When I started in sales, I loved my job.

I was working for IBM (IBM). I loved talking to new people. I genuinely enjoyed helping those people discover new solutions for their problems. And I was, at the time, selling technology that was groundbreaking—AS400s, UNIX, PCs and DOS servers that would replace customers’ outdated IBM midrange systems.

What I didn’t love, however, was cold calling. 

Who could blame me? In my territory, cold calling didn’t mean picking up a phone and dialing a list of prospects. It meant going door-to-door and actually meeting with people face-to-face. Rejection in that context was slightly more embarrassing and difficult to swallow than having someone simply hang up on you.

That fear and hatred of cold calling came to a head in my third week as a salesperson, when my manager took me to the top floor of an eight-story building in the heart of Washington, D.C.; pointed to the door of the first suite; looked at me with a Grinch-like smile; and said, “Go!”

Naturally, I was petrified. He opened the door and I followed him in like a sheep going to slaughter …

And then I froze.

There I was, standing in front of the company’s receptionist, and not one word was coming out of my mouth. My manager and the receptionist exchanged awkward glances and then looked at me expectantly.

Still nothing.

One second passed. Then two. Then three. Still nothing. I had no idea what to say.

Finally, my manager pulled my sinking body from the depths and took over. He introduced us, talked about our company and somehow managed to help us save face when it looked as though we’d be laughed out of the office.

The Beginning of My Cold Calling Epiphany

Shortly after leaving that appointment, I decided that I wanted to find a better way to prospect. One that made cold calling unnecessary in every form.

It didn’t happen overnight, but I eventually discovered that I could be successful by taking a more proactive approach to seeking and cultivating referrals. And when those referrals weren’t enough, I discovered that I could use a variety of lead generation techniques that, quite frankly, were more productive than traditional cold calling.

So, that’s what I did. And in short order, I was drawing in more high-quality leads than I’d ever generated purely through cold calling.

What were those techniques?

In my book, "The Sales Magnet," I share five personal, five collaborative and four digital strategies that have proven to be very effective tools for grabbing your prospects’ attention. I’ve used each of them throughout my career, but you only need to choose a few and use them consistently to start being noticed.

What Can You Learn from My Prospecting Experience? 

“Sure, Kendra,” you might be thinking, “You had the benefit of IBM’s reputation and marketing resources working for you. I have neither. So how does your experience translate to mine?”

You might be surprised.

When I was with IBM, we did have a huge marketing team. But they were focused on IBM’s core target markets: manufacturing, insurance, and government. They didn’t do anything in my target markets—law firms, CPA firms and architects—which meant I had to manage lead generation on my own.

In all likelihood, the same goes for you.

While some marketing teams are responsible for generating leads (if you have a marketing team at all), that doesn’t mean that those teams will be focused on driving awareness for your territory or your personal reputation. And that’s where using these lead-generation strategies can help.

As prospects start to read your emails, follow your comments on LinkedIn, or attend an event you hosted, they get to know you. As you talk about issues they’re experiencing, they start to pay attention to you. After a while, you’ll start to notice that when you do call prospects, it’s not a cold call anymore. They’ll know your name, and they’ll actually be interested in talking to you.

Essentially, you’ll gain access faster, have more meaningful conversations more quickly and reduce the impact of competition. All because prospects know a little bit about you before they ever receive your call.

The bottom line is that by creating and executing a more well-rounded lead-generation strategy, you can avoid the experience I had at the beginning of my career with IBM. Suddenly, instead of feeling as though you’re blindly shooting at a target a mile away, you’ll see the target directly in front of you. And, maybe more importantly, you’ll know exactly what you need to do hit the bullseye with much greater frequency. 

Kendra Lee is a top IT Seller, Prospect Attraction Expert, author of the newly released book, “The Sales Magnet,” and the award winning book, “Selling Against the Goal,” and president of KLA Group. Specializing in the IT industry, KLA Group works with companies to break in and exceed revenue objectives in the Small and Midmarket Business (SMB) segment.