Monday, May 16, 2011

Guest Post: Anxiety Free Cold-Calling Tips From Peter Bowerman

Talk about a superstar of cold calling. 

To relieve any lingering fears you may have had about the cold call process, here's a guest post from the man who inspired me to give it a try -- the one and only Peter Bowerman! 

If you like his advice below, I definitely recommend you pick up a copy of his book, The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency as a Commercial Freelancer in Six Months or Less. He does a great job of psyching you up, demystifying the cold-call process, and showing you how anyone can succeed at self-marketing (whether through cold calling or other means).

So without further ado ... take it away, Peter.

Anxiety-Free Cold-Calling
How to Make Phone Prospecting Productive – Minus the Stress!
by Peter Bowerman

(An adapted excerpt from The Well-Fed Writer (2010; Fanove) by Peter Bowerman) 

Action or Results?  In my seminars, I’ll ask, “When starting a cold-calling campaign, should you focus on action or results?” Many immediately yell out, “Results!” Why? “Well, we’re judged on results,” they’ll reply. But I say “Action” is the right answer. Think about it. What’s true of action that isn’t true of results? If you answered, You can control action, but you can’t control results, go to the head of the class.

You have no control over the results of any given phone call or email. Nor how that person on the other end of the line will react to your contact or whether that individual will think your portfolio is good enough to consider hiring you.

Sure, you can improve your results by, say, getting more comfortable with your phone skills, choosing better prospects and beefing up your “book.” But still, fundamentally, the one thing you have control over is the actions you take. An example…

Two copywriters both start cold-calling at 9:00 a.m. Copywriter #1’s goal? To land two new writing projects or three hot prospects by 5:00 p.m. Copywriter #2’s goal? To make 50 calls. Now, tell me – who’s going to have a more stressful day?

Around 2:00 p.m., if #1 has landed neither gigs nor interest, you think the desperation is going to start seeping into his voice? How do you think that’ll work out for him? Meanwhile, #2, cool as a cucumber, makes his 50 calls – unconcerned about the outcome (that would be focusing on results again!) – and he’s done.

Here’s the key: Make those 30, 40 or 50 calls a day, and the results – hot prospects and writing jobs – will come. Minus the anxiety. The Law of Averages is ironclad. And I don’t care how those calls turn out (i.e., live contact, voice mail, message left with a secretary, appointment, dinner date, etc.). Keep calling and the results are assured.  

Just a “Telemarketer”? Really?  Another thing. In a seminar I was doing a few years back, a woman raised her hand and said, very earnestly, “I just hate the idea of cold calling, because I don’t appreciate telemarketers, and I think most people feel the same way.” Whoa.

I gathered my thoughts, looked at her and asked, “Is that who you think you are? Just an obnoxious telemarketer—no different from the people who rudely interrupt your dinner to peddle aluminum siding, long-distance service, carpet cleaning, and a zillion other things you have no interest in?”

Get this or fail: Assuming you’re a competent, reliable writer, if you pursue this business, you’ll be a professional marketing a valuable and needed professional service to other professionals. Period. While the people you call may not need your services (80 percent won’t) or even have the time to talk to you, I promise they will not be viewing you as an irritating telemarketer. So, don’t dare view yourself this way.

Action, Not Results…Again  When I sold books door-to-door in college, our goal was 30 demos a day (the equivalent of phone calls made to prospects), a demo roughly defined as pulling the books out and beginning our pitch—either in the house or at the door—whether or not we got to finish it. Making sales the goal (i.e., results) would’ve introduced unnecessary anxiety into the process. They knew if we made 30 honest demos a day or close to it, the sales would come. And they did. Same here.

There were days as bookmen where we’d put in our honest 13½ hours (8:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday; insanity, yes, but character-building insanity) and come up with…bupkus. Growth and Development Days, we called them. Very, very rare. Our sales managers would congratulate us on having a G&D day, adding, By the way, you do know that you’ll sell the first three houses you visit tomorrow, don’t you?

And I’m telling you straight here, we always did, because, I’m convinced we were, well…convinced. On my first call one morning following a G&D day, I remember approaching someone getting in their car in the driveway, briefcase in hand, about to head to work, and absolutely knowing that, despite the unpromising-looking circumstances, this person was going to buy a set of books (a $40 purchase). I guess he knew it too, because he did. Approach cold calling with that same bone-deep belief in the Law of Averages and you can’t help but win.


Love to write but hate to starve? Visit for a free report, ezine and blog on the lucrative field of “commercial” freelancing – writing for businesses and for $50-125+ an hour. All written by Peter Bowerman, veteran commercial freelancer, writing/publishing coach, and the author of the three award-winning Well-Fed Writer titles, the self-published how-to “standards” on lucrative commercial freelancing. He chronicled his self-publishing success (currently, 60,000 copies of his books in print and a full-time living for nine-plus years) in the award-winning 2007 release, The Well-Fed Self-Publisher: How to Turn One Book into a Full-Time Living.


  1. Thanks Sarah,

    Appreciate the exposure! ;)

    And one note to add: don't believe anyone who says ridiculous things like "Oh, cold-calling is dead." Far from it, and it won't go away for a looong time, because it works!

    Now, sure, if you don't prepare with the right script, and call the right kinds of prospects (given your skills), it will likely be less productive, but that's not the fault of the process itself.

    Jump in, the waters's fine!


    P.S. And guess what - most people you call are nice! You won't believe me until you do it, but once you do, you'll see...;)

  2. Thank you for this Sarah (and Peter). I've never cold-called anyone for business and this has actually given me the push to give it a try. Why not?