Monthly Archives: June 2012

5 Ways to Make Your Cold Calls More Effective

No one likes making cold calls.  No one ever wakes up in the morning thinking, “Wow – what a great day to call up random strangers and ask them to buy something from me!”

But unfortunately, cold calls are often a necessary part of business.  So why not take steps to make them as effective as possible?  The following are some of my favorite tips for improving the quality of your cold calls:

Tip #1 – Refine your goals

Effective cold calling requires that you have a specific goal action in mind that you’d like the person on the other end of the line to take.  If you aren’t operating with a stated goal, there’s simply no way to tell if you’re converting an appropriate number of contacts into customers or if all your efforts are going to waste.

However, when it comes to setting your goal action, it’s best to avoid asking for the sale while on the line.  Instead, come up with a less intimidating action – like setting up an appointment, agreeing to receive marketing materials or signing up for a newsletter list – that’s more likely to result in successful calls.

Tip #2 – Better target your prospects

Do you remember the scene in “The Pursuit of Happyness” where Will Smith’s character is asked to go down a list of names and call each and every person on the page?

Don’t be that guy!

One of the biggest factors in the success of your cold calls is how well you’re targeting the people you’re contacting.  If you’re seeing a low success rate with your communications, it could be that you’re delivering your pitch to the wrong people.  Spend some time analyzing your existing business model in order to identify key characteristics that your current customers have in common that can be used to target future prospects.

Tip #3 – Ask for help

Once you get on the phone with a targeted contact, one of the best ways to secure buy-in from your prospect is to ask for help in some way.  To see this in action, consider the two following statements:

“Hi Mr. So-and-so.  My name is Mike Smith and I’d like to tell you more about how my new line of products can dramatically improve your bottom line.”


“Hi Mr. So-and-so.  My name is Mike Smith and I’m hoping you can help me.  I’m looking for business owners who want to improve their bottom lines – does that sound like you’d be interested in?”

By asking prospects to help with something, you’re taking advantage of a part of basic human psychology that compels us to assist others who are in need.  Even if no formal offer of help has been given, the simple act of implying that help is needed is often enough to trigger this connection.  When used properly in the context of sales communications, this technique can be incredibly effective!

Tip #4 – Time your calls correctly

Take a second to picture yourself at work at 4:00pm on a Friday afternoon.  How productive are you being?  And based on that image, how receptive do you think you’d be to receiving cold calls with the promise of the upcoming weekend looming over your shoulders?

In general, the best times to schedule your cold calls are between 8:30-10:00am (use the local time of the business you’re targeting), Tuesday through Thursday.  Avoid both Mondays and Fridays, as both of these days tend to have their own productivity hang-ups – for obvious reasons!

In addition, making your calls early in the morning (but not so early that you catch people while they’re still getting their coffee and getting settled in) has two benefits.  First, you’ll be more likely to capture a prospects’ attention before he’s tied up in daily meetings and projects.  At the same time, calling early will give you the best odds at beating the corporate gatekeepers who could otherwise limit access to the people you need to reach.

Tip #5 – Develop rapport with your prospects

Part of the problem that business prospects have with receiving cold calls is the misconception that all salespeople operate like the snake-oil selling, used car dealers stereotypes that pervade pop culture.  For this reason, developing a disarming appeal that instantly builds rapport with your potential customers can go a long way towards improving your cold calling results.

So how do you do this?

First, come up with a cold call pitch that focuses on how your prospect will benefit from taking action with your company.  Removing yourself from the process entirely in order to speak to your future customer’s unique wants and needs makes you instantly more relatable.

At the same time, work on your vocal inflections.  Don’t speak to quickly and aim for modest, humble tones that don’t give the impression you’ve given your pitch 1,000 times already.  Practice giving your sales pitch with a smile on your face and your warmth will shine through to your prospect, increasing your chances of closing the deal.

Do you have to make cold calls as a part of your job?  If so, share any other tips you’ve developed for making this communications as effective as possible in the comments section below!

Controlling Your Anger: What You Need to Know

Are you an angry person?  Do you find yourself experiencing anger frequently as the result of frustrations in your life?  Does this anger ever cause you to take actions you later wind up regretting or to alienate the people you’re close to?

If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, you might have an anger problem!

Anger itself is a normal human response to negative stimuli.  But when this reaction is left unchecked, it can do serious damage to your relationships and to your personal brand.

Fortunately, it is possible to take control of your anger through a combination of techniques.  The reality is that anger isn’t an uncontrollable process – it’s a habit that we’ve allowed ourselves to get into for dealing with unpleasant experiences.  And just like any of the other habits in our lives, it’s one that can be changed with patience and concerted effort!

So if you’re tired of feeling like your temper is always getting the best of you, consider any of the following anger management techniques:

Technique #1 – Identify and avoid your anger triggers

Because we can think of anger as a habit we’ve developed (rather than a biological response we have no control over), it’s also possible to identify the specific elements in our lives that trigger anger.  Knowing what your specific triggers are is an important part of learning how to cope effectively in an unpredictable, often-stressful world.

Just as an example, many people struggle with road rage, which can produce anger through a wide variety of triggers, such as being cut off or being stuck behind a slow driver.

Once you’ve identified your own anger triggers, take the necessary steps to avoid these situations.  In this case, as a driver, you can choose to leave a wider cushion between your car and other vehicles to minimize the chances of being cut off, or you can choose to travel on roads with multiple lanes to avoid feeling trapped behind others.

Technique #2 – Map out better approaches to dealing with triggers

Of course, no matter how conscientious you are, you’ll never be able to avoid every single one of your anger triggers – that is, unless you stay inside your house all day with no exposure to other people!

For this reason, it’s important to have other coping mechanisms in your toolbox that allow you to diffuse tension on the fly as needed.  One way to do this is to map out better responses to the unavoidable triggers that provoke you to anger.

Start by listing out the anger triggers in your life that you’re unable to avoid.  Road rage triggers meet this criteria, as do frustrations you encounter at home or in the workplace.  Next, in a separate column beside your list of triggers, take a few seconds to write out why you feel angry in response to these situations.

Continuing with our previous example, if one of your unavoidable anger triggers is being cut off in traffic, you might write, “I feel angry because the other driver acts like he’s more important than me.”

Chances are you’ll find that some of your responses sound pretty silly.  That’s why the final step in the process is to come up with alternative approaches to dealing with these triggers.  In our driving example, a better response to the frustration of being cut off might be something like, “I can choose not to get angry when I’m cut off in traffic because it’s more important to me to be safe.”

Technique #3 – Develop an anger mantra

One final technique to consider when it comes to anger management is the development of your own personal anger mantra.  We’ve discussed the power of affirmations on this site before, and while they might not work well in all circumstances, having a set saying you can repeat to yourself in times of anger and frustration can be quite calming.

There are a couple of things you’ll want to keep in mind about anger as you’re developing your own mantra:

  • Everyone in the world is human – just like you!  Just as you make mistakes or say stupid things, other people do as well.  Choosing patience in light of other peoples’ failings instead of anger is an important part of treating others the way you’d like to be treated.
  • Getting angry hurts you, as well as others.  Experiencing anger results in physical symptoms of illness, including increased blood pressure and higher cortisol levels.  When you allow yourself to choose anger as a response, you’re inflicting harm on yourself (in addition to the harm you cause others as a result of your actions).
  • No one can “make” you angry.  You have the power to choose anger as a response, just as you have the power to let frustrating situations go in order to maintain your own mental health and sanity.

With these factors in mind, create your own anger mantra that can be repeated during times of stress.  For example, getting in the habit of saying something like, “I am in control of my feelings and choose to let go of anger,” whenever you find yourself getting angry can provide the mental stimulus needed to alter your behavior towards healthier, anger-free practices.


How to Master Making Good First Impressions

It sounds cliché, but you really only do have once chance to make a first impression.  And although you might be sick to death of hearing your parents spout this platitude, the reality is that your network and connections can make or break you in this competitive business world.  In general, you’ll find it’s a lot easier to form the relationships you need in order to be successful if you’ve taken steps to ensure a good first impression – rather than having to compensate for a bad beginning!

If you aren’t having any luck when it comes to networking and contact building, at least consider that these failures could be due to the impression you make when meeting new people.  Then, take the following steps to improve your introduction skills and master the art of making good first impressions.

Step #1 – Check Your Physical Appearance

Before you even open your mouth to greet a new contact, the way you’ve chosen to present yourself is already communicating volumes about who you are as a person.  So even if you’re the most well-spoken, articulate person on the planet, your odds of making a good first impression will be diminished substantially if you sabotage yourself with an incongruous physical appearance.

Now, just because your physical appearance matters when it comes to making a good first impression doesn’t mean that you need to walk around in perfectly-pressed, business casual clothing at all times.  However, there are a few ground rules you’ll want to follow in order to present an appearance that is consistent with the impression you want to make:

  1. Dress for the job you want.  Again, this might sound a bit cliché, but when selecting your clothing, aim for attire that suggests the role you see yourself in.  Doing so will prevent your new contact from experiencing the cognitive dissonance that occurs when your clothing and business goals seem out-of-sync.
  2. Dress for your body.  Simply altering the cut of your clothing to better fit your unique shape can go a long way towards creating a good first impression.  Don’t blindly follow trends, but instead adapt the looks you like to suit your figure appropriately.
  3. Keep clothing in good repair.  Wearing dirty, worn, wrinkled or frayed clothing is one way to instantly create a bad impression, so take the time to clean your clothing correctly and either repair or replace pieces that have broken down.

Step #2 – Practice Confidence Signals

Now that you’re looking good, make sure your physical mannerisms match the level of confidence you want to project when meeting new people.  Pay special attention to all of the following aspects of personal behavior, as each of these elements has the potential to disrupt the appropriate physical appearance you’ve constructed:

  1. Keep your hands still and at your sides.  Fidgety hands convey an impression of discomfort, so watch out for fingers that fiddle with small objects, touch your face or hair repeatedly, or twist around each other.  Keeping your hands resting calmly at your sides makes a much better first impression!
  2. Roll your shoulders back.  Appearing more confident in your first interactions with a new person can be achieved by simply rolling your shoulders back in a confident posture.  Slumping the shoulders forward and slouching conveys a sense of low self-esteem, while a rigid, formal posture presents an aggressive front.  Find a happy medium between the two by maintaining an erect, but casual posture.
  3. Practice your “pass the salt” voice.  To make your voice sound more confident, imagine yourself asking a friend to pass the salt at the dinner table.  You wouldn’t passively whisper this request, nor would you aggressively shout your demand.  Instead, you’d ask for what you want in a clear, confident tone – a tone which can be practiced and used when meeting new people to give off the impression of confidence.

Finally, there’s the single most importance confidence signal to consider when meeting new people – the handshake.  You’ve probably heard this advice before, but since the effect of this single motion can have such a tremendous bearing on the first impressions you make, it’s critical that you take the time to practice.  For best results, think:

  • Whole hand (no “kissing the Queen’s fingertips”),
  • Firm grasp (no limp fish hands here!), and
  • “Two pumps and done” (you aren’t trying to take this person home – get in and get out!).

Step #3 – Develop Situational Awareness

The final key to mastering good first impressions is learning to be aware of your surroundings at all times.  Truly, first impressions can happen anywhere – from officially-sanctioned business networking events to the men’s room after the game.

(Of course, I’m saying you should approach every restroom visitor as a potential business contact.  Don’t be that guy!)

Situational awareness means being on your best behavior when out in public, as you never know when or where a potentially lucrative introduction could occur.  As an example, you’ll find it much easier to make a good first impression if you’re the guy a new contact spotted picking up trash in the parking lot – not the one errantly tossing wrappers out his car window!

Have you ever made a bad first impression that’s come back to haunt you?  If so, share what happened and how you recovered from the situation in the comments section below!

Your Personal Style: What Your Clothes Say About Your Personal Brand

If you think the phrase, “The clothes make the man” is wildly off-base, just try showing up to a formal dinner party in a Hawaiian shirt and sandals!

Realistically, the clothes that you wear and the way you present yourself say as much about you as the words that come out of your mouth and the body language that you use.  For this reason, it’s important to invest some time in determining whether or not the clothing you’ve chosen for yourself is consistent with the image you want to portray – or whether your fashion choices are subtly sabotaging your personal branding efforts!

To conduct this self-analysis, take a moment to look at yourself in the mirror – quickly, before you have a chance to change what you’re wearing to influence the results of this survey!  As you examine your clothing, ask yourself – based on clothing alone – what you think a stranger would say that you do for work?

While you might think that your “funky” jeans and t-shirt combination gives off the impression that you’re a carefree business person, what are the odds that a stranger walking down the street would associate you with your desired characteristics of dedication and commitment to business success?

Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to be entirely rigid in your choices.  For example, just because you want to be taken seriously as a business person doesn’t mean you need to spend every waking moment of your day in a suit, tie and button down shirt!

However, first impressions go a long way and you’ll have a much easier time of establishing your personal brand if the image you portray outwardly is at least somewhat in line with peoples’ expectations.  This eliminates the sense of cognitive dissonance we experience when, say, we see Facebook’s billionaire CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrive on Wall Street in his hoodie and sneakers.  Given his success, he can overcome these mixed messages – you might not be so lucky.

The following are a few ways you can incorporate your own style into different personal branding choices.  If you want to appear…

  • Professional – Maintain a business casual appearance at all times.  Make sure that the clothing you choose is up-to-date and stylish, which conveys the impression that you’re technologically savvy and prepared for anything the real world might throw at you.
  • Creative – Add colorful flourishes with your ties, scarves, jewelry and shoes.  While you may be able to dress more casually than your business counterparts, don’t go too far off the deep end.  There’s a big difference between nice jeans paired with a professional top and worn jeans set against a ratty old sweatshirt.  Be casual, but classy at the same time!
  • Traditional – Depending on your age or desired position, you may want to use your clothing choices to convey a more traditional brand (this can be especially useful if you’re gunning for a position that you’re considered to be too young for).  In this case, think maximum coverage – including dress shirts and pants for men, and long-sleeve blouses and long skirts for women.  Keep excess scents, makeup and jewelry to a minimum to convey a more traditional aesthetic.

Of course, no matter what styles you choose or what type of personal brand you wish to convey, there are a few “hard and fast” rules you’ll want to follow to keep your style choices in line with your personal vision for yourself:

  • Clothes must be fitted – Even if you’re wearing top-of-the-line clothing in the latest styles, the effect of your trendiness will be minimized if your clothing doesn’t fit appropriately.  For men, this means choosing sleeves and collars that are the right size for your body.  And for women, this often means having both the waists and hemlines of long pants fitted.  Very few pieces of clothing fit perfectly off the rack, which is why a good tailor can go a long way towards making you look as good as possible!
  • Clothes must be clean – Again, you could be wearing an Armani suit, but if the scent of worn clothing, nights out or – worse yet – body odor – precedes you, your personal branding will suffer.  For this reason, it’s vitally important that you take the time to wash all of your garments appropriately, following whatever instructions are described on their labels.
  • Clothes must be pressed – Unless the personal brand you’re trying to convey is “indigent,” have your clothing pressed.  Any dry cleaner in your area should be able to help you do this, but to minimize wrinkles on your own, get in the habit of folding and hanging laundry immediately after removing it from the dryer on wash days.

Are you conscious of how the clothing you wear reflects your personal brand?  If so, share how you attempt to make these connections with your fashion choices in the comments section below: