A Beginner’s Guide to Cold Calling

Why do salespeople avoid calling more than anything else in selling? It’s because we all fear getting rejected, right?

Most likely, in your sales career, you’ve probably learned that contrary to what the “old sales gurus” and traditional sales programs preach, you can’t just overcome the fear and anxiety of cold calling by getting thick skin, being more positive, or popping in a motivational guru’s CD to get you pumped up. So is cold calling worth picking up the phone? According to recent statistics, 49% of buyers actually prefer receiving a cold call. Even though sending a cold email seems easier and less time consuming, a cold call can start a two way conversation and is far more effective than an email in their inbox. 

If you’re just starting out in sales or looking to revive your cold calling tactics, follow this straightforward guide that I designed to help you navigate the call, featuring tips on how to be a more successful cold caller. As with most things in life, the more practice you get, the better you’ll perform. And be prepared for practice, as the average sales representative makes about 45 phone calls on a daily basis. 

  1. Practice makes perfect.

Again, I understand how those first few calls can be intimidating. You’ll feel considerably more comfortable and in control if you practice in the mirror first. To do this effectively, know what you’re going to say, and more importantly ask. Many salespeople operate with a script, whether it was given to them by their sales leader or they wrote it themselves. Especially when nervous, it’s easy to ‘hug’ the script, reciting each word and not straying from it. This will come across to the prospect as unnatural and forced. So when you practice, try to keep your eyes off the script. Repeat the general gist of your points, but be neutral, coming across as you are there to help them. Be natural like you’re talking to a neighbor or a friend.

After practicing in front of the mirror, I always recommend recording yourself practicing. Listening back to a recording of yourself will tell you far more about your delivery than listening to yourself while you practice, since you’re also focused on what you’re saying while practicing. 

The ideal is to sound relaxed and confident. Be candid with yourself about if this is being achieved in your recording, then find ways to adjust if not. Even the way you sit can have an impact on how relaxed you sound, or some prefer walking around the office while talking. You’ll find your stride – it just may take some trial at first. Remember that the more you practice, the more relaxed you’ll be. This will become second nature in due time.

I also recommend recording yourself during your actual cold calls. Some sales leaders will ask for this, or will listen in on your first few calls. But if you work for yourself, you’re on your own. You learn from your mistakes when you dare to confront them, so consider having a recorder on – then you can objectively see where things went right, or where they went wrong and adjust for next time.

To compare it to an ideal, record yourself making the same cold call to a friend, family member, or someone else you feel comfortable with. How the call feels will immediately be different. You’ll likely find that you’re more laid back, you don’t need to read your script like a robot, and you’ll be asking questions from memory to see if you can help them. Contrast this with the nervously cold calls: you usually speak quickly, give the prospect little chance to talk or ask questions, and rush through the script in an excited manner. Consistently remind yourself to slow down and pretend you’re speaking (professionally) with a friend. 

    2. Orient yourself in your purpose.

Take a few moments to think about the purpose of your call: The purpose of the call is to focus on whether or not you can help this person solve their problems. This conversation is for you to learn about this person/company, what their challenges and problems are to see if you can help them. Instead of focusing on making the sale, focus on whether there is a sale to be made in the first place.

One way to do this is to start your day of cold calls by writing down several problems that the prospects you talk to have. Fill in the blank. “My product or service is best for companies struggling with (blank).” Come up with two or three, and add to the list as you continue your calls and ask individuals about their specific problems. 

Move out of your own head and into the mind of the person who will soon be on the other line. How can you connect with them? What do you expect their challenges to be? Can you summon the empathy or compassion to truly connect with them and see if your solution is the right fit? To do this, it can be a good idea to briefly research the prospect or their company. See if they recently had any press, or what their recent social media posts were. This can help you to better understand them while also providing some talking points throughout the course of the cold call.

Generally, this intention-setting practice of being oriented in your call’s purpose before the call even takes place will immediately bring you back to the present moment. Then, instead of getting nervous and reverting back to the script, your focus will be on something deeper entirely. Begin to think of your cold-call as a well-intentioned call to someone who might need your help, and you have the answer they’ve been looking for. You’ve shown up to solve their problem and understand their needs.

 

  1. Generate a fruitful conversation. 

Once you have them on the phone, remember that your job is to open up a two-way conversation rather than trying to close the deal from the start. Create curiosity in the potential customer to get them to want to engage in the conversation. Avoid any sales pressure. Find what their problems are, what caused them, and how it’s affecting them to see if you can help them. This requires you to ask questions, ask for further explanation, and to give them space to share more than what they’ve already shared. This paced, intentional type of conversation will also help your prospect feel that you really care about them and what they’re looking for, rather than skipping right to the punchline and insisting you know what they need before you even ask. That is the equivalent of going to the doctor and getting a medicine prescribed without telling them what hurts or what is bothering you. 

I always advise an opening first line of, “Hello, this is just (your name). I was wondering if you could help me out for a moment?” This opens the door for the conversation to go further, because few prospects will reply with “No.” Once they say yes or ask who you are, you could say one of the following statements: 

  • ‘I called to see if you/your company is open to a different perspective…”
  • I’m calling to see if your company is dealing with problems like….” 
  • “I’m just calling to see if your company would be open to looking at any possible hidden gaps in your…”

After you ask them “I was wondering if you could help me out for a moment?” and they say yes. Then say “I’m not quite sure you could yet,” as a follow up to your initial question wondering if they could help you out for a moment. This takes the pressure out of the opening of the call, because you’re seeking a fit to see if your solution fits a problem that they do, indeed, have. Depending on their responses to these initial questions, the two-way conversation usually begins to open up. It becomes a dialogue about if they’re open to new solutions (which opens the door for you to share yours) or if they’re coping with a specific problem.

From here, I advise using one of the following connecting phrases. Once they’ve said what the problem is, it’s likely similar to the problem statements you wrote down before the call. Use one of these phrases to make the connection between your product or service and how it solves the problem as salient as possible: 

  • “Any hidden gaps in your…”
  • “That are preventing”
  • “To improving” or “From improving” 
  • “Surrounding” or “Related to” or “Regarding”
  • “On how to” 
  • “To decrease”
  • “That decrease”
  • “That could affect”
  • “That might help to”
  • “To eliminate” or “that eliminate” 

From here, it’s just a matter of asking the right questions in the conversation to understand how you can help them. Again, don’t put on any sales pressure. A sale will likely not happen on this first call, but scheduling a time for a demo or for another time to talk further with their team at large is a great step. Seek to build the relationship and understand them – this is how cold callers win. You do this by understanding them in depth, and beginning to go over how your solution can solve the problems they told you (and themselves) that they have. Educate them on what solution you have to offer. Eventually, after productive conversations from enough cold calls, you’ll naturally navigate future cold calls and know what to expect. Your knowledge about how your solution solves your prospect’s problems will shine through, and you’ll feel comfortable and confident taking prospects through your sales cycle. All it takes is a bit of practice.