The cold call is a fundamental practice of selling, and one of the most commonly associated–and dreaded–responsibilities of new SDRs. Cold calling is also, when done correctly, an incredibly useful tool in your sales toolkit. Here are all the tips, tricks, and cold calling techniques you need to know to take your cold calls from unwanted to undeniable.
Understanding the Cold Call
A cold call is simply the first verbal touch point a salesperson makes with a potential customer. The term is often used loosely by sales reps to describe any unsolicited verbal communications as part of outbound sales, so it doesn’t even have to be an actual phone call.
All that differs cold calls from warm calls is that the prospect has not actively reached out to express interest. But as you’ll soon learn, it certainly shouldn’t always be cold.
Imagine the cold call as the starter’s pistol for a prospect’s race through the sales pipeline. As an SDR or BDR, you’re using it to mark the beginning of their journey to making their life easier with whatever products or services you are selling.
A cold call is also often the first point of individual contact a prospect gets from your company, so it’s crucial to be deliberate, effective, and make a good impression.
You’re also trying to make the life of your AE or sales manager easier. A big component of cold calling is warming up leads to hand to senior sales reps to close. This means as a cold caller, you have to balance two goals: making sure your company is the right fit for your prospect and practicing sales discovery to make sure your prospect is the decision maker for the deal. A good SDR will use all the right cold calling methods to make the most out of their time with the prospect.
Before getting into what those methods are, let’s clear up some cold calling disinformation first.
Debunking cold call myths
Cold calling carries certain connotations that don’t necessarily bear any truth. Here are some cold calling myths that we’d love to see go the way of the dodo.
Cold calling is dead. Absolutely not true. Yes, the old standard of ripping through the phonebook to see what sticks is antiquated. But many companies today are still reliant on skilled sales reps reaching out to uninitiated prospects to build a healthier sales pipeline and find great leads.
In fact, a RAIN Group survey found that 82% of buyers have accepted a meeting with a sales rep after an initial cold call or cold email.
Cold calls are impersonal and scripted. They can be, but they shouldn’t be. A great sales rep adjusts their strategy to fit the lead they’re calling. They prioritize establishing a warm rapport with the prospect and are discerning about the exact right time to deploy a value prop that is tailored to the client’s needs.
More dials = more conversions. Some sales teams do have target benchmarks for cold calls, but the most successful teams are more concerned with calling the right cold leads. Instead of attempting 100 calls in a day, it’s much better to make 20 calls each day to well-researched prospects.
You have to be aggressive in your cold call. Nope, don’t do this. Assertiveness is a key trait that great salespeople have, but they know how and when to use it. A smart salesperson knows when to jump ship on a deal that has too many pain points to overcome and won’t be pushy if the prospect isn’t budging.
The journey of a successful cold call
To the onboarding SDR or BDR, it can be tempting to just rip through the spreadsheet of leads your marketing department hands you and recite your pitches verbatim. But heed our cold calling advice: this is not how it’s done by successful sales teams.
Before even dialing, you should narrow your list down to a batch of around 20 - 30 prospects and learn more about them. This is more than just figuring out their name and how to pronounce it correctly. Learn the ins-and-outs of the company they work for. Do a little digging on their LinkedIn and learn their history. You want to show the prospect that you’re putting in the time and effort to connect with them.
After compiling these notes, you can begin tailoring a loose, smooth cold call script to each of your leads. Keeping it loose and flexible is important, because you want to feel genuine and talk to the prospect as an individual. That said, it’s helpful to think about the structure of a good cold call and make sure you’re still hitting those marks. This is a strong template to start with:
Opener - This is just your standard introduction–who you are, what you do, and why you’re calling. A Gong data study found a 2.1x higher success rate for salespeople who state their reason for calling, so make sure you’re clear and direct about your purpose.
Establish rapport - This is where you showcase the intel on the prospect you learned of. This should be friendly, but brief as you don’t want to waste their time or yours.
Value proposition - This is your sales pitch -- the space where you can explain what your product or service does and how the client can benefit from using it. This should be the most scripted and rehearsed of the entire call: Your pitch should be a diamond.
Prepare for objections - Think about all the possible pain points the prospect might bring up and how to respond to them. Make a dialogue tree. What would be a good response if they say, “I’m not sure we have the budget for something like this at the moment”? Look at your product from their eyes and prepare to practice your objection handling.
Call to action - What are you trying to get out of the call? Are you trying to get them to sign up for something? Are you trying to get them to book time with an AE to discuss further? This is where you bring it home.
Leave room for questions - The call doesn’t end depending on what the prospect says to your CTA. Make sure you graciously ask if you can be of any more assistance or if they’re open to you reaching out to them in the future. You want to end on a positive, helpful note no matter how the call unfolds.
As you can see, there’s plenty of room with a template like this to experiment and make your own. But as long as it’s a formula that puts the prospect’s needs first, you’ll be on your way to making the most of your cold calls.
And when in doubt? A sales methodology like MEDDPICC can help you understand the information you need to move a deal forward.
Cold calling tips
Call at the right time. First thing’s first: Monday morning and Friday afternoon are out–you don’t want to make anyone’s day worse. Lunch hours on any day is a risky gambit. Studies overwhelmingly show that early morning or later afternoon on Wednesdays and Thursdays are the best time to call prospects out of the blue.
Don’t only focus on selling. As a sales professional cold calling a prospect, it’s good practice to think of your roles in this order: a friend first, a problem solver second, and a salesperson third. Don’t put one in front of the other or your prospect could feel alienated.
Listen, listen, listen. Great salespeople have fantastic active listening skills that they use to inform how they pitch to a prospect. So don’t talk a lead’s ear off with an overly rehearsed spiel. Listen carefully and engage with them on what they’re saying to you.
Record your calls. Each successful pick up will contain a wealth of info you can use to make your future calls better. Record your calls to play back ones that went really well and ones that went poorly to see what works best and what you should avoid.
Don’t make more calls than you can handle. Sales burnout is very real and making call after call reciting similar pitches and value props will weaken your sales senses. Find your limit and stick to it. The overall quality of your calls will improve, and the quality of your leads will follow suit.
Have a great mindset. There are many aspects of cold calling that are frustrating, so it’s important to keep a positive attitude. The prospects will be able to pick up on any indignation you feel, so pay attention to your tone and how you come across.
In a modern sales world built on data and complex sales tools, cold calling might seem like an antiquated, blunt instrument. But now that you know the ins-and-outs of cold calling, you can deploy them at the right moment to discover leads that are primed to close on a deal. After all, sales is about people, and the best way to connect with them? Start talking.