How To Ask Someone You Don’t Know for a Phone Call

Not too long ago I put out a tweet about how to ask for someone’s time to discuss business opportunities. This is a topic that isn’t written about enough so I figured I’d expand a bit on my original message, which was as follows:

I will confess that the original motivation for this tweet was to vent a little frustration.

In two days just as many people asked me to get on the phone to discuss their e-learning related project.

Now, it’s not that I don’t want to help people where I can. If time allows then I certainly will do some consulting, which is why I replied in kind to each message asking for more details. I also included my consultation rate.

I never heard back.

Time and expertise are valuable to both parties.

I’m sure you have heard it before: If you don’t value your time then no one will.

Time is a very personal thing as we only have so much of it. When it’s gone it is gone forever.

When I am asked to “jump on the phone for 15 minutes” (sidebar: there’s no such thing as a 15 minute phone call), then it’s more than my time that is being requested. The individual(s) requesting the call want to benefit from my expertise. They want to tap into the many years it took for me to acquire the knowledge I have in the e-learning, online courses, and WordPress space.

There is nothing wrong with that. That’s the entire point of consulting. That’s also why consultants have rates.

For me, if someone that I don’t know comes out of the blue and asks for my time (and I happen to have availability) then I expect them to pay my hourly rate because I know that I will save them a significant amount of time and money over the life of their project.

How to ask for someone’s time.

Asking for a meeting is a bit of an art. Even if you offer to pay someone their rate they may still say “no” because their schedule is full.

If you are calling because you need their consulting expertise for a project but they don’t have availability, then try to schedule a short meeting initially (~20 minutes). The point of the call is to just give an overview of your situation, but not to actually get all your questions answered. This shows the individual that you are serious about them and their time.

Naturally you are compensating them for this short discovery meeting. It’s also important to make it clear that you want to continue working with them, even if they can spare only 30 minutes a week. If they still can’t do it, then ask if they can recommend someone in their network that may be able to help.

If you are requesting a call in order to discuss a business opportunity with someone then you have a much more difficult task at hand. You can try using the strategy above to get your foot-in-the-door, but getting that person to say “yes” will be a lot more difficult.

To increase the chances of a meeting, make the discussion all about how you can help them, and not the other way around. 

A few key points:

  • Avoid phrases like “mutual opportunity”. It’s a red flag and you’ll get shut-down pretty quickly.
  • Don’t be cryptic. Say exactly what the opportunity is.
  • Be specific and concrete in the benefits you would offer in the deal.

For the last point a good example would be to say something like, “I’d like to promote your product to 20,000 people, and we normally have a conversion rate of 2%”.

That is more likely to get their attention than a mystery inquiry where a call has to be scheduled in order to “learn more”.

Last but not least. Avoid the NDA crap for the first few meetings. If you need one then get it signed after both parties agree to take talks a bit further.

One last thing to remember…

Remember that in business, as in life, you will face rejection. What you don’t want to do is take the rejection personally. Remember, it’s not about you. It’s about the person’s time – their most personal (and valuable) possession.

If the person you want to have a discussion with denies your request then keep your head-up and move on. Otherwise you’re just wasting your own time. 😉