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Toastmasters created a project dedicated to this very topic because it’s a real problem for many people. Including me. Picking up the phone and calling a business to pitch a new club always makes me pause — almost as much as when I was in high school and would call a girl to ask for a date.

Here are my Top Ten Tips for conquering the cold call and launching that new club. They’ll also work for making campaign cold calls or any kind of cold call.

  1. Write a Script – Not a word for word script, but a basic outline of what you want to say. Have a couple of openings and a couple of closes. Know how to handle an objection gracefully. Know your response if they request more information. Be ready for the next step if they ask you to visit them and do a demo meeting. My scripts usually start with something like “Hello, my name is Tracy Thomason. I am with Toastmasters and I’m calling for Sarah. Is she available?”
  2. Set a Goal & Take Breaks – If you’re making more than a single call – whether it’s for one hour or all day long – set a goal for the number of calls you’ll make. Then break that down into chunks. After every five calls (or whatever number works for you,) take a break. I usually try to call non-stop for an hour. If I get an answer on the first call and the call takes an hour, I take a break.
  3. Research Before you Call – Know a little something about the person and company you’re calling. LinkedIn and Facebook great for this. A personal connection, and especially an introduction, can turn a cold call into a warm one.
  4. Get Pumped Up – Even if you’re not excited, tell yourself that you are. Give yourself a mental high-five like you can’t wait to make that call.
  5. Dial the Number and Hit Send – Don’t hesitate and stare at the number. Press send on your phone and let it ring.
  6. Sit Up Straight & Smile – As soon as press send, sit up straight and smile like you’re in a job interview. Don’t lay on the couch or slump on your desk like you hate what you’re doing. Act like the person you’re talking to is sitting right in the room with you.
  7. Leave a Voicemail – If no one answers and you have the option to leave a voicemail, do it. The person will have heard your name and voice so you will be slightly more familiar when you call them back. Who knows, they might even call you.
  8. Enjoy the Call – Try to make a human connection with the person.
  9. Mention Your Connection – If you do have a personal connection, bring them up again before the call is over. A simple, “Thanks for talking with me. Please tell Omar I said hello.”
  10. Track Your Progress – Keep track of the number of calls made, the number of voice mails left, and the number of successful and unsuccessful conversations. Pearson’s Law says “That which is measured, improves. Save & Exit

From my own personal experience, each new day or new session of cold calling brings on the hesitation. However, once I get into the swing of it, dialing the phone becomes easier and even enjoyable. The calls themselves nearly always turn out to be enjoyable because I focus on making a human connection.

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My favorite books on sales and conquering the cold call are:

  • To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Motivating Others by Daniel Pink – This book completely changed the way I viewed sales. The concept that shocked me into taking note of this book was the statement that while one in nine people say they work in sales, the other eight do, too. They just don’t know it. Whether you pitching an idea to your colleagues, asking for a raise, or trying to get your children to eat their vegetables and take a bath, you work in sales.
  • The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance: Earning What You’re Worth in Sales by Dudley and Goodson – An interesting take cold calling as well as the often looked-down-upon but very needed skill of self-promotion.
  • Selling For Dummies by Tom Hopkins – I love the For Dummies series. They always provide great introductory information. I bought this book when I was the Lieutenant Governor Marketing in my district and it was an immense help to me.