we didn’t have any reports on opens, CTR, views, device, peak time or other detailed information about our campaign. This information is important for campaign optimization and tweaking.

Qualifying Leads & Negotiation

Now that I had 14 warm leads, the next step was to qualify each one to make sure they were a good fit for my consultancy. I used a similar process as outlined by Brennan Dunn to qualify each prospective client.

It looked something like this:

Hi [Name],

Great to meet you. [Company] looks really interesting and I’d love to help. Can you answer a few quick questions so I can learn more about your project?

  1. Do you have the requirements or details for your project?
  2. When are you looking to get started?
  3. Do you have a budget set aside for this project?



ABQ = Always Be Qualifying

Qualifying a lead is the single most important step in the sales process. If you don’t qualify, you’ll end up wasting time with leads who have no budget or aren’t in the market for your services.

Normally, most prospects will reply to that email with at least some description or overview of their project, a timeline and a ballpark budget. If they don’t disclose the budget then I kindly explain we have a $XX,XXX minimum project size and if that is a number they are comfortable with. You’ll know immediately by the type of response you get if the lead has a budget or not.

And Then There Were Two

After going through the qualifying process with all 14 warm leads, I ended up with just 2 that were qualified and were a fit for my consultancy.

12 others didn’t fit for one of the following reasons:

  • No response to my email (or a follow up)
  • Didn’t have the budget
  • Needed a service that we didn’t offer
  • Just interested in more information, but not ready to start (I follow back up on these types leads every few months as well)

You might be thinking…2 qualified leads out of 500 is just a measly 0.4% conversion rate, your results suck! That may be a small percentage, but in reality I just needed to close 1 of these 2 leads to cover my investment of $250 and also make a great profit.

Plus, we pitched these leads literally out of nowhere and they’ve never heard of my consultancy. Getting 2 qualified leads from a cold email who are a fit and have a budget is a huge win in this type of business.

Now We’re Talking

The next step was to hop on a call with both qualified leads to learn more about their project and goals. During this call I’d also normally explain our process, services and how my consultancy could really help their company (you can read that in our playbook).

I’d also prepare for each call by doing an audit of their current site or product and jot down notes on how they could improve their design, UX, messaging etc.

On the call, I’d offer the prospective client free actionable tips they could implement to improve conversion rates, sales, engagement, etc. The client instantly got value out of the call and regards me as an expert with his or her needs in mind.

Doing this strategy at the end of the call leaves a really good impression. When you get to sending your estimate or proposal to the prospective client, they’ll remember the value you brought just on a simple call.

Getting Down To Business

After the call I’d review everything including the project requirements, goals and our discussion to write up an estimate for each prospective client.

I use Ballpark to create estimates and invoices. Its a nifty app made by the guys over at Metalab. Every estimate outlines the phases of the project, deliverables, timeline, pricing and any other notes or fine print.

I sent out two separate fixed-price estimates for my prospective clients:

  1. $15,500 for a small UX and design project
  2. $43,250 for a large UX, design and front-end development project

The client who received estimate #2 replied promptly that they would review it and reply back within 1 week. A week went by and I heard nothing, so I followed up. Then another week went by and I still heard nothing.

To this day, I never heard back from that client, even with several follow up emails and a phone message. Keep in mind, this client was qualified and did have the budget (we discussed expectations on the call).

Unfortunately this is just the nature of the consultancy business. Sometimes clients go AWOL for no reason. Maybe they changed their mind. Maybe they didn’t have the budget. Maybe something came up. I’m not really sure, but there wasn’t much more I could do beyond emailing and a phone call.

Luckily, the client who I had sent estimate #1 to got back to me within one day via a phone.

“ Hey Marco..

Thanks for sending over your estimate. I took a look at it and everything looks good. Can we just make it an even $15k and get started? ”

Without hesitation, I said “deal”.

I was more than happy to come down $500…after all, $500 wouldn’t make or break my consultancy.

Keep in mind this was a freezing cold lead that we contacted out of nowhere and it turned into a contract worth $15,000. My initial investment was just $250, making my ROI a whopping 5900%.

I was thrilled that my first cold email campaign resulted in a success.


The negotiation for this project went smoother than usual. The client only knocked $500 of off my estimate which really wasn’t a big deal. However, this usually isn’t the case. In my experience, most clients (even qualified) will try to come back with a lower price than what was in the original estimate.

7-Day Email Crash Course on Getting More Clients

Calling all freelancers, consultants and agencies. First lesson delivered immediately!

This is where you need to be confident in your price, expertise and have some decent negotiating skills.

Before I became confident in my pricing and valued my expertise, I’d almost always let a client have their way with some type of price reduction. After all, I wanted the project and to make money.

Sometimes this is OK… like if you’re just starting out, you really need the money or it’s a big client that could take your consultancy to the next level.

If none of these apply and you’ve been in the business for years, you need to command the price you deserve.

My favorite tactic to win clients over is by using leverage.

A lot of times a discussion with a prospective client will go great. They love the fact that you understand their needs and have the right skills. Plus you’re ready to start right away and you have experience under your belt.

When you send over a project estimate, you expect it to be a done deal, right?


The client comes back with a lower figure than you quoted. Instead of lowering your quote to meet your client’s counter, you need to leverage the situation to get your way:

  • They invested a lot of time with you discussing their project and needs (on the phone and via email)
  • You fully understand the project requirements, goals and can deliver results
  • You have the skills, expertise and availability to get it done
  • Finding someone new to do the project takes a lot of time and they need to have availability, the right skills, expertise, be brought up to speed, etc.

So here’s how you actually use the above to your advantage to win the client over. Normally this is all done on the phone, not via email, because you can put pressure on the client and create urgency.

You send an estimate for $20,000 and the client calls you (if they email you, try calling them so you can negotiate fast). Here is how I would negotiate:

Me: Hello, Marco speaking

Client: Marco, John from ABC Corp… I got your estimate and it looks good, but its a bit higher than I expected…can you do this at $17,000?

*Brief pause by me*

Me: I really want to do this project with you, but $20,000 is really the lowest I can get it done at…

Client: Ok…ummmm…I mean…I feel comfortable at $17,000 max right now…I think we’re pretty close to your estimate and we can get you the deposit right away…

*Long pause by me*

Me: John…I’d hate for us to not do this project because of $3,000… You know I’m perfect for this project and can deliver…We spent a lot of time discussing your needs and if we don’t work together you’ll have to go find someone else, brief them, make sure they have availability and the right skillset…it’s going to take you weeks. I’m ready to get started today and will hit a homerun for you

At this point, the client will hopefully say “OK” lets do it at $20k. I’ve used this exact script and its worked in the past. Most clients will realize it’s not worth wasting all of the time and energy spent up to this point to walk away over a few thousand.

Also, by talking on the phone you’re creating urgency and really forcing them to make a decision in a few seconds (whereas with email they have time to mull things over or not even reply).

If the client is still holding their ground, this is where you may have to negotiate a bit so you really don’t lose the project. I factor negotiating room into my estimates and only use it when I think the client might walk away (which has happened before).

Client: Yeah I totally understand that Marco, which is why I’m trying to work with you…But $20k is too much. We might have to pass on this one…

*Very long pause by me*

Me: Here’s what I’ll do because I like you and this project. Meet in the middle at $18,500…that’s my bottom line. I’ll send the contract over right now…

Say this part convincingly and confidently – most clients will say “yes” under direct pressure like this.

Client: Ummmm..alright Marco, I appreciate that…Lets do $18,500. Send me the contract.

Me: Thanks John, I’ll send it over to your email now.

I’ve used this approach in the past when a client holds their ground and it works very well.

All of the leverage is on my side here because I’m available, have the skills, can deliver, understand their needs, and so on. The client doesn’t have this type of leverage. All they’ve done is invested time and energy discussing their project and needs with me. If they walk away they wasted all of that time and have to go through the process all over again. Most clients won’t want to do this because they know how tedious it is to find good talent to hire.

Another note: sometimes when I didn’t negotiate I lost some really great potential projects. Some people say you should never ever negotiate, but I disagree. If you bake in some negotiation room in your estimates, you can come down on price without losing money if it’s a really great client that you want to close.

You should also weigh the potential business outcome of the project when you negotiate. If the project can really move your business forward or could be a stepping stone to that next level, then from a business standpoint it’s probably worth it to negotiate. If you do a great job on the project you’ll likely have repeat business from the client and referral inquiries coming your way.

Other Tactics To Try

Here are other negotiation and closing tactics you can try to implement with your consultancy.

Date Issued
Another tactic you can use to get clients to close quicker is to have a date issued clause. A date issued clause basically says something along the lines of “this estimate is only valid and can be accepted 30 days from the date issued.”

With this tactic, you’re forcing the client to make a decision otherwise the estimate becomes void after 30 days.

This is also a good tactic to use if you have clients that give you a response to an estimate months later. By that time you may not have the resources to complete the project or your interest and pricing could have changed by then.

24-48 Hour Discount
One closing technique I’ve seen (but haven’t tried myself) is having a discount offer right on the estimate. Somewhere on the estimate it says “a 5% discount will be applied if this estimate is accepted and closed within 24-48 hours.”

This closing tactic creates urgency and makes the prospective client feel like they’re getting a deal.

If you do use this tactic, make sure the discount doesn’t create a loss if they do accept it.

Contracts & Invoicing

Once the estimate is accepted by the client, I immediately begin the legal work and invoicing.

I send clients a service agreement to sign online with Hellosign which covers the services, duties, responsibilities, payment schedule, and all the legal jargon to protect my company and the client.

Once the service agreement is signed, I convert the estimate to an invoice with Ballpark and send it as a PDF attachment to the client via email. The invoice includes my business details and payment information. I require a deposit on every project before getting started via check or wire transfer.

After the deposit has been received and cleared, I set up a Basecamp project and invite the people I’ll be working with on the project. All of my notes, questions, deliverables and correspondence takes place over Basecamp to stay organized.

And then the work begins!

Closing Thoughts

I still have a lot of tweaking and optimization to do to make my cold email marketing strategy better. My process is not 100% bulletproof and likely has some flaws or hiccups. Hopefully you can learn from my experience and use it as a blueprint to conduct your own cold email marketing campaign.

In the end, I’m happy that I was able to close a $15,000 project with someone I never met and had no connection to, all from a cold email.

It has been a great learning experience and I’m planning to scale up and tweak my process for my next cold email campaign.

What did you think of my process and approach? What could I have done better? What tools could I have used to make things faster or easier? Do you have a better process or other marketing ideas? Have better negotiation tactics or think mine are too aggressive?

Post a comment below and I’ll reply.

Check out my web consultancy. You can also email me at for anything.

  • Jesse Quist

    Great information here. Just wondering, why did you pay per lead and not per hours

    • Marco

      Thanks Jesse. The person I hired charged per lead, not hourly. Definitely prefer this over hourly so I know total cost since hours can sometimes increase.

  • cozy200305

    So this is really freaking awesome! Cold emails are easier for me, but finding the data is my big challenge. Care to talk about this some more on my podcast?

    • Marco

      Thanks Eric

      Sure, I’ll shot you an email.

    • Mani Khan

      Hey Eric,

      i have sent you an email, kindly check it

  • Adam

    good read

    • Marco

      Thanks Adam, glad you enjoyed it!

  • Luke Duncan

    This is awesome. Congrats. You should try using or Kimono and get that all set up so you can just scrape all the data you want from Crunchbase. But I mean $250 is a snag.

    Just wondering what kind of work did you end up doing for the client?

    And I’ve been thinking about setting up a little side consulting gig for front-end stuff. Any tips on getting started? Appreciate it Marco!

    • Marco

      Thanks Luke. Great suggestions. I’ve never heard of these tools and plan to check them out (someone @ mentioned Kimono as well). Both seem like a great way to automate the data extraction process.

      But yea, like you said $250 isn’t too bad and outsourcing this stuff really makes my schedule less hectic.

      As I mentioned in the post, the work was UX & design for a web product.

      RE: getting started in consulting…

      I’d recommend reaching out to as many people in your network as possible. Ask them if they or anyone they know needs front-end development – whether its some small tweaks or doing a full site/app from scratch.

      Another idea…looks like you’re in Austin, so that means plenty of design, dev, agencies, marketing etc companies around you. Email them to see if they have an overflow of work they need help on. Meet them in person at their office. Offer to do some free code to get your foot in the door.

      I did this with some big agencies and its worked great. They sometimes have an overflow of work or turn down projects because of time constraints, lack of budget, etc and they would send me the projects and take a % if I closed it.

      I’m going to be writing a post on getting more clients as well and how to start consulting. Stay tuned.

      If you want to discuss further, feel free to email me.

      • Luke Duncan

        Cheers Marco. Someone might have already told you as well but CrunchBase has an API so you could pull the data from there as well. Thanks for the ideas above. Just need to set aside some time to get cracking with everything. I’ll keep an eye out for your future posts!

        • Marco

          Yep for sure – no problem, here to help!

  • Rahul Goel

    Awesome post, really gave me great insight as an entrepreneur still
    in school, going after clients for my feedback service. Thank you very


    • Marco

      Thanks Rahul!

  • Scott Barlow

    This blogpost couldn’t have arrived any sooner.

    I am a British management consultant who is looking to go ‘startup’ in 2015 and one idea I had was a service that provides prospects for startups or busy entrepreneurs. This is how I currently get clients ever since i read Predictable Revenue.

    I have just had an awesome email chat with Marco and he was happy for me to post this – but I was planning a service offering what ‘James’ did for Marco.

    My idea originally was: $69 will get you 50 leads / $99 100 and $250 for 100 emailed so you have just the qualified cc’d leads. I would hope you would commission me by recurring subscription to do this for you.

    My offering:

    1. We jump on Skype and work out your customer personas and target companies
    2. I go off and research these and build you a list in Excel complete with email addresses (I have the usual ways of finding a persons email address)
    3. I also work with you to test and build which emails work best A/B tests – I can also write the email ad copy for your sector
    4. Each list is custom built by me – not bought or outsourced and is not resold – if i resell it then quality will be bad and my rep even worse!

    This service I am targeting is definitely the startup, consultant, freelancer and not the likes of say whose pricing is on the heavier side.

    So i am doing a bit of customer development and would be interested to talk with anyone who is interested in such a service.

    Maybe this is my startup for 2015.

    If you are interested – reach out to me itsscottbarlow at gmail com

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  • Mark Runyon

    Great article Marco. Thanks for sharing your process. I’m getting ready to put together an outreach campaign in the next couple of weeks so I’ll have to integrate a few of your ideas.

    FYI, Yesware is a really handy plugin for Gmail. It allows you to track open rates and create email templates for use by your assistant.

    One thing I did want to ask about, do you have any concern about CAN SPAM compliance? I’m not sure since this is more B2B contact if this really comes into play, but given the sensitivity and penalties relating to spam this is something that concerns me.

    • Marco

      Thanks Mark. I don’t know *everything* about CAN SPAM, but have read that since we are sending targeted emails providing a solution to a business its OK.

  • Mike

    Wonderful article. In-line with my current plan to tackle some things and will definitely borrow some ideas for reference. Thank you for posting!

    • Marco

      Glad you enjoyed it Mike!

  • Camila Goldenberg

    Great Great Article!

    • Marco


      • Camila Goldenberg

        very happy to read it, and also i think that it’s a really helpfull information for those who like me are starting 😀 Thanks a lot

        • Marco

          Thanks Camila, glad you found value!

  • Emma Davis

    What a fantastic article – nice to get real world examples and case studies to read through and grab ideas from rather than just ‘this is what you need to do’. I often come across websites that really need to be improved but have always been stuck on how to approach the business owners etc but I can now tweak and use the information from this article. I am also going to look more into creating cold email campaigns based on your success, after all I have nothing to lose (apart from an initial financial outlay if I go down that route).

    Thanks, I look forward to reading more of your posts

    • Marco

      Thanks Emma. Glad you found the article useful!

  • Ross Davies

    Brilliant, thanks for taking the time to explain everything in details, also a great point regarding qualifying people from the start, I have wasted so much time meeting and going through the sales process with people who don’t fit out agency. Thanks again!

    • Marco

      Qualifying will definitely help you save time and weed out clients with no budget. Glad you got value out of my post

  • stefan

    Your ROI isn’t 5900%.
    I never understand these types of posts — when you develop a good process and get success why immediately share it? Do you enjoy giving competitors a leg up?
    Also use STREAK (gmail CRM) to manage leads.

    • Marco

      Hey Stefan

      I used a simple ROI formula to arrive at 5900%, so I’m not sure if you are taking into account other things like hours, opportunity cost etc.

      As for sharing the process – cold emailing is not a new strategy. Its been used for years and I’m simply looking to help others by sharing what worked for me

      • Partha Bhattacharya

        Agreed Marco. Openness is the new mantra these days. The world is too big an oyster to feel the ‘heat’ of competitors so easily.

        • Marco

          Totally agree Partha!

    • João Paulo Alexandre

      Stefan, most people can read and listen about ideas all day long and never act on them.

    • William Cosentino

      Stefan, Marco shared this because he operates with an Abundance mindset and knows that there’s no shortage of people/companies to work with. This is not uncommon if you follow blogs of some of the best and successful people out there. Secondly, 97% of the people who will read this will not even do what he taught and that’s also why there’s so much knowledge out there for free. Most people don’t have the guts to do what it takes to make things happen!

  • Amit Kolambikar

    Awesome Article ! One question though how would you respond to a client who will say : “I can get it done for a lesser price from an xyz freelance site or a different agency ” ?

    • Marco

      Thanks Amit.

      If a client plays that game then he/she doesn’t value your expertise or services so you should move on and not engage. There’s a reason a top agency charges a lot of money vs. someone on You get what you pay for.

  • ninjabih

    Awesome post, thanks for sharing your valuable experience! Even Im in the business for over 15 years your perspective of negotiation and how to do the job is very valuable for me! Best wishes in the future!

    • Marco

      Your welcome

  • Jonathan Birch

    Great post Scott,

    I came across this post via a recent Moz Top 10 email. Sales and cold calling is not something I’ve a great deal of experience in, and I’d feel most comfortable getting referral leads via word of mouth or other client introductions. It’s great to see an easy to digest process mapped out that qualifies actions each step of the way. Many similar guides to yours are peppered with marketing jargon and persuasion tactics which is the reason I and many others hate cold calling in the first place… Friendly, short and snappy – the best way to be!

    • Marco

      Hey Jonathan

      Glad my process was easy to follow and thanks for reading!

  • daniel mcritchie

    Thanks Marco. Great post. I really appreciate you sharing the templates. One thing I love about this technique is the awareness of the numbers – both those you captured and those you want to capture in future. It’s the beginning of a solid sales and marketing funnel. I think you mentioned in another comment about not considering costs like the time it takes you to respond etc (boo costs) but I’ll also add the opportunity of repeat business (yay revenue!). Anyway, plenty to think about. I would be really interested to read how your technique develops and look forward to future posts!

    • Marco

      Thanks Daniel. Glad you got value out of this post.

  • dywrite

    I want to applaud you for the fact that you didn’t just post the story and then let people comment or ask questions–then never respond (as is the case with so many bloggers/writers). You took the time to reply to every comment. I think if more writers did this it would cut down on the volume of unpleasant and mostly off-topic rants that people make. When they know the author is reading their post and responding, it changes the dynamic. End result, you get a better quality person commenting and you learn from them as they are learning from you. Good post!

    • Marco

      Thanks for reading and I agree

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  • MTBkelly

    I’m doing something very, very similar to your process right now to vet a niche market for a SaaS product. I’m compiling a list of ideal customers to interview. Very much a chilly outreach. What I got out of your experience is your use of a VA to compile the list. You’re right this is an agonizingly long process. Great article – and it made the MOZ Top 10 … well done!

    • Marco

      Thanks Kelly – outsourcing it is definitely helpful and a big time saver. Others have mentioned using a tool like or

      • MTBkelly

        Cool – thanks, I’ll check those out. I was just lamenting to my partner that I should have our list together in oh, about a month. *forehead slap* What was I thinking!?!

  • Rahul Gupta

    What a brilliant write up ! Loved it… Thanks Marco 😀

    • Marco

      Thanks for reading Rahul!

  • Code Improv

    Great article and very helpful for anyone looking to try this method out. I’m going to look at some of the sites you had mentioned as I haven’t heard of CrunchBase. Thanks!

    • Marco

      Thanks for reading!

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  • Alejandro AR

    Amazing reading. The feeling of not dealing with “big company” kind of talk makes the clients more confident and builds the foundations of an open and easy relationship. Thanks for sharing this with everybody.

    • Marco

      Totally agreed. Thanks for reading Alejandro

  • Jay McCauley

    Hey Marco,

    This was a great post, very in depth. One thing that popped into my head was when you were talking about how it was tough to track some of your interactions with gmail.

    You should check out an extension called Streak. It can tell you if an email has been viewed, and you can create pipelines to see where they’re at in the sales process. Pretty cool, really easy to use.

    Thanks for the insight!

    • Marco

      Some other people have mentioned Streak – definitely going to check it out. Thanks for reading!

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  • mkeefecom

    Great article, seems with a cold-email approach you busted the direct mail response rate. Also, it looks to have cost a lot less (not factoring your time). Lots of great information here.

    • Marco

      Thanks for reading!

  • mkeefecom

    Correct me if i’m wrong, but by Marco providing terms its clearly an advert. Further, he didn’t mass mail, he did it by hand. Not sure if this would fall under CAN-SPAM or not. Either way, I think that penalty is both insane and hardly ever enforced.

  • Zamon Kingi

    Great article Marco. Some real gold nuggets there. i used to take a similar approach with a VA until I discovered an amazing tool. Been using this with a cold email campaign with great results. 75% open rate from C suite leads. Try it out for free via my free trial link. Full disclosure. If you do a free trial I get free credits. It’s the fastest way I know to instantly find C level and VP level execs. Cannot say enough good things about it.

    • Marco

      Thanks Zamon – I’ve seen Salesloft before, looks like a great tool.

    • Justin McGill

      check out as well – it’s completely hands off. They find the leads, send the emails and follow-ups, and then just forward you the leads who respond with interest.

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  • Leon Streete

    HI Marco, great article I run an Internet Marketing consultancy here in the UK @youngcowuk . One thing I have found which is massively important for the contract stage with budgets over $5000 is that you can convert higher if you plan a proposal presentation meeting or you present it over something like GoTo Meeting / Skype.

    This helps to pick up any price objections etc and at least allows you to present it without the lead going cold and possibly into the wilderness without replying. Also if they refuse the meeting or call via skype etc then simply thank them for their time as preparing there unique proposal takes time to create and not something you wish to waste theirs and your time over, especially if they are not willing to agree to the follow-up.

    • Marco

      Hey Leon

      This is a really good idea, I like it. Should definitely help reduce the amount of clients who go missing after a proposal is sent. Thanks for reading!

  • William Cosentino

    This is FANTASTIC Marco! Congrats on your perseverance in the cold market because it is for the most part an untapped method for lead generation.

    • Marco

      Thanks William!

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  • Heather Physioc

    Thank you very much for sharing the details of your personal process. I’m going to give it a shot in my local area with small businesses and see how it goes. I love BallPark for a lot of reasons (billing is easy, estimates are easy, reporting is pretty decent though I have some wish list items for it) – glad to hear I’m not the only one using it. Awesome platform.

    • Marco

      Thanks Heather! I love Ballpark too, nifty app and does just what I need.

  • Shannon Lewis

    How do you get around the spamming laws sending cold call emails? Isn’t the email by definition a “spam” email?

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  • Richard Patey

    Great post Marco, thanks so much for sharing, super helpful for the demand gen package of a new biz I’ve just launched

  • RJ Gazarek

    Any recommendations for finding non-internet based companies? Say if you’re looking for companies that have physical locations because your product fits that mold better?

    • Marco


      Try or or do a google search for company information, company directories, etc.

      Hope that helps
      – M

  • Kate

    Thanks for sharing Marco!
    I have a question – do you think you could have had more leads if you have sent emails stating particular problems with the sites if the companies? That would have required more time investigating the prospects.

    • Marco

      Absolutely…it takes more time but will yield a better response. My suggestion is to make a list of 10-20 companies you want to work with and make the emails super personal.

      Here is a interview/post about a personal cold email strategy I suggest reading:

  • Accede-IT

    Certainly inspiring and thought provoking. Although I would always look at others too to compare, as we all work in our own efficient ways.

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  • Chris Von Wilpert

    Loved the article Marco. I love it how you found a website that listed all the criteria you defined for your ideal company profile. With your experience in the internet industry, what criteria for “round of funding, revenue and company size” do you see being ideal to target for a $5K/month – $50K/month marketing team service for SaaS businesses? Also, do you have any idea how to filter companies on Crunchbase to just bring up SaaS companies only?

    • Marco

      Hey Chris,

      It depends…I normally like to target $500k-$1m minimum for revenue or funding.

      Crunchbase might have tags under each company, so try to find some saas companies and click the tags to see others. is another good one

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  • Mackenzie Ewing

    Great post, thanks for sharing!

  • Neeraj_Chahal

    Had a Great Read! Thanks for the post Marco. I am definitely looking forward to follow it.

  • Poweredby247

    An instructive post. People to really know who they want to reach and why or else, they’ll have no way to know what they’re trying to achieve. People need to hear this and have it drilled in their brains..
    Thanks for sharing this great article.

    Wish to Get a visit on web development Toronto for more latest tips and news.

  • Rokas Kliopmanas

    This is amazing! I have learned a lot! Gonna do this with lower cost projects at first tho!
    Thank you Marco!

  • Get Prospects

    Congrats Marco!

    For those who hates prospecting we suggest to use our services. We will help you to get highly targeted prospects every week. We are offering hand-curated leads what ‘James’ did for Marco.

    This service I am targeting is definitely the startup, consultant, freelancer or busy entrepreneurs.
    If you are interested – reach out to me over on

    Thank you for your time!

  • Oleg Campbell

    Great content Marco! Thanks! As for cold emails, at Reply we constantly working on helping our customers have better results. This also includes sales copies. So, we launched a totally free web service named for all who wish to test their email copies and have them improved.

  • Jarvis Edwards

    Marco, great post and great (truly actionable) strategy!

    I’m a little late to the party, but as a tech copywriter, I found a TON of value in these techniques. I’m running another cold email campaign at the moment and will be incorporating several of the tips you’ve highlighted, to see what kind of results I can get.

    Let me add that I first learned of Crunchbase by reading this post several months ago, so thanks for opening my eyes to a very good lead source!

    Hopefully I’ll be so lucky as to pull in $15K! 😉

  • Rose Sevilla

    Great article. I personally use + yesware. Seriously, it works wonders.

  • IgKttYm

    Great Article Marco. As you have mentioned CrunchBase and AngleList a few times and feel they are reliable sources, I’d like you to give a try to It’s a great tool to fine leads and their contact details from sources like LinkedIn, CrunchBase, AngelList and Inbound. org.

  • Dale Morris

    This is absolutely and exactly brilliant! Thanks for