A couple years ago, when my VP of sales--Mara--started out on the phone, she had no fear of placing cold calls. Mara actually got the hang of making cold calls a lot faster than I did when I started out. Her attitude was pleasant and she was not afraid of who was going to greet her at the other end of the line. That was until she called on "Jane-with-four-last-names" who worked at a premier wirehouse in Manhattan.
During the five- or six-minute call, Mara didn't say much, but I watched her turn from beet red to white. A little while later, she hung up. Turns out that Jane had read Mara the riot act and even concluded her tongue-lashing with a stern lecture on how make a proper cold call.
"You should know what you're talking about before you call me! Do you know who I am? Who the hell trained you? I can do my own negotiations!" You get the drift. I was confident that Mara knew what she was doing when she made that call. After all, she hadn't had any problems with her other calls. Jane, it seemed, simply had a very bad attitude.
I quickly perused Jane's NASDR regulatory record and determined that she obviously could not do her own negotiations because she had been at six firms in eight years! Last I heard, Jane had been fired from her firm and now is terrorizing those around her in yet another New York City wirehouse.
As for Mara, her number of cold calls immediately went down and she became quite hesitant about picking up the phone for some time. (It was obvious that she had lost confidence.)
I don't think she has called a female financial advisor since. Although Mara knew that it shouldn't be taken personally, Jane had struck so many of her insecurities that it took a while to get out of the funk.
The Age of Gadgetry
Picking up the phone and reaching out to someone whom you don't know is never easy in the world of sales and marketing. You never know who's going to be on the other end of the line and what kind of mood he's going to be in. (It's enough to bring on a case of cold sweats and agita.) But whether you are on the receiving end of an unexpected recruiter call or you're the one placing the call to a potential client for the first time, it's always good to reflect on how you would like to be treated on either side of the situation.
Mara's "Jane experience," sadly, is not an anomaly in today's work environment.
We now live in a culture where some of us don't really say "good morning," and "please" and "thank you" anymore. Overall, we're just a bunch of grumpy people. Assuming that you're not one of them, you can probably recognize the culprits around your office. No sales assistant wants to work with them due to abuse and excessive yelling. And management stays away because they are scared of getting sued--either because of them or by them. Also, a lot of today's social ineptitude could be attributed to the technologically fast-paced times in which we live in. Cold calling has become much more difficult within the last 10 years, as BlackBerrys, e-mail and other modern gadgetry have rendered the art of courtesy and personal touch and even human contact virtually extinct. But keep in mind that an e-mail or a text message--even with the cool smiley faces--could never convey the true emotion and feelings that a pleasant demeanor does.
Handling a Cold Call
At least 15 to 20 unsolicited sales calls come in through the phone lines to Degenhardt Consulting on a daily basis. The worst happen to be the recordings. Whether it's from Jim at Cardholder Services or Debbie at Healthcare Anonymous, whoever answers the phone hangs up on those calls all the time.
But when a living person happens to wrangle his way through the screening process to my office, I am polite and listen to his spiel without letting it affect my schedule. The reason is twofold.
Firstly, if I take the time to tell the person that I am not interested in the product/service at this point but may be in a year or so, the individual usually doesn't call back until a much later time, if at all. So taking the call decreases overall cold-call traffic. Secondly, just as I don't like to be hung up on and told I have no purpose in life, neither do others. Hanging up on someone or being rude doesn't necessarily make me feel superior or better about myself, either. It's an all-around negative experience, and it just isn't good for the work environment--or any environment, for that matter.
When I was brand-new to the recruiting game in Chicago, I remember cold calling a guy I'll call "Joe" at Oppenheimer. Upon introducing myself to him, I heard: "You will never make it in this business--don't even try." Joe's tone affected my cold calls for weeks. This went much deeper than "I am not interested, thanks." I called up the Oppenheimer office not too long ago to see if he was still kicking. Joe's retired now, and I am quite happy that I didn't follow his advice.
Things to Consider
If you think about it, cold calling successful financial advisors is not an easy task. I often get the comment, "I don't see how you can deal with us!" I usually laugh knowingly and quip, "It's not like I married any of you." Occasionally, I am greeted by a total bear at the other end of the line. Still, people can be defused and will start talking if you follow a few simple principles:
1) Be pleasant (smile while you dial). Having a sense of humor while being sincere and listening to a person will generally build empathy. Letting people know that you are in it for the long haul and don't need them to do anything that isn't right for their clients, business and family can go a long way, too.
2) Be prepared. Knowing what you're going to say before you say it is key to a successful cold call. You aren't sucking up the person's precious time, and you can get to the point of your call. Having a script helps.
3) Be mindful of the time you call. You'd hate to receive a cold call during lunch or at some other inopportune time, right? Well, so does the person you're calling.
4) Be resilient. So you've followed all the rules and you've still managed to get an absolute cad at the end of the line. Keep in mind that this person is just one of a very small number of people who can't seem to get it together. This person's behavior should not sway you. Even if the person is being rude, remember to maintain your decorum. Why raise your stress levels over the person at the other end of the line?
Both Jane and Joe could have made the choice to be nice and still get their points across. The next time the thought enters your mind to be rude, think again about where you started and how you'd like to be treated.
Instead of making an enemy who decides to write about your actions more than 10 years later, why not make a connection? And if you really do want to be taken off that call list, then say so politely.