My First Cold Call

I was 19 years old when I started in the family business. I was hired to help start the light industrial division of a temporary staffing company.

I reported to Angie. Angie was a smoker at a time when people still smoked in their offices. As she spoke to me, she occasionally stopped to take a drag from her cigarette, and then she blew the smoke across the desk and into my face. No one talked about second-hand smoke then.

Angie handed me the company’s sales training. It was a tiny, little binder that held 3 x 5 index cards. Each card was one section of a cold calling script. The last couple cards covered the language you might use to overcome objections. Angie gave me my training by telling me to call companies that might use temporaries and use the script to set appointments.

I picked up the phone book and flipped through some pages having no idea how to tell whether a company was worth calling. Not having any better ideas, I picked up the phone and dialed a number. A gruff voice greeted me on the other end and gave me his name.

I read the first card into the phone, “Hi, sir, this is Sam Iannarino with . . .” I wasn’t too many words past the first line of the script when my very randomly selected prospective client said, “You’re reading a script. Call me back when you don’t need a script.” And without saying another word, he hung up his phone.

Angie wasn’t around, so I called my Mom and her business partner to ask them what I do when someone hangs up on me. They said, “You pick up the phone, and you call right back.” I was a trying to be a good employee; I did what I was told.

I called back and said, “Listen. It’s my first day here. I was told to use the script. I am calling to schedule an appointment to come and speak with you about using temporary employees, and I’m not using the script.” My prospect said, “Alright. Come on out and tell me what you’ve got.” That was it.

The randomly chosen prospect was my first cold call and my first client.

What impact did any of it have on my career? Why does it matter to anyone trying to learn about how to be better at sales?

For one, I’ll never forget how awkward and disappointing that first call was, and how totally out of my depth I felt. And I’ll never forget how it felt when I called back and got the yes. The moral of the story:  have no fear; call back; ask for what you want.

Of course, I had a lot to learn about overcoming fear, writing a killer script, and what would become my two objections rule. I was a young, green salesperson, but I learned some big lessons on that first call, and would continue to learn with each rejection I got.

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