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Hate calling strangers? Here’s how I overcame the fear of “cold calling”

Calling someone over the phone has become a daily routine in our lives. I remember when I was in grade 2 or 3 or 4 (because I don’t remember) my father used to travel 5km to use the payphone. It took him more than 2 hours to call someone and return home. I haven’t seen a payphone since I don’t know when.

Now that we’ve all got smartphones, making a call has become so trivial.

My objective is not to teach you how to make calls because I’m sure you have already figured that out! I want to share the story of how I overcame the fear of cold calling.

What is cold calling?

If you’ve ever worked on a sales job, I’m sure you have heard the term cold calling by now. This is one of those sleazy sales things that most salespeople hate doing! People say you need to be passionate about what you’re doing but I am yet to meet anyone who’s passionate about cold calling.

Simply put, cold calling is calling strangers over the phone and getting them to do what you desire. It may be to get an appointment with a client, asking someone to purchase your product, asking someone to sponsor your charity or anything that’s related to asking something from someone over the phone.

In a time where every one of us is a salesman (we’re selling something to someone every day), cold calling can be a great skill to master. If you’re great at cold calling, you’ll be able to convince the person on the other end to do what you want them to do.

In a cold calling situation, generally, it’s your first time speaking with the other person. Now for some people, this ability comes naturally because of various reasons. But for people like me, it can be a nightmare. My second job as a Marketing Executive at TNL Radio carried me into many uncharted waters and cold calling was one of them.

Cold Calling

Basically, my job role was to meet the marketing heads of Sri Lankan companies and ask them to advertise with us. Now if you have realized, getting an appointment with a marketing head is difficult as it sounds!

First I had to find the relevant person’s number. Then I had to circle around the office for 6 times before I even had the courage to dial the number! Then the receiving end person had to suffer for about 10 seconds listening to my trembling and choking voice before they ask me to call later!

At first, I rarely got an appointment. I used to make about 20 calls per day and 1 might ask me to call on a different day. That was it! I was tormented. I didn’t know what to do. My girlfriend had to listen to my nagging for days and days. I was simply afraid of calling strangers.

If you are going through this phase, don’t worry. I’ve been there. There are people like you and me. No; you’re not adopted and no; you’re not an alien!

But things have changed since then. Am I afraid of calling strangers now? Yes, but I feel the fear and do it anyway! Do I get appointments now? Hell yeah! This guide is about the tips and hacks I have learned to master cold calling.

Forget the language barrier

In Sri Lanka, the default corporate language is English. If you are not fluent in English, you may feel that you’re inferior to others who speak better than you. This was a problem for me. I was afraid and too self-conscious to speak with people who spoke English better than me (especially the ladies). It took me a long time to get over this fear.

Let me tell you for once that English is not our mother tongue. Some were privileged enough to be born in an English speaking culture while for others like me, we had to work on our English speaking skills. Some days, you make mistakes. But that’s ok. Most of the time, the other person would understand. If the other person humiliates you for making a mistake, then that person is a butt-hole and you don’t want to deal with a person like that anyways.

Joining a Toastmasters club is the best decision I’ve made so far when it comes to speaking in English. You can do the same. Choose a club and give them a call. Some clubs are open for everybody while others require you in their circle of operation. You can check out Toastmasters clubs by clicking here.

Practice is the key

The more practice you have the better you will get. Here’s a trick I used to practice cold calling with strangers. Grab the office phone (if you are broke) and start speaking to customer service centers. It can be your mobile connectivity provider or a credit card center. Call them and ask stupid questions (Make sure to always choose English as your preferred language).

One time, I was on a call with an HSBC customer service officer for more than 40 minutes. Ask them to explain how they calculate the interest for credit cards. I can guarantee that you will have enough and more practice with this question! (hint: even they have no idea how it is calculated!)

Face cold calling as a game

Consider calling as a game. If you called 3 contacts today, make it 4 calls tomorrow. If you win it’s good. If you lose, you can try again.

Make it more challenging. If you call an assistant manager, try and contact the head of marketing next time.

Dedicate a separate time of the day

This is a superb tactic I learned online. Always have a separate time for cold calling. During this period, do not do anything but cold calling. An hour is ideal. During this hour, just grab those numbers and keep dialing. It is ideal to do this first thing in the morning. But be concerned about the other person’s schedule.

Just ask for it!

Sometimes we go on talking about unwanted things without actually asking what we want. If you want an appointment, just ask for it. If you want to sell a product, ask them whether they want it or not. Remember. Your goal is to get them to do what you want. Do not deviate from your goal.

Write it down

I know a friend who writes the dialogue on a piece of paper before picking up the phone. This will ensure that you will stick with your objective. There is no shame there. Your goal is to get things done. It does not matter how you get them done. So write down the conversation that may follow. In time to come, you may not need the paper.

They will never see your face

Calling is not like asking for that sale face-to-face. The party on the other end will never see your face. So even if you sucked balls, they will never know who called them. So relax. Just dial and let the magic happen.

Know who the decision maker is

This is one of those things that took me a long time to figure out.

I used to speak with anyone who was willing to listen to me. That was usually the executives and assistant managers of the marketing department. But in almost every company, the ultimate decision is made by the marketing manager or someone who is even higher.

Usually what happened was, I would somehow get an appointment with the assistant manager and meet them. I would pitch for them. They would be really happy and that was it. When I followed up, they said that the manager didn’t like it or some excuse the getaway!

Why did this happen? Because after my pitch, the assistant manager had to pitch the same to her manager. And obviously, she doesn’t know enough about my product to convince her superior.

Ultimately everything comes down to your fear. Even if you are employed or run your own startup, you need to call strangers for various reasons. Cold calling is a great skill that you need in life. What stands between you and your dreams is FEAR. So master it by doing what you are afraid of. Keep on calling them strangers.

Did you learn something from this post? Then add a comment and let me know. If you know anyone who’s struggling to make cold calls, share this post with them. You can click any share button on this article to share it on your favorite social media.

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Nishan De Silva

Nishan is the founder of He is a Blogger, YouTuber, Coach, Speaker, and Entrepreneur.

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