How to get over your fear of cold calling

Fear, being scared and afraid are not necessarily bad. Fear exists for a reason, it’s a survival aid, the snake instinctively inspires fear in you because it’s dangerous so you try to avoid it.

But what is a useful feature in one context can become a bug in another. We used to gorge on scarce food in the pleistocene but now in this concrete world of abundance it leads to obesity. So you have to adapt to that specific context.

You’re probably thinking cold calling is dead, why even bother? But what is cold calling when you boil it down? It’s communication and persuasion. If you can persuade a stranger to do something, if you become an effective communicator you’re going to have a massive advantage over your competitors. It’s one of the reasons “How to win friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie is still a best seller almost a century after its publication.

Why are you afraid of cold calling?

You’re afraid because you don’t want to look stupid, you don’t want the other person to judge you negatively and because you don’t want to fail. Failing sucks, it’s demoralising and it makes you feel less than, that you’re not good enough.

So it totally makes sense to avoid something that could create those negative feelings in you.

But here’s the thing, you can be stuck inside and never do anything because of fear but you don’t do that. Why? Because you run the risk reward algorithm in your head. Are you more afraid of failing than you are of wanting to win? If that’s the case sales isn’t for you.

Hopefully, you want to succeed more, earn enough money to provide your family, maybe go travelling but whatever that motivation is, have it front and centre so that you can use it to drive you and overcome your fear.

The desire to win is strong, and it can help overcome fear. It’s that I’m going to keep going mentality when things don’t go your way. It can dull fear and fire you up.

Having said that fear can be useful. Not being afraid is bad, you need a little fear, a little of that nervousness to keep you on the edge and sharp. If you’re completely unafraid then you don’t really care, there’s no skin in the game and you’re not likely to try your best.

So that’s all about reframing your fear into an aid alongside the motivation we just discussed.

Dull fear with practise

Practise makes perfect and it also dulls fear.

Part of being afraid is the unknown, think of those horror movies, the most terrifying part isn’t the monster when you see it but waiting for it. The unknown is what really gets you.

If you’ve never done a cold call before your mind will make it much worse than it actually is. Through practise you’ll learn from your mistakes, you’ll understand what it involves and by understanding you demystify it.

When you practise something you typically get better at it and it becomes less stressful, think of it as a riff on familiarity breeds contempt.

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Embrace your first failures

Failing is horrible then you should get it over with. Like ripping off a band aid, you’re not going to be amazing from day one so go in there with an attitude of its ok if I fail as long as I learn from it.

Tom Brady has seven superbowl rings, he’s also lost two that doesn’t negate his GOAT status, If failure terrifies you then you should see it up close and again, familiarity breeds contempt.

I’ve had calls that didn’t go great, some of them were really tense and I felt terrible afterwards but you know what I recovered, and I got over them and on the next calls I made I was more relaxed because I’d already seen the worst and I was OK.

Look, it’s business not a personal judgement. They’re not your friends or at least not yet.

In fact, my attitude changed, “Hey if it doesn’t work for the guy on the other line, so be it I’ll move onto someone else where we can make something”. That’s a way better attitude and part of sales like dating is a numbers game.

Prepare and do your homework

Part of being able to talk is having something to talk about. Know what it is you’re selling and fundamentally know what it’s useful for. What that means in practise is what problem of the prospect does it solve?

They don’t care about you and they don’t care about your product. They care about their problems, that’s what they’d like to talk about so when you come at a sales conversation that’s the meat of it.

People don’t like talking to salespeople, own that but get to the meat and remember a sales conversation when its good is about solving someone’s problem. You’re helping them and they’ll be grateful if you really can solve their problems. When you come at it from that angle it’ll come across in the way you speak and what you talk about and it won’t feel like “sales pitch” even though it is.

Watch the pros

If you’re green then one of the best ways to figure out what to do is ask someone who has the experience. It’s ok to ask for help, and people who are experienced and are decent people will be flattered and want to help.

You can take advantage of the hours they’ve put in to get to where they are now and get a cheat sheet for much less time.

They can give you an idea of the curveballs that might get thrown your way and generally demystify cold calling, and therefore reduce your fear of it.

In summary

Cold calling still matters, and at its core its communication and persuasion. You’re going to have to talk to your prospects and persuade them to go with you.

The format isn’t really the important bit. In these pandemic days if that’s a video call or hopefully when we’re past it in person the skills you gain being effective at cold calling can be applied in so many other contexts as well. It’s just a must have and you need to get over your fear of it. At the end of the day you have a goal you want to achieve for yourself, that’s the most important thing, and fear being less important can therefore be overcome.