I love marketing and writing but I strongly dislike doing sales and making sales-y phone calls. Since I'm a co-chair of a 5K in October, I'm on the fundraising end of the profit we need to make to hold the race and keep the agency going for another year. We're trying to raise $20,000 this year - a huge stretch goal from the $10K we made last year. I sincerely believe we can do it with attracting more runners and walkers as well as finding more sponsors with deepish pockets.
We're a small agency helping women and children who have experienced domestic violence (not a popular, trendy charity like Ronald McDonald or breast cancer) and $20K is a lot of money for us. It spells the difference between keeping the doors open so we can help our clients or closing down.
I spent the afternoon yesterday making about 40 calls to various companies in the area to follow up on letters we sent to them a couple weeks ago about sponsorship for the race. I will be calling the rest of the list this afternoon. I don't like making these calls and I've found just about every excuse I can legitimately summon to avoid doing them. "It's Monday, no one ever likes these calls on Monday." "It's too soon after the holiday, they probably took more days off." "It's lunchtime, never a good time to call someone." You get the idea. After a while, even I was calling myself on my excuses. When even I don't believe myself, it's time for action.
I decided yesterday that I had to keep my butt in the chair and make at least 10 calls before I could (a) read another blog or (b) play another game of Solitaire. It worked because I finally got into it and just kept plugging away making calls through about half the list that needed to be called. No one likes getting these calls any more than I enjoy making them. I try to stay upbeat and speak clearly and relatively slowly so they can absorb what I'm calling about.
Now it's occurring to me that this is another interesting lesson in human nature: how people react when you call them, if you get them at all; whether they actually return your call as you have politely begged; whether you ever get anyone at that company to talk with you and when you decide that follow up calls have left the reminder stage and now border on harassment.
I talked with a real estate company owner (standing in for Chicken Little) who said, effectively, "good luck in this economy sucka." I'll be fascinated to see how HIS business thrives in the next 12 months.
The president of another company called me back late yesterday and explained that they usually sponsor Little League teams and other child-oriented charities. Nice conversation, nice man. I talked to another business owner who explained that he's on the board of another non-profit that's working with children in Africa and his money will be funding that this year. Another great call and an obviously legitimate reason for no contribution.
Today I received a call back from the head of a large, prestigious advertising agency who wasn't too big to call to say they couldn't participate this year. Another small business owner's wife called today apologizing that she hadn't sent in her sponsorship yet and would do so immediately.
So, out of 40 calls, so far I've had five responses, just over 10 percent, and I've left messages for 30-some more. Considering it another lesson in the amazing variety of human nature and reactions helps me pick up the phone to make the calls. No matter that I'll have to call 30+ people back a couple more times before I figure they're avoiding me or just plain darn rude.
Projects like this help me understand people a little more and ultimately refine my own reaction when I get calls like this so I don't sound like "good luck sucka" Chicken Little guy. Sure, it doesn't really matter because they're faceless when I call (so am I to them for that matter) and I'm just another phone number and equally faceless when I get these calls. But I do have to live with my own reaction and going through this exercise helps me figure out what I must do so I can tolerate myself when I'm the faceless target as well.