You work in cold calling driven sales long enough and you’re bound to hear it: that story about the salesperson who closed a six or seven figure deal from a cold call. In fact, I recently had dinner with a retired business to business (B2B) salesperson who had a stack of success stories that started with charming a gatekeeper on a cold call and ended with a massive commission.
But are cold calling tips still relevant with today’s highly complex B2B sales processes? Or should they be relegated to movies like The Wolf of Wall Street and Boiler Room? Something fit for transactional sales, but avoided by B2B companies?
You might hate cold calling. And though I’ve met some awesome sales reps that love cold calling, I’ll be honest and say it’s never been my favorite part of sales. But the truth is, it is just as relevant and important as it has ever been. And that goes whether you’re selling insurance or seven-figure BI systems.
In this article, I’m going to explain what cold calling is and why it has stood the test of time. And since I believe in the validity of cold calling, I’m going to also offer 39 ways that you can make your cold calls as successful as possible, with an actionable example for each one.
The definition of cold calling is calling a stranger and asking them to buy your solution when they were not expecting your call.
In 2020, the definition of cold calling can get a bit fuzzy. B2B buying cycles typically involve a lot of self-education up front. So if a salesperson reaches out after a prospect downloads an infographic is it still a cold call?
I think the clearest way to draw the line between cold calling vs. warm calling in 2020 is to say that a cold call is a call which a prospect didn’t ask to have. So if a prospect fills out a demo form and leaves her phone number on that form, it’s not a cold call when the rep reaches out. The prospect asked to be contacted. But if a rep calls after she simply downloaded an infographic, that rep’s in cold call territory.
For the past decade or more, articles have continued popping up declaring “the death of the cold call.” This one from Inc. is especially pointed, stating: “No true decision maker is dumb enough to answer a cold-call.” But that’s not true. First of all, depending on who your target buyer personas are, they may be more than likely to pick up the phone.
As an example, if you’re selling to anyone in sales, customer service, client relations, business development or more, they are probably going to answer their business line. Why? Because an unknown number could be one of their customers calling.
Also, there are solutions like Local Presence that enable calls to come from local area codes. It’s been proven that customers are up to 4 times as likely to answer calls coming from local area codes.
Cold outreach is still relevant. But don’t take my word for it. Here are some cold calling statistics from the RAIN group:
69% of buyers report that they accepted one or more cold calls last year.
About 51% of company owners say they would rather hear from sales reps via phone compared to email, faxes, drop-in visits, and other media, according to phone call statistics
Nearly two thirds (57%) of C-level executives say they value information from phone calls with sales reps
Of buyers who accept sales calls, 75% report interest in the product as the most important reason.
While cold calling is still relevant in 2020, that doesn’t mean that the same old cold calling strategies will work. Here are some important ways that cold calling has changed.
A sales conversation needs to be just as valuable to a buyer as it is to a seller. All messaging should be providing the buyer with valuable and contextually relevant information. There are great ways to “warm up” cold calls by looking at the prospect’s company website, social feeds, etc. All messaging should be tailored to maximize the value each conversation provides.
In the past, cold calling was about dumping as much information on a buyer as possible in a short period of time. But the best reps know that a cold call is an opportunity to learn about a prospect’s business and pain points. We’ve analyzed millions of sales calls here at ringDNA with our AI-powered tool. And we found that the most successful sellers don’t go on lengthy talk monologues. They pause every twelve seconds or so to listen to their buyers and learn from them.
2020 has been a rough year for virtually everyone. It’s important that, when cold calling, to lead with empathy. Take a genuine interest in your prospects’ well being and be there to help. After all, whether you’re selling to businesses or consumers, the goal should always be to help them solve problems. Because at our core, every salesperson is a helper.
Cold calling is important. But it should only be part of an outbound sequence that also includes email, text and social outreach. Reps should be persistent, as it often takes six or more contact attempts to have a conversation with a prospect. There is a synergistic effect when reps use multiple channels to connect. Remember also that even if a prospect doesn’t pick up the phone, it’s an opportunity to leave a voicemail message. ringDNA even offers voicemail automation so reps can leave perfectly recorded voicemail messages with the click of a button.
Here are our cold calling techniques that are not only proven to be successful, but may actually help you enjoy cold calling a bit more.
Let’s face it, when you cold call someone, you are interrupting their day. Your call was not asked for and it may happen at an unsuitable time. To mitigate your interruption you should always have something of value that you can offer your contact. That may be a useful piece of content, some sort of advice, or a true solution to their needs. It also will make your message more impactful.
Actionable Tip: Use buyer persona sheets that can help identify target buyers, their pain points and their KPIs. Here are some buyer persona templates we made that you can feel free to use.
One of the most important cold calling tips is to remain focused. Once you start dialing, don’t stop until you have completed your goals for the day. If you become distracted, you will not only spend more time making cold calls, but you will lose focus on your task, and may not be as effective.
Actionable Tip: Prioritize who you’re going to reach out to at the beginning of your day, but don’t be afraid to shift your priorities in real time, if a lead answers an email or demonstrates another important buying signal. ringDNA Guided Selling goes one step further and can even prioritize reps’ activities in real time.
Most cold calls result in rejection, you cannot succumb to it. You must find a cold calling technique that allows you to be unfazed by rejection so you can continue making calls without it impacting your effectiveness or confidence.
Don’t stop! For many, cold calling is not an enjoyable activity. But like anything, it is much harder to stop and then get started again. Once you begin your cold calls, do not stop. Keep dialing until you are done and you will find that it is much less painful.
Make your cold calls fun! Set mini-goals and rewards for yourself if you make a certain number of connections, get so many answers, or book appointments. You can even get your teammates in on it and compete with one another.
Sales teams can save a massive amount of time through the elimination of tedious, time-consuming tasks related to cold calling. These tasks not only waste time, but make cold calling a poor experience.
Actionable Tip: Look for tools that can increase productivity by automating tedious processes. The ringDNA Intelligent Dialer automatically logs calls, texts and emails in Salesforce automatically.
If you want to succeed at calling, you must be natural, warm, and conversational on the phone. Scripts can be especially helpful, but you should not read them word for word. You’ll sound robotic and unattractive. Instead, create guidelines or outlines for conversations and be more human.
ringDNA data shows that sales calls answer rates are the highest between 10 and 11:30 AM in your respective time zone. Block off time on your calendar and commit to making calls during the best time to call prospects to maximize your connection rates.
The majority of cold calls will go to voicemail. One of the best cold call techniques is to leave voicemails after every non-answer. This ensures your dialing efforts will not go to waste, as hopefully, your prospects will call you back.
Actionable Tip: The ringDNA dialer enables reps to leave perfectly recorded voicemails with one click. But if you don’t have ringDNA, try writing voicemail scripts to stay on message and keep voicemails targeted and concise.
The ultimate secret to an effective cold sales pitch is enthusiasm. It guarantees you can make a positive first impression which opens the door with your prospect.
Learn the most common sales objections that your sales team encounters and know how to address them. Chances are if you are making cold calls, you will hear them more than once per day.
Actionable tip: Try role playing with colleagues to handle overcoming sales objections.
Since cold calls are an interruption, prospects will likely attempt to get off the phone as soon as possible. Prepare “leave behind” materials that you can send along when your contact requests it.
To be an effective cold caller, you must be able to capture attention immediately. Come up with an impactful opening statement that makes your contacts want to hear what you have to say.
Prospects don’t want to be pitched, if they answer your cold call, make sure you provide them value by telling them exactly why you called and providing them with something of value. Then, ask one or two questions and tailor your product description to fit their needs.
Actionable Tip: Lead with empathy and try to discover how current events have impacted your prospect’s business. You might gain some clues that help you tailor your messaging to their pain points.
The best way to have successful cold calls is to make it about your prospect. Of course, you have goals to accomplish, but when you make a call, it should be all about your contact. Work for a way to solve their problems, help them do better, or otherwise provide value. If you can provide your contact with true value, then you will be more successful.
Great sales questions help you stand out, and get you incredibly useful information for further down the sales process. The right question can reveal a lot about your potential buyer and their situation and can help you win.
The more you can personalize your call to the recipient, the more effective and impactful it will be. However, especially when cold calling, you cannot spend a large amount of time researching the company, contacts, and curating a call. Cold calling is still largely about volume, so gain enough context to be effective, but don’t spend too much time gathering.
Actionable Tip: Sales tools that automatically surface contextual information can be especially helpful with this.
Practice makes perfect. If you want to be great at cold calls, you need to practice, practice, practice. Use different sales role-play exercises, rehearse scripts, and work on your enthusiasm either with a teammate or on your own.
Just because you’re making cold calls doesn’t mean your leads have to be completely unfamiliar with your company. Utilize your content management system and CRM to search for known site visitors who have visited pages or downloaded content, but not enough to warrant an inbound lead call. They will already be familiar with you and may yield a more successful result.
Actionable Tip: Tools like ringDNA Guided Selling make it easy to prioritize leads based on these triggers. But if you’re not using ringDNA, you should talk to your marketing team. The same lead scoring they are doing in their marketing automation system can often be shared with sales reps in real time for lead prioritization purposes.
On a cold call, you may just want to say or do anything that will result in an appointment booked. However, sometimes the best thing you can do is just listen. With the right questions or prompts, you may hear the key piece of information you need to book a demo.
Be understanding and considerate of your prospect’s time. If you are respectful and avoid being pushy, you may earn enough Klout for a few minutes of attention or a callback later.
It’s a normal reaction to want to immediately launch into your pitch as soon as the phone is answered. To many its even a surprise when the phone is answered. As much as you may want to blurt out all of your info, slow it down. You don’t want to overwhelm your contact with info and questions.
Part of a well-thought-out call outline includes pre-planned questions that get you the information you need and lend themselves to a thoughtful conversation. Once you have someone on the phone, you want to make the most of it, so ensure you capture all the information that you need.
If you have the ability to organize your call lists before you being your call blocks, group similar companies together. Put companies of the same size, with similar products, in the same industry, or in the same location together. This will lend itself to more natural flow for yourself.
Actionable Tips: This is applicable to cold emails as well. You can adjust the amount of personalization in each email based on company size, sales readiness and other factors.
Unless you’re in a truly transactional business like insurance, cold calls shouldn’t be for selling. Some of the best cold calls barely touch on the actual functions of the product at all. Do not try to close your contact on the first call, all you need is a little bit of interest.
Again, make your cold call all about them. Try to uncover the problems or needs that they have. You can use this to successfully pitch your product, earn the demo, and close the deal.
Actionable Tip: People in similar roles have similar problems. That’s why it’s important to use buyer personas when selling. You can often anticipate what your prospects problems will be.
Treat your contacts as if they were an old friend. This familiarity will break down defenses and make them less wary of you. When they are less defensive, you have a better opportunity of making a successful call.
Be upfront, recognize that it is a cold call, and tell them why you are making it. State the benefit that you believe they could obtain and get straight to the point.
Don’t be nosy. Stick to a few basic qualification questions and move on. Unless your contact is open to sharing, you don’t need to force information out of them right away.
Regardless of the outcome of your cold calls, always follow up. Leave a voicemail, send an email, and/or a text message. Thank them for their time, or just let them know that you called.
Actionable Tip: Don’t give up. It often takes at least six contact attempts to get a meeting booked, often more.
Recording your calls allows you to listen back to hear what you do well, and what needs to be improved. You can also send calls to your managers or peers for their feedback. Call recording tools, and those that use conversational analysis are especially useful for this.
Everyone makes mistakes, and that’s okay. If something doesn’t go quite right on a cold call, learn from it.
It’s okay to ask for help! If you feel like you need to improve on something specific, ask your managers, coach, peers, or mentors for feedback. They are sure to be full of experience-based cold call tips and advice.
Actionable Tip: ringDNA allows reps to flag calls for coaching, which alerts sales leaders the moment a rep needs help. Managers can then listen in calls and even jump in and assist reps. But whether or not you’re using ringDNA, it’s essential to have a process for quickly getting help on calls. Even using a solution like Slack offers reps a way to quickly get help from managers.
Sales teams often run contests and giveaways for reps that meet certain goals. That doesn’t mean that you can’t reward yourself when you accomplish something. Set cold call goals on your own and treat yourself to a reward when you achieve them.
Cold calling is not one size fits all. Try different strategies and tactics to see what works best for you. Implement those that lead to success and toss what doesn’t
It can take multiple outreach attempts and channels to reach a prospect, so never give up on the first try. Use cadencing tools to schedule multiple outreach attempts and vary the channel that you use.
A dialer will have an incredible impact on the efficiency of your cold calling, but don’t lose the human touch. Auto-dialers create a poor sales experience and can actually result in lost sales. However, dialers that work out of Salesforce or offer click-to-call strike a positive balance.
Data is the key to improving performance, but you must first capture it. Sales dialers automatically capture and store call information so reps have to do less logging and spend more time selling. Managers get more complete and accurate data to analyze and improve.
Actionable Tip: Make sure data is actionable by making it easy to visualize in dashboards. ringDNA offers dozens of actionable sales dashboards out of the box.
Especially when calling into executive levels, sales reps will encounter gatekeepers. Learn to get past them to be effective.
Zack is a Sales Content Specialist at RingDNA. He is passionate about solving everyday problems and increasing performance through innovative technology. Zack has worked directly with sales teams and understands the challenges they face on a daily basis. When he's not developing and sharing knowledge at RingDNA, he loves being outdoors, hiking, and coffee.