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Cold calling is a vital skill for the modern sales professional. The best cold callers know not just the basics, but also the deeper-level knowledge of how to speak with different types of leads and book meetings in various calling scenarios. We spoke with sales experts and compiled the best cold calling tips below to help you develop your skills and become a pro on the phone.
Prior to actually making cold calls, it's important to set yourself up for success. Check out these expert tips on how to prepare for a cold call to ensure you start off on the right foot:
Managing Director, Out of the Box Innovations Ltd.
Have a script that lays out your greeting, prospecting questions, common objection rebuttals, and call-to-action. Managing director Jason Lavis talked to us about why a script is important to every cold caller:
"There is often the conception that scripts are for novices, and more experienced salespeople are better off freestyling their way through. On their best day, an experienced salesperson will do just fine, but no one performs at their best all of the time. . . . A script rescues us when we forget something or have a mental block. Instead of spending mental effort thinking about WHAT to say, we can focus on HOW to say it."
— Jason Lavis, Managing Director, Out of the Box Innovations Ltd.
To create your own script(s), check out our guide on how to write a cold call script. There, you’ll find a step-by-step breakdown on writing a great script, plus a few examples.
Founder, Scott Keever SEO
When you use a script, know it by heart. Founder Scott Keever called this being an actor, not a robot, stating:
"As a cold caller, you probably have a script to follow, and most people do a very bland job when it comes to it. This is because most of the time they are reading the script off from a screen and the tone that comes out is quite robotic. . . . [L]earn your script by heart, and prepare it like an actor. Imagine yourself playing the role of salesman and then sell the product. Expressions, tone, convincing power, all of this comes in handy when cold calling, just like it does for an actor."
— Scott Keever, Founder, Scott Keever SEO
While you can reference your script throughout the call, know it well enough to avoid having to read it word for word.
Sales Manager, Premier Title Loans
Reciting your script is important for memorizing content, but it isn’t enough to make you a confident cold caller. Similar to the previous tip, Jessica Chase suggested treating each call like a performance, and she also emphasized the importance of rehearsing your script:
"[M]ost important of all, practice. Before you actually cold call your lead, practice with your assistant or with another sales rep. Only then will you be able to fully utilize your script."
— Jessica Chase, Sales & Marketing Manager, Premier Title Loans
Ask for feedback from the people you work with, and adapt according to what you hear.
VP of Marketing, American Medical Technologies
A call with no tangible direction can cause you to talk in circles, and your lead can easily lose their patience if they feel like the call isn’t going anywhere. We talked about this with Stephen Bumb, VP of Marketing at American Medical Technologies, who said your objective is key:
"Define [your] objective, [which is] generating interest for the first sales conversation. Sometimes sales people can forget that the purpose [of a cold call] is to merely generate interest for a conversation of greater depth. [They] try to do too much in the first interaction."
— Stephen Bumb, VP of Marketing, American Medical Technologies
A one-call close is rare; your objective is usually to get your lead interested so you can set up another call or meeting.
Author, Cleanlots - America's Simplest Business
Because your goal for the call is not to close the deal then and there, try to have fun in your conversations, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Author Brian Winch suggested keeping this in mind:
"Cold calling is much easier to do when you understand that you are not aiming to sell anything in the call. Your goal is to obtain the contact information for the person who can make the decision on what you are offering. The information you forward to them details how your product or service will benefit them. It gets the conversation going."
— Brian Winch, Author, Cleanlots - America's Simplest Business
Aim for genuine connection, be respectful, and ask questions that will generate real interest between you and the lead.
CEO, Rockstar Marketing
Most cold callers have a daily goal set for them by an employer. One way to alleviate the stress of a daunting goal is to divide the number of calls you need by the hours in your day. You can also set a daily goal, as CEO Ravi Davda advised:
"It's easy to talk yourself out of cold calling. . . . Set yourself a daily target and stick to this, no matter what. Yes, it won't be easy. There will be times when you are required to do them late in the day (or do other work late in the day). But if you're looking to get results from cold calling, you need to set yourself and stick to it. I've used this method to book dozens of discovery calls."
— Ravi Davda, CEO, Rockstar Marketing
Having a call goal for each day and/or hour can help you stay motivated, and it can pick you back up if you start falling behind in your goal.
BD Specialist, QuillBot
You'll often run into gatekeepers or uninterested leads during the busiest parts of the day or week. Business development specialist Gulsaba Khan explained the best and worst weekdays to call:
"Mondays are for transitioning back into work mode after the weekend and planning the upcoming week . . . Fridays are typically spent getting ready for the weekend, so many buyers aren't interested in beginning a new relationship with a sales team or representative. Wednesday and Thursday, on the other hand, allow for those who have settled into their work week and won't feel rushed by your call."
— Gulsaba Khan, Business Development Specialist, QuillBot
When contacting a business, consider the days and times that a decision maker would be the busiest, and try to call outside those times. Remember to account for different time zones.
Co-Founder, LinkDoctor LLC
Before you call each lead, be sure that you fully understand them and their problem (or a common problem in their industry). Co-founder Daniel Martin described four basic details to research before calling a lead:
"First is knowing the company profile, which includes but is not limited to their company’s mission and vision, leadership, financials, and even awards. Second is knowing their company products and personas through extensive research showcased in reading case studies and watching demos and webinars. Third, knowing the competition in order to formulate an efficient marketing strategy that is aligned with what you have learned from them. Lastly, identifying the profile of the person you’re speaking to."
— Daniel Martin, Co-Founder, LinkDoctor LLC
Either look up a group of leads and call them all in a row, or research a single lead, call them, then research and call the next lead. The former strategy will save you time, while the latter will keep the information fresh in your mind when you pick up the phone.
To maximize your time and energy, only call those who fit your ideal customer profile and are able and willing to buy from you. President Wendy Weiss explained how calling unqualified leads can result in unsuccessful calls:
"There are only two reasons that prospects say, 'I’m not interested': you’re not talking to the right person, or you’re not saying anything interesting. If you are speaking with the wrong person in an organization or an inappropriate prospect, they will often say, 'I’m not interested.' What they really mean is, 'Why are you calling me? I have nothing to do with this.' Step 1 in overcoming 'I’m not interested' is to have a targeted, qualified, calling list."
— Wendy Weiss, President, ColdCallingResults.com
To learn how to qualify and score leads, check out our article on lead qualification. There, we lay out the core principles for qualifying leads, including key steps and strategies.
Now that you're adequately prepared to have successful cold calls, it's actually time to start dialing. Check out these expert tips on how to conduct yourself over the phone:
CEO, Robben Media
Selling a product is often a process of finding a need and filling it. CEO Brian Robben illustrated how his team leverages leads’ pain points (problems your lead is experiencing):
"Our best approach in cold calling is a combination of intense research to find the prospect's problem so we can clearly communicate it at the start of the call, and then transition with, 'We can help you fix this.' By doing it this way, you make the prospect the hero and get their attention by knowing their challenges and having a well-thought out solution."
— Brian Robben, CEO, Robben Media
Ask pointed, open-ended questions to get the lead to expose the problems they have that your product can solve. Then, during your scheduled call with the lead, demonstrate how your product can help them.
Director of Sales, Insurance Geek
Tell your leads right off the bat why you’re calling and how long you need. Sales director Brad Cummins has found success this way, describing it below:
"When you get through to the right person, eventually, then you don’t want to waste their time or indeed your own. So BE HONEST. . . . Set a timeframe and what you are going to do. . . . [T]ry ‘Hi, I’m Trey from Marketing.com, and this is a sales call; can I take just 30 seconds of your time to explain what we do, and after that you can tell me you’re not interested? No harm done. Or you can agree to talk with me a little more on the subject. Is that ok?' "
— Brad Cummins, Director of Sales, Insurance Geek
As Brad continued on to say, this tells the lead that the max they'll have to listen to you is 30 seconds, at which time they have permission to end the conversation. This will let their guard down and encourage them to listen to you.
CEO at Solitaire.dev
As soon as you reach a lead on the phone, earn their attention. CEO Ryan Nieman told us why this is important and how to do it:
"The impact of a strong opening line cannot be underestimated, as you only have 5-10 seconds to prove you are worth the prospect's time and attention. Introduce yourself and completely shift the narrative by complimenting the person on the other side, [such as]:
- 'I have seen your work on X'
- 'Congratulations on your promotion'
- 'You are an inspiration to our company'
Remember that the prospect wants to feel valued and special. It is your job to make them feel like your company is going to work in their best interest."
— Ryan Nieman, CEO at Solitaire.dev
Whenever you pick up the phone, be prepared to give your A game immediately in the event that your lead answers. Once they do, it’s up to you to get (and keep) them interested.
The days of salespeople using aggressive tactics to strongarm someone into buying are over — nowadays, cold callers should communicate with kindness and equality. President Deborah Pretty had a trick for this:
"Try calling prospects by their first name (you should ask for permission). This puts you on an equal playing field. If you start off with Mr. or Ms., psychologically this gives them a feeling of superiority. The key is to be professionally friendly."
— Deborah Pretty, President, PYTalkBiz
Be respectful to the people on the other end of the phone, whether or not they're a decision maker. Avoid telling people what to do, and ask questions that will get you the information you need.
Chief Editor, vpnAlert
When you call each lead and speak like a friendly peer, also project confidence and enthusiasm through your tone of voice. Chief Editor Bram Jansen expanded on this idea:
"You can say all the correct things, but if your tone of voice doesn't match, you won't be able to close the deal. . . . You must also project self-assurance. Your prospects will see if you're bored, and they won't want to do business with you. After all, why should they be excited if you, the one selling the items, aren't? It might be difficult to retain that excitement on a daily basis, but your tone should be confident but welcoming at all times."
— Bram Jansen, Chief Editor, vpnAlert
Using your tone, show your lead you’re sure of yourself, your business, and your product, and express your excitement in the opportunity to help the lead solve their main problem.
Sales Consultant, Kin Insurance
Keep your customer comfortable by matching their energy. Sales consultant Pat Kelleher explained how to mirror your lead’s tone, plus their volume and speed:
"If your lead uses a serious tone, you’ll want to match that seriousness; similarly, match the tone of more casual leads to keep them comfortable. Pay attention to how loud they’re talking, and try to mimic their volume, as it’s likely the most appropriate level for their environment. People usually talk as fast as they find comfortable, so don’t overwhelm them by talking faster than they do. Mirror them as closely as possible."
— Pat Kelleher, Sales Consultant, Kin Insurance
Emulating the lead will keep you, and your conversation, in their comfort zone. As a result, the customer will have fewer reasons to want to rush you off the phone.
Real Estate Sales Trainer
Rather than forcing your lead to follow the flow of your script, ask and answer questions that are directly related to what they're saying, as Bryan Casella suggested:
"[A] mistake I see a lot of salespeople make is they think they are supposed to go from top to bottom every time. But if somebody is already on the topic of question five out of your ten-question script, why would you start at the top? You’re going to break rapport, they’re going to think you’re not listening, and it kills the flow of the conversation."
— Bryan Casella, YouTube Content Creator & Real Estate Sales Trainer
This tip will help you build rapport and come off as less of a salesperson and more of a guide to fixing your lead's problem.
Once you've hung up the phone, check out these tips and ideas from selling experts on what to do to ensure you increase your cold calling success moving forward:
Founder, Frootful Marketing
Throughout your career, there will be days that suck the energy out of you. Founder Sean Dudayev suggested taking frequent breaks to recharge:
"When cold calling, it's easy to turn rejection into motivation. You get rejected so much that you start needing to turn a cold prospect into a lead, or better, a customer. But you that task will get much tougher without enthusiasm and wit, and as you get more tired, those things will disappear. Make sure to take breaks often and not burn out. Take at least five minutes every hour, and if you have a choice, don't cold call for more than three hours a day."
— Sean Dudayev, Founder, Frootful Marketing
During your breaks, you can even develop a specific ritual that includes taking a lap around the office, grabbing a snack or a drink, stretching out a bit, or anything else that helps you recover and get back to calling refreshed.
Owner of Affluent Co.
Improve your rebuttal skills by remembering common objections you hear and figuring out a good way to respond. Jordan Platten, author and content creator, outlined this process:
"Just write down every objection that you get, and then write down an answer next to that, and over time you’re going to master objections . . . The secret is in the follow-up — the success is in the objection-handling."
— Jordan Platten, Author of The 15-Minute Agency & Owner of Affluent Co.
If you get used to this process on every call, you’ll end up with a library of great answers to objections you’ll hear every day.
President/Owner, Funeral Funds of America
Certain technology can make cold callers’ lives easier and their time more productive. President and business owner Randy VanderVaate cited this as his number one tip for cold calling:
"We use a predictive dialer to avoid going through the tedious task of calling. It helps us avoid manual dialing, waiting on hold, and scheduling follow-up. It only places us into a conversation with the prospect when they answer the call. Predictive dialer saves us time and money because it makes the physical act of cold calling simple."
— Randy VanderVaate, President & Owner, Funeral Funds of America
If you find that you’re performing tedious tasks that are interfering with your cold calling productivity, consider incorporating related technology into your routine to save you some time.
Founder, Sales Insight Lab
If a lead has heard of you before, they're more likely to speak with you, so reach out in other ways before and after the initial call. Marc Wayshak painted a picture of this:
"[F]ollow a prospecting campaign, where calls might be a part of that process, but you’re sending emails, you’re making LinkedIn requests, you’re sending packages, you’re sending letters, you’re leaving voicemails — and yes, you’re making calls."
— Marc Wayshak, Founder, Sales Insight Lab
Use cold calling as part of a larger toolbox to maximize conversion. As Marc stated, strategies to try include creating an email campaign that goes to your leads before and after the initial call, and sending physical literature or small trinkets in the mail to attract more attention to your communication.
President, Lighthouse Recruiters
Seasoned cold callers are used to leaving voicemail messages for their leads, but the top callers also follow up in writing. Take president Joe Ames’s approach, for example:
"95% of my first time calls go to voicemail, so I try to stand out by connecting immediately with a note on LinkedIn and a personalized email at the same time. [For example]:
- Voicemail: Intro of who I am, why I’m calling and something about their profile that stood out. ‘Call me back if you’re interested.’
- Immediate email (form letter that inserts their name): ‘Hey Nicole, I just left you a voicemail, but I wanted to make sure that you got the message. I would like to speak with you about XYZ opportunity.’ I include a few interesting facts about the job and that their skill set is exactly what they are looking for. I create some urgency and then a call to action.
- LinkedIn connection: ‘Hey Nicole, even if it’s not the right time in your life for the opportunity I sent, can we connect and share networks?’
I like the shock and awe approach because it’s memorable. If done the right way, it’s not pushy, but instead opens the door a crack for your follow-up calls."
— Joe Ames, President, Lighthouse Recruiters
Take all three steps, and you’ll receive more callbacks or simply help your lead remember you when you follow up.
CEO, 301 Madison Consulting
As a cold caller, you’ll hear the word “no” more than the word “yes.” Keep your chin up, and remember that rejections are part of the process. CEO Cale Loken advised that cold callers avoid “running away from rejection”:
"Every person who wishes to work in sales should know the cardinal sales rule: rejection is a part of the job. . . . So you should learn to not be afraid of rejection, but embrace it. Even if you put in a lot of effort but the other person doesn’t buy from you, try to keep a positive outlook, and move on towards another prospect. If you’re in constant fear of getting rejected, you would never be able to make successful cold calls."
— Cale Loken, CEO, 301 Madison Consulting, LLC
Attitude is key to cold callers’ success. Get comfortable with setbacks, and remember that a call with your newest customer could be right around the corner.
Sales Executive, Faruzo
As you make your calls, keep track of the ones that require a follow-up, and be sure to call back. Sales executive Aviad Faruzo explained this well:
"Always follow up, at least once! Even if you did not get a good response the first time, one follow-up is extremely necessary. It will either end up with you potentially turning the prospect into a customer or get a definitive no from them. In both cases, there is no ambiguity and you can move on to the next client."
— Aviad Faruzo, Sales Executive, Faruzo
If you use CRM software, create a record for the lead, make a note of what happened when you called the first time, and set a notification to remind you to call back.
Each of these tips is going to help you become a better cold caller as well as generate better leads. Incorporating all of them will not only improve your sales skills, but also make your job more enjoyable. At the end of the day, success is the greatest motivator, and these tried-and-true cold calling tips will increase your level of success on the phone.
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