Maria Brophy


  • and make good money doing it!

    ‘Strategies for a Successful Art Business!’
Art Marketing / business of art / Entrepreur

How to Get Over your Fear of Making Sales Calls – For Creative Entrepreneurs

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Many of the creative entrepreneurs that I consult with have trouble making calls to customers, galleries and agents.  They fear rejection and being told “no” so much so, that they avoid the process of getting new business altogether.

I’m going to share a very effective “selling” technique that I learned a few years ago, when I produced a TV Show called THE PAINT SHOP WITH DREW BROPHY.

One 28 minute episode of a TV show costs quite a bit to make; ours was on a shoe-string and it still cost over $20,000 an episode.   We needed sponsors to help pay for it.

To get sponsor dollars, someone had to make those dreaded cold-calls; and that someone was me!

The thought of calling people and asking for money made my stomach turn.  I didn’t want to be hung up on, or rejected, or worse, have to explain to someone why they should give us money!

The first few calls didn’t go well.  I rarely got the right person on the phone, and when I did, I fell flat in my communication skills.

But, I was forced to figure it out – otherwise the TV show would have to be cancelled.  And we were already in production!

By a stroke of luck or divine intervention, one day it hit me; I was going about it all wrong.  I was making the phone calls about ME and about what “I” needed.

I should have been making the calls about “THEM” and what they need.

That tiny little mind shift made a huge, positive difference, as a well as a few other mental changes that I made.



  • Set an Intention to Provide Value:  Get yourself in the mindset that you want to provide value, and that you don’t want to sell to them if it’s not a fit.
  • Set an Intention to Seek Information first:  Your first objective should be to find out if they need/want what you have.  (You don’t want to sell them what they don’t need, right?)
  • Release attachment to the outcome:  When we have an expectation, when we really, really, really want something, we are too attached to it.  This comes through in our vibrations when we are talking to someone, even if it’s on the phone.

Let go of the need to have them say yes.  You will be more relaxed when you make that call.  When you are relaxed, it goes well.
When I was calling sponsors for our TV show, I stressed over the outcome, until I figured this out:  If they say no, it’s because it’s not right for them.  And I don’t want to take their money if it’s not a fit.

Making that one little mind shift helped me to become unattached to the outcome, the NEED to have them say “yes.”  Instead, I focused on finding out what it is that they NEED, then seeing if I can give it to them.


  • Get to the Point:  People are busy.  Have a pre-planned statement, in one to two sentences, the purpose of your call.  Make it about them, not you.  (Never say “I really need you to…)
  • Be prepared:  Have a list of questions to ask.  And then ask them.
  • Have a conversation:  The best calls are when it’s a give and take conversation.
  • Speak from the Heart:  If you genuinely have it in your heart to enjoy this person on the other end of the phone, and to want to learn about them, and their likes and dislikes, you will connect with them on a personal level.  And boom! You’ve now got them where you can then talk about who you are and what you have to offer.
  • Find out what they need:  You have no idea what they want or need or have tried in the past.  You might think you do, but usually you’re wrong!  There’s only one way to find out for sure what they need; and that is to have a conversation where you ask questions and genuinely want to help.

Forget about you – it’s all about them:  Most nervousness surrounding social conversation has to do with thinking about yourself.  Turn that around to think only of the other person, and what THEY need, and your nervousness will go away.

  • End the conversation with a call to action:  Ask if you can email info, or follow up later, or if they want more details.
  • Feel good about the outcome:  Even if they aren’t interested, thank them for their time and say “if anything changes, let me know.”  Always leave the door open for later.  No doesn’t always mean no, it just means “no for now.”

RECAP:  The key to getting over being nervous is to FOCUS on THEM and what they need.  Forget about yourself.  Genuinely be interested in that person, their company, and what’s important to them.

When you show that kind of interest, the person will talk more.  They will feel your warmth over the phone.  They will begin to trust you, once they realize that their needs are important to you.

Then they will tell you things that will help you find a way to give them what they need.  You will connect on a deeper level.

Once you’ve connected, they will be open to hearing about your offering and considering what you have to sell them!

Please, share in the comments, any suggestions you have to add to this.




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27 Comments How to Get Over your Fear of Making Sales Calls – For Creative Entrepreneurs

  1. Alex

    Right on as usual Maria! This is a very important point you made ~ “Being interested” rather than being “interesting”. I believe the same principle applies to public speaking and successful personal and/or business relationships in general – thank you so much for sharing 🙂

    1. Maria

      Thanks Alex for your comment. Yes, public speaking too – when you keep the audience in mind, rather then yourself, that’s when you give your best talk!

  2. lindabillet

    This post is SPOT ON. Also… If a call that I have made ends up that it is not a good fit, I then ask the person if they have any insight about someone else that WOULD be a good fit. If I handled the call correctly as a human being rather than a pushy salesperson, then people are generally wanting to help and are sometimes able to give me great leads.

    1. Maria

      Linda, great suggestion on what to ask if they aren’t interested – ask them if they know who WOULD be a good fit! Some people out there will want to help you, even if they don’t want to hire you.

  3. Mckenna Hallett

    Yippeee! This is the real deal. Another way to make this work is to keep the I, ME, MINE words at a minimum and use YOU and YOURS as much as possible. It’s truly “all about them”. One other quirky tip (from someone who made many hundreds of thousands in phone selling): Have a mirror in front of you and smile smile, smile! A smile makes you more comfortable AND (proven in some study) it can be “heard” by the person you are talking to. Can’t hurt to grab a mirror!

    1. Maria

      McKenna, great suggestions, to keep the “I, ME, MINE words at a minimum.” The words we use make a huge difference in the response we get.

  4. debra disman

    Maria, this is just fabulous. Thank you so much for laying this out in such a user-friendly way. I have learned all of this, and heard it before, but the way you laid it out, with the storyof your personal experinece, really hit home. i also shared it with my husband, who is an actor and a contractor, and other actor friends (it is very close to waht the actor Bryan Cranston, of Breaking Bad fame, as advised actors to do when they audition…), and I am about to forward it to a friend and her photographer husband she is trying to promote. Bravo! Very HIGH VALUE!

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  6. Michelle

    Hi Maria, This is a great post! Would you recommend cold calling companies that might be a good fit in an effort to license artwork? Or are those contacts made at trade shows only? Also, which department within the company should you contact? I’m an independent artist and book author/illustrator and I am interested in licensing my characters. Thanks! This is a great blog.

    1. Maria Brophy

      Michele, great question, thanks! I think the best thing to do is to send a potential licensee a print out of your art (with proper copyright notices) and then follow up with a phone call.

      It’s not necessary to meet licensees at trade shows, though that is one way to meet them, it’s not the only way.

      Which Department? For every company it’s different; for some it’s the art dept, or the licensing department. Or you ask for the person in charge of licensing, or the art director, or the VP of licensing. I hope this is helpful. I’m glad you like my blog, thanks!

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  8. Stir Fry

    Thank you very much Maria for sharing your knowledge and experiences.. Although our business is different, the same rules apply. We can attest to the warning signs of bad deals and customers exactly as you have outlined. Thank you for the affirmation that we made the right decisions.

  9. Chris Charney

    Thank you for the valuable suggestions about sales, especially the ones about shifting my thinking from “what do I want” to “what do they want”. I can tell you I realized instantly when I read that “Ahaaa! There is my problem.” The fear of bruising my artist ego was so strong that I really didn’t want to deal with selling at all, but when you put it in the terms of trying to find the right fit it seems so much easier!

  10. Azul

    Thank you. i had a really important call to make for my business and i was a bit afraid of messing it all up! Thank you very much for your advice. It helped me a lot. Everything went well with my call.

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  12. Mustafa Ahmed

    Amazing and wonderfully helpful article that will stand the test of time as it has already in 2016! Thank you Maria!

    P.S. I loved your article that I read this whole page, in doing that I found some broken links. If you are interested in knowing them let me know.


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  14. Curious

    This is great.

    One thing it doesn’t address is the need to get past highly skilled gatekeepers. In my industry, reaching the person you need is impossible from an outside-in perspective, unless you woo the person on the phone.

    They are trained to deflect so you will *always* get no.

    Do you have any tips?


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