Why I Call
By Christopher Schneider, Director, Membership & Business Development
Published October 10, 2017
I am not an early adopter of modern technology. I rarely use my Twitter account. I have only recently become a texter. My apps are woefully underutilized. I am an old-school communicator: I call.
My job at the Management Association is sales - selling memberships and sponsorships. While I have found social media such as LinkedIn useful to gain intelligence and perspective, I haven’t cracked the code of selling online. I'm sure I’m not the only one. I feel a bit uncomfortable reaching out with a cold message or email. I’ve been on the receiving end of these myself and felt a little put-off, which is not the vibe I’m going for in connecting with potential members.
The telephone is better. The spoken word always seems more personable than the written word. You really can’t fake the human voice, and I get a gut-wrenching feeling every time I hear a robocall. The off-the-cuff and casual tone that comes so naturally in vocal communications cannot be simulated by a computer. We still have it over our silicon counterparts when it comes to radiating feeling and emotion.
There is a stigma attached to “cold calling.” I rarely do this. To me, a cold call is an action with no forethought and no reason - calling from a list, calling because it’s your job. My experience with this is limited, because I want to be deliberate about what I am doing. The reason I call is important. The person I am calling needs to know that, and I am always prepared to state the obvious: “We met at the Illinois SHRM conference," or “A colleague of yours recommended I call,” for example.
The other popular fallacy is that selling on the phone is hard. Maybe picking up the phone is hard, or doing the requisite preparation is hard, but reaching out should be as easy as taking a walk or having a conversation with an old friend. I try not to call when I’m tired or agitated in a way that might be heard in my voice. I try to plan what to say ahead of time and even take a few notes of issues to cover. I give respect to folks who pick up the receiver and always ask if it’s an appropriate time to talk. 99.9% of the people either say yes, or agree to a better time.
While the phone calls I make may not generally be the same type of calls that a human resources professional makes, we all have to make work-related calls at times. Here are some tips for making the call that I have found useful in my job, but should be equally useful when contacting a job candidate, a potential vendor or business partner, or even your boss.
Step 1: Do your homework. Find out as much as you can about the person you’re calling before you reach out. Work-related social media is great for this, and you can discover much about people just based on what they’ve chosen to share. What’s their job title, where did they previously work, do you know anyone in common? Learn a bit about what they do and the company they keep in the business world.
Step 2: Don’t lollygag. That phone is not going to bite you! Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.
Step 3: Announce who you are. Seems obvious, but I get a ton of sales calls that skip this step. Tell them your full name, your title and the organization you are calling from. This builds credibility and forces the person to take notice.
Step 4: State the reason for calling. This is the most crucial step. You must have a reason. State it succinctly. “You expressed an interest in our job posting.” “We were both at the same networking event.” Now the conversation is no longer a cold call. You have something in common.
Step 5: Try to establish rapport and become relatable. This can just be some small talk about the common thread established in step 4. “What did you think of the event last week?”
Step 6: Get to the heart of the matter. Give a short background about your organization, mission and the benefits of your product or service. “We provide HR services and support to 1,200 member organizations in Chicagoland.” “We sell rubber gaskets for plumbing supply companies across 30 countries.”
Step 7: Ask some questions. The best interactions are conversations. Let the person talk, and ask some thoughtful questions that require more than a yes/no response.
Step 8: Take this conversation to a zip code. An in-person meeting in the real world of brick and mortar is the endgame of every good phone call. The telephone is really an appointment generating machine most of the time. Of course, I can follow up by email, but I'd prefer to meet you in person.
Step 9: Say thank you. For their time, their interest and their inclination to hear more about you and your organization.
I am sometimes fearful that my profession could one day go the way of the dinosaur, so I do not want to see using the phone to sell become a lost art form. Call me! I’m at 800-448-4584. Or if you must, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.