To Be a Successful Salesperson You Need to Have this Ruthless Trait

What is it about cold calling that paralyzes you with fear? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Jonathan Brill, startup specialist, on Quora:

Social acceptance is fundamentally built on the law of reciprocation. When you cold call someone you're taking without giving. To be good at this you need to get over that.

The feeling that paralyzes you isn't fear of rejection, its fear of breaking a social taboo.

The problem for healthy, rational, socially normal people is that cold calling is an invasive, disruptive, socially awkward thing to do. You're imposing yourself on someone. It's rude. It's placing your need and convenience ahead of theirs. The very act of cold calling subtextually communicates that you want something from them and have implicitly acknowledged that you're OK with the fact that you've disrupted them from whatever they're doing and are potentially (likely) wasting their time.

And superb salespeople, entrepreneurs, hustlers, don't care. Aggressive people are egocentric and either unaware of social convention or ok with not living by those rules. Without exception, the best founders I've worked with demand everything from the people around them without promise of giving anything back. The best salespeople are the same way. That's how you get it done.

In the beginning of Boiler Room and the Wolf of Wall Street (which, incidentally are both based on Jordan Belfort shaking down middle-class heroes all over the Midwest), the psychological trick they use to get over their fear of cold calling is to think of the person they're calling as a mark. This has nothing to do with rejection, but social hierarchy. Thinking of your customer as a mark eliminates any obligation you have to social convention and removes any responsibility you may feel for not wasting their time, etc. Thinking of another person as a mark allows you to stop thinking of them as a person, and start thinking of them as your objective. This allows you to ignore social rules which are really inconvenient when you're trying to aggressively persuade someone to do what you want.

In the very famous sales book Selling To VITO (Very Important Top Officers), the book focuses on helping the sales person see themselves as a VITO, and suggests approaching the prospect on an equal playing field. This is a twist on the same strategy; it doesn't do anything to lessen the pain of rejection, but it makes the first call seem a bit more socially acceptable. That's silly of course. A cold call is a cold call. If it's a feather in your cap great, but you're still blowing up someone's calendar by imposing yourself on it.

What's happening in both of these cases is that the cold caller is building towards a sense of entitlement. The need for reciprocation is mitigated because the cold caller is now entitled to the prospect's time and attention. People who inherently feel entitled to impose themselves on other people of course have no need for such elaborate shenanigans. Those kinds of people are a pain in the ass but are great sales people and business owners. They never take no. They just don't care.

My advice to a person who wants to make a lot of cold calls (or pick up a lot of people in bars or generally to persuade people towards their selfish ends) is to accept that your needs are more important than theirs. Accept the fact that you're going to impose yourself on other people, and come to peace with the fact that your cause is justified. If you believe in what you're doing and what you're selling, you will eventually come to the conclusion that you're doing your prospect a disservice by not calling them. You must be evangelical. You know more than them. They should already be doing business with you. The fact that they're not means they're losing money/missing a key market advantage/running their business sub-optimally every second they're not using what you have. If you don't call them right now, they will materially suffer as a result. You're selling heaven, and without you, they will go to hell. Don't apologize for it. Own it and raise your voice. Allow your conviction to be heard. They will respond. They'll be convinced, and they'll want more.

You can't call people to find out if they need your stuff. You can only call people to help them buy your product. If it turns out they don't need it, so be it. But it's not your job to know that. Being socially acceptable isn't profitable. Being prolific and persuasive is.

To be clear, this is not a trick. Nor is it something you think about right before you pick up the phone. At the point you pick up the phone, this is who you are, or it isn't. Remember how you think about yourself when you're looking in the mirror brushing your teeth in the morning, or you're going to make terrible, tentative calls that day. Nobody respects the sound of sorry. Don't apologize. Be credible, be convincing, be someone they can have confidence in. Call them and make them want to hear more. Be the person they want to introduce to their boss. Impose your idea on the world. Start with the next person who picks up the phone.

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