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Three unique strategies to make cold calling more palatable

This is an article about cold calling. I share some tactics you can use to stay engaged and improve the experience overall. It’s great. However, before I talk about that, I want to talk about something else: vegetables. 

For much of my adult life I was convinced I simply did not like vegetables. It’s not an uncommon position. In fact, only 10% of American adults get their recommended daily amount (remember the food pyramid?) 

In my early adult years my oldest brother, Zach, was a vegetarian. As a lazy college student, I regularly ate leftovers from meals he prepared. Sometimes it was standard fare but other times he’d make these very inventive vegetable dishes that were incredible

Though I enjoyed the dishes, I was convinced I wasn’t capable of making such masterpieces. He was Gordon Ramsey, and I would burn cereal if it were possible. Eventually, as life goes, Zach moved away to grad school and my vegetable whisperer was no longer available. 

A while down the road, and many mediocre steamed bags of vegetables later, I made a discovery: roasted vegetables. They were delicious, and even better, borderline foolproof to make. Worried about burning them? Guess what, that’s kind of the point. Not good at measuring stuff? No worries, there’s hardly anything to measure. No full size oven? Not a problem, you can use a toaster oven. 

It was a revelation and a lesson. The what (vegetables) wasn’t the issue, the how (my approach) and my belief (I’m bad at cooking) were. Which is all to say I think cold calling and vegetables aren’t all that different. For both, your process, how you approach them, and your mindset about each, makes all the difference in the world. 

Gamify the process

If you’re not familiar with the idea of gamification, it’s pretty simple. Basically, you take a task and then add a game element to it. Companies like Code Academy and Duolingo are built on the idea of gamification. Generally speaking, gamification is mostly used as an educational tool, but other segments, like sales, are starting to see the benefits, too.  

In James Clear’s book Atomic Habits, he tells the story of a twenty three year-old stockbroker who was able to go from nothing to bringing in $5 million dollars a year for his bank in just 18 months. His secret weapon? Paperclips. 

Each morning he’d put two jars on his desk. One jar was filled with 120 paperclips, and the other empty. Each time he made a call he’d move a paperclip from the full jar to the empty one until he had moved all of them over. It’s as rudimentary a game as there is, but it does give an additional element to the otherwise mundane task. 

In my own personal experience, at my first sales job, my boss set up a little gong and each time we made a sale, we got to hit it. As silly as it sounds, sometimes it was the extra motivation I needed. Not because I was particularly enamored with hitting the gong, but the more I heard others hit it, the more I felt like I wanted to step up my own game to match theirs. It added a competitive element. It became a game. 

In both cases, that one extra element made the difference, and both are something anyone can do. If you’re interested in a more sophisticated gamification process, there are a number of software options on the market (Hurrah! is one specifically for sales teams). 

Spread it out

Doing 100 pushups in a day sounds like a lot, right? What about doing five pushups every 45 minutes? Well, assuming you’re awake for 15 hours in a day, five pushups every 45 minutes means you’d do 100 by the end of the day. 

The above example is based on an idea called “chunking.” The basic premise is you take a large thing and break it down into smaller, more digestible pieces. It’s something we do regularly. Phone numbers are a great example. Instead of remembering 10 individual numbers, we remember three chunks. 

Using that same process, you can split up the number of calls you have to do in a day to make it less stressful. So, instead of thinking about doing 50 calls a day, think about doing seven calls an hour (that would equal 49 in a day). 

Not only does it make the whole process less intimidating, it also creates little milestones. They’re basically micro goals you can cross off throughout your day. Interestingly, science shows checking off tasks actually improves your overall motivation. So, the benefit you get from splitting up the task is twofold. 

Update your perspective

We all know the phrase, “you are what you eat.” The old adage suggests that the type of things you consume have a direct impact on how you feel. It turns out this isn’t only true of what we eat, but also what we think. 

In Shawn Achor’s book The Happiness Advantage, he references a study done by Harvard. In the study participants played Tetris for multiple hours a day over three days. After the study concluded participants couldn’t stop seeing the world through Tetris-tinted glasses. 

Some had recurring dreams about blocks falling from the sky. For others, buildings, bricks, and things of the like, suddenly became Tetris blocks. Their extended playing time primed, and momentarily rewired, their brains to look for Tetris patterns. What they consumed impacted them profoundly, and it hardly took any time at all. 

The same holds true for how we perceive our work. The more negativity we encounter, the more likely we are to see things that affirm that point-of-view. Luckily, the converse is true too. The more often we are positive, the more likely we are to find things to be positive about in the future. For something like cold calling, this can be very useful. 

So, what can you do to implement these principles? First, consider updating your language. Instead of saying, “I have to” say “I get to.” You could also refer to problem items as “areas of opportunity”. It may sound too simple to work, but it’s based on the idea of linguistic relativity (also referred to as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis). 

You might also consider adding in little pick-me-ups for less-than-awesome situations. For example, say the third person in a row just hung up on you, in that case maybe you listen to a favorite song of yours, or take a lap around the office. Adding in that layer of positivity can help take out some of the sting. It also helps you associate that negative experience with a positive outcome.  

Staying on track

Cold calling may never be your favorite part of your job, but it doesn’t have to be something you dread. Though it may not always seem like it, to some degree, it is a choice you make. It may be “easier said than done,” but remember it can, in fact, be done. 

So, do your best to get creative with your approach and stay mindful of your own behaviors, beliefs, and actions. Implement small changes where you can. And, remember, sometimes roasting your vegetables makes all the difference.  

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