Let's set the scene: Yesterday your boss handed you a list of names and numbers belonging to top business executives in the area. "Start calling," he said. Ten minutes later, you're sequestered in a room, dialing away. You can feel your heart throb harder and the cold pit in your stomach clench tighter with each passing ring of the phone.
The discomfort that accompanies cold calling best can be described as spritzing lemon juice on a wide fleshy paper cut while your severely infected right ear is super-glued to a blaring fire alarm. As your intense anxiety grows, you see a large fire approaching, and you must decide whether that losing that bum right ear is worth escaping the inferno.
That's maybe a bit dramatic, but you get the idea.
If you're in marketing or any relevant business field, chances are at some point you'll have to make a few cold calls, or a hundred. With the right tips and practice, cold calling can be lucrative and -- dare I suggest it? -- rewarding, if not outright fun. Here are some actionable tips to calm your nerves and slow your heart rate while you listen to the ringing on the other end of the line.
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1. Write a script.
When you're nervous, it's easy to sound like a blubbering idiot over the phone. Mitigate the ad-lib filler by writing out a script. Some might argue this will make you sound ... well, scripted. No matter. It's the perfect safety net for the first-time cold caller. Here's a solid example that's not too pushy but still gets your point across through a comfortable flow:
"Good afternoon. My name is [Insert Name] and I am with [Insert Company Name]. We are a digital marketing agency in the area, and we specialize in creating viral video content. I've done some research on [Insert Name of Company You Are Calling], and I'm very impressed with [Insert Genuine Compliment]. We would love to have the opportunity to work with an organization of your caliber. Could you please keep us in mind if you find yourself in need of the types of services we offer?"
2. Set a call goal.
Staring at hundreds of names and numbers can be daunting and easily lead to analysis paralysis. "Who should I call first? Then what order should I follow? What do I say?" Write down a realistic number of calls you want to make for that particular day. This breaks down the process into much more manageable pieces and allows you to see there truly is an end in sight.
3. Find a mirror.
When you make your cold calls, you're often in a room by yourself, anticipating a conversation with a complete stranger. Look at your reflection while you speak, and you'll be surprised by how much fear and anxiety leaves your body. The simple act of seeing a human face -- even your own -- while you speak enables you to sound and feel more personable. It sounds strange, but it works.
It doesn't matter that they can't see you through the phone. Smiling changes the pitch of your voice and amplifies sincerity and enthusiasm. Even better, smiling causes the brain to release endorphins that act as both a stress reliever and an energy boost. The person on the other end of the line most definitely can hear and feel you're relaxed, happy and alert.
5. Stand up and move.
Much of cold calling success is about playing tricks on your brain. Do things that make you feel more confident. Some statistics suggest employees who stand during cold calls have higher close rates. At the least, standing during the call instills a greater sense of confidence.
6. Strike a power pose.
Really good presenters often affect a "power pose" before they give a speech. They might place their hands behind their head or on their hips, widening the stance to appear bigger. This body positioning relaxes their nerves and ignites confidence before they take the stage. Here's mine: I rest my feet on my desk, like Don Draper from "Mad Men."
7. Cue the (elevator) music.
The best cold callers are the ones who are the least nervous. If you're secluded in your office or another private room, why not turn on some light background music to kill the silence? You'll obviously want it quiet enough to keep your callee from hearing it, but even a low volume can do wonders for your nerves.
8. Rock your voicemails.
People really struggle to answer calls. It seems odd, considering everyone is constantly on their phones. But it's true, and you might reach voicemail a majority of the time. It's all right -- so long as you're prepared to leave a killer message. Grab their attention and then respect their time by being quick and concise.
9. Tell them, tell them, and tell them again.
The greatest cold calling advice can be attributed to someone who never picked up a phone. Aristotle, the king of rhetoric, instructed us to "Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them." Even if the call doesn’t result in immediate action, it's imperative they remember you and what you told them. Eventually, they'll have the exact need you seek to fulfill. When that happens, your name should be the first that comes to their mind.
10. Find your routine.
In many ways, cold calling is like shooting a free throw in basketball: It comes down to a routine. Some players bounce the ball only once. Others take three dribbles and spin the ball in their hands before they enter the shooter's stance. Some players are no-nonsense and take no bounce at all. There's no single best approach. The right way for you is a comfort zone you create through plenty of repetition.
Discover your own routine. Clap loudly to mentally remove the tension in the air, throw your feet up on the desk to give yourself a little extra confidence, or take a deep breath as the phone rings to clear any remaining nerves. Once you're at ease, you'll find callers are much more receptive to your "hello-my-name-is" cold opening.