Cold calling is an essential sales activity that generates new customer revenue, helping your business grow. While some salespeople relish the chance to pick up the phone and win a new client, others find it challenging and frustrating. Here we demystify cold calling with simple step-by-step instructions to make your calling more successful.
What Is Cold Calling?
Cold calling is often the first step in lead generation for the sales process. It typically refers to a phone call made to a prospective business-to-business (B2B) customer with whom your business has had no previous relationship. The call aims to identify the decision-maker, assess the need for your product, and secure a pitch meeting if a sales opportunity exists.
When performed well, cold calling is an important business enabler. It’s also an activity that successful small business leaders enjoy, as it often puts them in control of their own destiny more than other, more passive, lead generation strategies. Without cold calls or lead acquisition campaigns supported by cold calls, it is difficult for a new business to generate the revenue they need to get their business off the ground.
Key Steps & Activities for Successful Cold Calling
There are a few things that must be done to set you up for successful cold calling. They range from setting your objective for cold calling so you’re clear as to what you expect to gain before you start calling, to summarizing your conversations so that you gain the most useful information from your prospects. These steps and activities make up a blueprint for cold calling success.
Let’s go through each step required to make successful cold calls:
1. Set Your Objective
I would not recommend cold calling for making a sale. Rather, use cold calling to identify and make first contact with prospective customers, qualify prospective customers in or out, and secure a pitch meeting opportunity.
Whatever your objective, be clear about what it is before you start and stick to it. For example, “I am aiming to connect with 50 prospective customers with the objective of securing face-to-face meeting opportunities with five of them who have a current need for the products and services that I am offering.”
Here are some additional objectives you could target:
- Testing demand for the products and services you provide
- Working out how best to communicate your value proposition
- Identifying the customers with the greatest need for your product
- Gaining insight into what price customers will pay for your solution
- Clarifying the best decision-maker role(s) to target
- To appreciate how easy it is to arrange sales meetings
- To understand what the most frequent objections will be
2. Identify Your Targets for Outreach
Once you have defined your objectives, it’s easier to know which organizations you need to call and whom you need to speak with to. Most salespeople search online to find information about their prospects and build some context around who they are and what they do.
We recommend using a customer relationship management (CRM) tool like Pipedrive, with its Smart Data Contact Data feature that pulls information from LinkedIn and other sources, providing you with more intel on your prospects. It saves you time and will import the information into your prospect profile. To learn more about how to research your cold prospects, refer to our ultimate guide to B2B sales.
3. Send Pre-sales Marketing Materials (Optional)
Sales experts differ in their views on this subject. Some sales experts like to have the support of marketing to warm-up leads with digital marketing promotions ahead of calling. This is because it can help to build awareness and position your business ahead of calling, which can make it easier to get through to decision-makers.
However, other sales experts believe that being reliant on marketing to generate and execute sales campaigns slows them down and potentially blocks opportunities before they have had the chance to speak to decision-makers and pitch for themselves.
In my opinion, you should try both approaches and see what works best for you. In either case, you should always send some information following a successful cold call—but make sure this is just a taster so as not to steal the thunder of the sales pitch you will go on to deliver next.
4. Decide Between Script vs No Script
You need to be able to grab your contact’s attention in less than 30 seconds. As a result, it makes sense to work out how you are going to introduce yourself, introduce your business, and explain the purpose of your call. The call also needs to focus on something likely to be of interest to your prospective customer.
It can be a lot to remember, which is why businesses often use cold calling scripts to standardize their introduction and how they respond to common objections. However, sticking rigidly to a script can limit your ability to create a natural dialogue and build trust. This is why scripts are increasingly used as discussion frameworks, which salespeople to use as a guide and not as a rigid process.
This is especially important as phone conversations are supposed to be two-way communication. Your script, if you use one, should also give you the opportunity to learn from the prospective customer you are calling. It should include questions you need to ask to be able to qualify whether the organization has a need for your product, and whether the person you are speaking with is the right person to sell it to.
Take a look at our article on how to build a cold call script if you want to learn more.
5. Relax & Be Yourself
When someone tells you to relax, the last thing you feel is relaxed, and it is easy to understand why many salespeople suffer from call reluctance. But seriously, if you come across as human and likable, then you are halfway there. No one wants to hear from a stranger who sounds like a robot or is riddled with fear.
Here are some tips that help:
- Make sure you are breathing normally. I do yoga. It’s not for everyone, but I’ve learned how important breathing is to being relaxed.
- Make sure you are using a cordless phone so that you can walk around freely. Lots of people like using a headset so that they can take notes.
- Learn your script and then put it to one side, so you let the words come naturally.
6. Open With the Reason for Your Call
When you’ve reached your prospect, open with the reason you are calling and make that reason all about the customer. Let your excitement and enthusiasm come across in your voice. The key thing here is to make this all about the customer.
An example of a good opening is this:
“Samantha, this is Michelle Williams, and the reason I am calling you is….”
Open with energy and be upbeat about why you’re calling. This helps to get their attention. If you are clear, concise, and straightforward, you’ll get the chance to elaborate at the next stage.
When cold calling, the one thing you’ll need is a high-quality phone system so that your high-energy persona comes across clearly. We suggest considering RingCentral. It offers high quality VoIP phone system options for businesses of all sizes. For more information on RingCentral, click here to read their review page.
7. Tell Them What’s in It for Them
After you’ve introduced yourself, include a reason why they should care. For example, “The reason I am calling is to show you a new way to increase your sales.” If you are not able to state the benefits of your product to their business with real conviction, then you need to practice this until it feels natural and you can get your message across with confidence.
8. Anticipate Questions, Complaints & Objections
In order to keep them on the line, you must be able to predict the possible responses from the person you are calling. Make a list of possible responses, questions, complaints, and objections, with answers that you can offer quickly.
The reality is that you will not be able to do this before the first call, so each time you come across something you have not encountered before, consider adding it to your call notes. If you are working as part of a team, it is also a good idea to periodically share call logs so that you can see what objections other people have encountered and talk about how they were overcome.
9. Agree On Next Steps & Close
If the call is successful, make sure to agree on the next steps. Try to take the lion’s share for yourself, as this will help to ensure that the process does not stall due to your future customer being too busy to complete their actions. Then, if appropriate, make sure to secure a following meeting or call.
For example, you could request the following action:
“Jeremy, I’ll send you a meeting invite and a little more information about what we do. Could you arrange a meeting room and I’ll come to you?”
10. Write Up Your Contact Notes & Next Steps
Evaluate the information you have gathered from your call and develop a plan for the next stage. In my example, the next stage is a pitch meeting. Plan the details of your pitch meeting around the key discussion points or pain points you were able to uncover during your call.
I recommend using a customer relationship management (CRM) system to help manage your data from cold calling, like Pipedrive, to document and track your sales activities. Entering call notes in a CRM like Pipedrive allows you to refer back to them throughout the sales process and have conversations that let your prospects know you have been listening and responding to their needs.
Outsourced vs In-house Cold Calling
There are some great specialist cold calling agencies that provide an excellent cold calling service at a cost. However, totally outsourcing your cold calling activity is not something that I would recommend to any small business. Why? Because you lose control over the first human contact with your customers.
A better strategy would be to work out how to do cold calling for yourself, put a system in place, and hire a cold calling sales professional in-house to help you make cold calls. Once you have proven how many cold calls you can make in a week and how many you can convert into pitch meetings, then you can consider partial outsourcing to accelerate the process.
My next step would be to optimize the cold call process by ensuring that all cold calls are recorded within a sales CRM system like Pipedrive or Copper. These are especially good systems for cold calling because they integrate with VoIP providers, like RingCentral.
Then, once I have my system set up and I have established call volumes and conversion rates, I would consider outsourcing cold calling efforts to a reputable cold calling agency that is happy to work in my system. This is important as it allows you to measure performance and see what you are paying for. It also frees you up to speak to qualified prospects.
Reasons to Enjoy Cold Calling
Cold calling is widely considered the most challenging aspect of sales. Many sales professionals look at cold calling as merely a numbers game, where the salesperson acts like a mass mailer. Somebody might respond, maybe one in 25 or one in 100. It’s understandable why many sales professionals view cold calling this way, but there are advantages to finding the joy in it.
Many of the best entrepreneurs and salespeople really enjoy cold calling for a variety of reasons. Some are good at connecting immediately with total strangers. Others take a more efficient approach and use lead magnets to get customers to call them or to give them their contact information for a follow-up call. Calling prospects who want or are expecting your call is much more enjoyable for most salespeople.
Here are three reasons to enjoy cold calling no matter your approach:
- Cold calls generate new streams of customer revenue and keep your pipelines full.
- You don’t have to do it yourself. Hire a cold calling expert or an inbound marketing professional to send warm qualified leads for you to meet with and close. This makes cold calling really enjoyable.
- Cold calling allows you to track and gain instant feedback on your efforts, whether you’re cold calling yourself or you’ve hired professionals to do it for you. If your approach isn’t working, you know right away and can change it immediately.
If you adopt the right cold calling strategy, it can be enjoyable. For those who want to do it themselves, be sure to carve out specific time during your day in order to focus on it properly. However, for sales professionals wanting to speak to warmer, more receptive customers, there are other ways to make sales calls something you look forward to, including outsourcing the initial prequalification call or using a supporting marketing or lead generation strategy.
6 Cold Calling Tips to Achieve the Right Mindset
At the end of the day, effective cold calling requires you maintain a positive mindset. The person on the other end of the phone can often tell the difference between a person who is genuinely interested in what they have to say versus someone who is simply going through the motions.
To make successful cold calls, you need to follow the following six principles:
1. Shift Your Mindset From Selling to Being Helpful
Look for what the other person is thinking and whether there is a real need for your product or service. Aim to qualify the need and the time frame, and confirm that the person you are communicating with has the authority to make a purchase.
2. Build Trust & Learn the Right to Sell
Your objective is to build trust and the opportunity to speak again or meet to make a pitch. Creating trust builds relationships, and trying to sell before you have established trust is not productive.
3. Listen & Be Flexible
The key to any successful conversation is the ability to demonstrate that you value and respect the person you are communicating with. The best way to establish this is to ask questions and then really listen to what the other person is saying. Be flexible regarding where they want to take the conversation.
4. Confidence Is Key
If you would not buy what you have to offer, you should not try to sell it to anyone else. Let’s face it—if you can’t get excited, or you are embarrassed, why should anyone you’re dealing with feel any different?
5. Timing & Commitment Is Key
The best times to call businesses that operate on a 9-to-5 business day are usually Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. I recommend blocking out these time slots in your calendar to ensure that your cold calling time is not squeezed out during busy weeks.
6. Maintain a Great Attitude
If prospects are impatient, stay positive. If prospects are rude, stay positive. If prospects put the phone down, stay positive and do not let it impact the next call. The reality is that some people are impatient and rude. Sometimes this is because they have received pushy and badly conceived cold calls in the past. If you stay patient and polite, they will soften and their guard will come down.
We’ve written an article with 45 actionable cold calling tips from sales experts and business owners that could help you and your business. Check it out to find the ones that will work for you.
Cold calling is often misunderstood because many of the people who make cold calls are not doing it properly, should outsource it to experts, or support it with effective lead generation. However, cold calling done well is a very valuable activity for you, your business, and the future customers you are connecting with.
However, in order to make cold calling effective, your phone system must offer calls that are free of static and poor sound quality. RingCentral is a great business that includes features such as high-quality audio as well as built-in video conferencing, and it integrates with many CRMs. Visit RingCentral for more information on setting up your business’ VoIP phone system.