PhoneI read
Cold Calling Techniques that Really Work by Stephan Schiffman. Then I created a script to contact a potential client who had been referred to me.

After taking a few deep breaths, I plunged in and dialed the number.

Here’s what happened — and what I learned from the experience.

Most of us get sweaty palms just thinking about cold calls (me too). I thought arming myself with a highly regarded book of tips (they really work, after all) would be a good way to break the ice.

One of the recommendations was to write a script. I included the words and sentences Schiffman said should be in it. Then I practiced the script a few times to make sure I wouldn’t stumble over anything.

What I Did Wrong

When Scott answered his phone, I took another breath and dove into my script. I probably never have talked so fast in my life — maybe breaking the 200 words a minute sound barrier! My fear was if I took a breath, Scott would interrupt with “I’m not interested” and hang up.

Fortunately, he was kind. After I finished, he said, “I’m sorry, who is this?” It was time for another breath. I realized just how foolish — if not downright incoherent — I must have sounded.

What I Did Right

Then I did what I should have done in the first place. I told Scott my name, gave him the name of the person referred me, and why this man thought we should speak. Scott recognized the name, and both of us chatted briefly about how we knew and why we liked him.

Then Scott said, “So tell me more about what you do.”

I replied with, “Before doing that, I want to apologize.” Then I explained I was sorry to have made him a guinea pig with this cold calling script thing, and thanked him for being gracious enough to continue speaking with me.

He laughed and said, “I used to do the same thing myself and totally understand.” Before the conversation ended, he gave me the name of the person in his organization I should speak with about doing a persuasive communication program. (I’m still following up with her.)

What I’ll Do Next Time

My big screw up was thinking that someone else’s words would work better for me than my own. That I needed “cold calling techniques” — to sell — rather than just try to have a conversation.

I can’t blame Schiffman for this — he wrote a useful book. I had to discover how to look for his good ideas and incorporate these into how I do things, rather than assume his way had to be better than mine. My great stroke of luck was to have this experience with someone who didn’t make me feel like the idiot he had every right to.

Neuroscience teaches us that the best way to learn is by failing. I’ve proven this yet again.