I sat there staring at the phone as though it would make the call by itself. This was back before the Internet, email, and cell phones, at a time when appointments were arranged by phone calls, followed by visits to prospective clients and pitching deals. I was nervous, not trembling, but had that pit-in-my-stomach feeling you get in anticipation of a major event, such as a final exam or when your team is in the playoffs. What would they say? What would they think of me? What if they said “no?”
So, I did what any other rookie salesperson would do; I shuffled the papers on my desk, paced around the office, and took a trip to the restroom—anything to keep from making that call. When I finally reached the point where I could no longer procrastinate, I knew I was ready. I dialed the number and the phone started ringing. My mind raced all over again. What would I say? What if they didn’t answer? Oh crap, I hadn’t thought about that! The phone rang and rang. Should I leave a message? Should I hang up? What should I say? I quickly hung up, dejected, a failure.
This selling stuff was tough. I hated it already, and I hadn’t even spoken to one person. I had only dialed one phone number, yet my palms were sweaty, my shirt pitted out, and my heart was pounding inside my chest. Next, I did another rookie thing. I straightened my desk…again, walked around the office, got a Coke, and returned to my desk. I dialed the same number again but this time I thought I was ready for someone to answer. They didn’t. As I heard the “leave a message beep,” time stood still. Words formed in my head, but what came out of my mouth sounded something like, “Um, um, hi Mr. Jones, (long pause), um, this is um, John, um, Humphrey with Computron Software, (another long pause). I was wondering if…”
Then suddenly I was interrupted by a loud beep followed by, “If you are satisfied with your message, press 1, if you would like to delete and re-record press 2…”
My mind was racing. Was I supposed to press 1 or 2? Then, beep! I quickly pressed 1 and instead of being able to re-record I heard, “Thank you for your message,” a click and then nothing. I sat there for a moment staring at the phone feeling as if I wanted to throw up. Oh crap, did I even say my name? I slammed down the phone, collected my briefcase, and walked out the door. What a day!
I remember thinking on the drive home that there had to be a better way. I had always been rich in friends and relationships, and it suddenly occurred to me that maybe somebody in my network might know the CFO at the company with whom I was trying to get a meeting. So, the next day, I started paging through my Rolodex (this was before LinkedIn), and calling my contacts and friends. After a bit of catching up on the phone with each of these folks, I eventually got around to asking the question, “Do you know anyone at (fill in the blank) company?” Most didn’t, but a few did, and eventually I landed a meeting without having to rely on a cold call. What a relief!
Sometimes when you start a journey, the destination is the only goal, the end, not the journey. The epiphany I experienced on this journey was that my friends and colleagues needed help along the road, too—perhaps a new car, a new banking relationship, a realtor, or a good lawyer. I realized that the value of the connection was mutually beneficial; I could help others as well by lending them my contacts. What started as a fear-induced way to avoid cold calls became the avocation of my life.
The book, Connect for Life, is designed for any knowledge worker who has wondered how they can be more effective at networking and selling in their careers. It is the shortcut to understanding how they can leverage all the knowledge capital that they have amassed in solving problems for others. If you are a developer, an engineer, a senior architect, a lawyer, an accountant, or any other type of knowledge worker and you wonder why the sales guy gets the credit for the work that you created, then this book can assist you in becoming a trusted advisor. You can learn how networking to connect and build meaningful relationships that will serve you for the rest of your life.