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Go away and leave me alone: Your cold call question answered

If you are thinking of phoning prospects for your freelance or consulting practice, you may fear that you are bothering people with your calls. You may fear even more acutely that they will tell you where to go and hang up with a bang (although most of today’s phone styles don’t allow us to satisfyingly slam down the receiver).

A reader of mine recently wrote,

I totally get the rationale behind using phone calls to make personal connections [in support of our businesses], but I can’t seem to get past the golden rule thing: I hate to be interrupted by a ringing phone when I’m trying to work, and I can’t image that others like it any more than I do.

Am I rare in feeling this way? Are people really receptive to you when you call them out of the blue in the middle of a workday?

Here’s my experience. Yours may be different.

I love valid interruptions. Staying on task for long periods of time isn’t my strong suit.

More importantly, I am open to valid phone calls. That’s why I have a phone and why I provide my number to others as appropriate.

I am not open to consumer-directed nuisance calls. I either don’t answer (since I have caller ID) or I hang up quickly. If it’s an automated call, I hang up very fast. If it’s a consumer-oriented call, I quickly say I’m not interested. I either hang up quickly so they can go on to their next call (usually) or I stay on the line to be taken off the calling list (occasionally).

I almost never receive the kind of call I make—made by a live, knowledgeable human being because they have some reason to believe I may be interested in their service. If I received such a call, I would be OK with it. Or more accurately, I would be amazed and intrigued.

Over the years I have subscribed to numerous ezines and downloaded free products in return for supplying my phone number to the offer. Hardly anyone ever calls me in follow-up. I don’t know why they collect these numbers—it makes people more reluctant to complete the request and these numbers aren’t used anyway.

Most people, especially those in large companies, have caller ID. They answer because they decide to answer rather than letting the call roll over to voicemail. They have decided to talk to me and I know my reason for calling is of value.

Also, I only phone business phones during business hours. The “in” advice is to phone “executives” before the office opens because they supposedly put in such long hours and their minions are not yet on the job screening calls.

Making business calls during non-business hours is presumptuous and intrusive. Believe it or not, executives don’t rush into the office hours before anyone else so they can take uninvited calls.

Some come to the office early, others don’t. Some executives actually sleep in the wee hours of the a.m., just as we regular mortals do.

What time is too early? Some people use their cell phones for all phone communications, having a single number or rolling their desk phone over to the cell. Do we have the right to wake people at 6 a.m.?

When the supposed experts encourage early morning calls, I don’t see a specified time at which this is acceptable. 8 a.m.? 7:30 a.m.? 6 a.m.?

My business phone (and business office) is in my home. I’d be furious at an uninvited, nonemergency call before 8 a.m.

However, the best reason not to make early calls is that the callee probably isn’t there.

What message do you leave on voicemail? How about the usual, “Sorry I missed you. Please call me back . . . “

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? “Why would he expect to reach me at 6:45 in the morning? Is he crazy? Or does he want to check me off his list without having to actually speak to me” thinks the recipient.

Originally posted 9-2-13

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