cold calling techniques

Aiming for the Right Target

Your main contact within the company will depend greatly on the size and structure of the company and your personal timing. For those companies with large, well-established entry-level hiring programs, there may be one or more persons focused solely on hiring you.

While it is almost always more difficult to locate and contact the hiring manager than to simply make contact with someone in Human Resources, in the long run, it pays to put forth the extra effort. Contacting HR is what everyone does. So if you join the party, you merely join the competition in targeting a department whose primary task is to screen you out-your odds for success will likely be quite low. But direct contact with the hiring manager is golden. You are actually talking to a person who can hire you.

The Mailing List Update Technique

An excellent way to establish both the name and title of the hiring manager is the Mailing List Update Technique. Simply call the company switchboard and say:

Hi, I am updating my mailing list. Are you still at 123 North Main Street? And your zip code is still 54321? And what is the name of the manager of your -- department? Could you please spell it? And what is that person's title? And is there a direct extension? Thank you for your time.

If the switchboard operator asks who is calling, just give your name and nothing else. If the operator asks what the call is in reference to or what you are gathering this information for, you should respond with:

I am updating my mailing list for sending correspondence to this person, and I would like to make sure the name and spelling are correct.

About 50 percent of the time this simple approach will get you all the basic information you need. But you will also find some professional screeners out there who will make their best effort to keep you from stealing the company secrets.

The Everyone Loves to Hear Their Own Name Technique. If, per chance, the Guardian of the Gate uses her own name in answering the phone, reply, "Oh, hello, ---, this is ---. May I speak with ---?" The sound of her own name is disarming and will often send you through to your target contact.

The Ad Infinitum Call-Waiting Technique. If you are told that your target contact is on the phone, simply reply, "Oh, that's fine. Will you please put me through as soon as that call is completed?"

If the Guardian of the Gate says it may be awhile or that she already has other calls waiting, reply, "Oh, that's okay-I don't mind holding. I'll be working on some papers while I'm on hold."

The Importance of this Call Technique. The classic screening line from the Guardian of the Gate is: "May I ask what this call is regarding?"

If you are calling based on a referral, you can either reply: "--- asked me to call ---" or "This is a personal call" (if the referral is personal, not professional).

Otherwise, the best overall reply is: "I was informed that I needed to get in touch with --- directly."

The reply may sound nebulous at best-but amazingly, it often works. A truly astute Guardian of the Gate, however, will follow with "Regarding what?" to which you reply, "I was advised to only discuss this matter directly with ---."

The Better than Leaving a Message Technique. Instead of leaving a message with a hiring manager (who may have no idea who you are), it may be better to reply:

I may be difficult to reach today. Could you give me a time when it would be best to reach --?

Then let the person know you will call back and ask if they would please let the hiring manager know you will be calling at that time. You are much more likely to get through.

The Best Time to Call Technique. This is closely related to the previous technique. If the Guardian of the Gate tells you that your target contact is in a meeting, out of the office, or otherwise unavailable, reply:

When do you think -- would be available to take a call?

If they say the target contact is busy, ask for an approximate time. Tell them your name (only) and let them know you will call at that time. Then make sure you do.

The Voicemail Messaging Technique.

Hi, (target's first name), this is (your first name/last name). I can be reached at (your phone number) between -- and -- today. I look forward to talking with you then.

The only modification of this is when you are calling based on a direct referral. Your message would then be:

Hi, (target's first name), this is (your first name/last name). (Referral name) asked me to call you. I can be reached at (your phone number) between -- and -- today. I look forward to talking with you then.

Then hang up. Short and sweet. This is not the time to give your full life story from the birth canal to present. You merely need to set the hook for a callback, nothing more, nothing less. If you make the mistake of making your "pitch" on phone mail, you will lose your chance to respond to their specific needs. With minimal information given, the manager will feel obligated to return the call. Who knows? You may be a customer or supplier phoning them. Chances are good that they will at least attempt to return the phone call.

-Executive Body