January 22, 2014 Jason

Peter Bowerman Guest Post – part II – Anxiety-Free Cold-Calling

Peter Bowerman has been a successful freelancer for two decades. He’s made a lucrative career out of writing, and we’re thrilled to have his advice for our freelance friends.

If you missed his first guest post on Brandscaping, click here to read it.

Anxiety-Free Cold-Calling

How to Make Phone Prospecting Productive— Minus the Stress!

by Peter Bowerman

cold calling(An adapted excerpt from The Well-Fed Writer (2010; Fanove) by Peter Bowerman)  

Action or Results?  In my seminars, I’ll ask, “When starting a cold-calling campaign (to drum up business for your freelance practice), should you focus on action or results?” Many immediately yell out, “Results!” Why? “Well, we’re judged on results,” or “Results are all that matter.” One way to look at it…

I say “Action” is the right answer. Think about it. What’s true of action that isn’t true of results? If you answered,You can control action, but you can’t control results, go to the head of the class.

You have no control over the results of any given phone call or email. Nor how that person on the other end of the line will react to your contact. Or whether that individual will think your portfolio is good enough to consider hiring you. Or even whether they’re having a bad day.

Sure, you can improve your results by, say, getting more comfortable with your phone skills, choosing better prospects and beefing up your “book” (portfolio). But still, fundamentally, the one thing you have control over is the actions you take.

An example…

Two freelancers both start cold-calling at 9:00 a.m. Freelancer #1’s goal? To land two new writing projects or three hot prospects by 5:00 p.m. Freelancer #2’s goal? To make 50 calls. Now, tell me: Who’s going to have a more stressful day?

Around 2:00 p.m., if #1 has landed neither gigs nor interest, you think the desperation is going to start seeping into his voice? How do you think that’ll work out for him?

Meanwhile, #2, cool as a cucumber, makes his 50 calls—unconcerned about the outcome (that would be focusing on results again!)—and he’s done.

Here’s the key: Make those 30, 40 or 50 calls a day (to the kinds of prospects you’ve determined are your ideal targets—that’s key), and the results—hot prospects and writing jobs—will come. Minus the anxiety. The Law of Averages is ironclad.

And I don’t care how those calls turn out (i.e., live contact, voice mail, message left with a secretary, appointment, dinner date, etc.). Keep calling and the results are assured. And in my experience (both personally and in feedback from countless freelancers), taking an “action-over-results” approach will significantly ratchet down the “fear factor.”

Just a “Telemarketer”? Really?

Another thing. In a seminar I was doing a few years back, a woman raised her hand and said, very earnestly, “I just hate the idea of cold calling, because I hate telemarketers, and I think most people feel the same.” Whoa.

I looked at her and asked, “Is that who you think you are? Just an obnoxious telemarketer—no different from the people who rudely interrupt your dinner to peddle aluminum siding, long-distance service, carpet cleaning, and a zillion other things you have no interest in?”

Understand this: Assuming you’re a competent, reliable freelance practitioner, when you reach out to prospects, you’ll be a professional marketing a valuable and needed professional service to other professionals. Period.

While the people you call may not need your services (80 percent won’t) or even have the time to talk to you, I promise they won’t be viewing you as an irritating telemarketer. So, don’t dare view yourself this way.

Action, Not Results…Again

I sold books door-to-door in college. Our goal was 30 demos a day (the equivalent of phone calls made to prospects). A “demo” was roughly defined as pulling the books out and beginning our pitch—either in the house or at the door—whether or not we got to finish it.

Making “sales” the goal (i.e., results) would’ve introduced unnecessary anxiety into the process. They knew if we made 30 honest demos a day or close to it, the sales would come. And they did. Same here.

There were days as bookmen, where we’d put in our honest 13½ hours (8:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday; insanity, yes, but character-building insanity) and come up with…bupkus. Growth and Development Days, we called them. Very, very rare.

Our sales managers would congratulate us on having a G&D day, adding, By the way, you do know that you’ll sell the first three houses you visit tomorrow, don’t you?

And I’m telling you straight here, we always did, because, I’m convinced we were, well…convinced. On my first call one morning following a G&D day, I remember approaching someone getting in their car in the driveway, briefcase in hand, about to head to work, and absolutely knowing that, despite the unpromising-looking circumstances, this person was going to buy a set of books (a $40 purchase).

I guess he knew it too, because he did. As did the next two after him. Approach cold calling with that same bone-deep belief in the Law of Averages, focus on simply taking the actions, forget how they turn out, and you can’t help but win.

Have you tried cold calling in your business?

How did it work out? If it went well, share a bit!

If it didn’t go well, what happened?

If you haven’t tried it, what’s stopped you?


Love to write but hate to starve? Visit www.wellfedwriter.com for a free report, ezine and blog on the lucrative field of “commercial” freelancing—writing for businesses and for $50-125+ an hour. All written by Peter Bowerman, veteran commercial freelancer, writing/publishing coach, and the author of the three award-winning Well-Fed Writer titles, the self-published how-to “standards” on lucrative commercial freelancing. He chronicled his self-publishing success (currently, 70,000 copies of his books in print and a full-time living since 2001) in the award-winning 2007 release (and its 2014 update), The Well-Fed Self-Publisher: How to Turn One Book into a Full-Time Living. www.wellfedsp.com

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Comments (7)

  1. Jason

    More excellent advice from Peter Bowerman. Be sure to check his site for more information on how to go from starving artist to Well-Fed Writer

  2. I actually just started doing this (used cold-e-mailing at first) and have found it to be quite helpful, even though I’m an extremely shy person by nature. It’s fun to connect with people, and the overwhelming majority of people treat you well. I’m getting leads from it and breaking through my shyness. Not pleasant at first, but all right once you get the hang of it. I’ve made around 400 phone calls and it gets easier by day. I think it will work out okay in the long run.

    • Good to hear Dan, and congrats on overcoming the shyness. For many of us freelancers, it’s easy to stay in our shell when we don’t have to leave the office.
      I think the key to being received well is to do twice as much listening as talking – most folks enjoy talking about their business, and with just a little prompting, they’ll give you a ton of info. A bit of research on the prospect before making the call can be very productive, too.

      Are you tracking your numbers to get an idea as to how many calls it takes to generate a lead, and how many leads it takes to generate a sale?

  3. Robyn Smith

    I appreciate your comment about not being Telemarketers. I started selling door-to-door as a kid. I was very successful, but hated it. In high school, I got the chance to do business-to-business calling. It was a whole different world!

    As you pointed out, when you call professionals as a professional, the playing field is evened out and expectations are centered around service value, not a day’s interruptions. If not, then maybe re-evaluating who you’re calling and why is in order (see ideal targets comment in the article). Thanks for the great advice!

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