The Irrational Fear of the Cold Call

Picking up the phone to convince a complete stranger they need what you’re selling is the stuff of sales nightmares. But cold calls keep the prospect pipeline full, so you can’t let fear keep you from dialing.

There are four main reasons we procrastinate when it comes to making a cold call:  lack of confidence; lack of information on the prospect; bad past experiences; and a negative outlook.  Get past these and you’re on your way.

First, manage your own expectations. Don’t pick up the phone expecting to make a sale; it will only end in heartbreak.

Instead, follow a two-call system. The first call is a fact-finding mission to identify the decision-maker. The second call is to that decision-maker. This strategy instills confidence because the first call is unlikely to end in rejection; after all, you’re just asking for contact information. You’ll also go into the second call armed with information you didn’t have before.

Follow a script. Nerves can leave you a stammering mess. A list of prepared questions gets you past the initial awkwardness. It also ensures that you’ll hang up with the information you need for the next step.

The script should include closed- and open-ended questions to quickly qualify the prospect. For example, if you’re selling toner, asking if the prospect has a photocopier is a better qualifier than asking if they need toner. It also sets the stage for an open-ended question, such as where they currently purchase their supplies.

Never pick up the phone without a smile – even a forced one. It sounds trite, but remembering to smile keeps you from focusing on what could go wrong. You’ll also come across as enthusiastic, which is just as infectious on the phone as it is in person.

Reserve a block of time during which you will focus only making calls. No stopping to chat, do paperwork, break for lunch or any other form of procrastination. With each call, your nervousness will subside and your enthusiasm will increase.

Set mini-goals, such as a minimum number of calls or appointments. This keeps you motivated by giving you something to work toward.

Eliminate distractions. You wouldn’t dream of taking a call or checking your email if a prospect was sitting across from you. The same is true when that prospect is a voice on the phone.

Finally, stop making excuses and start making calls. A few successes will have you wondering why you were ever afraid of the phone in the first place.