Cold-calling prospective customers is only as effective as you make it. Meaning — you and your sales reps have to do some strategic legwork in order to make cold-calling work in your favor. And while it might be tempting to relegate cold-calling as an intimidating, outdated tactic, you wind up selling yourself short in doing so.
Ultimately, cold-calling empowers sales reps to strike while the iron is hot and anticipate customer needs ahead of time — so your team connects with prospects well before your competitors do. That said, there's a few steps you need to keep in mind before hitting the phones.
10 cold-calling tips from industry leaders
We've compiled ten cold-calling tips & tricks from various industry leaders to help you feel set up for success and close deals faster than you can say "transactional."
Tip 1 – Do your research
"Don't go into the call with the mindset that no sale equals failure — the pressure of that can make sales a daunting job. It takes between 5-12 calls to convert a cold prospect into a genuine opportunity, so don't expect to get a yes straight away. Instead, do your research on the company and the contact you're calling, set yourself an objective that will move the prospect closer to a sale, and figure out possible objections and how to overcome them. Above all, always remember that it's not that the product is wrong, or that your pitch isn't perfect, it's likely that the time isn't right for the customer to be making the purchase. You could have an entire day of people rejecting you, who are left with a good impression and who'll be warm leads the next time you touch base. Try and think of a 'no' as a 'not now' so that there's less dread when you pick up the phone."
— Ian Clark, Head of Americas (Sales), Frank Recruitment Group
Tip 2 — Lean on tactical approaches
"Winning at cold-calling is not about the tactic itself, but about your strategy. Picking up a phone and dialing for dollars is not a strategy; it's a task. What most salespeople don't get is that it can be done in a strategic and effective way (i.e. a method for prospecting that you can execute consistently). You can create a 6 x 6 x 6 prospecting program integrating email:
- Week 1: Voicemail with value #1
- Week 2: Email follow-up with value #1 messaging
- Week 3: Voicemail with value #2
- Week 4: Email follow-up with value #2 messaging
- Week 5: Voicemail with value #3
- Week 6: Email follow-up with value #3 messaging"
— Victor Antonio, Founder, Sales Velocity Academy
Tip 3 — Send information prior to the call
"Send information by email. If possible, always send information before the phone call. This informs the prospect that you would like to have a phone conversation. After the phone call, send a follow-up email with the information that they requested."
— Albert Ho, Consultant, Healthcare Heroes
Tip 4 — Empathize with the customer
"To help a customer 'see' something they don't understand, you have to find out what they relate to. When attempting to explain a complicated concept, someone must struggle. Either you (the sales rep) will struggle to explain a foreign idea to the listener, or the listener will labor to understand what you're trying to communicate. If it's the latter, most of the time the customer will just walk away."
— Tom Stanfill, CEO, ASLAN Training
Tip 5 — Ask questions
"Successful sales calls are not just about pitching your product or service. Top sales reps should use cold calls as a way to explore what is resonating with prospects and feed that into their sales process. During a cold call, reps typically ask four questions relating to the prospect's pain source, qualification and value. One of the best ways to prepare for cold calls is by creating a battle card relating to these areas. This process can help train your sales team on how to prioritize one question over the other and pivot based on a prospect's response."
— Roy Raanani, CEO, Chorus.ai
Tip 6 — Humility over hubris
"Remember the majority are satisfied and believe they have made a good decision with their current provider. Show humility – 'I believe we can add...' or 'We may be able to...' versus an overly confident sales approach."
— John Reid, President & CEO, JMReid Group
Tip 7 — Be yourself (not a robot)
"Stop sounding like a robot. At their core, people just want to feel heard, understood and acknowledged. If you're reading off a script, the prospect can tell. If you're nervous and stiff, the prospect can tell. If you're trying to control the conversation or steer it a certain way that feels forced, the prospect can tell. The catch-22 here is that the only way to get better at not sounding so robotic is to actually make the calls — and to ensure you go out of your way to care while you make them."
— Nick Gonzalez, Commercial Real Estate Broker, Linville Team Partners
Tip 8 — Maintain perspective in spite of negativity
"It's good to keep the following in mind before and during your dedicated cold-calling session:
- Remind yourself that the call recipient really can benefit from your product/service if they give it a chance. This is helpful during times when you get a lot of negative feedback on calls.
- If the recipient is rude, it is not a response to you personally, rather the effect of unrelated circumstances contributing to their state of mind. Don't let defensive thoughts sink in to your head, just get on the next call quickly.
- Know how much each dial is worth to you. Know the ratio of calls it takes to make a sale, and put a dollar figure on each call attempt. For example, if it takes 50 calls to make a sale, then each call is worth 2% of your average sale. Linking each call to a dollar figure is very effective motivation during unproductive calling sessions."
— Chad Knibbe, Director of Investment Sales, Foresight Commercial Real Estate
Tip 9 — The first phone call isn't everything
"Qualification. Not everyone will fit. Learn to say no to the prospect. Qualification vs. call-to-action. You have to qualify the meeting. However, as an SDR, there are only so many questions you can answer. On question number five from the prospect? Push for a meeting. You won't always know all the answers right away."
— Radé Kemalova, Head of Internal Sales Development, CIENCE
Tip 10 — Respect their time (and yours)
"I teach all my agents to say the following phrase at the end of each call: 'Okay! I have you down at 3 o'clock on Monday. I am setting this time aside for you, and I guarantee you that it will not be a waste of your time. I just want to make sure you're going to be there because I don't want to waste my time, either. Does that sound fair?' It may sound pretty brash, but people appreciate that you are a busy individual and that your time is valuable!"
— Sara Hornick, Executive Partner, Hudson Wealth Management
A solution for success
Keep in mind, success doesn't happen overnight — it requires conscientiousness and deliberate effort from each and every team member. A winning cold-calling strategy is no different. In order to assure success and overcome objections in stride, sales reps need to read between the lines, hear the customer's wants and needs, and apply each of our recommended cold-calling tips as they chat. By giving cold-calling the due diligence it deserves, sales teams can thrive, uncover new prospects, close deals, and earn repeat customers with ease.