Picking up the phone to connect with a prospect can be an important touchpoint on the path to purchase. So much so that a quick phone call has been proven to drive conversion rates by up to 391 per cent. As effective a method as it may be, it’s also one of the most intimidating: the very thought of a placing or receiving a “cold call” is enough to send some running the other direction – and fast.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or new to the field, adding the following tips to your arsenal will help you make the most of each new opportunity and learn more about your industry every step of the way.

Get Social

You can never be too prepared for a sales call, and thanks to social media, you can easily draw on a wealth of insights on prospective customers. According to LinkedIn, “61 per cent of those who do prospect research on LinkedIn are successful at initiating offline conversations.”

Start by scrolling through your prospects’ Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn profiles to learn more about them and discover what you might have in common, such as shared hobbies, where they went to school, or what interests them outside of work. You can also check out what groups, influencers or companies they follow and if they’ve engaged in any conversations on these pages. If they’ve posed a question to a group or are actively participating in a comment thread, joining the discussion is a great way to get on their radar and open up an opportunity to take the conversation offline.

Before you pick up the phone, take to social media to learn more about the voice on the other end of the line. Not only will this humanize your interaction and make your conversation flow organically, but it can also shed light on pain points they, or other potential customers, are experiencing that you might have a solution for.  

Don’t Fear Silence

Unlike a first date or elevator ride with your boss’s boss, where your first instinct is to avoid awkward silence at all costs, don’t rush to fill a break in the conversation. Especially if you’ve just asked a question.

B2B sales expert Jill Konrath stresses the importance of giving your prospect time to fully process their answer, citing research that found “people need 8-10 seconds to formulate the start of their answer.” If you cut them off ahead of time you might be missing out on valuable information, like their current challenges or opportunities. Not to mention the message it sends when you keep interjecting with your own thoughts or opinions. Being an active listener will reveal far more about their business’ needs, which is ultimately how you’ll close the deal.

Approach each call as you would a presentation by speaking calmly, with intention, and leaving time for your audience to process your words and draw their own conclusions. This will convey the confidence you’ll need to become their trusted advisor and open up a two-way dialogue you both can benefit from.

Use Rejection to Your Advantage

Any sales rep knows all too well that hearing “no” is part of the job, but that never gets easier. Douglas Magazine, citing research firm TOPO, states “it takes 18 dials to connect to a single buyer; and call-back rates are lower than one per cent.” Facing these odds, it’s important to make the most of every call, no matter the outcome.

Treat each rejection as an opportunity to improve your pitch by keeping detailed notes: as soon as you’ve hung up, take a moment to jot down the conversation and what might have gone wrong. Log each call in your CRM system to house all of this information in one place, and you’ll quickly determine what’s working and what’s not. Be sure to revisit these at the end of each cycle to look for patterns and decide where to focus your efforts.

No matter what the outcome, every call you make is an opportunity to learn, improve and make your sales calls more successful. The key is investing the time to prepare for each prospect, really listen once you’re on the call, and properly download after. The payoff is well worth it.