Cold calling sends a cold shiver down most salespeople’s spines.
Probably because it evokes a cold shoulder from most prospects.
But experts agree: There are ways to be successful at cold calling.
To help salespeople successfully cold call, we put some of the top experts in the sales industry to task. We asked them to share their best cold calling advice, proven techniques and strongest strategies.
Then we pulled it all together here for you.
Here’s our experts’ cold calling advice:
INDEX: OUR COLD CALLING EXPERTS
Mario Martinez Jr.: Prospect digitally first
Mario M. Martinez Jr.
CEO, Founder, and Digital Sales Evangelist, Vengreso, Host, Selling with Social Podcast
“The goal in sales is to create the warmest connection possible with buyers in an attempt to ‘stand out from the crowd.’ While I believe that cold calling is a necessary part of prospecting, my best advice is to try to turn EVERY cold call into a warm call using digital prospecting techniques. How?
Build a cadence that allows your prospects to be warmed up to you by the time you call. By the time you reach out to them, you should have done the following things in advance to hopefully solicit a discussion before placing a cold call:
- View LinkedIn profiles
- Follow them on LinkedIn
- Follow them on Twitter
- Leverage a mutual connection to get a warm introduction or a referral to your buyer
- Engage with content they may have liked, commented on or shared on any social network
- Send a personalized one- to two-minute video message
- Email and provide relevant content which speaks to the business problem that your buyer is trying to solve. Always remember ‘sales is the art of helping’
- If none of the above work, then place a cold call.
Lisa McLeod: Stop! Research, find common connections
“Don’t do it! If you aren’t willing to spend time researching and finding common connections, you shouldn’t be making a sales call. Cold calls are just that. COLD. Do your homework, find common areas of interest and make a warm call. Your win rate will increase dramatically.”
Kelly Riggs: Use the many available tools
Author, Quit Whining and Start SELLING! A Step-by-Step Guide to a Hall of Fame Career in Sales and Counter Mentor Leadership: How to Unlock the Potential of the 4-Generation Workplace, Founder & President, The Business LockerRoom
“My favorite piece of advice regarding cold calling is that you should rarely if ever, make a ‘cold’ call. It’s just not necessary to walk into a sales opportunity without having obtained enormous amounts of information about the company and its personnel.
When I started in sales, our list of tools wasn’t very deep. It included a phone book and, if you were lucky, business information that may have been purchased from Hoover’s or a similar organization. Today? There is very little you can’t know about potential prospects. The Internet, search engines, and social media tools have completely changed the sales game. Company websites reveal just about everything you can imagine, including key personnel, locations, email addresses, current strategic objectives, and much more. Google alerts allow you to stay up-to-date with any news or commentary about the company or its key employees. LinkedIn and Facebook typically have both business and personal pages that reveal incredible amounts of information about the company, AND, as if that wasn’t enough, allow you to interact dynamically with people online.
This, and much more, allows today’s salespeople to go into every call with an amazing amount of information, and usually with some level of connection already established. Why would you ever make a ‘cold’ call?”
Michael Tracy: Start early
Founder, Sales Journey, Speaker, Trainer & Consultant
“I usually have lots of advice for cold-callers, but if I had to stick to just one answer it would be to get started early. To clarify, nobody ever defaults to making cold calls.
It’s usually the thing most people procrastinate and anguish over the most. If you get started cold-calling first thing in the morning, your actions will help you build momentum, and you will find it much easier to tackle a prospecting list than if you were to start later in the day.
Two of my favorite quotes are ‘nothing happens until something moves’ by Albert Einstein and ‘A body in motion likes to stay in motion’ by Isaac Newton. By taking action early, you will create movement, and things will start to happen. Once you get moving, it will be easier to stay moving and make more calls. The energy you generate will come through in your voice and lower the resistance of your prospects.”
Phil Gerbyshak: Make it warm; stop short of hot
“My best advice for cold calling is to do everything you can to make it as warm of a call as possible, but not so hot that you’re just stalling before making the call. Set your timer for 3-5 minutes and prepare for your warmer call. Do a Google search for the person and pull up their LinkedIn profile. Review the profile for things you can mention in the call, preferably some insight into their company, their industry, or their position.
What is it about who they are online that says they have a need you can serve? Prepare two or three good points, and then make the call. Remember: the goal of the first cold call is to earn another conversation and make it as warm as possible, but not to close business.”
John Larson: Get a recommendation
Co-author, Capturing Loyalty: How To Measure, Generate, and Profit from Highly Satisfied Customers, Senior Partner, John Larson & Co.
“Cold calling is always risky and has a much lower success rate than calling on a prospect where someone reliable has recommended you.
In most cases, I have found that with a little prior planning a good sales rep can find someone who will be more than happy to recommend them to a prospect rather than having to cold call that prospect. This will put you in a much stronger position to develop a good relationship with the prospect and eventually ‘close’ the sale.”
Bob Apollo: Prepare and individualize
Founder, Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners
“Cold-calling success is measured in the quality of outcomes rather than quantity of calls – and the most effective way of increasing the quality of every outcome is to research, prepare and personalize every outreach.
If you want to succeed, you’ve got to target the right opportunities – this means being crystal-clear about the business issues you address, the types of organizations you address them for, the business sponsors that are most likely to suffer from the consequences, and the trigger events that cause them to start searching for a solution.
You’ve got to position yourself as an expert through your use of social media. You’ve got to choose your opening remarks carefully. And you’ve got to research, prepare and individualize your outreach to every target contact so that they conclude – from the first few seconds of the call – that they are likely to learn something useful and relevant from their interaction with you. The only thing you should be selling at that point is why they should see value in continuing the conversation.
Tim Hughes: Focus on social selling
Author, Social Selling: Techniques to Influence Buyers and Changemakers and Smarketing: How to Achieve Competitive Advantage through Blended Sales and Marketing, CEO and Co-founder, Digital Leadership Associates
“Don’t waste your time cold calling. It’s the sign of a desperate company. Cold calling has now clearly been put in the bin of old-fashioned legacy sales methodologies. The return on investment (ROI) of Social Selling has now been proven out for over three years. Social Selling has also been proven to be more effective and efficient than cold calling – allowing you to get higher and faster than if you were cold calling. If you are not social selling today, you are leaving money on the table.”
Gerhard Gschwandtner: Shift your mindset to awaken your inner champion
“Cold calling tends to bring out the fear of rejection in salespeople. Salespeople need to become aware of the inner critic that whispers something about negative outcomes. When that happens, you need to change your physiology, so you can change your psychology.
Decide to shift your mindset and awaken your inner champion. Act like a champion, raise your arms above your head and assume the Victory position. Hold it for two minutes and notice how your confidence grows and how your fear vanishes. Always stand up when you make cold calls, smile before you dial and awaken the best version of you. You can do anything you want with the right mindset. You can turn cold calling into Gold calling.”
Scott Collins: Know your message
Vice President, Gartner
“My single piece of advice regarding cold-calling today would be this: What’s your message?
In today’s environment where customers have access to more information than ever before, and sellers have less access to prospects than ever before, you must focus on having an effective message that captures a prospect’s attention.
Strong cold-calling messages have three critical parts. They:
- are strategic in nature
- are brief and to the point, and
- spark curiosity by being relevant to the prospect.
How can you put those three into action? You can lead with a question or statement relevant to the prospect (base this on his or her role and the company, similar companies or the industry). Be sure to tie that to a strategic, business metric the prospect might care about, including some proof or evidence for why the prospect should consider learning more (this builds your credibility). Finally, establish a next step or call to action for the prospect to take with you.”
Jeff Hoffman: Focus on what you can control
Author of Basho Email, Your SalesMBA and Why You? Why You Now? sales programs, speaker, trainer and writer
“Focus on what you can control by prioritizing activity over outcomes. We, as sales reps, spend far too much time dissecting what we hear from our prospects (i.e., how many nos or yeses) rather than hitting a call goal or number for the day.
You can’t control what a prospect is going to say when they answer the phone, but you can control the number of calls you make every day. Instead of attempting to book three meetings, commit to making 40 calls and asking at least 20 people for a meeting. Sure, there will be some ‘nos,’ but chances are you will walk away with a good number of meetings set, and a feeling of accomplishment for your day.”
Bob Urichuck: Build a relationship before a sale
Author, Velocity Selling: How to Attract, Engage and Empower Buyers to Buy and Motivate Your Team in 30 Days (co-authored with Dave Urichuck), Founder, Bob Urichuck Management Inc.
“Have the objective of building a new relationship to qualify opportunities. Regardless if there’s an opportunity or not, it’s a relationship that is most important. Sales is all about building relationships. The more relationships you have, the bigger your network. The bigger your network, the bigger your net worth.”
Dave Brock: Just do it
“Just do it! Learn, improve, keep doing it.”