Courage to pick up the phone

They say that public speaking is more frightening than death for most people.  Standing up and putting yourself on the line is so intimidating most won’t even try it. 

Teleprospecting can feel the same.  Picking up the phone to interrupt a total stranger’s day with a proposition that you work together is completely counterintuitive for anyone who wants a comfort zone in his or her work.

Worse yet is the notion that picking up the phone is “easy”—according to bosses who don’t do it any more, if they ever did try cold calling at all.  Teleprospectors are often confused with telemarketers—people who run through scripts and only record “hits” or “misses” in their days. But the teleprospector is responsible for garnering valuable industry information as well as sparking new business-to-business relationships that, ideally, will last a lifetime and generate millions of dollars for their company.

One time, I was thrown a list of about 500 names.  I was told that these people had all been invited to a live seminar, and I was only to call to confirm that they would attend.  It wasn’t selling, and I was doing this as a favor, not as a job.

About 50 calls in, I spoke to a woman and asked for Mr. B. “This is his wife,” she said. Her tone was frosty as I asked if she would leave him a message. “I would, but I doubt he’ll get it. He’s been dead for a month.”


It took about 10 minutes for me to be able to pick up the phone again.  Being a slow learner, I finally realized I was telephone soliciting and doing a poor job of it. I needed a new strategy, fast.  But picking up that phone now that I knew what I was doing created a pit in my stomach and a desire to run away from my desk.

You can learn to overcome this situation and pick up the phone—every day–all day long. Here are some tips I’ve learned in my years as a proud teleprospector:

  • Be Prepared.  It’s no secret that you’re going to be hung up on, people will be rude to you, you’re going to hear sob-stories, angry tirades, and a complete spectrum of human emotion when you call.  Life happens.  How you handle those verbally abusive situations will help determine your success.  Remember that the phone is a two-way communication device.  You can hang-up any time someone becomes too aggressive. This is a great “exit strategy,” that you will hopefully use only rarely.
  • Change Personas for Cold Calls. If the company on your list has no specific decision-maker names, and other information can’t be had with a quick Internet search, you may choose to use a different personal name and represent a fictitious business.  This should only be used on a first cold call. You’re not in the flim-flam business with the telephone, but are simply searching anonymously for general contact information.  Save the rest for follow up calls using your real and professional persona.
  • 30 Seconds or Less.  That’s the average length of a first call.  In this discovery process, you’re just confirming industry knowledge and pre-qualifying a company to make sure you even want to talk with a decision-maker.  You can hang in for 30 seconds at a time. Courage!
  • Get Right to Work.  Your first calls are not about making friendships.  They are about gathering business information.  Even when you “interrupt” a busy person’s day, get right to the point of your call (a few questions about the Widget Corporation). You’ll waste less time. Plus, when you allow your subject to talk about themselves and their business, you are being the kind of person everyone seems to like.
  • Know Your Work is Valuable.  After a long day of “don’t-call-us” conversations it may seem like teleprospecting is a valueless job.  But you’re going to get up in the morning and have to do it all again.  Do yourself a favor by reminding yourself of the good you create.  Without teleprospectors, business in this country could easily come to a stand still.  We generate industry excitement, share knowledge, gather the prospects that eventually become clients and win our companies millions of dollars of business annually. If this small checklist doesn’t do the motivational job for you, you may want to read an affirmation each day at the beginning and at the end of your work.  In my next article, I’ll help you with tips for writing a good affirmation.

For now, remember that you are a professional on the telephone and that you are courageous enough to pick up that phone. Keep growing your skills either by journaling about your experiences or taking a course in teleprospecting.  It’s worth your time because your job is noble in today’s marketing business.

Categories: Sales & Marketing