Everyone hates cold calling. They will do almost anything to avoid it. They will send three emails a week for six months before they will pick up the phone. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. The guard dogs manning the telephones (or, more often, womanning the telephones) can be mean and scary. Rightfully so. They’re trained to protect their employers from unnecessary interruptions. It’s no wonder no one wants to do it. But for the select few who are prepared to face the beast, it’s a great way to stand out in a crowd.
Cold calling is a lost art. According to Nick Davies, author of How To Be Great At The Stuff You Hate, likens it to learning mathematics on paper before allowing yourself to use a calculator. Most people skip the cold-calls and go straight to the email. It’s safe and not scary at all (which is a pretty good indication of its effectiveness, if you ask me). Chances are you will have to cold call at some point in your professional career. Your ability to sell yourself via the cold call will serve you all your life long. Might as well learn to do it effectively.
Step One. Make a list of companies where you’d like to work and go somewhere private.
Chances are you will mess up the first few. If you’re not in the habit of cold calling, you’ll be more at ease when no one is around to witness your gaffes and stuttering. Davies recommends doing it standing up, arguing that it makes you sound and feel more confident.
The first part is easy and it’s a good warm up to the real thing: simply ask the receptionist for the name and title of the person you are trying to reach. Easy, right? They key is to be polite and ask for help. For example:
“Good morning, would you mind helping me? I’d like to know the name of the person in charge of …. in the …. department. I don’t need to speak with them, but if you could give me their name I’d really appreciate it”
If the receptionist asks what your call is regarding, you can simply say you’d like to post something to this person. Et voilà!
Step Two. Call the person you’d like to meet with or send resume to.
Wait a few days before contacting this person directly. Otherwise, the gatekeeper may recognise you. Mid-morning or mid-afternoon is best. Make sure they’ve had time for a coffee but don’t leave it until they’re starting to think about clearing out for the day. Refer to the person you are trying to reach by their first name. Be casual, as though you know this person well. Your level of confidence does come through on the other line, so fake it till you make it. This should work most of the time. If you are asked what the call is regarding, simply say you would like to arrange a meeting. Never invent a story, it will be your downfall most of the time. Be honest.
When you get through to the person you are trying to reach, be direct and polite. Do not monologue. Introduce yourself briefly and, if at all possible, repeat your name at least once. Give a brief summary of your qualifications and explain why you are interested in working with this company. Be conversational. Don’t give your life story. Give your contact a chance to speak. Be sure to present yourself in a way that reflects your personal conversational style. Obtain this person’s contact information for later.
Follow up with something on paper. Send an email with resumé and cover letter, citing your previous conversation. Get creative. Send a letter via snail mail if you like, but make sure it will stand out in a pile of papers. Don’t be afraid to try different things and iron out a process that works best for you. Remember, the first call of the day is always the hardest. The more calls you make, the easier it will get. You will feel SO good when it’s done.
In case it’s not obvious, if an job ad says “no phone calls please,” be respectful; don’t call.
Amy Knapp is a business blogger based in Sydney, AUS, writing regularly for InsideTrak. Educated in Law and the Fine Arts, her work champions the marriage of the creative and the corporate. Follow her on Twitter @JoyofWords.