I was at a sales leader networking event tonight. During happy hour everyone was shocked when I said that I love cold calling. Their shock surprised me. I know it’s not a popular activity but you had to think some of these people would at least have some fond memories of cold calling. All I got was strange looks and people taking a step back. You’d think I was talking about the plague.
This caused me to reflect on a simple idea. Why do I love cold calling?
The answer is not what you probably think. It has nothing to do with the ability to generate opportunities, the money, or beating yourself on the chest for being awesome. As an aside I hate that metaphor for salespeople. Most of us don’t act like cavemen.
Here’s why I love cold calling:
- I like to think about the person and where they are located based on the area code / country code and researching their background. I form a mental picture of what they are like. This gives me the opportunity to use my imagination in a different way than I do in the rest of my life. I make up these stories about the people that are on my calling list. It makes my prospects familiar like I know them. After all the entire point of cold calling is that you will eventually know them. Some of my best friendships started via cold calls (Bob Perkins). Cold calling gives me the opportunity to escape time and space. When I dial into these different places I mentally travel there. No other jobs I know of allow you this freedom.
- I have absolutely no business talking to 99% of the people I connect with when I cold call. There is no other profession on the planet that allows you to interact with so many people that are outside of your social class, intelligent level, academic level, or income level. When I first started cold calling I would take two hour “executive lunches.” David Stillman and I would get the prefix McCormick & Schmick’s lunch special for 20 bucks and a shoe shine. I told my boss Brighid O’Donnell at CEB (now Gartner), “If you want to sell to executives you have to act like an executive.” Of course the example is ridiculous but there is some truth in the statement. If you believe you are a peer, you are a peer. The illusion becomes reality.
- Cold calling is the most incredible puzzle you ever have to solve. It’s a game. It’s a treasure hunt. There are gatekeepers who block you that you have to outsmart. There are cell phone numbers to collect from people who say things like, “I shouldn’t be giving this to you but…” There are other people cold calling the same executive selling similar stuff that you need to out-maneuver. There’s an amazing amount of strategy as well as tactics. In short, it’s fun.
- The learning curve is steep but the time to move up it can be very short if you will yourself to do it. When I first started cold calling I had no talent and almost got fired. Rather than giving up, I got to work. At the time I had $60,000 in student loans to pay off. I rolled up my sleeves and shadowed all of the best people to learn their secrets. I copied them. Before long I was #1 of 100 people doing the sales development job at CEB. Paradoxically my success had absolutely nothing to do with me. I was just a conduit for channeling the best thinking of 100 other people. I documented everything they did in my little notebook and used it in my own prospecting. If anything call me a parrot. Why don’t more people learn from each other on how to be great at cold calling? Seems like an obvious thing to do.
- It doesn’t matter who you are when you cold call. All that matters is how well you play the game. It’s a great equalizer. I know people who were previously down on their luck – down to their last dime – and they became very successful cold calling. My friend Chris Corcoran describes cold calling as ‘the best kept secret for recent college graduates to discover.’ Who knew that you could earn a good living without being a doctor or lawyer just by learning how to pick up the phone and talk to people? It’s a profession that people stumble upon from all different walks of life. Cold calling finds you; you don’t find it. I love anything that is completely democratic and absolutely entrepreneurial. Cold calling doesn’t care what you look like, your gender, where you came from, who your parents are, or what religion you are. Cold calling doesn’t care what you sound like, what you act like, what sort of mistakes you made in your life up until that point. All it cares about is if you’re smart enough, stubborn enough, clever enough, hungry enough, resourceful enough, and persistent enough to crack the code.
The vast majority of people don’t ever crack the cold calling code.
But for the rare person who does become successful and enjoys cold calling, I salute you. I’ll buy you a cocktail next time I see you and we can talk about how much we love cold calling.
Why do you love cold calling? Write a quick comment below if you love (even a little bit) making cold calls.