Whether you’re trying to nurture leads, build awareness, set an appointment, schedule a demo, or close a sale, it all starts when you reach out and initiate a conversation. Cold calling is your opportunity to speak directly with decision-makers.
But if you think that cold calling is merely a perfunctory step in the sales process, you’re probably missing a critical component of your selling ground game. To help you, we’ve compiled 23 tips of our best cold calling tips for startup founders and B2B sales pros who want to make more sales and close more deals.
Never lose sight of what you’re selling. Most professional cold calling is not about closing sales. You’re reaching out to initiate a dialogue with prospects: to raise awareness about your product or service, follow up on a request for more information and get an appointment to make your sales pitch, perform an online demo or invite people to attend the event of a sale. You represent the front lines of communication by planting the ideas that will get prospects to the next stage.
To be effective, you need to learn about the product or service you’re selling. Read the marketing brochures, watch a demo, and ask to talk with product managers. Even when “selling” an appointment, you need to be able to speak with the authority of an informed consultant. Arm yourself to field prospects’ questions. You don’t want to get caught by prospects that know more on a subject than you. Remember Tip #1: Being well informed is not a license to showcase your knowledge. It’s the backup information that makes you a professional and earns you the right to take a few minutes of your prospects’ time.
And while you’re learning about what you’re selling, learn as much as you can about your prospective market. Talk with the marketing department about any demographic and firmographic research they have on hand. Check your CRM system for any specific background information on the person/company you’re calling. The contact records may include history on past sales and inquiries. Finally, if you or other reps have had previous success selling into a particular market, learn what you can about why those sales closed.
Always be real; be yourself. Leave the false enthusiasm and pushy sales tactics to those who pitch on TV infomercials for a living. You can be positive and assured without going over the top. You’re one professional talking with another about a solid solution that can make a difference in someone’s life or business. Try matching your tone and voice to that of your prospect. And NEVER hang up on prospects…no matter how rude. Just thank them for their time and end the call; don’t slam the receiver.
Sincerity goes right along with being real and professional. You might be surprised at how easily your voice can betray you when you’re having an off day. If you’re in a bad mood, nervous or just going through the motions to get through your call list, prospects are going to know when you’re not sincere. Just by listening to you. A great way to warm up a cold call is to warm up your presentation style. The next time you get on the phone, put a mirror in front of you and watch your expressions as you speak. If you’re frowning or looking bored, your voice is conveying that message loud and clear.
There’s not 100% agreement on this. Some telesales reps will say that late afternoon (after 4 PM) is the ideal calling time. But here’s why we like mornings: First, decision-makers are busy, and as a day wears on commitments for their time tend to increase. Second, when you make your calls in the morning, you can use your afternoons to follow up, send emails, and complete reports. And third, if like many people you dread cold calling, don’t postpone. Dive in and get it done.
If you consider a script something that you will read to a prospect, then no, don’t script. But if you use a script to organize your thoughts, think through your presentation and work through your responses to objections, then yes, you need to script yourself. Make a list of the selling points that will move prospects to the next step then identify the key selling point that is your focus. A script that you’ve practiced will help you prepare and stay on point. But reading a script will not encourage conversation. You’re not an automaton trying to get the words out before someone hangs up. Use your script to speak with confidence and genuine excitement.
Even when you have a well-rehearsed script, always have a backup plan. A prospect’s questions and specific needs may take you in a different direction. All your research and preparation are your guide to open a conversation. Also, while your primary objective may be to get an appointment, you may need a fallback position. Respect a prospect’s need to have more information before making a commitment to go to the next level. If you can’t get an appointment on your first call, you may be able to send a targeted email along with a white paper or video link and arrange for a follow-up conversation.
A strong opening line is every bit as important as a good close. Maybe more. You can’t close if you never get a chance to get started. You need an opening line that captivates and engages and makes prospects want to know more. Avoid openers that give prospects an easy out…like send me some information and I’ll get back to you. If you’ve done your homework, you’ll have ideas for how to tie your message to a prospect’s needs and trigger a positive initial response. Test opening lines until you find the one or two that allow you to get to the rest of your message.
Learning to listen may well be the single most critical part of the pitch process. Your sales pitch will fall on deaf ears if you don’t let prospects talk and share their perspectives. When prospects talk, they become more engaged, and when you listen you’ll know what to say that will turn a pitch into a two-way conversation. Listening is a difficult habit to develop because when you get someone on the phone you’re primed to pitch. But when you truly listen you’ll come across as a professional who cares.
You may very well have a better solution than the competition. Maybe you beat them on price, features, and/or benefits. When you openly sell against the competition, you’re setting prospects up to want to do more research. Or worse, you may give them an out to say, “Sorry we’re already using X.” Be aware of the competition, but make your approach original. And then there’s the fact that you’re not really trying to close. Leave that until after you get an appointment and have the time and opportunity to go into a comprehensive sales presentation.
While many inbound marketers eschew the traditional cold call for social media, top sales reps incorporate social selling into their cold calling strategy. Think of social media, website videos, marketing collateral, and white papers as ways to warm up those cold calls. Your marketing department can support your efforts by branding the company and presenting your message through digital media. Social selling makes your calls more legitimate and builds your company’s reputation.
Referrals build your company’s reputation. They often pave the way for you to reach out to a new prospect. If you have a good conversation with a prospect—even if you haven’t yet set an appointment—ask for a referral. They’re not as hard to get as you might think. According to Hinge Marketing, 69% of respondents in a recent study said they are willing to give referrals. The surprising thing, however, is that 72% of those same respondents reported that they are never asked.
Prospects are busy people, and even when you connect on a call they’re typically looking for an out. So don’t ask questions that set them up with an easy out. When possible, make statements that engage and prompt discussion. For example, if you know that a prospect’s company just made an important acquisition, ask them something like: “What do you think you need now to get the most out of…” If you ask a question like, “Could I send you some information on companies in a similar situation that we’ve helped?” don’t be surprised when the prospect says, “Sure,” and hangs up. And if you need to send information, don’t ask for permission. Ask for an email address.
The last thing you want is an adversarial relationship with executive gatekeepers. Remember, they can keep you out, but they can also help you get through. Make gatekeepers your allies by involving them. Work together to get the right information to the right person. Don’t tell them what you want; ask their opinion. Be cordial, but speak with the authority that comes of knowing you have an important message. Good gatekeepers don’t want to be responsible for their bosses missing an important opportunity. And when a gatekeeper tries to give you the brush of, slow the conversation down. When you take time to think about your reply, you derail the bum’s rush. You’ll also sound more like a human being and less like a slick sales rep.
Nein. Non. Nee. Nope. Whatever the language, “no” is the word cold callers fear most. While many of these cold calling tips should help you hear fewer outright no’s, it’s still going to happen. The best way to deal with “no” is to put it in perspective. If you’re meeting your personal sales goals and have a healthy ratio of appointments or follow ups to hang ups, then accept “no” as part of the process. If you’re getting too many rejections, however, then this is your wake-up call. You need to figure out what you’re saying to prompt the negatives. Find another message or a better way to make your point. You always need to be reviewing and honing your pitch.
If you made your cold calls in the morning, you’ll have plenty of time in the afternoon to report on your progress. Certainly, your boss needs to know how you’re doing, and so do you. If you do your reporting when the results are fresh, you can assess your progress. Are there areas where you are weak? Do you have trouble completing your opening? Are you getting too many hang-ups? Are you giving prospects too many easy outs? When you figure out what parts of your pitch need work, you can improve your performance. Try different tactics and measure your success. Think of it as A/B testing.
Depending on which research you read, you know that anywhere from 80% to 97% of calls go right to voicemail. Don’t despair. Also recognize that probably 90% of your first voicemails will not be returned. Then get to work on your voicemail technique. Here are a few tips for cold calling that can improve your voicemail results: Stick to one key point. Slow your delivery. Speak clearly. Repeat your name and phone number several times. End your call with your key message. And keep records on your voicemail messages so you’ll know which pitch works best.
This is more of a tactic than a strategy. But some telesales reps like to send a novelty item or unusual ice breaker to generate awareness prior to calling. Sometimes it can make getting through on that first call easier. Think of this as a pre-touch. Another pre-call tactic is to connect by commenting on the prospect’s blog, following the prospect on Facebook or Twitter or joining the same LinkedIn group. You may find ways to engage through social media before you ever talk.
While cold calling can be frustrating, if you give up, your cold calling will fail. There are art and science to cold calling. Many of these cold calling tips deal with the art. Now for the science: It takes anywhere from five to 12 or more touches (e.g., communications, emails, voicemails, phone conversations) to get a prospect’s attention and move your cold call to the next step. But here’s the most shocking fact: The majority of sales reps give up on a lead after one or two tries. It’s why fewer than 10% of reps close about 80% of sales. Persistence pays off.
Now that you know the persistence and the number of touches it’s going to take to get a prospective customer to the next step…let alone to the sale…you’ll appreciate the importance of following up. It’s also about protecting your and the company’s reputation. When you agree to follow up in two weeks or that you’ll send a certain marketing report after hanging up, you have to deliver.
We all wish for the bluebird sale to swoop down and deliver a six-figure deal when we least expect it. Wish all you want and revel in the rare bluebird, but the hard fact is this: The best way to get what you want is to ask. Whether you want a referral, a sale, or an appointment, you need to ask to get a commitment. And while it’s important to engage prospects and get a conversation going, don’t hang up without getting a commitment for the next step. Ask when is a good time to meet or to see a product demo. If you can’t get a date, agree on the next time to talk. Salespeople who don’t ask, walk away empty-handed.
Nothing is more frustrating and counterproductive than working with a bad list of leads and contact records. All your efforts to research your market, organize your thoughts, and hone your message and style are wasted when you repeatedly call wrong numbers, contacts who have left a company and non-decision makers. A clean list that is regularly vetted is the gold standard for a successful strategy. And when you start with a targeted list, your professionalism to connect with prospects and open dialogue enables you to add even greater value. As you learn about prospects’ wants and needs, as you gain greater insight into their buying cycles and as you gather the names and contact information on other stakeholders involved in purchasing, you can turn targeted leads sitting in CRM into sales-qualified prospect profiles that you and your sales team can close. That’s where we come in, try PeaksLead for Targeted Sales Leads
Cold calling is not for the faint of heart. More than once someone has told us that they’d rather walk across burning coals than make a cold call. Here’s the truth: You can do both…with a positive attitude and the right preparation. And in the case of cold calling, with a targeted set of leads. Yes, you will get busy, preoccupied, and even rude people. You’ll experience hang-ups and more no’s than you think you can handle. Just remember it’s not personal. And arm yourself by becoming a well-prepared professional. Be dogged. Don’t make excuses. And eventually, a hang-up will become no more than a speed bump on your road to cold calling success.