The Agony of Chasing New Business

David Halberstam

The pit in cold callers’ stomachs should growl with hunger every day. Hunger can’t be taught or nurtured. You’re either born hungry or you’re not. You’re either fully consumed by a visceral, bone-deep desire to succeed or you’re not. ‘Content’ is a dirty word in sales. It’s usually the incipience of losing interest in selling.

As you wage everyday sales battles, you’ll trudge through unfriendly and unresponsive roads burdened by bumps and pitfalls. Developing new business is a lifelong obstacle course. It’s strewn with emotional barriers and callous apathy on the other side of the desk. Your good senses will be challenged quickly, regularly and furiously.

Your sanity will be tested almost every day. The gutters of sales roads are littered with victims and quitters, beginners who embarked and just couldn’t endure the strains. At some point, they had enough and swallowed a bullet.

To strive and thrive, there has to be an unbreakable determination to overcome all corrupting thoughts. You have to build a mental firewall, stopping pessimism from overpowering you. The prize at the end of the road is worth it: money, more money, pride, a corporate promotion and new job opportunities.

You’ll have to be impervious to setbacks. Always remember that it’s just a setback. It’s not a disaster. In prospecting, tomorrow is always another day. There’s always another prospect. Determination requires confidence. Never crater. Focus on the end goal. It starts with getting the appointment, the opportunity to present, and it culminates with the order.

Cold calling is also about self-restraint. You’ll find yourself paralyzed by the legacy of prospects who dig themselves into their impenetrable corporate fortresses. Remember: no animals, no circus and no ballgame. No targets, no job and no money.

Don’t do anything you’ll regret. Your equanimity will be challenged regularly, and you’ll want to lose it often. The dismissive treatment you’ll suffer is almost imponderable. The laconic indifference you’ll fight through every day is painful.

Cold calling is not for the faint of heart. It’s a daunting job. You’ll be given a blank canvas and asked to turn it into hard cash. You’ll be afraid. Most people would be. Yet, if you can handle it, you’ll be one of a special breed. You’ll be an elite member of sales’ Navy SEALs. In the words of former baseball manager Tony La Russa, “When in doubt and when in fear, be aggressive.” The things that scare you the most are the most worthwhile.

While you’ll be working feverishly to loosen the punishing grips of a gatekeeper, your patience will wear thin—all while your stomach is hungry and angry. So, when an administrative assistant puts you off or, worse, ignores you, take a deep breath. The stomach is saying lace into the administrative assistant. The brain, though, has to assuage the tongue’s temptations. Be tough. Employ self-discipline. Don’t do anything rash or you might end up unemployed.

The stomach reinforces the fortitude both to fight the antagonists and to neutralize mental dyspepsia. I can’t tell you how many sellers keep Tums in their backpacks. Just scrap and claw. Be headstrong. If you’re good, you’ll prosper.

David Halberstam is the principal of Halby Group, which actively assists sales representatives of media entities, syndicators, sports franchises, governing bodies and marketing agencies to actively sell advertising inventory, sponsorships and revenue-building promotional programs. This article is excerpted from his book, “The Fundamentals of Sports Media and Sponsorship Sales: Developing New Accounts”