As I have mentioned in my previous blogs, I am a part of a team of researchers and analysts who are helped conduct an AGENCY SCOPE study in the South Africa market. This study researches how clients feel about their current agencies and other agencies in the market. Also, we interview agency professionals about how they feel about their current agencies and where they would most like to work in the future. Agencies will sometimes pay for customized presentations of this data to see where they stand in the market and how they can better improve their client service.
My job for most of the month of June was to call professionals in creative agencies and get them to answer the “agency professional” portion of the questionnaire. I called it “lukewarm” calling instead of cold calling because some professionals had read our initial email, participated in the last edition of the study, or began answering the questionnaire. My job was to get the professionals to answer the survey, and the best way was to give them the survey by telephone (it’s very easy for busy professionals to forget!).
I previously was a little terrified cold calling, but now I can say the fear has lifted. I hate inconveniencing people, and cold calls can inconvenience a busy creative director in an agency. Through this experience, I have learned several things about how to cold or lukewarm call more effectively.
Smile while making the call
I am a very smiley person, but it can be hard when a little nervous. The whole “kill them with kindness” theory definitely comes into play when cold calling. If you can get them to smile or they feel your warmth through the phone, it may help keep them on the line or answer the questionnaire. Make the professional feel important and know that their opinions matter!
Flexibility and Empathy
How far will you go for that interview? You may have to stay late so you can call them at home (while their children are screaming in the background, true story) or get to the office a little earlier. You may also have to be physically flexible to type wildly while the professional is venting during an open-ended question. Also, try to understand that they may actually be on a tight deadline, and not just blowing you off. These professionals are busy, so keep adapting the script. I know answering a questionnaire is the last thing they want to do after a nasty email from their client.
Just keep swimming
Marketing professionals tend to be critical of market research studies that are studying their perceptions. Some people did not want to answer the questionnaire because they “did not like the questions” or would tell me that the formatting was not to their standards. This criticisms can be hard to hear because our entire team dedicated many hours to making sure everything was perfect before the start of the fieldwork. I learned not only to bounce back when someone says no, but also to write down this criticism and try to help improve the questionnaire. So as the great fish Dory said, just keep swimming!
I always hear that my generation has horrible phone skills, but I think we are just out of practice. Ask me to call anyone, anywhere, and I’ll give it a try! While I do not know if I’ll have cold calling in my first job out of college, I have the confidence that this internship gave me.