Cold calling is still a thing. Don’t let anyone say anything different.
In fact, 69% of buyers have taken a cold call from a sales rep over the last year, and that’s just the start.
We analyzed 82,738 deals ranging from $25K to over $1 million and found that the average number of calls for closed-won deals was 21, compared to an average of 19 for closed-lost. A margin of just two calls could separate you from moving closer to quota attainment.
Thankfully, cold calling is in a period of warming, as social media and presence online make it easier than ever to build meaningful connections before even talking to a person.
But us sales folk are always up for a good conversation, so we put together some of the most important cold calling tips for you and your team to have more meaningful conversations and drive more predictable outcomes.
What is Cold Calling?
Cold calling is when a person, usually a sales rep, places unsolicited calls to unbeknownst recipients, who are the prospective targets of a sale or other end goal. This definition uses plural nouns because cold calling is typically a one-to-many relationship, where the cold caller places many cold calls with the hope that a percentage of them will be successful.
Although people will tell you they hate making and receiving cold calls, they actually mean to tell you they hate making and receiving cold calls that don’t resonate. When a cold call resonates with the recipient and is ultimately productive, cold calling ain’t so bad.
Is there anything that can be done to improve the likelihood of a cold call going well? We’re 100% confident there is, and have compiled a list of five things for you and your team to implement in your cold calling strategy.
Top 5 Tips for a Better Cold Call
Cold calling has been around for a long time. As the telephone became ubiquitous around the world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the value of the network grew exponentially — classic network effect.
Cold calling is one of the perennial examples of sales reps leveraging technology to make themselves more effective. The equivalent example today would be machine learning and AI, and using a modern lens, we’ll provide examples for cold calling in 2022 and beyond.
1. Don’t Wait or Hesitate
It’s an unfortunate reality that as a modern sales rep making cold calls, you’re effectively in competition with computers that can simultaneously make thousands of calls.
But the good news is that if you’ve ever received one of these robocalls that try to impersonate an actual human being, you realize how easy it is to sniff out when there isn’t a human on the other end.
For example, a long pause and an audible click as the automated call system is engaged has increased the need for urgency with your first words during a cold call, not to mention the need to make clear without a doubt you’re human.
If you’re not quick to draw a warm introduction after “hello,” you’ll likely hear a click before you get in your first word.
2. Start with a “No”
Old school cold callers are notorious affirmation-seekers.
They often try to get as many “yes” responses from the prospect as possible, believing it subconsciously improves the likelihood of another “yes” when trying to close. However, this strategy might have the exact opposite effect.
Most of the time, prospects are simply saying “yes” because it seems like the easiest way to get you off the phone. Chris Voss, author of the bestselling book, Never Split The Difference, differentiates this as the counterfeit “yes,” as compared to the commitment, “yes.”
Beginning the conversation with a “no” response gives the prospect a sense of control and they subsequently feel more comfortable in having an actual conversation towards a commitment.
3. Get to the (Bullet) Point
Scripts are a wonderful thing, but only if the actor memorizes their lines.
If you’ve ever cringed as someone read the teleprompter while delivering a speech, their eyes going line by line and the message being diminished if not lost entirely, you should know this same effect can happen in a cold call.
As you read your script verbatim, no matter how polished and perfected it is, the recipient can almost certainly sense it is not a normal conversation. If you instead have a checklist of bullet points to hit before the call is complete and fill in the gaps with a more natural conversation, you’re more likely to get the prospect talking and closer to your goal.
How can you tell a salesperson is losing the deal? They’re doing most of the talking.
Use your bullet points to keep things brief but also inspire some thought and discussion with the prospect.
4. Preheat the Call With Research and Data
While the prospect might not be warmed up to who you are, you should take the time to warm up to who they are.
You can use publicly available information to learn more about the prospect, their role, location, and the company and industry in which they work. If you know their role, you can get a baseline understanding of what their likely goals are, where they are in the decision-making hierarchy, and more. If you know their location, this can help identify when is a good time to call.
You should also spend some time researching and thinking about a suggestion, strategy, or solution to the prospect’s problem. If you can teach the prospect something that can impact their job performance and goals, they’ll warm up to you rather quickly because you’ll establish credibility and provide value.
Leveraging this buyer-first mentality in your cold calling will position you as a trusted consultant, with whom the overwhelming majority of buyers prefer doing business.
5. Learn From Failures and Successes
Cold calling is an iterative process. Every call, whether a success or failure, contributes to your mental model of how to improve future results.
The analog way to do this is to simply take post-call notes about what went well, what didn’t go well, where things could be improved, and specifics on changes that you would make in hindsight.
The modern way to do this would be to use sales tracking software to record your activities and surface insights and suggestions for improvement.
Bonus: How to Avoid “Potential Spam” Caller ID
If you’re cold calling and not having much success getting prospects on the phone, they might be seeing notifications that your call is “Potential Spam” or “Spam Likely” from their carrier.
Unfortunately, how each carrier classifies their spam filter is a black box, but there are a few obvious metrics that you’ll want to be cognizant of:
- The number of outgoing calls per day, week, month, etc.
- Answer rate (i.e. ratio of people who answer your calls to total number of calls)
- The number of people that take manual action to block your number or mark your call as spam
Is there anything that can be done to reduce the likelihood of your calls being filtered as spam? One strategy is to alternate between hot, warm, and cold calls. Your hot leads are more likely to answer and this can help elevate your answer rate.
Another strategy is to leave a voicemail message and then follow up with them via another channel. If you make the verbal promise to email them and then follow through on your word, the prospect might not immediately block your number or flag it as spam and instead return your call.
How to Make Cold Calling Fun: Five Proven Storytelling Methods
It’s a hard truth that cold calling’s reputation has been tarnished over the last few, well decades. But cold calling shouldn’t be a drag.
Try using the following proven conventions of storytelling to improve your success rate and overall satisfaction with the method.
1. Aristotle’s Appeals to Persuasion
Aristotle—yes, that Aristotle—was one of the early masters of persuasive speaking and condensed his thoughts on the subject down to three modes of persuasion: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos.
If you’d like to conference call Aristotle into your next cold call, try leveraging his appeals:
- Ethos: Establish your authority and credibility by introducing yourself and how you deeply understand the problem
- Pathos: Empathize with the prospect and aim to be as helpful as possible
- Logos: Logically talk through your solution, using data and supporting evidence where possible
A common acronym in the sales and marketing world is AIDA, which stands for Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action. If you can structure your cold calls to follow this format, you’ll be ahead of the curve.
- Awareness: Introduce yourself and your company to build credibility and scaffolding for further building on the discussion
- Interest: Discuss the value propositions and really lean into problems the prospect is facing
- Desire: Use data and historical results to give your prospects a metaphorical mirror to “see it on themselves,” sparking desire
- Action: Once the prospect has been made aware of the product or service and how it can be valuable for them, start directing the conversation towards the next step
3. Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedy Tips
There’s a lot in common between cold calling and stand-up comedy, but possibly the biggest commonality is that the material has been premeditated but is being delivered as if it’s a free-flowing discussion.
Jerry Seinfeld, arguably one of the greatest comics of all time, was interviewed about his process for writing comedy, and a few of his tips naturally apply to cold calls, although Jerry might disagree.
One of Jerry’s tips was to use verbal imagery. You should paint the prospect a picture in their minds of how your product or service would fit into their life and work.
Another tip was to compress the content which can keep the momentum building and active engagement high. In comedy, you want to get the jokes as close together as possible, so the audience doesn’t need to stop laughing and instead builds until they are rolling on the floor.
In cold calling, you should compress your conversation so that the recipient is nodding along, and the nods get bigger and bigger in agreement until you are the one laughing all the way to the bank.
4. The Hero’s Journey
In Joseph Campbell’s infamous, “Hero’s Journey,” it all begins with a “call to adventure.” This call to adventure in the first act is your cold call and the customer is the hero. Here are the sequence of events as outlined by Campbell and the Hero’s Journey:
- The (Cold) Call to Adventure: an interruption to the hero’s familiar reality to present an opportunity.
- Refusal of the Call: The customer’s unwillingness or hesitation to exit their comfort zone and take the call.
- Supernatural Aid: Your initial guidance gives the customer (hero) the tools and information needed to accept the call.
- Crossing the First Threshold: The customer engages on the call.
- Belly of the Whale: Crossing over into the next step, facing the point of no return (figuratively speaking).
It’ll be up to you to act as the “supernatural aid” or mentor inspiring the customer to accept this opportunity. The cold call is meant to bring them to the next threshold and is really the first act in a three-act story of closing the deal.
5. Four P’s of Persuasive Storytelling
Who doesn’t love a concise framework like the four “Ps”? Committing it to memory is easy, which makes it more likely that it’ll be implemented in practice.
The Four Ps applied to cold calling are:
- Promise: What is the value proposition that you plan to fulfill or problem that can be solved with this call being the first step?
- Picture: Describe the end-goal scene so that the prospect can clearly visualize themselves at the finish line
- Prove: Use data and statistics to support the vision and value proposition you just described
- Push: With this call being the first step towards realizing their goals, help guide the prospect to the next step
The Dos and Don’ts of Cold Calling
While many aspects of the cold calling game are constantly changing, there are some that will never change. Namely, the goals of being more human, making meaningful connections, and having productive conversations.
It’s pretty simple, really, just do your prep work, ask questions, and listen more versus lecturing to an unengaged audience. It’s subtle tweaks in your process that can sometimes have the biggest ripple effects.
Below are some tips to end up on the right side of the divide between a won and lost opportunity when cold calling.
The Art of the Cold Call
The art of cold calling is evident in the microscopic purview of each call, but the macro science of cold calling remains a numbers game where the law of large numbers defines your outcomes.
Keeping track of these large numbers is difficult, but vital to achieve your quota and never let an opportunity slip through the cracks. The free PeopleGlass extension simplifies your Salesforce experience into a spreadsheet-like app.
In the age of machines making cold calls, it pays to be human. PeopleGlass leverages machines to free up your time to be more human, and a more productive human at that.