The Art of the Cold Call

Maximize the chance that someone will take your call.
Maximize the chance that someone will take your call.

Who knew how often lawyers and support staff would have to make cold calls? No one told me about any of this in law school, but before I was even out I was desperately dialing all sorts of people in the hope that they would feed me information. As a law clerk, I had to ferret out information from government agencies about various sorts of activities. As a first-year associate, I was doing the same. As time went on, I had to persuade complete strangers to speak to me for all sorts of reasons, and often, they were disinclined. I needed them far more than they needed me.  I still found ways to get past call-screening secretaries and straight-to-voicemail buttons.

How to get over your self-doubt and make that call effectively.

How to get over your self-doubt and make that call effectively.

Here’s what I’ve learned from logging thousands of hours on telephones over the years:

  1. The first call every day is the hardest. I’ve been doing this for years. I still have to talk myself into the first one.
  2. Reward yourself. Make 10 calls and then surf the Internet, get a latté, thumb through a catalogue. In a morning full of rejections, someone’s got to reward you. Often, that will be you.
  3. Forget Monday mornings unless you deliberately just want to leave messages. Everyone’s too busy on Monday mornings. Call at another time if you actually hope to get ahold of your target.
  4. Flattery gets you everywhere. Try to come up with some sort of link to persuade someone to pick up that extension. Mention how impressive someone’s recent presentation was, or how nice a writeup she got in the law journal, or how you appreciate the camaraderie of fellow law school alumni—or college—or high school—or sports club—or whatever.
  5. Use your sexy voice. Really, you’d think that we as a society have passed this. We haven’t. Sugar sells. Smiling sells.  If I’m leaving a voicemail message, I’m practically purring. Sure, sometimes I’m not in the mood to sweet-talk a stranger, and I leave messages using my regular voice. Those messages dripping in honey are the ones that seem to be returned the most. Try it. At the very least, you’ll get some greater practice for your personal life.

Pitching can be painful. Or you can find ways to make it fun. If you’re working in the legal field, you’re going to be cold calling more than you probably thought that you would. Press on.

—Lori Tripoli

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