Finally Revealed! What Stapling Bacon to Your Face has to Do with Cold-Calling

John Tabita

Several years ago, the company I worked for held its international sales meeting, and reps from all over the globe came to our corporate headquarters in Los Angeles. I was asked to stand up in front of the group and make a presentation. Two of the reps from Australia approached afterwards to tell me they thought I’d done a good job. One of them expressed his fear of public speaking with this statement: “I’d rather staple bacon to my face than speak in front of a group.”

I’m not sure where he came up with that expression, but I never forgot it … because that’s how I felt the first time I had to make a cold-call (it took me 40 minutes just to work up enough nerve to pick up the phone). Although I’ve never been afraid of public speaking, stapling bacon to my face seemed preferable to that first call. I suppose for some people the fear goes away after the first few dials. Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of them.

So how did I go from cold-call terror to telemarketing manager? Although there are a ton of programs you can buy or seminars you can attend on effective cold-calling, they won’t do you any good if you can’t even get yourself to pick up the phone. In a minute, I’ll tell you how to get the all training you need to overcome your fear—without costing you a dime. But first, let me tell you a story …

It Only Hurts until the Pain Goes Away

I have a neatly-stacked pile of boxes in my basement that have been there since we moved (some of which I’d like to keep, but most of which my wife would like me to get rid of). I know that if I start tearing into those boxes to sort through them, I’m going to end up with more of a mess than I already have. That’s the pain I’m avoiding … despite the fact that I know my basement will be less cluttered in the long run.

Whenever you make a change or try something new, you will experience pain. This is the period when things seem to get worse before they begin to get better.

I suppose it’s human nature to endure a long, dull ache rather than face the sharp pain of change—even when there’s a long-term benefit on the other side.

Like sticking with Vista even though you know Windows 7 would be faster and easier, because you’re afraid that switching would require too much time and effort (or even bothering to stick with Windows at all when a Mac would be … well, you get the picture).

Or suffering through lousy service from your cable T.V. provider even though satellite is better and cheaper, because switching is too much of a hassle.

Or continuing with your current marketing plan (or lack thereof) because cold-calling means you may fumble and embarrasses yourself on the phone—even though you know once you master it, you will get more face-to-face client meetings, gain confidence, and (best of all) make more money.

Okay, I promised to reveal my secret to getting all the free training you need to become the cold-calling pro you always wanted to be. But be warned … you probably won’t like it (and most of you probably won’t do it). Ready? Here’s my secret …

Get a part-time job at a call center.

See, I told you that you wouldn’t like it.

When I quit my web business in 2006 and needed something quick to keep the bills paid, that’s exactly what I did. I worked a late afternoon to evening shift, got trained for free, learned how to sound completely natural while reading a script, and had no choice but to pick up the phone and dial. Do that for a few months and you’ll no longer be afraid of cold-calling.

I promise it will hurt less than stapling bacon to your face.

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  • Phil T

    Loved this series!

    As someone who’s recently made the leap to freelancer, Cold Calling is one of those things that I know I should be doing / trying but have been dreading it and doing anything but picking up that phone (which is strange as I’ve done plenty of door-can & tele-can in a past life in sales). Procrastination has reigned supreme.

    I think these posts have given me enough of a kick up the @rse to move forwards on it. It may not work, but then I wont know if I don’t try. So thanks for this post series – great timing.

  • TexasBob

    Really? Get a crappy job shilling term life insurance to old people? That is you answer?

    What a cop out. You couldn’t have been very good at telemarketing general products on a phone bank– if you were you’d be making bank and have already found a nice fishtank to put where your soul used to be.

    Seriously– there is a lot to say about the subject, and I have sales people to train. I even told one of them about your article. Bad idea on my part.

    Cold calling does work, bu it takes a commitment to acting the part and a willingness to look a the numbers instead of listening to one or two leads. It takes strategy and guts.

    Both of which are sorely lacking in this article.

    Hooray for having a “content development strategy” rather than content. I’ll know better next time than to recommend a sitepoint article. “Just do it a bunch on a product you don’t care about” is crappy advice.

    • Bob

      Okay, you make some good points. However, the point of this article is how to get over cold-calling-phobia, not how to make a great phone sales pitch. That would be another article, and one that would be welcomed by quite a few of us who don’t know what the heck we are doing.

      • John Tabita

        I’ll cover some step-by-step basics in an upcoming post and point you towards some additional resources to get you up to speed.

    • John Tabita

      Really? You have sales people to train, so you tell them to read my post, and then blame me for not providing quality content?

      My advice was intended to help self-employed web designers who lack sales experience get some on-the-job training … rather than spending money on a training program they’ll be too chicken to even try. And what better way to get sales experiences than to get a sales job?

      As Bob pointed out in his comment above, the purpose of this series was to encourage those who hadn’t considered cold-calling to give it a try, to help them overcome their fear, and point them in the right direction – not a “how to” tutorial.

      Yes, it takes commitment, strategy, and guts to make a go of this. I’ve been holding one-hour training sessions three days a week for over a month to bring my lead generators up to speed … and we still have more ground to cover. So even if I do write more about the topic, covering it completely is beyond the scope of a few blog posts.

  • Daniel Nordstrom

    Hello,
    That’s actually exactly what I did. I had a horrible phone-fobia, so I took a job at a tech support call center that was constantly busy most days. The next 9-10 months I was on the phone for about 6-7 hours per day, 5 days per week.

    And guess what? It helped. So it’s indeed a great recommendation!

    Best regards,
    Daniel Nordstrom
    Nintera(ctive)
    b: mrnordstrom.com
    w: nintera.com
    tw: @mrnordstrom

  • Domo

    Thanks for restoring my faith in cold calling as a viable strategy for prospecting. I often doubt if my efforts are worth the investment of time and labor but you’ve reminded me that all it takes is a few successes to justify that investment.

    • John Tabita

      “…all it takes is a few successes to justify that investment.”

      You’re right. The average-to-good sales person only closes about 20 percent of the people he talks to. That means you can fail 80 percent of the time and still make a good living.

      The only other job I know of like that is a weather forecaster … where you can be wrong 80 percent of the time and still keep your job.

  • TexasBob

    “So even if I do write more about the topic, covering it completely is beyond the scope of a few blog posts.”

    Fair enough.

  • Marc

    I read smashing magazine and I can tell you that their articles are about 100 times better than sitepoint.

    Telling people to get a job as telemarketer is absolutely ridiculous. I used to read this website a lot, but now it’s just filled of poor quality posts like this one.

    I’m presuming this reply won’t get published.

    • http://www.onsman.com Ricky Onsman

      Thanks for enlightening us, Marc.

      Clearly, not everyone shares your view.

      • Marc

        Wow, my comment did get posted.

        Ricky are you saying that not everyone shares my view in regards to the quality of posts at sitepoint? or that smashing magazine have better posts?

        I find that there seems to be no quality control on the posts at sitepoint. It’s good that people can write posts and this website is give lots of web developers a voice, but it just seems to be a lucky dip with what you’re going to get (you definitely can’t go by the headings of each post here)

        The best thing about this site is that it is Australian.

      • http://www.onsman.com Ricky Onsman

        Marc, I’ll try to be clearer.

        “are you saying that not everyone shares my view in regards to the quality of posts at sitepoint? or that smashing magazine have better posts?”

        I’m saying the comments on this page clearly show that not everyone agrees with your assessment of the advice in this article.

        I’m saying that both SitePoint and Smashing Mag have articles that appeal to some people and not others. We’re not in competition. In fact, we share the same goals and sometimes work together.

        I’m saying that when you use hyperbole (“about 100 times”? Really? Did you use a calculator?), lousy punctuation (ever heard of capitalization?) and grammar that descends to “filled of poor quality posts”, you make yourself a target for exactly the criticism you’re dishing out.

        “I find that there seems to be no quality control on the posts at sitepoint.”

        The authors of our articles are professionals in their fields. We pay them to produce quality articles and we pay professionals to edit their work. You might disagree with the content, but we have confidence in our authors’ skills, and we’ll stand by the expressions of their point of view, even if you – or I – disagree with them.

        “The best thing about this site is that it is Australian.”

        And yet SitePoint is staffed by people from all over the world, publishes authors from every continent and addresses a (very large) global audience.

        You’re welcome to add your views through comments on particular articles, Marc – as long as they’re not going to get us into legal or ethical trouble – but be aware that others will comment on your comments. That back-and-forth defines SitePoint as much as the articles themselves do.

        I suggest you enjoy SitePoint for what it is. You won’t agree with every article – and I hope you’ll tell us why. However, telling us we’re not as good as another publisher doesn’t really achieve anything.

    • http://smallbusinessmarketingsucks.blogspot.com/ John Tabita

      I have to agree with Ricky. Telling me that my advice is “absolutely ridiculous” without offering a sound, reasonable argument as to why you think so is not very helpful.

      I have no problem when someone disagrees with me. In fact, I enjoy the back-and-forth. If you see things otherwise, tell me why, and maybe I’ll change my thinking, or at least learn something from your point-of-view. What astounds me are the personal attacks. In the three short posts on cold-calling, I’ve been told that I have no soul, that the people I train are bottom-feeders, and been compared to companies who build factories in underdeveloped countries, poisoning the water table and causing cancer in the local populace. Very helpful, indeed.

  • Tristan

    Good advice. For me, I did a lot of work as an economist surveying businesses around the world. That certainly helped with cold-calling training in terms of overcoming the hesitation to just pick up the phone and speak to people.

  • Stevie D

    The first step before getting a job cold calling is to sell your karma to the highest bidder, because you won’t have any further use for it…

  • Janice Schwarz

    I’ve never done cold calls because it seems like a poor way to spend my time and get clients. Personally, I never do business with anyone who tries to sell me something by phone. So I figure I may not care to work with the kind of client that buys from people who call them (I kind of assume all their money is tied up with Nigerian princes too). That and I figure this is probably not a very effective way to obtain new clients.

    That said, I do see the odd article (such as this one) that advocates it. But I have yet to see:
    Have you made decent money with this approach?
    Consistently?
    How much of your income arrives via cold call?
    Are the clients you obtain this way the kind you enjoy working with?
    Do you do cold calls exclusively or are there are sales and advertising and marketing you do to?
    Basically, can anyone tell us why we should be doing this and give us some good info as to how well it works in this field? Can anyone who advocates cold calling just share a little about how it works in their own business?

    Would love to see articles addressing those kinds of things down the line.

    Otherwise, I’d still rather staple bacon to my face (only because cold calling strikes me as a horrible waste of time). I would assume I’m wrong since you’re giving telling us how to get up and go do it…would just love to see more details on that. :-)

    • http://smallbusinessmarketingsucks.blogspot.com/ John Tabita

      Janice,

      In the previous installment of this series, I said that successful marketing is not about having that one “magic bullet,” but about finding the right mix of marketing tools that work for you and for your type of business. I wouldn’t advocate cold-calling or any other marketing activity being the only one you do.

      What began to open my eyes after my first failed attempt was a few fellow SitePointers telling me they use it successfully. One said that it was the primary was he gets new clients.

      Today, I know it works because I run a department of lead generators that bring in a significant amount of new business each month from the appointments they set for our sales reps.

      Can you make it work for yourself? That depends how willing you are to learn to do it right. Many people try and fail because they do it wrong, then conclude that it doesn’t work … just like I did on my first go at it.

      As to someone telling you why you should be doing this … if you’re happy with the level of business you currently have, I can’t think of any reason in the world why you’d subject yourself to it …

      On the other hand, if you want more business and the things you’re currently doing aren’t quite cutting it … well, what more reason do you need?

      • Janice Schwarz

        Thanks for the feedback. Good to see how it’s working out for you.

        What you describe, trying it and deciding it doesn’t work and quitting, is common in so many areas of marketing and advertising. I often see people get things wrong and decide “this doesn’t work” and then hop to another project that will be poorly implemented.

        I didn’t even see the previous article since it had been a while since I’d been over to sitepoint. I’ll check it out. We may need to consider adding this to our current efforts.