I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who enjoys making cold calls. I hate it. I’ll do it if I absolutely have to, but I’ll hate it while I’m doing it. A cold call is a phone call you make to someone who isn’t expecting your phone call, and isn’t necessarily going to be clued into what you plan on talking to them about. It’s the element of surprise that makes the call awkward for both parties, especially the one doing the dialling.
For the last few months I’ve been seeking sponsorships and silent auction donations for the Red Dress Gala I’m organizing, and let me tell you, this is the most stressful part of the planning process. I went through this the last time I organized this event, and I’ve yet to become a seasoned pro. When I approach local business for sponsorships, what I like to do is create a document that explains the event and its mission, and provides a detailed breakdown of what a potential partnership would entail. I ensure that I mention how supporting this event will in turn help them gain exposure for their business. The way they will gain exposure depends on the business and the different details of the partnership I’m proposing. Once I’ve created this PDF I send it off via email and let them know when I will be following up with them, not necessarily to see if they’ve agreed to offer their support, but rather to ensure they’ve received the package, and to see if they have any questions, concerns, or ideas.
Between a few days and a week after I’ve sent my second email is when I decide is a good time to call the business and follow up one more time. This part would be easy if I could assume they have indeed received my sponsorship package via email, and had an idea of what I was talking to them about over the phone. This is never the case. 99.9% of the time they have not seen/received my email, which leaves me with the job of explaining a big opportunity that was beautifully designed and full of information and finer details that were explained in the cute little PDF I created. Explaining the opportunity over the phone and in detail is not the part that makes me uncomfortable, but rather the fact that I know I’ve reached the owner/manager at their place of employment, and chances are, they’re busy and don’t have half an hour to hear me yack over the phone about something they’re not fully able to pay attention to.
This is where my anxiety starts to kick in, which leads to me talking at warp speed, which leads to me stumbling over my words, which leads to me sounding like a telemarketer who has no idea what she’s talking about, which makes it that much easier for them to decline my offer to be part of a new annual event that has every potential to be something huge and amazing.
They say email is supposed to be a quick, easy, and a convenient way to reach people. They. Who are this “they” who say this. Seriously. Can you point them out to me please? I have a few questions to ask them. Don’t get me wrong, I know some people receive 20, 90, 300 emails a day which makes it hard for them to get to them all. SOME people. Not everyone.
Part of the reason I start to get nervous on the phone is because the Red Dress Gala is a third-party event, meaning that although it is in support of a reputable organization like the Heart and Stroke Foundation, I don’t actually work for a reputable organization/company, which can be seen as a lack of credibility on my part. In the middle of my bluster of a spiel, the person on the other end of the line almost always asks, “which company are you calling from again?”
The funny thing is that although I hate making cold calls, I have no problem with going down to the business and speaking with someone face to face. No problem at all. Face-to-face conversation gives the business a chance to see that I’m a real person and not just some voice over the phone, and it gives me a chance to see if they’re too busy to talk, or if they could spare a few minutes to hear me out, which really calms my nerves. I also think that I carry myself professionally and confidently in person, which can only work in my favour.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be comfortable making cold calls, but whether or not I enjoy it, it’s something I need to keep working on. Someone’s gotta do it. If not me, then who? Perhaps “they” will do it. It’s the least “they” could do.