You Have 30 Seconds to Answer: ‘Why Are You Calling Me?’

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Feb 21, 2013

Note: This is part one of a four part series on cold calling potential clients. Each part of the series will appear on successive Thursdays through March 14.

Whether you are making an initial marketing call or a cold recruiting call, you have approximately 30 seconds to do three things:

  1. Gain the individual’s attention;
  2. Eliminate (or at least not create) a reflex rejection;
  3. Change the dynamics from a monologue to a dialogue.

The ultimate success of your call depends on your ability to accomplish all three of these objectives in a brief period of time. If you fail to accomplish any of these objectives, the individual you are calling will immediately begin to exit the call. Once this occurs, it is very difficult to turn them around.

Within this 30 second window you must give the individual you are calling a valid reason for speaking with you, reflecting your purpose for selecting them to call in the first place. The operative word here is “selecting”, i.e. specifically why are you calling them?

After personally observing hundreds of marketing reps, consultants and recruiters, it is obvious many do not know how to effectively open their calls. An example is a call I recently received from a marketing representative who did not know that our firm was also in the staffing business. Her opening went something like this:

“Mr. Petra, this is Suzy calling from ABC Staffing. We have some really good candidates in the Woodbury area and I was just wondering if I could interest you in hearing more about them?”

As well intentioned as Suzy may have been, her approach accomplished none of the three objectives in the first 30 seconds. Had I not been a consultant and trainer, I would not have invested more than a minute of my time. When I asked her why she was calling my firm, she seemed bewildered. The only answer she could give was that our firm was located in Woodbury.

I asked what she knew about our firm. She was honest, admitting she knew “virtually nothing” about us. So I explained the nature of our services, and asked how long she had been in the staffing business. Her response goes to the heart of the problem. She stated:

“Although I have not been in the business very long, my manager has given me excellent training.”

After that response, I was uncertain how to proceed without creating a problem between her and her manager. Therefore, I thanked her for the call, and suggested she pull up our web site in order to learn more about my firm.

Coincidentally, within two days of my discussion with Suzy I received a recruiting call from a consultant who opened this way:

“Terry, my name is Charlie Brown and I recruit senior level managers for the staffing industry. Would you be interested in hearing about an exceptional opportunity that would allow you to leverage your career while dramatically increasing your income level?”

My first thought was “why” is he calling me? When I asked him, he stated:

“Because several of your peers told me that you have the exceptional skills and experience my client is seeking.”

After several follow-up questions on my part, Charlie had to admit that he knew virtually nothing about me, and that he was recruiting on a branch manager’s position for a staffing firm that planned to open an office in the Twin Cities area. In fact, he had not discussed me with my peers (whoever he thought they might be) and did not know that I was the owner of my business.

If Suzy and Charlie’s calls were indicative of their usual approach, unless they receive proper skills development training, I suspect neither one of them will enjoy long term success in our business. Without my prompting, neither would have been able to engage me in a two-way dialogue. Nor was either able to credibly answer the basic question, “Why are you calling me?” Unfortunately, there are many practitioners, both rookie and experienced, who lack the same skill sets.


The most critical skill set to develop is not getting people to listen to you. Rather, it is the skill of getting them to talk with you, to open up, to willingly share the specifics of their individual situations.


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