Lessons from a Lawyer & Entrepreneur: How to avoid cold calls & deal with rejection

Dealing with Rejection and Other Unpleasantries of Being an Entrepreneur, Lawyers, Sales Agent…and a Human Being!

I was having lunch the other day when a friend said to me “how do you deal with getting rejected SO often?” While this does make me sound like a reject, which is partially true, his comments followed me talking about how many doors I’ve knocked on (translation: cold calls) and how many “go aways” I received before I realized a better way to pitch my idea and grow my company. Read on for some hard-earned advice.

Why do we still cold call when nobody likes doing it and nobody likes getting them?

A short story to start. Part of my entrepreneurial life included me helping two founders build their private equity firm. I immediately noticed why these founders were not accelerating. They were great at numbers, but not great at selling.  That’s putting it nicely. The founders came from the world of 5-martini lunches, cute assistants and expensive suits to show power…. and not from the world of equal-pay, caller-ID and “Google is a verb”.

Despite me showing them the stats on cold calling (that cold calls are more likely to cause you and the prospect indigestion and not a sale), they ignored me. I was, after all, a young girl who did not know a thing about anything. So, despite my protestations, I made those cold calls, annoyed a lot of people and wasted incredible amounts of time.

Why was this useless? First, phones are no longer used for receiving calls. If you call, you’ll be ignored because people don’t pick up inbound calls, especially if they don’t recognize your name. Second, your voice-message is a waste of breath and time. This is because we’ve seen a massive drop in how often we check our voicemail.

That may be your experience, but people answer the phone when I call!

Great. You’ve probably annoyed. them And they’ll then associate their irritation with you, your company and your product or service. Apply the Golden Rule here – would you want to be the receiver of a call that throws you off? Probably not! Because: a) we’re hardwired to like predictability and a random call scares us and makes us wary of the caller; b) it interrupts our Facebook-kitty video-watching time and we all HATE being interrupted during these moments; and c) we prefer finding out about services via our trusted friends – i.e. Google, social media, celebrity twitter endorsements and YouTube videos. In sum: if they want you, they’ll find you. If you call out the blue, they’ll put you on the blacklist.

Don’t believe me that cold calling doesn’t work? Here are a few stats from HubSpot:

  • 90% of the time you’ll get rejected
  • Left a voicemail? No one checks them. In fact, Coca Cola & JP Morgan have dropped voicemail altogether
  • Call back rates are less than 1%
  • Less than 2% of cold calls get you a meeting
  • And, of those meetings, less than 20% will buy your product or service.
  • Calling 6,264 people will get you 4 sales. Have fun.

Fine, Negative Nelly, so do we make it work?

While you cannot avoid making a call for the rest of your life, you can, at least, reduce the angry hang ups and the anxiousness you get every time you start dialling.

Rule 1: Don’t Cold Call

Everyone you call must have a connection or knowledge of your company. Ask yourself, has that person or company shown interest in your services? For example, have they signed up for your newsletter or commented on a blog you or your company wrote? Did you meet at a tradeshow? Did someone refer them to you? If any of the above is true, it’s no longer a cold call.

Rule 2: Get to Know the Company

Ask yourself, is your product or service relevant to them? Why? What problems do they have? Don’t know what their problems are? Perfect! Send your prospect a short email asking for a call to learn about some of their pain points. I’ve done this and it’s worked like a charm. Be sure, however, that you DO NOT sell during this call. This is just one way to move quickly from cold to warm (if you want some draft emails, let me know and I’ll send you a few).

It’s critical to know everything about a company – this helps you determine if you have the right product for them and if you’re wasting your and their time. Knowing details about the company by scouring the news will not only impress the decision maker, but also show that you’re an expert in your field and, therefore, should be trusted.

Rule 3: Get to Know the Person

Guess what? People make up companies and it’s people who make the decisions. So, get to know the person before you call. The purpose is not to be stalkerish or to have a conversation about their cats. But, rather, to understand how these people are likely to make decisions. Do they have a strong accounting or legal background? Or are they more creative? People’s education and position will dictate how they’ll evaluate your service – if they’re from the “avoid risk” mindset (read: lawyer, accountant), show that you can reduce their risk with your service. If they’re someone with an HR or sales background, show them how you can make the customer experience more pleasant. Essentially, understanding the person you’re calling will help you figure out how you can make them look good by saying yes to your product or service. After all, that’s what it’s all about!

Rule 4: Stand out during the call

Start ALWAYS by saying their name. Our names are the sweetest things that we could possibly hear. Next, be interesting. Some ways to do this are by being totally frank about being nervous. I have and it’s worked well for me. Start by saying:

“NAME, thanks for taking my call I’m YOUR NAME form CO and I’m, frankly, very nervous calling you as no one likes giving or receiving a call out of the blue! So, I’ll keep it short – have about 1 minute?”

Now, keep it to 1 minute and tell them when you’ve reached this marker. They’ll appreciate it. During the call be enthusiastic and positive, reference some research you’ve done on their business that prompted the call. And if you catch then at a bad time say:

“How about this, why don’t I shoot you a short email with a bit about what I want to talk about, this way you can evaluate whether not it makes sense to talk? We’re both busy and I hate wasting anyone’s time”.

Get the info and follow up within 30 minutes or they’ll forget you.

Finally, How to Deal with Rejection

The bad part about cold calling is that it’s not about you. This means you have to do a lot of prep and talk about them (remember, it’s not about you), while cleverly slipping in how you provide the right solution.

What about the good part about cold calling? It’s not about you. What I mean is that people are so wrapped up in their own lives, problems and insecurities that they won’t even remember the call in a week. So, if there’s a mistake in the call or if you happened to screw up and stumble and bumble, it doesn’t really matter. Your screw-up is eclipsed by what people are typically thinking about: how they can make a buck, spend a buck or watch more kitty videos.

Another rejection tip: remind yourself of all of the amazing sales calls, interactions and wins you’ve had. Focus on the fact that you’ve done good things in the past and that you’ll do them again.

Finally, we’ve all been rejected. Even the famous, beautiful, smart and successful. The lesson is this: the path to success is paved with “nos”. Have fun.