- The first one is the most challenging
- Don't be afraid of rejection
- The hardest thing is getting started
- Talk to everyone
- Make a list of everyone you'd like to talk to and think about your approach
Go to almost any fundraising seminar, training or workshop - particularly those where professional staff are training volunteers to help with fundraising and you're likely to hear some or all of the above. I'm speaking from personal experience. I've done presentations for organizations raising money with endurance or experiential events and consistently heard these same ideas when I started working in the charitable sector.
Ironically, these five tips and several others could be applied to - you guessed it - Cold Calling. So if this is what we fundraisers suggest, why do some of us balk at the idea of making making cold calls? I'm not a behavioral analyst so I'm not going there; however, I'm sure it would be entertaining to tackle the question. Just for fun though, I think the following joke illustrates how deep seated this fear can be even to the most seasoned of us:
Executive Director: Did you reach out to some new prospects today?
Fundraiser: Absolutely - we got 5 with no problem at all.
Executive Director: Really! Do you think they’ll result in an ask or donation?
Fundraiser: Well, if my mom, dad, brother, cousin, hairdresser, and babysitter are interested in supporting us, definitely!
OK, that may be a bit of a stretch but you get the point.. Since the hardest part is usually getting started, I wanted to share three practical and entirely doable ideas for taking your first step towards Cold Call greatness. And these apply whether you're in the charitable sector or working in business development in the for profit sector:
1) Pick a baseline number of calls you plan to make. Make it reachable - even underestimate it. Carve out a time in your day - my suggestion is first thing in the morning - and hit it. I'm suggesting morning as (speaking for myself) that's when I'm at my best. But choose your poison. If you thrive after lunch, go for it! If dinner is your hour, great - you'll get them but they may be chewing.
And an important phrase to remember: Do No More and Do No less. Chances are that first week, there will be a day where you hit your baseline and you're killing it. Everyone is a big fat YES. Stop right at your number (let's call it 10). Why? Simply because there will be another day where it's not going quite as well and you'll be tempted to stop at 6 (or 7 or whatever) - particularly if you did more another day. Get in the habit of doing that set number - No Matter What your results.
2) Use and stick to a script. If you're thinking "boring" - maybe but trust me. You'll be much more effective if you know exactly what you want to say as opposed to winging it. Once you're comfortable then you can go rogue. And remember, your script should be all about them (prospects), not you, your organization or why you're just so wonderful. It's about how whatever you may end up offering can help them or their clients. For example, instead of "I'm calling about why you should support XYZ", try "I'm finding that people I talk to in your field are struggling with ABC or are concerned with such and such - how would you describe your feelings, thoughts on..."
3) If you're getting to ask some questions, you're getting somewhere - If you get a commitment to meet, you've arrived (at the first stop at least). And keep the questions open ended! (Very important). Nothing kills these calls quicker than a straight yes or no. Remember, the idea of this call isn't too get a donation or purchase. The goal is 1) to learn more about the prospect, their interests and goals and 2) Set a firm meeting time and 3) Establish a rapport so you're meeting feel less like a continuation of the cold call and more like the building of something special.
So that's a start. More to come and always appreciate feedback, thoughts, and alternative views (we had a few interesting ones last time - thanks!)