Unfortunately, the business world is full of skeptics.
And rightfully so.
There are plenty of salespeople out there trying to trick people into making a purchase that isn’t exactly what they promised. On the more optimistic side of things, some companies are genuinely interested in creating mutually beneficial relationships with people struggling with a particular business challenge.
When prospecting, setting yourself apart from sales reps with poor intentions isn’t easy. It usually falls onto the first impression, which, in some cases, comes in the form of a cold call.
What is cold calling?
Cold calling is an outbound sales strategy in which sales reps call people who haven’t previously expressed interest in their business. The purpose of cold calling is to generate curiosity in a person, enter them into your sales funnel, and ultimately convert them into a customer.
Cold calling is your chance to introduce yourself, your company, and your solution in a way that engages the prospect enough to make them excited about your solution’s value proposition.
This initial phone call also offers you the opportunity to get to know the prospect better and determine whether or not they can provide value to your business as a customer.
Elements of a cold call
Because your cold call is likely the first interaction you’ll have with your prospect, the information you share is going to be pretty standard. No matter what sales script you decide to use or approach you implement, you’re going to need to cover some standard cold calling topics:
Your name: Introducing yourself helps the prospect see you as a person, not another sales robot trying to hit quota.
Your company: Mentioning your company might help the prospect create a connection with you and your business.
Your solution: Based on the preliminary research you conducted to pick out this particular customer’s pain points, you need to tell them how a correlated benefit of your business’ solution can help relieve it.
Again, depending on your approach to the first call, it’s likely that your outreach will include some other information, like a professional relationship you have in common or some personal connection. If you just spit out that list of three details right when the prospect answers, you won’t make that solid first impression.
However, if you don’t include at least those three things within the conversation, you won’t get your point across, and the call won’t even be worth it.
Cold calling tips
Besides remembering to include your name, company name, and what your solution has to offer, there are a few other cold calling best practices to keep in mind when making your calls. You don’t need to memorize them, but after some time, these will become a part of your everyday cold calling routine.
Plan and practice
There are plenty of times in your life where winging it is acceptable. Unfortunately, cold calling is not one of them.
Before you start dialing at random, find the appropriate messaging, and run through what you’re going to say to that particular person. You shouldn’t be reciting the same script for each and every prospect. It’s a common mistake that outbound sales reps commit. But that’s a recipe for getting a no almost immediately.
Because each phone call should be unique to apply to that particular customer, memorization isn’t an option. Even if you get familiar with an approach to cold calling, always run through the parts that make the call unique to that prospect.
If you plan on asking questions, have them ready to go beforehand. And if some come up throughout the conversation, ask those, too. The entire phone call doesn’t need to be planned to the second, but you do need to have some sort of structure ready to go.
Find the right schedule
For the most part, B2B buyers are active Monday through Friday from nine to five. However, this doesn’t mean that you should be calling people every second of every day within those parameters.
The best way to find a schedule for calling new potential customers in B2B sales is to keep track of when your current customers were more likely to answer your call, speak to you, or send you to voicemail. Because your prospects will fall in line with your customer persona, you might find similar patterns with new decision-makers as well.
Check out your sales activity levels, and pick out the days of the week and times when your customers are most likely to answer your calls. Use that data to your advantage and prioritize those times of day when making your cold calls. To take it a step further, you can even dedicate those times to high-priority prospects, or those who are more likely to add the most value to your business.
There’s more to cold calling than just making the actual phone call. You also need to enter data after the conversation, revamp cold calling scripts that aren’t bringing you success, and other sales activities. Take care of those responsibilities during off times and save the cold calling for your peak performance hours.
Automate where you can
There are countless sales tools readily available for reps, all with the purpose of eliminating mundane tasks that simply take up the time you should be spending on building trust and rapport with your customers.
When it comes to cold calling, it’s the auto dialer. Auto dialers are software tools that automatically dial phone numbers for sales professionals, saving time and giving them a better opportunity to focus on the conversation they are about to have with the customer. Not only that, but auto dialers can detect unproductive numbers, filter lists, integrate with your other sales tools, and manage your contact lists.
For the sake of productivity, it’s best to automate wherever possible for sales reps. Worrying about tedious and time-consuming tasks that cold calling requires shouldn’t be a part of a rep’s daily activities.
Don't rely on a script too much
Now this one is tricky. There are plenty of people that will tell you to focus on using a cold calling script and that they are your best friend when making your way through your list of cold calls to make.
However, there are others that will tell you that using a script makes you sound like a sales robot that doesn’t care about making a connection with their prospect.
The best way to find the happy medium between those two opinions is to think about sales call scripts as cold calling approaches, not cold calling templates.
Depending on your specific purpose for the call (to make a connection, gather information about the prospect, get right to the point), choose a script that fits that need and then personalize it for the customer. Make sure to practice what you’re going to say, as it will be different each phone call.
There should be no filling in the blanks to account for the prospect’s name and company and no memorization of the same sentences to be read off to the customer. This isn’t their first rodeo, and they’ll know whether or not you’ve taken the time to learn enough about them to have a worthwhile conversation.
Business is all about relationships, and sales is a personal process. To establish that trust, you need to serve each customer’s needs on a case by case basis.
Don't overwhelm the prospect
Hopefully your sales team has a cadence in place that lays out the foundation for the steps you’ll take to communicate with your prospect. It’ll likely include cold emails, social media touches, and of course, phone calls.
As you go through your sales cadence, you’ll want to strategically relay information to your prospect depending on their stage in the buying process and the number of times you’ve communicated. Cold calling will likely be one of the first touches you have with your prospect, so it will include the basic information that the prospect should know about you, your company, and the solution you’re offering.
There’s no need to throw everything you have at your prospect right off the bat. If you overwhelm them with all of the details about your solution, they might forget the important tidbits. Go into the conversation with a game plan, and stick to it. If the prospect requests more information, definitely provide them with it. This is a sign they have digested everything and are ready for more.
Again, the beauty of cold calling is that it’s only the beginning. Don’t forget to schedule a future engagement with the prospect at the end of the phone call. That way, you can prepare the next batch of information that you’ll be giving them in your sales pitch.
Focus on learning
A successful cold call is all about establishing some semblance of a relationship with your prospect. While you might want to jump at the chance to give them all of the amazing details about your solution, relationships go two ways, meaning you have to learn just as much about them.
Cold calling is a great way to learn more about your prospect, their business, and the challenges they’re currently facing that you can possibly resolve. Also, if your lead isn’t technically a prospect, cold calling can be used to qualify whether they have the budget, authority, need, and time to buy your product.
Another point to make here is that, when it comes to cold calling, learning is way more important than actually selling. Take this literally: do not try to sell to a lead during a cold call. That’s not the point. You have your entire sales cadence to focus on selling. Cold calls are about establishing the relationship and building trust.
You need to learn as much about your prospects as possible if you want to sell to them effectively. Make sure that as you collect this customer-centric data that you store it in your company’s customer relationship management (CRM) software. That way, any customer-facing department can use that data to inform their strategy for that particular person, and for your overall buyer persona.
Keep next steps in mind
Selling never really stops. Even when you get the customer to say yes and make a purchase, there’s still upselling, cross-selling, and finding ways to make the relationship more beneficial.
You always need to be equipped with the next step for your prospect. Even if it’s just “call me if you need me.” Should they decide to proceed along this buyer journey, they should always know what to do next. And for that to happen, you need to tell them.
At the end of your sales call, let the prospect know the next move. Even if you get a flat-out no, still offer something for them to do if they change their mind. The last thing you want a prospect to think as you end your call is “Now what?” Especially if they want to move forward in the buying process.
A good way to ensure you have the next steps ready for the prospect is to make it the goal of your cold call or add it to the end of your script.
Learn how to leave a voicemail
Alright. You’ve done all you can to practice, prepare, and have a solid conversation with your prospect. Getting sent to voicemail might not be what you expect when you call, especially with your handy data-driven cold calling schedule.
However, a voicemail isn’t a dead-end, but rather a different approach to the call. In a way, it gives you complete control over the conversation.
Because there isn’t a foolproof way to determine if the prospect is going to answer the call or if you’ll be sent to voicemail, you need to prepare for both the two-way conversation and a voicemail.
Do your research: Just because the prospect didn’t answer the phone, it doesn’t mean the message should be any less personalized.
Practice: When practicing for your conversation with the prospect, ideate how it would change if it were a voicemail instead.
Show your personality: When there’s nobody on the other end of a call, it’s easy to fall into script-reading mode. Don’t let it happen.
Keep it brief: Voicemails don’t offer any cues that your message is too long. Keep your voicemail under 30 seconds.
Watch your pace: Make sure you’re keeping a nice, slow, even pace throughout the entire message.
Provide a call to action: Next steps are even more important for voicemails, so make sure you give a number to call or a website to visit.
Mention that you’ll follow up: Let them know when to expect to hear from you next, and with which channel, such as email or LinkedIn.
Again, just because it’s a voicemail, that doesn’t mean that the overall purpose of your message should change. Don’t forget about the three key elements of a cold call: your name, your company name, and your solution.
Balance quality and quantity
If you sit at your desk and have the exact same boring conversation with each prospect you call, it’s only a matter of time before you get burnt out. And on the other hand, you can’t dwell too much on one conversation because there are others waiting to be had.
The best way to handle this dilemma is finding a good balance between the number of calls you’re making and the quality of the conversations. To find that harmony, you need to have designated buying signals to look out for in your conversations.
These triggers could include certain questions or comments, but they must be a good indicator of a prospect’s authentic interest in moving forward in the buying process with you.
Use your business savvy to determine if someone is still worth your time to speak with. It’s not easy to let go of a prospect and remove them from your sales funnel, but you also need to keep the countless customers who are yearning for a solution like yours, waiting for you to call them.
Rejection is inevitable. Not every prospect you call is going to be a good fit for your business. You have to go into your cold calling strategy knowing that not every prospect is going to convert into a customer.
However, that doesn’t mean you should just throw away their contact information and move along. Take it as a learning experience. Ask yourself, and maybe even your prospect, what went well, what went wrong, and what could be done differently.
If it simply wasn’t a good fit, look into your lead generating and qualifying strategies. If it was the delivery, look into your scripts and value demonstration content.
Throughout your cold calling journey, embrace the failures you experience, evaluate them, and find ways to optimize your strategy into something that works for both you and your customers.
It's just a conversation
If you remember one thing when making cold calls, let it be that it’s just another conversation. Yes, the expectation to sell adds another layer of pressure, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s not just another person on the other end of the line.
To be a successful cold caller, all you need to do is know your solution, your customer, and their challenges. The rest is just talking.
Make sure your team is equipped with the content, tools, and resources they need to properly deliver information to customers. Here’s how to build out that sales collateral.
Mary Clare Novak is a Content Marketing Specialist at G2 based in Burlington, Vermont, where she is currently exploring topics related to sales and customer relationship management. In her free time, you can find her doing a crossword puzzle, listening to cover bands, or eating fish tacos. (she/her/hers)
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