That is, expect to make at least 40 phone contacts to locate 20 people who will actually talk with you over the phone (the other 20 will say no through intermediaries, be perpetually unreachable, or simply stonewall you with something like, "No, we're not doing any hiring now, and we don't anticipate doing any for the remainder of the year, and no, I won't talk to you any further, so goodbye!"). Of the 20 who do speak with you, only 5 will agree to see you. From 5 employment interviews, you can expect to generate 1 solid prospect of employment, which usually means a call back for further interviewing, rarely an offer.
Many salespeople recommend viewing no's as part of the selling process, suggesting that you see each no. as a step toward a yes. Keeping the telemarketer's ratio in mind helps you maintain some perspective on your failures; no matter how good your telephone technique, you should not expect to beat the 40:20:5:1 ratio. If you do beat it, wonderful; you've won the lottery. But don't underestimate the work, time, or difficulty involved in closing a sale, and don't doubt your competence when half the people you reach by phone refuse to provide any help or encouragement.
Also, use the ratio to help develop a realistic timetable for obtaining employment. If you make four phone contacts a day (which will certainly involve making two or three times as many attempts), it will take two weeks of steady phone work to generate five interview appointments. Initial interviews are generally screening interviews whether you meet with line or staff personnel, and if you pass through the screen, you can count on having several more interviews, possibly spanning several weeks, before receiving a definite no or a job offer. Rarely is the sales cycle for employment shorter than two months, so count on an interval of at least 10 weeks between the time you set up your first employment interviews and the time you learn the outcome of you efforts.
Telephone Tip 2: Always try for a face to face meeting, whether your goal is getting information or getting a job.
Use the telephone primarily as a vehicle for literally getting your foot in the door. Even if you are told that no openings are anticipated in the foreseeable future, keep plugging: tell your contact that you would still like to find out more about the ABC Organization and ask him or her to meet with you for just 10 minutes. Promise, if necessary, not to discuss employment during your meeting. Most people are willing to give up 10 minutes, especially if they do not feel pressured to respond to a bid for employment.
Also, most people are more generous with information and advice when facing another live, breathing human than over the phone with a stranger. If you promise not to push the employment issue, don't. But you will often find that the "no" is more tentative and conditional in person than over the phone. It is not unusual, for example, for a contact to reintroduce the employment question, if you make a good impression in person. However, when you win an interview by promising a 10 minute time limit, take responsibility for fulfilling your promise. Bring the interview to a close after 10 minutes and try to arrange another meeting, if that seems desirable and appropriate.
When interviewing for information, it may often seem easier to conduct the interview over the phone than in person. But try for a face to face meeting anyway. You will get more information and build a more committed set of human resources if you make personal contacts. Electronically mediated communication may be the wave of the future, but humans are still human and respond strongly to touch and to facial expressions. A firm handshake and warm expression create a bond that even the most productive and friendly of phone relationships simply cannot duplicate.
Telephone Tip 3: Before you call, know what you want, be able to articulate it briefly and clearly, and have fall back positions.
Most people find it helpful to jot down the major points they want to make or questions they want to ask before initiating a call. Imagining possible responses and objections is also helpful so that you can have replies and counter proposals ready to hand. Avoid, however, writing out full scripts you will invariably want to read your lines, and unless you are a master both at writing dialogue and at acting, your delivery will sound stiff and unnatural.
Do not try to be coy or indirect about your interest in employment, if that is what you want to discuss. Say you are interested in working at ABC and say it with enthusiasm. Never try to get an employment interview by disguising it as a purely informational encounter. If an informational interview turns into an employment interview at the initiative of the interviewer, that's fine. But if you say you are seeking information, stick to seeking information unless your contact brings up the topic of employment. You can, however, ask at the end of an informational interview for names of people with whom to discuss employment or seek advice about the best strategy for getting employment in your informational contact's organization.
Telephone Tip 4: Keep accurate and detailed records of phone transactions.
Note each phone conversation in your contact file and record any agreements reached, information acquired, or follow up communication that may be appropriate. You may also want to keep a separate phone log.
Daily phone logs help you monitor your progress and provide good documentation of long distance calls for tax purposes. They also help you keep your thoughts focused on your objectives as you go through a series of calls. Similarly, they can help you identify patterns of ineffective phoning. If, for example, you notice that you rarely have anything to put in the follow up column, you probably are not managing your phoning in a way that nurtures continuing contact, and you need to alter your phone strategy. Finally, the phone log habit is an excellent one to acquire for when you return to work.