When I first got into sales professionally I was taught to cold call and the mentality that went with it. I was selling accident plans door-to-door in rural areas of North Carolina and the hours were grueling. We'd have a meeting in the morning of a local diner and then spread out to assigned areas throughout the county.
Dropping by someone's home unannounced was the nature of the work, and many times the people were home. If someone was home, I'd go through my spiel only to be told that they wanted to wait for their spouse to come home and discuss it over. The whole scenario was dumb.
Through all of this I learned that how to introduce myself to total strangers, how to persevere through a lot of rejection, but most importantly, not to be afraid of the cold calling process. Knocking on doors was easy if you could handle people not wanting our product.
A few years later I sold office supplies for a small company. With just a few accounts I had adopted from a previous salesman and barely any knowledge of the products, I had to develop my own strategy to build a clientele. Using my experiences from the world of accident plans, I methodically worked one office building at a time, walking in with something in my hand to give out other than a business card. I would distribute our new catalog, or a sale flyer that I designed myself (this was before everyone had a computer with a word processor).
Working B2B was so much easier than calling on people in their homes and my success rate was above average when you consider the resources I was given. People were happier to see me at their businesses than their homes.
That office supply company was okay, but there was no room for growth and I didn't want to be an old guy asking people if they needed paper clips. I eventually got back into insurance again, but I decided to call on businesses to grow my book of business. Many times the sales calls result in individual policies, so it all works out.
Cold calling has gone by the wayside for most people nowadays. There are other ways to get clients, but I still use those basic skills to work a room or networking event.
Chris Castanes is the president of Surf Financial Brokers, as well as a professional speaker helping sales people be more productive and efficient.