Cold Calling Giving You Cold Feet? Try These 9 Tips

cold feet warm socks shutterstock_248949232Many clients tell me that they really dislike the process of calling people they don’t know to get meetings, interviews, or new business opportunities. By following these tips on how to present yourself on the call and adopt the right mindset, you’ll get better results, and feel better too!

Presenting Yourself – Rehearse your “20-second pitch.”
How do you get them to stay on the phone, or want to speak with you? The key is your  20-second pitch. When someone takes your call, they may in fact be on a very tight schedule. Maybe they are running off to a meeting, or need to prepare for one. Chances are that if they decide to talk with you at length, they will want to schedule a separate time.

You really only have 20-30 seconds to get them interested enough to talk with you. In that time, you should be able to communicate:

  1. How to categorize yourself; that is, what position/specialization you’re in.
  2. What makes you interesting or different from other callers.

Here’s an example below that I prepared with Susan, a client who was in business development for her B2B tax consulting company. Note: you can apply this same approach if you are trying to get an interview or informational meeting.

“Hi this is Susan Smith. I sent you an email earlier this week. I’m a tax expert and counsel with specific experience in Latin America, in particular Brazil, where I know you are expanding.  It would be great to set up 15-20 minutes for a mutually beneficial conversation.”

If she was leaving a voice message, she ended with “My # is 212-212-2121 and I’ll try your office again as well as I may be hard to reach.” If not, she asked: “Do you have a couple of minutes now to hear more?”

In this case, Susan “categorized” herself by saying she is the tax expert and counsel. She differentiated herself by saying she has specific experience in Latin America and in particular Brazil, and that she knows something about their company.

Now, what if they answer the phone and say they have a few minutes to talk right now? You need to be prepared with your longer “Two-Minute Pitch” ready to go, as well as your agenda, e.g. the questions you want to ask, etc.

One of the keys to making this approach successful is to apply the advice given to aspiring Carnegie Hall performers – practice, practice, practice! In fact, start off by calling people where there is less on the line, so you can work out the kinks in your approach before it really matters.

By the way, if you want to hear more about crafting a Two-Minute Pitch, and pitches tailored to different situations, check out my book PEAK Presentations.

Other Presentation Tips

  • Be positive and professional. Be the kind of person you would want to talk with if it were you on the other end of the line. Don’t be the pushy salesperson, be the helpful “niceperson.”
  • Alter your tone to fit the situation. If you know there’s an opening and they could really use you, take a more assertive (not aggressive) tone. If the meeting is informational, be a bit less assertive, more appreciative, or more collegial if you feel the meeting would be mutually beneficial.
  • Ask for a 15-20 minute meeting. Everyone has that time somewhere on his or her calendar.
  • Make it mutually beneficial. Perhaps offer to share your network on LinkedIn, or provide insight given your own experience.
  • Show appreciation. If the way you can help them is not obvious, that is, they really would be doing you a favor by meeting, perhaps to provide you with information or ideas, then try to find some way to reciprocate. At the very least, show appreciation! A simple “thank you” goes a long way, and is too often forgotten. Or perhaps offer to treat them to coffee or lunch.


Try on these three approaches: they will make you feel more confident and less nervous, which will translate to the right kind of attitude on the phone– the kind that makes people want to talk with you.

  • “Decide” that you are calling just to help them. That is, let go of the need to get something from the call. If you can really do this, you will be less nervous, and naturally focused on their number one question, “how can you help me?”
  • Remind yourself of the value you are adding. If you have a service to offer, they need you, even if they don’t know it yet! They are not doing you a favor by talking with you; instead, you are doing them a favor by taking the time to show them the thing they didn’t know they needed.
  • Expect rejection, and keep trying. It’s not personal– how could it be? They don’t know you! It often takes several followup phone calls to get a meeting. Persistence is key. That said, don’t leave eight messages; leave one, or maybe two, then just keep trying when the caller is more likely to be around, say at 8:30am or 5:30pm when they are less likely to be in a meeting. I had a client who called 23 times (!),  leaving just a couple of messages, before he finally got the person he wanted on the phone. They said, “Thanks so much for your persistence. We really do want to talk with you. In fact, let’s set up an appointment now.”

UPDATE: Forbes interviewed me on this same subject of cold calling/emailing for the job search. In the article, I share my thoughts from a slightly different perspective. You can read it here.