From a Cold-Calling Exercise to a Job: An Exercise in Persistence and Courage

By Jing Xin
Candidate, MS Integrated Marketing Communications, ’18

& Public Relations Coordinator, Cross Marketing PR

I really suck at this. Or, at least that was what I thought after a Sales Management class exercise where we had to cold-call businesses and start asking questions. Our professor for the class, Don Surath, wanted us to get the name of the answerer’s boss – and find out if they liked their job. At the end of the 20 minutes, some people get a lot of information, and I felt jealous. I literally did the worst of anyone in the class.

When I heard that another assignment was to get an “ultimate decision maker” to consent to an interview, I thought: I am going to withdraw from this class. However, it became the highlight of my experience at GGU. With persistence and a little courage, I went from the worst to one of the best in the class. I was eventually able to achieve something that was completely outside my comfort zone but requires sales techniques that are essential for any business professional. And I got my first marketing job.

We learn hands-on at GGU.

We are all afraid of talking to people. So, in another exercise, Don had us walk around downtown and ask businesses to see if they had a Yellow Pages phone directory. As I went from Verizon Wireless to Mikado Sushi, feeling like I was being watched by people as if was somewhat mentally troubled, I realized how this course was exposing my vulnerabilities: the difficulty of starting a conversation, fear of judgment and rejection, and the inability to control situations. But by pushing and trying, and applying the real-world techniques Don gave us, I had a route to getting to be one of the best cold callers.

Claudia Ross, CEO, Cross Marketing Public Relations

I was new to marketing and was working in a bio research lab when I got to the Sales Management Class. At the time, I was having discussions with my advisor (and Marketing Chair) Blodwen Tarter, and she suggested that I reach out to companies for informational interviews. At about the same time, Don handed us the Ultimate Decision Makers assignment. I tried to connect this task with what I needed most to prepare myself for a career in marketing. Then I came up with an idea: Why not conduct a series of informational interviews so that I can help myself and my classmates at GGU get to know some marketing and PR agencies in San Francisco?

I met peers in class who worked in ad agencies or sales who shared how they talk to people. These are great moments…

I started to cold call these companies and ask for their CEOs, precisely following Professor Surath’s instructions and saying, simply, “I wonder if you could help me,” and waiting for them to say yes. Eventually, I had one receptionist interested in what I intended to do. From her, I got the cellphone number of Claudia Ross, the CEO of Cross Marketing PR.

She picked up her cell the second time, but to meet Claudia in person was not easy. Her schedule was changing every minute, and, we had to cancel and postpone the interview twice. Then I proposed the “check-with-Claudia-every-morning” approach. Luckily, Claudia agreed. The day of the interview was rough as well. Something unavoidable (really, it turned out) had come up. I offered to “stick around” the reception area for a few hours, and finally was able to meet Claudia.

Each of the steps that led me to the interview was very difficult, among hardest was the fear of uncertainty. With instructions from Professor Surath and his book Conquering Cold Calling Fear, the process of following up for the interview has made me realize how important it is to be confident and persistent.

…by pushing and trying, and applying the real-world techniques Don gave us, I had a route to getting to be one of the best cold callers.

I applied for a position at Cross Marketing PR soon after my Decision Maker interview with Claudia, and she immediately hired me. Now I now handle a wide range of tasks at the agency – from media relations to social media and content management. Compared to my former career in scientific research, which was rather solitary, my new job in marketing and public relations requires the interaction and understanding of people that I enjoy very much.

The Ultimate Decision Maker experience has also shown me that as long as we are willing to reach out to the most successful business people; connecting with them and learning directly from them is easier than you might think.

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