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The Perfect Cold Call: How To Turn Prospects Into Customers

Cold calling may be scary at first, but it’s effective. Here’s how you can master this tried-and-true sales technique.

We may live in the time of TikTok, where an unknown number calling your phone strikes fear, but in my 13 years of training sales teams, I’ve found nothing is more impactful than the cold call. In fact, cold calling accounts for up to 50% of new deals, according to Dale Carnegie Training.

The hard truth, though, is that cold calling can be painful. Many sellers avoid it whenever possible, fearing confrontation and rejection. But with the right cold calling tips, it’s actually easier than you think. With a few simple strategies — most rooted in solid research and planning — you can make successful cold calls without getting cold feet.

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What is cold calling and why are cold calling techniques still important?

Cold calling is a type of sales solicitation from a salesperson to a prospect who has never interacted with the company before. The goal is to develop a business relationship with a new customer and, eventually, close a sale.

While it can feel intimidating, the right cold calling tips can help you feel more confident going into each conversation. And it’s worth it. Using best practices for cold calling — rooted in solid research and planning — can help your reps turn successful cold calls into warm leads.

Cold calls are also an effective prospecting method when you compare it to email or social media. Prospects can simply delete your emails and scroll past your social media posts, but a voice on the phone is immediate. You gain the opportunity to get real-time responses and address any concerns, gathering a lot of information in a short period of time.

10 cold calling tips that will help you land new leads

The perfect cold call starts with preparation and research. Doing your homework will help you tailor your message and communicate effectively. Use the following cold calling advice to break through initial fears and find success.

1. Research ahead of your call

Before calling your prospects, research their biggest pain points and consider how your products or services can help them solve nagging problems. To streamline your research, John Barrows, CEO of JB Sales, recommends segmenting your list by industry and title. Then you can use AI sales tools, like Salesforce’s automated research assistant, to speed up your research. Some can even pull data about your prospect into your CRM.

Once you have a basis of industry knowledge, get to know your target companies. Review their websites (especially their blogs), their social media accounts, and news articles about their companies to see if they’re facing any challenges. Then, check your sales engagement platform to see if the person you’re about to call has clicked through any emails and engaged with content. That may give you clues as to what they’re most interested in so you can better frame your product features as solutions they need right now.

“For top-tier target accounts, segment about one hour a day to do the research,” said Barrows. “Spend some time on your prospect’s LinkedIn profile and find something specific that you can reference to make a direct connection to the value your service can provide.”

2. Collect case studies that show the success of your product

You can brag about your product or service all you want, but your customers make the most compelling case for you. They’re seen as more relatable and objective. That’s why you need testimonials and case studies that speak to the value of your product and how it solves your prospect’s pain points. Additionally, collecting any available data on ROI or customer performance can help you quantify the benefits of your product or service. Have this information in hand, refer to it, and be ready to share it in real time during and immediately after your call.

3. Draft a call intro, not a whole script (with the help of AI)

Once you’ve completed your research, draft a quick-hit intro script that ties together basic info about your company with an open-ended question. Doing so allows you to collect more information you can use to frame your solution. If you often struggle with wording and you have generative AI tech built in to your CRM, use it for a spark of inspiration to get the language right.

Cold call script example

Plan to create a new script for each prospect. No two are alike, after all. A personalised approach will help you keep the call feeling genuine and focused on the help you can provide. Keep your intro short – less than 30 seconds.

Barrows suggested including the following core elements:

  • A quick intro about you and what your company does – 10 seconds
    Hi, Taylor! I’m glad we’ve connected. Jessie here at [company name and description].
  • A point of connection, like a referral name or something you share in common, to help build rapport – 10 seconds
    I saw you at the recent sales training conference and wanted to connect in person, but didn’t have the chance. So, I thought I’d give you a call.
  • A note about why you’re calling, highlighting a key pain point or new valuable information for the prospect (this is where your research really comes in handy), followed by a prompt to gather more information – 10 seconds
    We’ve seen lower quota attainment in the XYZ industry, and we’ve been working closely with others in the industry to [do something positive with our product or service]. I’d love to hear about what [company name] has been doing to overcome this challenge. If now isn’t a good time, can we schedule something later this week?

This is really all you need to draft. The rest of the call will depend on how the prospect responds to your open-ended question, like, “What specific pain points or bottlenecks are you looking to address?” Make sure you listen carefully and ask more questions. Try to identify three key factors in their decision-making: time (when they need a solution), money (how much they can afford), and impact (what a perfect solution would look like, preferably framed by metrics they’re trying to hit).

4. Call at the best time – often in the middle of the day

Recent layoffs mean smaller teams have to do the same amount of work with less resources. This may make it harder to get in touch with your prospects. To maximise your chance of getting them on the phone, avoid calling during busy parts of the work day — typically first thing in the morning and the end of the day.

Calling in the middle of the day is a good bet. Give yourself even better odds with a little social reconnaissance. Check to see if your contact has obligations, like a major conference to attend, to make sure you’re reaching them when they’re able to pick up the phone. If calling during “best” hours doesn’t work, send an email and schedule a time to call.

5. Practice (and breathe) before the call

Armed with the best strategies for cold calling, getting into the right mindset is critical. If you rush in, anxious about the outcome, you’ll likely come across as frenzied. To ensure you’re confident and comfortable, do three important things:

  • Anticipate common questions, especially negative ones, and plan quick answers that help direct the conversation in a positive direction.
  • Practice your pitch in front of a mirror or, better yet, with a colleague.
  • Take several deep breaths to calm your nerves before you pick up the phone.

While that may sound simple, it doesn’t need to be complicated. Reps have used these cold calling tips for years, and nothing beats them.

6. Speak slowly and clearly — then listen

With script in hand, remind yourself to take the first 10 seconds to build rapport. This can be a brief tidbit that sets your prospect at ease and helps you connect on a personal level. Smile when you speak — it comes through in your voice. Then, tell them you’re happy they answered and ask them an open-ended question. Speak clearly and slowly to be sure you’re understood. You want the prospect to know who you are, why you’re a standout, and what you have to offer.

“Ask specific questions that show you know what you’re talking about,” said Barrows. “You can simply ask: ‘We’re working with other executives in your industry to address these three priorities: 1,2,3. How do these align with your priorities and what other ones are you specifically dealing with?'”

After you ask your open-ended question, listen — really listen. Take notes as the prospect talks to help you frame follow-up questions. When there’s a natural pause, ask questions related to your research as well as anything that might help you collect information on time, money, and impact (see tip #3 above). People like talking about themselves, so give them the opportunity.

7. Don’t mention your product until the end of the call

Collected enough information to fully understand your prospect’s needs? Now, it’s time to plant a seed. As you get ready to close the call (try to keep it to 15 minutes), connect one of the pain points mentioned with something you have to offer — a product feature, a low-cost subscription, or increased ROI. Let them know you have a viable solution that can be tailored to their needs.

Here’s the catch: Don’t give away the store. Use this connection as an opportunity to ask for a follow-up meeting so you can explain your solution further. After all, this isn’t a sales call. It’s a cold call.

8. Be clear about next steps

Many sellers rightfully put energy into gathering information or making a pitch while cold calling. Unfortunately, many also forget to plan how they’ll close out their cold call in a way that moves things forward.

Before your call, plan for the three to four most likely outcomes and next steps for each. This ensures you will keep the deal moving forward. For example, if the prospect seems interested in product features, suggest scheduling a demo to walk them through your product. If they’re wavering on the real impact of your solution, you can send them an email with case studies and ask them for a good time when you can follow up.

Before you hang up, make sure your next step is clear — and ideally on the prospect’s calendar. You can even summarise next steps at the end of the call to make sure there’s no confusion.

9. Have a plan of action if they don’t answer

“Reps always ask me whether they should leave voicemails anymore since they almost never get a callback. My response is yes — as long as they are good ones,” said Barrows.

What makes a good cold call voicemail? One that offers value. Even if you don’t get a callback the first time, you’ve used an opportunity to build name recognition and help your prospect associate it with something helpful. When planning what you’ll say during a voicemail, consider the research you did to inform what you’d say during a live call. Then use these do’s and don’ts to leave an effective cold call voicemail that stands out.

  • DON’T open with your name. DO start with a greeting that’s immediately followed by why you’re calling, focusing on helpful information you’d like to share.
  • DON’T ramble. DO keep your voicemail to a 30-second maximum.
  • DON’T sell. DO try to pique their curiosity.

Reps always ask me whether they should leave voicemails anymore since they almost never get a callback. My response is yes — as long as they are good ones.

John Barrows
CEO of JB Sales

10. Take time to identify highs and lows after the call

One of my biggest cold calling tips is to take some time after the call for a self-assessment, identifying what went well and what didn’t quite land. The more cold calls you make, the more data you have to learn about what works and what doesn’t — but that’s only possible when you take the time to analyse your calls. Make a note of call highs and lows as soon as you hang up.

The good news: This only needs to take a few minutes following each call, especially if you use AI. AI for sales tools, like Sales Cloud Einstein, not only generate short, actionable call summaries, but they also offer suggestions on next steps. As you continue to analyse your calls, you’ll identify patterns that can help you improve your cold calling scripts and make it easier to approach prospects in the future.

Take the plunge into cold calling 

Cold calling may not be the newest technique in the sales game, but it’s still an effective way to generate new business — if you do it right. By doing your research, building rapport, and giving your prospect a chance to share their problem in detail, you’ll make it easy to position your product as the ideal solution. 

What are you waiting for? Pick up the phone and start turning those calls into customers.

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