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Nine Time-tested Secrets for Warming Up to Cold-Calling


Do you cringe at the thought of cold-calling? Would you be willing to give it a try if you knew that roughly seventy-five percent of all jobs are part of the “hidden” market which means you have to hunt them down? Cold-calling is considered to be a traditional method of looking for a job, something many job seekers would like to avoid. But, for those who have the courage to pick up the phone and dial, there are potential rewards at the other end of the line.

Because it’s easier for someone to say “no” over the telephone than it is face to face, you need to mentally prepare for rejection, but stay determined. However, before you do, there are several time-tested secrets that you will want to consider.

Time-tested Secret #1–Plan ahead
Identify the companies that would benefit most from your skills, abilities, and experience. Research and find out the names of the people with whom you want to speak. The more you know and the better match you are, the easier it will be to get the attention of the decision-makers. Make a list of your assets, keeping in mind the kind of talent they are most likely seeking. Do some research on each company you plan to call. Looking at their web site is a good place to start. If you can get the name of the person you need to speak with, you are in great shape. However, that can be tricky because many companies don’t have receptionists to answer the phones. All you get is a voice mail message. Some web sites will have names of executives and job titles; others will not. You can always ask the receptionist to connect you with the Human Resources department. If you get through, ask to speak with the person in charge of recruiting. The only negative is that the job of Human Resources is to screen people out. If you can get the name of the hiring manager in your field such as the Director of Engineering, you are better off.

Time-tested Secret #2–Know what you want to say
Don’t waste their time or yours by calling and not knowing what you are going to say. Write it down, memorize it and practice or keep in it in front of you so that you don’t sound ridiculous stumbling around when you call. In addition, know what your objective is. What do you want to get out of the conversation? Your purpose should be to arrange for a face to face interview after sharing enough about yourself to get his or her interest. And as you speak, keep your sentences short and to the point. No one wants to listen to a rambler that takes up valuable time.

Time-tested Secret #3–Respect the gatekeeper
If you are lucky enough to reach a receptionist or secretary, treat him or her with the utmost respect. This individual has the power to prevent you from getting through. Some job seekers don’t recognize this fact and they end up losing out because of their poor manners. If you can quickly establish rapport with this person, you can also learn more about the person to whom you wish to speak. Even a small piece of useful information is worth getting.

Time-tested Secret #4–Just say it
Once you’ve connected with the person you need to speak with, explain who you are, where you’re calling from and why. Keep in mind, that how you say it can be more important than what you say. Be mindful of your tone of voice, inflection, and pace. Stand up while you’re speaking to infuse additional energy into your voice. Project confidence and enthusiasm. Get to the point and don’t repeat yourself. If you can get the listener to stay with you for at least one minute, the probability that he or she will continue listening is good.

Time-tested Secret #5–Build rapport
Whether you are speaking with the gatekeeper or the person you were trying to reach, you need to quickly build rapport. Smile when you speak. You would be surprised how a smile can be felt even over the phone. Maybe this cold call is the result of a mutual friend’s suggestion. If so, mention the connection with that person and the fact that he or she suggested that you call. Mutual friends are always a door opener. Ask for advice; everyone loves to give advice. For example, in speaking with the receptionist or secretary, as you quickly build rapport, ask if he or she can give you one piece of advice in speaking with the person for whom you called. You could get a helpful piece of advice, such as, “let him know you are a problem-solver,” or “don’t take up more than 5 minutes of her time, if she wants to speak with you further, let her take the lead.” In any event, building rapport with everyone with whom you speak is critical to your cold call success.

Time-tested Secret #6–Eliminate distractions
If you are calling from work while on your break, from home, or a public library, background noise can be a major problem. It’s not only extremely annoying to the listener, but you as well. Everyone in your household also needs to understand that when you are cold-calling, you are not to be interrupted. In a true story, a candidate cold-called and was immediately successful in reaching the person with whom he wanted to speak. Three minutes into the conversation, the candidate’s teenage daughter picked up the extension phone in another room, realized her father was on the phone, and slammed it into the cradle. This continued seven more times during the thirty-five minute cold call interview. Her father did not have the good sense to prevent this from happening up front, nor did he excuse himself and stop her. The man desperately needed a job, but the listener was turned off and thought that if the candidate could not manage his teenager, he certainly could not manage the three hundred associates who would be reporting to him.

Time-tested Secret #7–Do what you are asked to do
If the discussion went well, it’s likely that you will be asked to email your resume. You may also be asked for a list of references. Follow through on what you are asked to do and complete the task quickly. Response time is critical in the minds of most employers. Candidates who drag their feet present a preview of their working habits. Both your resume and your reference list should be ready to go before you start cold-calling.

Time-tested Secret #8–Leave a message
Although ideally you want to speak directly with the person you are calling, you may need to leave a message. You might think of leaving a message as getting off easy, but in reality, you need to be just as prepared as you would as if your call got through. When you get voice mail, it’s not always bad because most people listen to their own voice mail. Be prepared with your succinct message including reason for calling, and leave it on voice mail along with your contact information and a suggested time when they may return your call.

Time-tested Secret #9–What if they don’t call back?
It’s very possible that your phone call will not be returned. Are you going to give up or keep trying? If you decide to keep trying, get the secretary on your side. Ask her when it would be a good time to call again. You might even get her to agree to schedule a phone appointment for you. If that doesn’t work, try calling before or after hours when people typically answer their own phones. Try calling during lunch when the secretary might not be at her desk and the boss answers. If this strategy doesn’t work, write a letter of introduction and mail it. Avoid email as most people are bombarded with emails. A letter will stand out. If you are still not getting any response, and you are not especially interested in the company, back off and re-group. Is there someone else in the organization you could cold-call or should you move on to another opportunity? On another note, don’t be a pest; it won’t help you. If you get the feeling that you are not getting anywhere, continue working down your list of companies to cold call. You can’t win them all.

In conclusion, although most job seekers do not like the thought of cold-calling, courage to try and persistence are time-tested secrets. Once you get into the habit of making the calls, it can actually be fun. It’s just one of many ways to find a job. Think of your job search as a tool box filled with a variety of methods for job hunting from networking to searching classified ads, using the Internet, contacting college alumni associations, participating in job lead clubs, working with recruitment agencies cold-calling, and more. Do whatever it takes and don’t let anything or anyone stand in your way!

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