Do Things That Scare You: Cold Calling

This is the second edition of the “Do Things That Scare You” theme. This time, I tackled:


Why was this scary?

It sounds like such a trivial task but it was sort-of, kind-of, a little bit terrifying to pick up a phone and randomly cold call a potential client. I wasn’t even calling a specific contact within the company. I was calling the front desk on a quest; trying to get a hold of someone who could help me out with some intelligence questions.

What made it scary for me was a mix of two things. I’ve never cold called before. It seems like this is something I should have done at some point in life; perhaps a job hunt or for a research project. But given that almost all information is online I never had the need to cold call. The second reason this was scary was the fear of getting caught. This was completely irrational, but I was calling under the role of a “university student doing a research project”, so somehow I felt nervous about what to do if someone saw right through the act.

How did it go?

As with most ‘first times’ in life, the first call sucked. I made all the mistakes you can make. I stuttered. I read off a little script. I fumbled with the questions they asked me. I didn’t think on my feet very well. It must have been pretty funny to watch as I struggled with such a simple task. Best part of it all, I still had 10 more client leads to cold call.

What did I do about it? (How did I get better)

I took simple steps to make sure I didn’t commit the same mistakes the second time around:

  1. I re-wrote the ‘script’ to make it shorter and simpler. I removed unnecessary introductions.
  2. I planned an alibi. If I was so nervous of being caught, I planned a back story that I could use in case they doubted my intentions.
  3. I practiced a couple times to myself, imagining the back-forth conversation. This way I didn’t need to read from a script and everything came out more naturally.

And how did the next one go?

Next call that came around was still a bit shaky, but much better. On the third call I kicked butt. I was confident and enthusiastic; making the person on the other end of the phone much more willing to engage with me. Also, I was able to find out some really juicy information that helped me get 2 sales meetings and qualify 4 potential clients opportunities.

Where am I today?

Today is another story. I can pick up a phone and call a front desk without a shake. I can think on my feet and improvise if necessary. I can use some calling techniques to get connected with a sales agent or sales manager. And not as a result of research, but more so as a result of practice. Today I am confident in my abilities because I’ve practiced over and over again, and finally overcome my initial fear of cold calling.

So… What did I learn from this experience?

First lesson is that the quickest way from ZERO to HERO is through repetitive practice. Cold calling and doing client intelligence is a skill and must be learned and developed in the same way. No one ever became streetsmart by staying indoors all day…

The second lesson I learned is that there is no substitute for person-person communication. With all things digital, it’s easy to lose the ability to carry a face-to-face or over-the-phone conversation, but this is still the way that business and business relations are carried out.

The last lesson is that everyone starting their career should master the art of cold calling. Yes, cold calling is scary. Yes, it’s frustrating to get no’s and lost in telephone highways. But the benefits outweigh the costs. Cold calling successfully can help you open doors, wiggle your way through call centers, and make business opportunities happen. Even if it doesn’t, it’s a mega-confidence builder that will make you comfortable with other types of overwhelming interactions.

If there’s anything to take away…

Most things are scary the first time we do them. We fear what we don’t know and we’re scared to fail and be embarrassed. But it’s only unknown and scary until we do it a first time. It takes a first time to overcome the fear of the unknown and step into the land of the brave.

Keep doing things that scare you! Keep stretching your abilities into areas of discomfort! Keep building the confidence and courage to tackle scarier (and bigger) challenges!


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