Cold Calling for Introverts

In her book, The Introvert Advantage, Marty Olsen Laney talks about the defining moment when she embraced the fact that she was an introvert. It came in the form of a statement, "Oh, there's nothing wrong with me, I'm just an introvert!"

According to her research only 25% of people are introverted which leaves us the daunting task of dealing with the 75% extroverts of the world. And surprising as it seems, there are those of us who have, for one reason or another, chosen to make our living in sales.

Being in sales poses many problems for introverts but probably the biggest is the idea of making cold calls. Now before we look at cold calling for introverts let's look at the concept of cold calling itself a bit closer.

Sales guru, Jeffry Gitomer, says that cold calling is the least effective method of generating new sales. It interrupts the prospect, probably irritating them, and has a fairly low rate of return. Having said all that, cold calling is still needed and sometimes required of those of us in sales.

As an introvert I have always looked with envy at the ease with which an extrovert approaches cold calling. Because they dwell in the outside world (while many introverts find their reality in the inner world) they find it easier to pick up the phone and call. They are usually more outgoing naturally so conversation with strangers is easier. And, darn it, they also don't seem as affected by the inevitable rejection; seemingly able to shrug it off and move on to the next call.

Introverts will sometimes go to great lengths to avoid cold calling. First we have to plan who to call - who is most likely to be positive or at least neutral about our call? Then we have to make sure we have all our information together to handle any contingency that might come up - files, literature, scripts and anything else that might take 5 or 10 more minutes to find. Then we have to think about our prospect's schedule - we don't want to call too early or too late and, you know, everyone is too busy on Mondays and Fridays aren't a good day to call either.

Once we've exhausted every excuse we're left sitting looking at the phone. It's time to pick it up and call. Short of drugs, there's probably no way to completely eliminate the stress cold calling causes introverts. But let me lay out a technique that works for me; both reducing my stress and, surprisingly, producing good contacts and prospects.

As a caveat there is one aspect to this technique that may bother some people but give me until the end of the article to provide some explanation. The underlying assumption here is that someone in the business or company you are about to cold call could have requested information about your product or service. This assumption could include Internet inquiries, "bingo" cards in magazines, inbound 800 number calls, or any other way to request information. It doesn't mean that they actually did ask for information, only that they could have.

We begin by at least knowing what department or area of a business or company would usually be interested in our product. If you sell forms, which department uses those forms? If you sell advertising, would the marketing department be the logical place to start? If you're in industrial sales, which department mainly uses your goods or services?

Take a deep breath, pick up the phone and dial. If you get an automated attendant you can usually raise a "real" person by hitting "0" on your phone. When you get that real person say something like this, "Hello, my name is Joan Smith with ABC Company. I need to speak with someone in your ___ department (that department name being the one you previously identified). In 90% of calls they will connect you without comment. We'll deal with the other 10% in just a minute.

The phone will ring and your stress level will peak. Will someone answer or will you end up in voice mail - what you say next remains the same either way. When someone (or the message machine) answers say something like this. "Hello, my name is Bill Jones with ABC Company. I'm new in this position and as I was going through my predecessor's files I found a request for information from your company but it doesn't have a name on it. I didn't want to throw it away without at least trying to see if the information had been sent. Do you know of anyone who would have requested information on (your product or service)?"

And wait. They may ask for your company name again. They may ask for more information on the product or service you just mentioned in passing. But most of the time their reply takes one of the following forms.

"Well, that would have been (a name). Let me connect you to him - make sure you have a pen ready during this call." When you're connected to Bob (or his voice mail) repeat the thread above, that is, you've found a request for information with no name and you want to make sure that whoever requested the information got what they needed.

Sometimes, the person will say, "Well, that would have been me but I don't remember asking for information." No hostility, just puzzlement. Your response at that time is "As I said, this request doesn't have a name on it so it may not have come from you." Then you can give an abbreviated sales pitch by asking, "Are you already using (your product or service)?" A positive answer gives you the opportunity to ask if they are satisfied. A negative answer lets you ask if they would like to see information.

A third response you might get would be this, "Well, that would have probably come from Anne Adams and she's not here. Would you like her voice mail?" Your reply something like this, "Yes, please, but do you mind giving me Anne's email address as well? That way I can send her a link to our website just to be sure she gets the information requested." Again in most cases the person on the phone will give you their name, their email address, and maybe even this most coveted of responses, "You know, this is a timely call. We just brought a project off the back burner that uses (your product or service). Can you come by to meet with us?" For an introvert, this is the Holy Grail.

Let's back up a minute to the 10% of operators or receptionists that don't put you right through. They may ask, "Can I ask what this is concerning?" At this point I give a short version of my original thread, that I have a request for information from my company but no contact name and that I don't want to simply throw the request away. This will usually disarm the screener and get you a name or at least a ringing phone.

Those few that you get through to who say, "nope, wasn't me and we have no need for that" are the ones you let go with a brief apology and thanks. Don't let it rattle you.

Now back to the ethical question that this may raise for some of you. "I'm really telling a lie - no one asked for this information" and that is true. For some of you that point may eliminate you using this technique but first ask yourself this question. If you believe in your product or service, then you feel that the companies you call on can benefit from what you sell. If they knew they could benefit would they ask you for information? If they could and should have asked for this information that could benefit them AND if they were aware of your company, they would have asked, wouldn't they?

So using this line of reasoning you can make the jump to the idea that they would have asked if they'd known to ask. So you are simply making them aware by your call.

I realize this is rationalizing - but 90% of the people with whom I have used this technique are polite, interested, and give me excellent information. And many of them have benefited from the information I give them. And the alternative is to grit your teeth, call a receptionist, stumble through an explanation of who you are and what you're selling, hope they don't tell you to call purchasing, or put you through to someone who doesn't want to talk to a sales person AND who is in an irritable mood today.

What makes this approach less stressful to the introvert? For whatever reason it is easier for me to call someone who first called me. If they called me first then they must be open to talking with me and I find this an easier call to make. This technique simply assumes that the person you're talking to would have called you if they had known of the benefits of your product or service.

So give it a try - call a couple of people who might have asked for your information. Offer them the chance to really see your information. Then go lie down for about 10 minutes to let the stress go away. After all, we still are introverts!

Hal Warfield is a speaker, teacher and coach. Write him at [email protected]. Or read additional self-development and business articles at

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