Cold Calls, Cold Feet?

Here's how to master your fear

Fear: that’s what Joan Burnett felt whenever she made a cold sales call. “At first, ringing up high-level executives-who might not be interested in my services-could be intimidating for me,” reveals the president of PathWays International Inc., an executive search firm in Bloomfield, Connecticut. “I would almost bristle whenever anyone demanded to know where I got his or her name and phone number,” she recalls.

Why does a person whose career or business depends on selling dread making these contacts? “A fear of rejection is usually the basis for cold call anxiety,” says Joseph Gillotti, president of Omni STC Associates Inc., a sales training and consulting firm in Danbury, Connecticut. “Some people take refusal of their products and services personally. Others consider themselves failures if they don’t get the sale every time.”

Burnett, realizing that her fear could stifle her business, made herself press forward. “I just picked up the phone and started making calls,” she says. “My company depended on it, so I really didn’t have any other choice.”

As time passed, Burnett grew more confident. Soon, she was placing job candidates with nationally known companies, such as the Hartford Insurance Group and Carrier Corp., a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp. “I built relationships with prospective clients and was able to position PathWays as an expert in their areas of need,” she says.

Adequate preparation can help quell the rejection anxiety associated with making cold calls. Gillotti offers the two biggest tips that can help you get over the fear and get on with the business of selling:

  • Develop a “warm” outlook. Think of cold calls as an opportunity to try out different sales techniques, make new friends and build relationships. “Remember, the call is for the client’s benefit, not yours,” reminds Gillotti.
  • Plan what you’re going to say. “You only have 10 seconds to grab a potential client’s attention,” he says. A canned script won’t help you do this (for help on developing a catchy statement, see “Crafting a sound bite,” Motivation, June 1998). Be professional, friendly-and above all, genuine.

For more information on how to improve your sales techniques, consider the following books:
The Sales Bible by Jeffery H. Gitomer (William Morrow & Co., $30)
7 Secrets to Successful Sales Management: The Sales Manager’s Manual by Jack D. Wilner (Saint Lucie Press, $39.95)

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