I know SO many people who are calm, capable, confident humans…. and they won’t pick up the phone – so: networking 101 starts with how to cold call anybody. Calling somebody, especially when you need or want something, or have some sort of work issue to sort out can be scary because you are asking a stranger to give you their undivided attention and help you out in the midst of their busy day. Would you be comfortable doing that face-to-face, in the street (like one of those silly comedy shows they play back-to-back at the pharmacy)? When cold calling, we can feel vulnerable, as though the person on the other side will a) judge the reason for our call and hate us for taking their time, and b) judge us ourselves. (But it’s ok – as long as you’re not phoning to sell them a banking or phone-related product, your call will probably be more pleasant for them than most.)
Additionally, we live in a world where, for most people, we speak far less on the phone than we used to. I tend to Facebook Message or WhatsApp my friends rather than call them, and although I sometimes Skype with faraway friends, the art of the chatty phone call is disappearing. This means that when it comes to phoning a stranger, we’re far less used to the medium and don’t know how to cold call.
When I worked in online education, designing and creating academic short courses for tertiary education, our manager asked us to each phone a few students, to get their feedback on the course they were completing. The aim of this was to take us out of our spreadsheets and Drive folders, and bring us closer to the humans we created courses for. Calling students was what many of our other departments did on the daily, but very few people in our team were able to pick up and dial. So, practice.
If you have a list of cold calls to do and don’t know how to cold call, force yourself to try one per day, or two per day, or five per day. Seek out opportunities to call instead of email (when appropriate), or times, like in the example above, where you can legitimately cold call with a good reason and not look for anything except feedback.
Do you know that when you smile, someone can hear it in your voice?
Obviously, you should refrain from grinning like a maniac (especially when giving bad news – can you imagine?) but as you introduce yourself and your reason for calling, as you ask how the other person is today, and listen to their response, smile during the times when you would were you face to face. It banishes tension, lets the other person know that you’re non-threatening, and sends friendly, warm vibes down the line.
3. Talk slowly
Remember those school orals, when people were so nervous that their whole prepared speech was one sentence of really-quick-speaking-gobbledegook-and-now-I’m-finished-thank-you-very-much?
When we’re scared, we talk quickly. When we know what we’re going to say (even though the other person doesn’t) we talk quickly.
Slow. Right. Down. Speak in measured tones, giving the other person time to hear you and respond. Listen to their answers – this is key when learning how to cold call.
4. Lower your pitch
Much like the above, when we are scared we tend to talk at a far higher pitch than usual.
Think of a presidential speech or debate. Who wins? The person who speaks really quickly, with a high-pitched voice, or the person who speaks slowly in a low-pitched voice?
According to the rules of charisma (see here), people who speak slowly and in a low pitch are seen as far more powerful than those who don’t.
5. Get rid of distractions
You know when you’re talking to your boyfriend and you just KNOW he’s scrolling through Facebook? Uh-huh. If you’re reading an email while you talk on the phone, the OTHER PERSON KNOWS. Even if they don’t realise it consciously, or mention it, your call will always, always, always be better when you’re respecting the person’s time by eradicating your space of distractions. (It’s really tough when talking to a loved one – but if we can’t give our undivided attention to someone we love, then who can we give it to?)
6. Watch your body language
If you are hunched up and nervous, you cross your arms, lower your head and look like the proverbial meek mouse, it’s going to change the non-verbal signals you send through the phone. Much like power poses can change your life and your brain (I’m serious, check this out!) when you’re face to face with someone, they’ll also change your phone calls.
Want to sound confident? If you can get away with it, put your feet up on the desk and lean back in your chair (think Wolf of Wall Street). If you can’t, sit up straight with your feet firmly planted on the ground, push your shoulders back and channel a power pose.
And now you know how to cold call anybody! I would LOVE to know if these techniques have changed your ability to cold call, so please let me know below!