My top 12 tips for Cold Calling

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Cold calling has never been an easy feat to achieve. It can lead to anxiety, nerves, and even depression in some cases. Cold calling can invoke a case of Mondayitis every day of the week. I have cold-called for my entire professional sales career and have seen the benefits of doing so first-hand. 

More recently, I have heard plenty of negative press on the notion of cold calling. People justify their decree using reasons such as, “It just does not work anymore”, “No one answers the phone anymore”, “People don’t want to be annoyed by cold callers”, and “Cold calling is so 1990s”. I hear this stuff passed around at networking events, read blogs about it, and even see that entire organisations have sprung up claiming that “Inbound is the only way to go.”

My three words in response … COLD CALLING WORKS!

The cold caller might not want to work. The cold calling script might not work. However, cold calling as a concept, when executed well, works. I don’t base this on hearsay. I base this on personal experience. I have worked for global organisations, large companies, mid-market firms and start-ups. Cold calling worked at every end of the spectrum, from the mid-90s until today in mid-2022. I am not suggesting things have not evolved. An era of digital disruption has ushered in. Equally, it has brought through a plethora of digital tools that can aid the cold calling process.   

Even today, cold calling is one of the quickest and most successful methods of acquiring a meeting or getting into a direct dialogue with your prospects. If anything, I find things are a tad easier today than when I was in a pure BDM role. I had to make sixty outbound calls per day. The rejection rate was high. There was no LinkedIn to read up on profiles. There was no way of scoring the mobile phone number to make a direct cold call. You had to go through the gatekeeper. There were many more people executing outbound calling, and execs received a lot more calls. Fifteen years ago, I would have said execs suffered from cold call fatigue. It was tougher to cold call then.

Today, a vast majority of these obstacles no longer exist. Salespeople can reach executives on their mobile phones, eliminating the gatekeeper challenge.

Many salespeople are opposed to cold calling, preferring to pursue newer types of cold outreach (cold LinkedIn messages, emails etc.). This has cut down the cold-calling competitive landscape. When I make a cold call today, I find execs are more receptive cause not as many people are calling them.

You can leverage a plethora of SalesTech to learn more about who you are about to call and about their organisation. With more enablement available to you as a sales professional and reduced competition, it is an excellent opportunity for savvy professional salespeople to leverage the phone.

Here are twelve ways salespeople can improve their cold calling practice.

1. Belief that Cold Calling works

It all starts with the right mindset. Cold calling will work out or not if you believe so. “I will be successful at cold calling” or “I will fail at cold calling” are both valid and accurate statements if that is what you believe. Having the right psychological setup is essential to mastering cold calling. An incorrect mindset will drastically affect a salesperson’s ability to reach their desired outcome. The belief that cold calling works is essential to every successful cold call.

I base my psychological setup regarding cold calling on the following beliefs:

  • Cold calling cuts through the noise of digital.
  • I will get an opportunity to speak directly with the person I want to influence or position to or sell to.
  • Everyone receives a lot of emails. Not everyone receives a lot of cold calls.
  • Lesser competition out there can get on the phone cold. My cut-through will be higher.
  • Lesser competition out there has been skilled in making cold calls. I will be better than the competition when on the phone, cold.
  • Buyers receive a lot of emails, social media noise, etc. It is a great opportunity for me to take Resonate’s value proposition directly to the exec.
  • Cold calling has worked for me my entire sales career.
  • Cold calling has given birth to Resonate. Every client we found was through cold calling, powered by marketing enablement.
  • Speaking one on one with the appropriate exec allows me the chance to put our best foot forward.
  • I am responsible for my destiny. I am not waiting on anyone to help me succeed.
  • I get an immediate read on the prospect and their organisation. I can then gauge whether I want to proceed further or not.
  • I can tailor my calling approach to suit the exec’s seniority, title, industry, organisational size, etc.

The above beliefs put me in the right psychological frame of mind. Cold calling is never difficult for me because the above beliefs ring through and are true with consistency.

2. Do the maths

Clearly understand precisely how many calls you will need to make per day. Think of the quantitative (number of calls) and qualitative (duration of each call) aspects. Think about lead sourcing too. How many cold leads will you need to sustain that many calls? Where will the leads come from? Has leadership/marketing budgeted this? How many hours per day will you lead source? How many hours per day will you actually be on the phone (call blocks)? How many hours per day will you need to do admin and reporting? Do the maths. You will need the maths when things are not going well.

3. Carry out pre-call research

Without a foundational understanding of a prospect’s industry, organisation, job role and business model, salespeople will squander their limited discovery questions and valuable time on information that could have been obtained prior. Research is the essential mantra before you make the call. Pre-call research should include an examination of the target organisation’s digital presence. This includes their website, social media profiles, activity in the news, key projects, wins and losses in the public sphere, key hires, major announcements, etc. The more you know about them, the better that call will flow. You can start with a basic research toolkit of Google and LinkedIn to secure a lot of information about the target account and the person.

Here are ten (of the 53) tools in my prospecting toolkit (arranged alphabetically):

  • for sales intel and engagement
  • Bombora: for robust B2B intent data
  • Clearbit: for visualisation into market, prospects and customers
  • Cognism: for sales intel
  • HubSpot CRM: for sales management visualisation
  • LeadIQ: for capturing and sequencing contact info
  • for finding, engaging, educating and developing relationships on LinkedIn
  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator: company and individual intel, sales triggers
  • for the direct mail campaigns
  • ZoomInfo: for database and low-level intent info

After a salesperson’s pre-call research, they should be able to answer the following questions about the prospect’s organisation:

  • Which industry vertical are they in?
  • What are the primary market trends in that industry?
  • Where is the organisation in the industry leaderboard order?
  • Who are the industry leaders of that vertical?
  • Who are the disruptors in that vertical?
  • Any recent, pertinent news or business announcements?
  • How many employees does the organisation have?
  • Which sectors do they sell to?
  • How are they penetrating the market and increasing their market share?
  • What services do their clients pay for? Services, goods, software, or a combination thereof?
  • Who are their competitors, and how does your prospect’s business stand out?
  • Do you share customers or business partners?
  • Have you or members of your organisation previously communicated with this organisation?

4. Pick your timing and approach based on buyer persona

A buyer persona supports salespeople in communicating effectively with each prospect. This includes the optimal time to contact them, the appropriate tone, and the words that will urge them to purchase the offering.

Your chances of success increase when you change your call scheduling based on buyer personas. For instance, corporate execs typically work very early in the morning and/or late at night. I have seen success in calling CEOs first thing in the morning and after the business day is over. Calling finance leaders on the last day of the month does not achieve a favourable result. Calling IT leaders at specific times of the week or month also might not work owing to their commitments to internal stakeholders.

5. Have an outline of what you want to say on the call

Create a brief (thirty seconds or less) script for cold calling that you can refer to on the phone. Do not read it verbatim, but as a guide to help you deliver your ideas properly and confidently.

Your script must provide answers to questions such as:

  • Who are you?
  • Why have you called me?
  • What is in it for me? Or for my organisation?
  • What precisely do you want from me at this stage?
  • What are the next steps?

Please note that your script need only be a vehicle to establish who you are, what you want, and the credibility so that you can gain an advance. You are NOT trying to sell on this opening call.

6. Have a top-down strategy

When conducting outreach, have the courage, build the resolve, develop the skills, and master the knowledge and know-how, to start at the top. This is where people make decisions and projects are signed off. You might get referred down to functional leaders to move things forward, which is okay. But maintain your relationship with the top execs of the firm you wish to sell to. Employ a top-down sales strategy. This is vital for effectively securing larger opportunities. If you cannot secure time with the target organisation’s key decision-makers and executives, your chances of success will be low.

7. Embrace rejection. Let it be a motivator.

Rejection is a part of cold calling. It goes with the territory. Just like injuries go with Rugby, and financial ups and downs happen in investment markets, rejection is a natural component of the cold calling apparatus. Once you embrace this and become okay with it, rejection becomes easier to handle. The most crucial thing salespeople must understand about rejection is that these rejections are not personal. Instead, the contact rejects the value proposition for the meeting or the conversation the salesperson is attempting to initiate. They do not know the salesperson sufficiently to reject them.

I use a simple mental model called two for one. I make two cold calls for every rejection I receive.

8. Have prepared responses for the most common objections

Preparation is the most effective way of dealing with objections. “I don’t have time” is the most common initial objection to a cold call, which is code for “You’re not a priority right now.” However, if a prospect is, in fact, too busy to take your call, they would not have taken the call.

By making the call a priority for the prospect, it is possible to resolve this issue. To acquire priority status in the prospect’s mind, the salesperson needs to demonstrate the relevant value promptly and frequently.

Equally vital is informing the prospect of how long the call will last. Providing a time dimension indicates the salesperson’s regard for the prospect’s time, which can help alleviate a time-related objection.

Preparing responses to expected objections during the duration of the call is crucial. Salespeople must record the objections they encounter and formulate counterarguments for future calls. Over time, the counter remarks will be refined and become the salesperson’s most valuable cold calling asset.

9. Don’t start your cold call with a sales pitch

No one wants their day interrupted by a cold caller’s sales pitch. 

It is essential to add value rather than merely “sell.” Only when the salesperson is well-researched, well-prepared, and in the proper mentality can value be contributed. Approaching the discussion from the perspective of “What value can I deliver to this prospect’s business?” as opposed to “How can I make a sale?” is the single most critical component to a salesperson’s cold calling win rate.

10. Choose dialogue over monologue

Questions are the most effective approach for eliciting communication from a prospect. However, there are some approaches to sales questions that not only inspire the prospect to speak more but also add value to the sales conversation. Clarifying questions can help the prospect recognise the need for change. The salesperson establishes the best dynamic to achieve the call’s purpose by fostering a conversation and actively listening. 

11. Have a well-rehearsed set play

One of the most significant variables separating an unsuccessful cold call from a successful one is the ability to convey valuable information succinctly and eloquently. The advantage of a well-written sales script is that you do not have to fumble around to advance the conversation. You have a guiding narrative that allows you to take the conversation further.

12. Be knowledgeable in handling the free play

Cold calls have a ‘set’ and ‘free’ component to them. You rehearse the ‘set’ play. You speak from your script, and even though you are not reading verbatim, you still have a pre-meditated, rehearsed, and somewhat set narrative. 

You do not rehearse the ‘free’ component of the cold call. This is where the conversation moves into unrehearsed territories, and the client asks a question or goes down a discussion pathway that you were unprepared for. This is where your knowledge and skills will come in handy. If you deeply understand the problems and challenges your prospects have to grapple with and the associated topics, you can continue the conversation with credibility and engender trust. 

In conclusion

Cold calling requires research, determination and extensive practice to achieve mastery. Salespeople must approach cold calling as a worthwhile challenge from a positive stance, hard as the job may be. The rewards are certainly there for those who commit themselves to the challenge and follow through.  

Organisations who invest in training their SDRs or outsource the SDR function to a company like Resonate realise the considerable benefit. Highly targeted opportunities arise because of an initial cold call that otherwise would have been completely neglected.

RK is the CEO & Co-Founder of Resonate.

RK is Resonate’s chief strategist, thought leader, and IT industry veteran. Our clients depend on RK to advise on their business strategy, channel strategy, and sales strategy. 

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