If I asked you what the most important tip, technique or strategy is that you learned in your sales career, what would you say? I easily remember the one that I learned early on because I’m reminded of it nearly every day. In fact just last week I read a story about Gary Emanuel, the defensive line coach for the Indianapolis Colts, and I was reminded of the first lesson my sales manager taught me which was, “No matter how discouraged you get when cold calling or prospecting, never give up – because the very next phone call you make can change your day, or your career.” Here’s what happened to Gary:
Earlier this year, Gary wasn’t working in the NFL. In the last 31 autumns, he had been the typical football journeyman, working on 10 college staffs (including the likes of Plymouth State and Purdue) and only one pro staff (49ers, 2005-06). Gary’s dream was to return to the NFL but there were no teams banging down his door to interview him. So what did he do? He took action and began cold calling…
Call after call resulted in nothing but the typical, “You can send us your resume,” but he kept calling. Finally he reached the General Manager of the Colts, Ryan Grigson. Grigson told Peter King of Sports Illustrated:
“He cold-called me.” Grigson texted me (Peter) after the 17-14 win over Cleveland. “Getting (Emanuel) was like finding money in the street. We had all kinds of big-time recommendations, and after Chuck (Pagano – the head coach) and I met with Gary, we didn’t even want to talk with another DL coach.”
How’s that for a successful cold call? Now I’m sure that Gary, like you or me, got discouraged from all the other calls he made to teams that gave him the brush off. I’m sure he got tired of sending out his resume and calling back only to hear the same old brush off, “Oh, we’ll get back to you if we’re interested.” I’m sure the phone was heavy to pick up after a while, and I’ll bet there were times when he thought about giving up. But he persisted and he made that next call. And look what that persistence resulted in for him.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been calling and calling (both as a sales rep and as a sales consultant), and how much I’ve wanted to just give up. But I always remember what my manager taught me about how you never know what that next call can bring. And because I’ve made that next call, I have many stories of my own, and I can tell you now that many of my biggest clients came because I was willing to keep calling. In fact, here’s one of my favorite results:
Years ago I decided that I wanted to try and get a 30-year Tampa Bay Buccaneers anniversary patch for a new authentic jersey I had purchased. I didn’t know anyone at the Buccaneers so I did what I had been taught to do – I started cold calling. First I looked on the official team website and found out who the head trainer was. Using the techniques I teach and write about – being polite to gatekeepers by using ‘please,’ being assumptive and using instructional statements – I got through to the training room and was told that the trainers and team were in their final preseason work outs offsite and that I needed to call back in a few weeks. After several more calls to the department, I finally got the head trainer on the phone but he told me that he was too busy now preparing for the season, and that I could try him again in a few weeks. I did. When I got him on the phone again, I explained what I wanted and he said he would see what he could do. He took my name and address down and I waited.
After a couple of weeks, I still hadn’t received anything. Now, many people might have given up by then and thought that just getting through was victory enough. Not me. I kept remembering what my manager had taught me and kept remembering all the good results I had achieved from being persistent and from continuing to cold call. So I called again.
By this time the season had begun and the Buccaneers were winning. By now the trainer knew my name and was getting used to my call. By this time there were some things to talk about besides the patch. This time he took my name and address again and seemed to be paying more attention as he did it. A week later I got a package from the Buccaneer training room and when I opened it I found two jersey patches – one home and one away – and a complete decal set with helmet sized Buccaneer flags. It was a pretty cool package. So what did I do? I kept calling…
After a few more weeks and a few more victories, the trainer and I developed a friendly relationship. When I explained to him that I would be flying to the 49er game in a few weeks, he said something that has changed my experience as an NFL fan. He asked me if I’d like to work as part of the training staff and assist one of the coaches on the side line of that game. I can tell you now that experience was one of the highlights of my life!
I arrived in San Francisco the same day as the team, and that evening I went to the team hotel and met the trainer and he introduced me to other coaches and team members as they went through the lobby. He gave me an official coaching shirt and cap (that I still have), and a coach’s pass and parking pass for game day. The next day I arrived at the stadium at 9:30 am as the first bus of players and coaches arrived. I went through the player’s entrance and into the locker room and spent the whole day as a member of the Tampa Bay coaching staff! I don’t have time to relate all the memorable experiences I had – like patting Chris Sims on the shoulder pad after his first NFL touchdown pass or the memorable after game speech by a fiery Jon Gruden – but trust me, it was an amazing experience. And all because I was willing to keep calling.
I remember that experience and many other successful, unexpected calls and results even today when I have to make cold calls. I remember my first sales manager teaching me the importance of being persistent no matter what and of the value of making that next call – or next 100 calls. I remember this lesson when I read stories like Gary Emanuel’s, and I’m constantly on the look out for similar stories of the pay off of persistence and of never giving up. And I always find them.
Today as you face a day of cold calling or prospecting, I hope that you, too, remember the crucial lesson I learned all those years ago. That no matter how discouraged you get when cold calling or prospecting, never give up – because the very next phone call you make can change your day, or your career.