Thursday, 28 February 2013

Breaking In: Cold - Calling


Now that you have read the interview with DivyaAggarwal, it’s safe to assume that you must be even more interested in getting into IB. Because if you are not, then you are reading the wrong blog. So let’s come back to the ways which can turn that IB dream into a reality.

In my earlier post about methods of networking, I mentioned that cold calling is one of the most effective ways of breaking into finance. This post will tell you how to cold call so that you can get the best results.

Also, some reminders:
  • Cold calling works best at the smaller places. So if you’re targeting BB banks, you might want to rethink your strategy.
  • Do not expect success in 10 phone calls. If you’re calling for a job, you might have to try anything from 20 to 100 times, or even more, before you get your first tangible lead. But if you’re calling for an informational interview, your chances are much better.
  • But, all it takes is one affirmative answer to turn that lead into an interview.

 Before you call:

Research. Check out the website of the company that you are calling and see what services or industries they are focused in. It’s the same as when you go for an interview – you want to cover your basis and make sure that you have something to talk about related to the company. But at this point, you need not delve too deep into the details. Compare it to reading news headlines – just enough knowledge so that you know what the other person is talking about.

If you are calling a specific person, see if his profile is available on the company website. If not, try looking for his Linkedin profile and learn what you can. If that not either, see if you can find his Facebook page (although here you start entering the realm of stalking).

An inside tip for using Linkedin:
Suppose you find a person’s Linkedin profile via Google search. Unless you are a premium member, Linkedin will only show the person’s introduction part. The past experience, education and all the other useful details will not be visible.

How to circumvent this problem – use the advanced search function with specific queries. Let me elaborate. When you reach the person’s profile via Google, it will usually show you where the person is currently working and which area he is located in. Now go to the advanced search option, fill in the person’s name, organization and location. Almost always this will give only one search result. But now when you click on the link, you will be able to see this person’s entire profile.

Note: I have used this route only a few times, but it has always worked for me. If you have trouble with it, leave a comment and I’ll see if I can help you out.

Again, you don’t need to spend too much time on the research part because of the sheer volume of calls you will need to place. But at least know the full name of the company and which sector they specialize in, if any.


Informational Interviews:

One of the most underutilized methods of networking in India is informational interviews. There’s something inherent in we Indians that never allows us to admit that we don’t know something. Thus, most of us will find ourselves out of depth if we ever ask someone to grant us an informational interview.

However, it is in fact the best way to build a rapport when you are trying to network your way into finance, especially when you are cold calling a senior banker. It shows that you are humble and willing to learn. So when you cold-call, the chances of someone saying yes are considerably higher when you request for an informational interview rather than for a job.

Your pitch:

When you are cold calling, you are nothing but a salesperson. So essentially, your success rate depends on your selling abilities – how well you sell yourself. Keep it short, the person you are talking to is likely to be in the middle of some urgent work or the other. A typical cold-call should go like this:
     
Introduce yourself – “Hi, I’m XYZ and I am a [qualification] at [institute]. Could I speak with you for a few minutes?” If you’re a CA or from a good college, in 99% of the cases the person will either agree to talk or will ask you to call back at a later time. 

The request – Why are you calling?  “I’m highly interested in working in IB (or PE) and I was hoping that you could grant me an informational interview; as I would like to learn more about what you do”.

There is a chance that the banker, especially if a junior one, will be confused about what you want (happened to me once – still makes me chuckle). So just explain a little bit that you’re highly interested in this industry and because of the lack of contacts, you’re trying to reach out to someone in the industry. Chances are, the person will be impressed with your initiative and will agree.
(or)
“I’m highly interested in IB (or PE) and your organization’s profile matches what I am looking for. I’m wondering if I could meet you in person to discuss career prospects at your company. (Note: It is usually inadvisable to ask for an in-person meeting. However, I personally prefer doing the actual discussion face to face. You can make the request as per your own preferences).

In the latter scenario, over 90% of the people will either tell you that they’re not looking to hire, or they’ll tell you to email your resume. Unless your resume is already very impressive, this is what you want to avoid. And thus my suggestion of going for an informational interview first – it will give you a chance to make an impression that is not based solely on your resume.

If you’re just starting out and the person you are calling is not hiring, you can mention that you would be interested in even an internship position. A few months internship in IB can do wonders and you can continue hunting for another opportunity in the meantime. But if you still get a negative answer, thank him for his time and bid him a good day. Then call him next month.

Calling him next month (in case you are still hunting) improves your chances because most probably, the guy will remember your previous call and will be more willing to talk. In cold calling, perseverance is everything.


Follow up:

If you did get through to a banker either for an informational interview or for an in-person meeting, make sure to call him up in a week or two. Ever heard of “out of sight, out of mind”? Yup, the same analogy applies here also.

So you need to make sure that your new contact doesn’t forget you by the weekend. Call him up, remind him that you met/spoke with him some time back, and say that you have a few follow up questions and so if he has the time, could he answer them? What you’re doing here is building a certain personal rapport – you’re showing the banker that you are not just another guy who’s mass calling people.

If you met earlier for discussing job prospects and he answered negatively at the time, just call him to ask if there have been any changes and remind him that you really like the company and would love to do an internship there. Persistence pays off more often than you know.


This brings us to the end of this post and now you are all set with your cold – calling guide. I realise this concept of cold-calling for jobs is not going to sit well with most of the readers, but ultimately¸ it works. And let’s face it, what do you have to lose? So give it a try.


Let me know if you have any questions; and stay tuned for more on interviews, resumes, PE and more!

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