How to: ask for a cold call

The basic principles for asking for a cold call:

  1. The process has 3 stages – preparation (including the ask), the call, follow up
  2. Be courteous throughout the process and make sure the person feels thanked
  3. Showcase thoughtfulness where possible

Here’s how to think about each of these 3 stages.

Preparation:

  1. Be clear as to why you are asking for a call. Make sure you have a clear overall objective because calls are expensive in terms of the time it takes to do them. The worst kind of objective is “networking” where you do these calls to check some arbitrary box.
  2. If it is a quick question, would you consider doing it via email? Better still, are you open to sharing your question upfront? That way, you can allow the person you’re asking to decide if they’d like to do the call
  3. If you’ve decided to ask, ask really nicely. Let it be a request. “Could I please request a 30 minute call” works much better than “It’d be great to connect.”
  4. Make sure you get their name right. I’ve 2 instances in the past 3 weeks where people have addressed me by my last name despite having addressed me by first name when they first wrote in. Show that you care enough to get their name right.
  5. Make scheduling really easy once they say “yes.” Just give them all possible times in a 2 week period and allow them to choose. Make allowances for their schedule and don’t ask them to reschedule more than twice. Remember: they’re doing you a favor.
  6. Finally, there are always opportunity to showcase thoughtfulness. Add a note to tell people how you heard of them or, if you’ve come across their work, if it had an impact on you. If genuine, these notes add a lot.

During the call:

  1. Share your questions upfront so you can allow the person on the other side to sort them in an order that works for them.
  2. While you have them, ask for their perspective on broader topics. For example, if you are speaking to an alumni from your school who works at Google, don’t just ask for advice to get into Google. Ask them for their perspective on how to do a job search right. This moves the call away from a “I am speaking to you to get a job in your company” to “I’d like your advice.”
  3. Avoid being very pushy about getting referrals and asking for a favor. It may be the only option if you are desperate. But, most folks will willingly suggest a referral if they think you are a good fit or feel a connection. You don’t have to force it out of them.
  4. Summarize/synthesize what they said, share next steps and thank them.

After the call:

  1. Follow up with a thank you email with what you took away from the call.
  2. If you did promise to “keep them posted” about the results of whatever you are doing, do follow up and keep them posted. Almost no one does this and it is a big wasted opportunity to build a relationship.

A call is a wonderful opportunity to make a connection. I’ve done a fair share of requesting for them and have made a ton of mistakes. I’ve also been fortunate to learn from folks who do a fantastic job with this process.

I hope you find it useful.