How to practice cold calling

Two friends of mine recently started a new business, which we’re affectionately calling BookBook.

It is a digital platform that allows users to display their favorite books.

The platform would display the spines of books, just like I do on my physical bookshelves. And the collections would only feature collections of books, like my favorite cookbooks or a list of what Tyler Cowen calls quake books.

Sourcing book spines turns out to be quite difficult. So I set out to phone book publishers in the attempt to find book spine designs for this project!

I took on this task of cold calling publishers because I love books, my friends are starting a company and I wanted to help. Really, though, I undertook this project to practice making cold calls.

Here are a few things I learned that will make your next cold calls easier.

Outline your pitch

The first step was to decide on my sales pitch.

I sat down with my friends and asked each of them to sell me on their startup. I recorded the audio of their sales pitches and took copious notes.

Then, I pitched my own version and asked for feedback.

We went back and forth like this until I had a rough script and was prepared to answer a variety of questions.

Outlining your pitch shouldn’t be complicated. Decide what you are going to ask for and write a rough script. Bullet points are fine! Consider getting some feedback

Then move on to the next step.

Set a deadline

Practice enough that you are ready to deliver your pitch, but don’t let practice get in the way of actually getting started.

Don’t use preparation as a form of resistance. And don’t forget Parkinson’s Law – work will expand to fill the time allotted for its completion.

I scheduled a day when I would start actually calling publishers. That deadline gave me a concrete window in which to practice.

Set a deadline and give yourself a limited amount of time to prepare.

Rehearse your pitch

My next step was to rehearse my pitch.

I booked time in my calendar, because, for me, if something isn’t in my calendar it doesn’t happen.

During those rehearsals, I reviewed my notes and recorded a voice memo of my new pitch. Then I listened back, took notes and tried it again.

Hard things often take less deliberate practice than we think. But you do have to show up and do the work!

Make some calls

The final, and most critical step, was to actually start calling publishers.

On the day I had set aside, I Googled book publisher phone numbers and called all six of the big book publishers.

It would have been more effective to locate phone numbers in advance, but fortunately book publishers are easily available online.

This is the most critical step, because without actually putting in this practice, outlining your pitch, deadlines, and rehearsal don’t have much impact!


In talking to representatives at all the big publishing houses, I learned that book spines are even harder to source than I’d thought!

So while I haven’t yet gotten access to book spines, I’m grateful to have taken on this small sales project as practice.

As people who have something to sell, we all want to be more comfortable talking to strangers. Likely the reason you don’t ask more often is that discomfort and your fear of rejection.

And the best way to overcome that discomfort is to practice.

Most of us are uncomfortable asking strangers for things. But through this project, I put in the practice and took an incremental step.


Cold calling is one of the scariest things most people do. But that’s because the steps are too big.

Get comfortable doing the uncomfortable thing when the stakes are low.

Today, pick up your phone and call one person spontaneously. Most people don’t use their phones for phone calls, so maybe that’s enough of a stretch.

If you do talk to people by phone, phone someone you don’t speak to regularly.

See if you can stretch beyond your comfort and phone when you’d ordinarily text, or to contact somebody you don’t normally talk to.

All the practice and rehearsal doesn’t matter if you never pick up the phone and call, so just get started.

Until next week,

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