Direct Contact = Good Business

Article by Kristine CareyHave you ever thought about calling someone to offer them your services, or invite them to coffee, or some other business-y thing, only to put the phone down and get distracted doing something else? When I think about drawing a straight line from my activities to making money, direct contact is the #1 thing that comes to mind. Which leads the question, what is direct contact, why is it sometimes so hard to do, and why does it strike fear into the hearts of so many of us?

On the phoneA while back I was coaching someone who wanted to find a steady part-time job to make sure the rent was covered while she continued freelancing. She had figured out what industry she wanted to work in, what type of job she wanted to do, what kind of co-workers she wanted, and her target schedule and pay rate. Overall, she knew everything about what she wanted except where to find it. She started an online search and applied for a few positions, yet never got any real traction. I suggested she find several companies she liked and contact them directly, let them know what she was looking for, and ask them if they had anything like that available; she politely declined my suggestion and went back to searching online. Months went by without her finding what she was looking for.

This is not an isolated example. For many of us self-employed types the hardest thing to do is pick up the phone and ask somebody to hire us. It seems easier to search online or post to social media to look for what we want. The trouble is, because those strategies are passive they often don’t yield results, which can be frustrating; pouring out all that energy and nothing happening in return.

What does it mean to contact someone directly? In its purest form, it means picking up the phone and calling them. It can also mean emailing them, although that’s less direct. It can mean meeting them in person, which is likely preceded by a phone call or email. Direct contact is just what it sounds like: you contact someone in the most straight forward fashion possible, so that you are having a human-to-human interaction with the fewest steps or barriers between you.

Why is contacting people directly so hard? Direct contact can seem intimidating –- what do I say, will they remember me, will they take my call? I know for me it seems like I might be intruding; after all, they’re busy people and don’t need to be pestered by me. Besides, they know where to find me if they need my services, so anything more than a casual reminder would be tacky, right? The feelings of intimidation or pestering can be compounded by any wavering of your confidence in what you’re selling, or in the value you’re providing.

Why is direct contact so scary? Let’s face it: you’d probably prefer eating live crickets to calling someone and asking them for business. Fear of rejection, of not being good enough, or of being “shark-y” or “sales-y” all combine to make picking up the phone difficult. To your body, you’re experiencing the equivalent of being chased by a lion across the savannah, and your flight or fight response kicks in. Calling is perceived as a threat and your body will do its best to get you to stop your actions and keep you safe. Great news if you’re about to be hit by a bus and need to get out of the way; bad news if you’re looking for business.

What can you do to make direct contact easier? First, recognize that what you are about to do -– picking up the phone –- is a safe activity and no harm will come to you. Next, write out a script of what you’d like to say, covering all the relevant points so you don’t have to make it up on the spot. Tthis takes the pressure off and allows you to be present as you’re talking. Remember that often times what people respond to is who you are “being” when you talk with them rather than the brilliant words that come out of your mouth. The more focus you can put on having an genuine conversation the better. Finally, be clear about what you’re offering (a product, a service, a coffee invitation, etc.) and its value. This will get your mojo working, which makes you, and your offer, more attractive.

Making direct contact with potential buyers, referral partners, and others in your business world is a useful skill. Have fun playing with ways that you can make your contact more direct and notice the results you get. With a little practice, you may even come to love it!

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