Batman: I have one rule.
The Joker: Oh, then that's the rule you'll have to know to break the truth
Batman: Which is?
The Joker: The only sensible way to live in this world is without rules.
The lines above, if you don't recognize them, are from the well-known (at least to Batman fans) interrogation scene in the movie "The Dark Knight." There's no way I'd miss the chance to throw in some Batman-isms! But in this case, it's quite appropriate as I want to share some thoughts regarding rules for cold calling. My advice this week (or for this blog) is incredibly simple:
Forget all the rules. There are no rules. MAKE UP YOUR OWN!
I found it interesting that when I went to amazon.com and searched using the words Prospecting combined with Rules, there were 33 book titles to choose from. There were nearly that many - 27 to be exact - when I did the same thing with Cold Calling and Rules. What does that tell you? To me it says that we, as fundraisers, salespeople, marketers etc. are very comfortable being told how we should do what we do. We are very comfortable when we're shown "the box" and we can choose from the box. We're most comfortable when we're given the so-called formulas for success. Admittedly, I've even made similar suggestions for success right here in this blog.
I'm more convinced than ever that rules don't always hold - they need to change and evolve with time. The numbers (of calls to connects to leads for example) will be different in 2015 than they were in 2014. The tools that make a difference to our success will be different this year as compared to last. And our ability to convey our message clearly, crisply and concisely will improve this year over last. With all that change, how can we possibly be comfortable with Rules for Cold Calling or just about any practice where we want to grow and be better?
The truth is that you discover your own truths when you're working in the field. After an extremely interesting - sometimes successful, sometimes not - week of prospecting, I saw multiple cases of classic "rules" being broken - and to good effect. Here are three ideas I hope will help you as you prospect your way to success:
1) You're making cold calls to get in the door. You're not making them so you get to speak with the CEO. Many books will tell you that you should start at the top, ask for the CEO and work your way down. Unless your end goal is to be BFFs with the CEO, I respectfully disagree. It's not always the best route to get to know the company and have them get to know you. When I make my calls, I ask for the person that makes decisions about the Employee Volunteer Program. Does every company have a formal Employee Volunteer Program? Nope! But that question gets me to the Person I Most Want To Talk To - whether it's the CEO, the Head of HR or Marketing or whomever, that always spearheads this stuff. And that gets me to my next point....
2) Be insanely nice to everyone you talk to when you call on a company: I didn't say all this is totally new or groundbreaking. But taken to extremes it can be. Many times the receptionist, administrative assistant and/or (fill in the blank for least likely suspect) is the absolutely pivotal person who has his/her finger on the pulse of the company. He or she knows who you should be talking to and who you absolutely should not be talking to. Sometimes this person is exactly the person you should be talking to! Today I was talking to an Administrative Assistant whose boss, the CEO, asked her to set up the agenda for the social action committee that would be choosing which charities to support. I happened to call just in time for her to ask me for information about our event so she could include it. Moral of the story: Be nice - and I mean sincere nice - not phony nice to these folks. You know the difference. These folks can make or break you. And they deserve your respect and kindness!
3) Have Fun! I will readily admit that it is not fun to hear the word(s) NO or NOT INTERESTED 15, 25, 50 (or whatever your magic number is) times. But it can be. Listen for the silliness. I think it's fascinating when anyone - be it an assistant or President - tells me authoritatively "we're not interested" in supporting my cause on behalf of their 100, 500 or thousands of employees. Apparently, the last employee survey asked specifically about supporting my cause and everyone voted NO! I find this unlikely. Yet there they are telling me that they know what's closest to the heart of everyone in multiple departments and locations. And listen for the genius and creativity. A few days ago, when I asked for the person in charge of employee engagement, the person on the line said "we outsource that to a company in China - would you like their number?" Hey, at least it kept me laughing. Have some fun with these calls - laugh and go on to the next.
By the way, I invite you to add to these. If you're out there in the thick of it, no doubt you're creating your own set of Non-rule Rules.
Robert Grabel is the President of Nonprofit Now! You can find his posts here and at www.robertgrabel.com
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