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March 10, 2009

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"Cold calling is probably the single most feared and dreaded thing in thebusiness," says Ed Harper a full-service investment broker with Prudential Bachesecurities in West Virginia. Harper understates his explanation a bit when he explainsthat "for most people it's against their nature to call somebody they don'tknow, and try to get them to give you your money." But take heart: "You getbetter at it as you go on. If you don?t get better at it, unless you're amotivational person naturally, you?re probably going to have problems."

In our rush-rush age of efficiency, FedExes and satellite offices, we'll all haveproblems if we can't use the phone effectively. We may not have to make hundreds ofcold calls a day, but sooner or later, we'll probably have to make an important callthat may be relatively cold, whether that call involves calling up a potential mentor, ormaking a pitch about the company we're starting.

Here are some tips on networking on the phone from those whose livelihoods depend onit:

"You tell them what you're doing, but first you ask if they might be busy, ifthere might be a better time," says Harper. "You say "This is so and sofrom here and here, do you have a moment to talk'?" This is the first importantlesson of schmoozing on the phone. Just imagine that the other person has someone in hisor her office, and here's some schmo yakking like there's no tomorrow. It soundslike a simple and obvious step, but unless you consciously check yourself, you can fallinto it, propelled by nervousness or agressiveness. "I always ask if they have timeto talk," Harper says. "One of the big mistakes people make, is, they'llintroduce themselves, say "I'd like to interest you in this idea?" andthey're off and running. There could be someone at their desk, and (the broker)doesn't even realize the prospect can't even talk."

So say the person you're calling is willing to listen. What next? On the phoneschmoozing is a lot like in-person schmoozing. As a literary agent, Victoria Sanders oftenpitches projects to editors over the phone in a matter of thirty seconds. "You haveto have a really hot and snappy pitch," she says. "The biggest thing isyou've got to be able to give them a hook. The first question you have to ask iswho's the market, who's going to buy it. You've got to help them sell thisto the marketing people, because if they won't take it, it won't get sold. Inmajor houses, it's about marketing."

Still, Sanders says that even in a short and intense pitch, one should try to buildrapport outside a strictly professional relationship, and that if things go well or arelationship has already been established, a pitch call can be five to ten minutes."It depends on your relationship with the editor. A lot of it's schmoozing- you talk about other things, and then you get to the pitch, or you talk about thepitch and you talk about the other things. It's all about personalrelationships."

Sanders' comments point to the fact that even in a brief conversation, we canapply the major tenets of schmoozing that we are learning in this chapter. Byconcentrating on a "hook," Sanders is concentrating on what the relationshipmeans to the other person, in this case, the editor. By making chitchat outside of thebusiness talk, Sanders is applying the social first, or at least, social always, part ofthe schmoozer's mindset.

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