Don't judge! I hate calling people at work. Don't get me wrong, I do it, but know I can be better. A lot of times all I know is their name and title. There has got to be something more inventive then asking if they would be open to confidentially hearing about new opportunities, right? Ideally I like them to be referral calls but it doesn't always work out that way. Suggestions? Thank you.
Not many people love cold calling, Lisa so there shouldn't be too much judging here! You can read and listen to all kinds of "experts" telling you how there should never be a cold call, make them "warm" calls, blah blah blah. But reality is some of the calls are just how you describe.
Before I ask if they are interested in hearing about a opportunity, I have checked to be sure they can talk and I try to find something else to comment on or ask them about that will hopefully lead to a minute or two of conversation before going into the position I'm trying to fill. Not really any new ideas, but where they are located might be something you can bring up - like if it's a place you've been/lived/have family or friends, etc.. If you know their school, former employer(s), or are familiar with any other activities/organizations of their's then you can use that to start a short discussion. Also, I have found that if they have something in their background that I am unfamiliar with - like a certain designation/license/certification/skill then I ask them about it. That helps me learn new things and also lets them tell me something about them.
Asking for help always seemed to work for me. :) I would be very honest and say I don't know much about you other than your name and title, but the truth is you're an accountant and I'm looking for an accountant. What kind of opportunity would you need to hear about to make you happy you took my call?
Let them lead the conversation, if at all possible... They may or may not want the role you're trying to fill but it's good to know their hot buttons so when you have THAT role, you know who to call.
I think the biggest mistake recruiters make is we start verbally vomiting all over people not having any idea what it is they want to hear. It's ok to ask for references too. I would say something like "who in your industry do you think highly enough of to recommend for a promotion" or something like that.
I was never very "slick", but I was (and still am) pretty successful in converting targets to candidates. Oh and I hate cold calling too. :)