Cold-calling is an art, and it's also a pain. Nevertheless, it's necessary if you have no other way of generating leads.

The medical industry is hard to crack because its professionals often work in a nearly "under glass" environment. Many aren't aware of what's going on in the outside world until someone interrupts them and says, "Hey! Over here! There's another world you don't know about. . . Oh, and would you like to buy what I have for sale?"

Here are some thoughts on how you might warm up prospects before "cold calling."

I used to sell memberships to a not-for-profit that offered fully insured and discount benefits. It wasn't easy to explain and so was a hard sale. Everyone wanted a high-deductible major medical plan, which had become expensive for employers. When I showed up, getting people to understand what I offered was nearly impossible. The employers didn't get it or think it was worth learning about. Many employees didn't want to hear about it, even though it was an alternative to what they had -- nothing.

Ahead of my call to local restaurant chain, I sent a goodies basket to the main office and addressed it to: Human Resources Benefits Coordinator. I wasn't sure the company had one. I followed up with a call a few days afterward. Guess what? They had no idea who I was, didn't know what I was offering, but I had their attention. Chocolate macadamia nuts and Kona coffee sure helped, but I think you get the point. It opened the door for conversation.

Should you do this with every place you intend to call on? No, it can get expensive. But a card introducing yourself with a gift certificate could help get a decision-maker to give you the time of day, rather than having to battle with the gatekeeper.

There are other ways to attract attention. If your company has a blog, start contributing to it. If it doesn't, start one. Simply inviting comments from the medical community can help build your credibility as an expert in the field. You can start with a simple email with a link that says, "Please take a look at our blog, and let me know what you think. If you would, comment on the posts that pique your interest." Granted, building an online reputation takes longer, but it can begin to fill your long-term pipeline while you send out some care packages.