WASHINGTON, DC—“No one likes to cold call, and if you say you do, you’re lying.” That was Sean Moynihan’s frank assessment of the intimidating practice. Moynihan joined a group of other up-and-coming pros—Young Guns in the parlance of Avison Young—at the firm’s annual general meeting here to discuss some of the challenges they face. All of them have yet to log more than a decade in the business.

He reported that 92% of his business comes from cold calls—and cold emails, all with the intent of getting “one to two meetings a week. And you feel like a rock star when you get those meetings, even though it’ll be 12 to 18 months before I get paid.”

Broker Martin McDermott said a little creative chat helps him get passed the gatekeeper, the receptionist. He recommended you tell them it’s about anything but real estate, just to get to the next level.

Receptionists are one thing, “But don’t B.S. the executive assistant,” he warned. “You don’t want to end up on her blacklist.”

Too many young brokers sweat the details of what they’re going to say, offered Gord Oughton. “Worry less about that than getting them on the phone,” he advised.

The firm does provide scripted cold calls, but these evolve naturally into your own natural style over time. It did for Moynihan. “It’s become more layered. But my hit rate is the same. Just get it out and worry about how they’ll respond and how you’ll counter.”

And there’s the key. The counter argument. Moynihan said he goes armed with research, not only with lease expirations and rates, but with stats on building debt and who the second in command is, anything that can arm him and disarm his target. He also keeps a thorough record of the call with the intention of calling back in a month if he’s rejected. “They won’t remember you anyway,” he said.

The database matters, including any information you might get on their desk habits. Moynihan starts his first block of cold calls at 7:45 AM. If he gets a target on the phone he knows he’s early to work, and that goes in the database. If he says he just renewed and the lease is for five years, that goes into the database too. Both bits of information will power future calls. He does a second block of cold calls at 4:45 PM, and he said he is religious about keeping that schedule.

A system, be it scripts or databases helps in the process, but the only way to deal with the fear is to just do it.

Moynihan says he’s still “scared to death about cold calls. “I’d rather take a bullet.”