Colleagues and clients ask why people share information so readily with me, especially when cold calling. The first secret is that I like people and have a cooperative attitude. This encourages a good connection almost as soon as we start talking. Preparation, even for cold calling, or should I say especially for cold calling, is essential since the other person has no incentive to talk to you until you provide it clearly and quickly.
The first thing I do when I get a collection assignment is to learn the language and jargon of the industry I am targeting. I figure out the habits and challenges of the workers I will speak to. For example in one project I had to interview hospital employees to learn what equipment they had installed, and how old it was, so we could do some forecasting. I learned the pain points these employees faced as well as the problems that this equipment solved. This made getting the information relatively easy, since they were sharing what equipment they had installed as part of the overall picture of their situation.
The second thing is to figure out who knows the information you are looking for. Who else cares? Who knows and doesn’t realize the value of this knowledge or care enough to keep it a secret. For example, in this hospital project, I figured out which department would know this information. Once I was forwarded through the switchboard, someone always answered the phone. The biggest enemy these days is that people hide behind their caller ID enabled telephones, and might not pick up your call. However, if you’re transferred in through a switchboard, often your identity is masked.
Before I pick up the phone, I have all my questions and conversations organized, since I don’t want to stumble or waste time. Most importantly I have several introductions prepared, and when I hear their “Hello” I decide which one might work, or I go a different direction. There is a lot of art to phone interviewing, and listening for how the person “is” goes far beyond their voice.
I think long and hard about what questions the other person might ask me about who I am and why I am calling. If you are thoughtful about this, you can listen more closely to the other person. This is key to a good interview, since conversations often don’t go as planned. You listen for what they say and what they omit, which you had expected them to know.
I find if I am thorough in my preparation, I am more relaxed, and can listen fully since I am not panicking about what I should ask next. I can also think of other angles and questions right on the spot which I hadn’t considered, since the other person’s comments may trigger them or cause me to doubt something I thought I had already correctly collected which their answer contradicts.
Remember preparation is a key step to a successful interview, but it is just the start. In future blogs, I will share other important steps.