Cold Calling PhoneIn June, my communications practice will be 23 years old. I’m lucky, because most of my business comes from referrals.

But there are occasions when I need to pick up the phone to call a prospect. Or talk to a current client who isn’t as happy as I wish he were. Or tell a project partner that things aren’t working.

Here are things that help me—and I hope will help you.

 There are times when we all want to hide out. When we’ll find anything to do rather than have an uncomfortable phone conversation.

Too often we suck it up, take a deep breath, plunge in and wing it. Three minutes later, we’re in way over our heads—or have heard a harsh “no” when we were hoping for at least a tepid “OK.”

The dreaded conversation is over—but so is the opportunity for something good. Fortunately, just taking a few minutes before picking up the phone can change this trajectory.

Get Your Brain Involved

Get a pen and some paper. Writing something by hand activates your left and right brains—getting them both to work with you—more than sitting at a keyboard and typing. (Sorry!) This also will help move the information from your short to your long-term memory.

Now answer a few questions.


Write up to three clear, measurable goals.

I was following up on an introduction to the head of sales at a large company. Here were my goals:

  1. Listen more than I speak, so I can learn what he needs and see if there’s an opportunity for me to do sales training.
  2. If there is, then agree on a tangible next step before the call ends.
  3. If there isn’t, then ask a) if he knows anyone else who needs what I do, b) if we can connect on LinkedIn to stay in touch, and c) if I can send him my newsletter.

Give yourself some clarity before picking up the phone.


For my sales guy, I asked the person who referred me for some background information. Then I checked out his LinkedIn profile, bio on the company website, and did a Google search.

This yielded info about some sales programs at the company, so I was able to act knowledgeable about these and ask questions for more details.

You guessed it: write down up to three important things to keep in mind.


I knew why I wanted to speak with this man—but why would he want to talk to me?

If it’s new business, be clear on the problem you solve. In this case, I knew I could help his salespeople become more persuasive with clients.

If it involves bad news—some you expect to get or some you’re delivering—be honest. If you screwed up, take responsibility and give the person a chance to vent. If it’s the other way around, be clear on what you need to make things right (which should help that person feel better, too).

Write this down, too.


Every day you have one hour when you’re at your best. Know when that is and make the call then.

I’m a morning person, so that’s when I called the head of sales. If I had waited until 3:00, when my energy usually dips, I wouldn’t have been as engaging. More likely, I would have found a reason to put off the call …


Put your body in a position that feels powerful.

I’m best when standing and walking around—literally thinking on my feet.

If you need to make the call sitting down, then uncross your legs, put both feet solidly on the floor, and sit up straight. This is a power pose, which keeps energy flowing through your body. Contrast that with crossed legs and hunched shoulders and you’ll get the difference.

If it helps to read some inspirational quotes or put on music that revs up your energy, go for it.

What Now?

Want to know more about how to have a tough talk with someone? Then download this PDF of “Is the Thought of Having a Difficult Conversation Raising Your Blood Pressure?

Sales coach Brian Tracy says one of the most powerful things you can do—particularly in the face of a challenging conversation—is have an air of confident expectation. Believe you’ll get what you want.

How did things work out with the head of sales? He connected me to the person who is in charge of hiring speakers and trainers. My conversation with her happens in two weeks. So I’ll be getting out my pen and paper …