His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti
Just Eminem echoing the truth of cold callers. This kind of reputation for cold calling precedes it. But knowing how to cold call effectively helps with not just easing nerves, but also mapping out a successful cold calling strategy.
From the uncertainty of reaching prospects to not being able to convince the decision-maker, there are some variables in the cold calling process that are not in your control. But by preparing yourself with the know-how to brave through every stage of a cold call, you can breeze through your calls efficiently.
Like sales great, James Muir says on his prospecting secret, “uncertainty creates paralysis, and clarity around activities makes every goal easier.” So we removed the uncertainty by laying out every second of a cold call so that reps can achieve their goals faster.
In this blog, we show you how to navigate the cold-calling waters. Here’s what you’ll be learning.
- Pre-call rituals: What to do before making calls?
- Anatomy of a cold call: What should you be saying in each minute of the cold call?
- List of top sales experts you can follow on LinkedIn and learn from
- A breakdown of a sample script according to Kevin Dorsey’s 7-step script
This is where you say, as Eminem once said, “I’m not afraid to take a step.” Now you take your first step to cold calling success.
Before we get to the juicy bits, pro tip: when you prepare to cold call, brace your mind for rejection, keep it unsheathed like a drunk frat kid at a college party.
What’s In Store:
Part 1:The Basics of Cold Calling
Part 2: Pre Call Ritual
- The First Minute: Get their attention
- The Second Minute & Third Minute: Drive them curious
- The Fourth Minute: Build a relationship
Part 5: Sample Script
Part 7: In a Nutshell
Part 1: Basics of Cold Calling
What Is Cold Calling?
Cold Calling is the act of making unsolicited phone calls to individuals to win their business.
It’s the simple act of picking up your phone to call potential customers and pitching them your offerings. What makes it difficult is how time has changed the way people view it now.
Breaking myths: Cold calling is NOT about selling your solution
More and more people have come to despise cold calls because they were getting spammier in nature. Note this: It’s the spammy nature of cold calling that people don’t like.
Here’s the hard truth: Don’t sell your product. Don’t sell a meeting. In fact, don’t sell at all. Learn what their problems are. Learn how they’re trying to solve it. Getting a meeting booked, or selling your solution are final steps in the cold calling processes that you can do on earning their trust.
To build a relationship first, you need to come off as a genuine helper. To do that, we’ve provided you with a skeleton of what you should be doing from start to finish.
Part 2: Pre Call Ritual
Before picking up the phone, here is what you should do.
Know Thy Prospect
Research to find out which gym your prospect goes to. Maybe not the gym, but do learn what problems they are suffering at work. You already know the drill.
Focus your research on the list of prospects that bring in the biggest deal size. Here are key activities you need to do at this stage from most important to least important:
- Basic research: Identify their name, organization size, employee size, email address &/ contact number, you’ll get most of this information from their LinkedIn profiles.
- In-depth research:
1. Use trigger events on LinkedIn or news as conversation starters for your cold call. You can also use these events to pre-qualify prospects.
2. Read prospect company’s annual reports or use tools like Buildwith or 6Sense to figure out their buying intent, technological spend, and revenue to make your cold call more valuable to the prospect.
Part 3. The Anatomy Of a Cold Call by the minute:
The first minute: Get their attention
This is your first chance to get your foot in the door, and the hardest. In the first few seconds of your cold call, there is only one goal: get the prospect hooked. Here’s how.
Strategy: Use a creative opening line to hold their attention. You want to come across as someone who wants to have a conversation with them. Don’t introduce your product and explain its features, yet. That is for a later conversation.
Thumb rule: Don’t say, “Hey, I know you don’t have time….”
Not only is it overused, but it defeats the purpose of what you just said. Instead, make them curious. Talk to the innately curious human mind. Cognitive scientist, Tom Stafford, reasoned in an article that this curiosity could be linked to a human species’ trait called neoteny — retention of juvenile characteristics. We are all basically childlike, is what it means.
That’s why your opening line should get them curious about what you have to say.
This is boring: “Hey, I’m Jenny, from *x*. I was wondering if you’d be interested in learning about *our solution*?”
In the above example, Jenny is trying to sell her solution, which people don’t care about. People care only about themselves and their own problems.
This is exciting: “Hey! I’m Jenny from *X*. You know, I heard about the recent change in regulations in the *prospect industry*. Can you help me understand if this is going to affect your bottom line?”
This gets them thinking. Since you’re asking for help, it might nudge them to give you an answer. A chance to help someone was found to give the same kind of pleasure we get from the gratification of personal desire, a study done by Emory University neuroscientists revealed.
Action: Art Sobczak’s “two paths” approach is a great way to open a call because you’re posing a question that will qualify the prospect quickly, saving both your and your prospect’s time. The two paths refer to the two kinds of decisions businesses take to roll over a crisis: either you weather the storm by sitting tight in a nook, or you samurai Jack your way through the storm. Most people would opt for the latter.
The “Two Paths” approach by Art Sobczak:
“Hey, I’m *X* calling from *x company*. After I spoke with other (Title of the persons/companies), I’ve heard that companies are choosing two different paths. Some are completely suspending looking at anything until this all blows over, or, they are positioning themselves to hit the ground running when the opportunity arrives *the desired outcome*.
So, if you’re in the second group, we have some information that could help you to ….*desired outcome*. Would you be interested in knowing what that is?”
Objection: What if your prospect breaks your heart by saying the four most painful words a rep has heard of, “I am not interested.” This kind of response is often given by a gatekeeper or a decision-maker who was directly offered solutions and it probably doesn’t solve their actual problems.
In some cases, such objections may come from the fact that they are just not ready at that point to invest in a solution. So while responding, also try to find out when this problem that you’re solving would become a priority for them.
A gentle reminder to breathe in and breathe out.
Here’s what to say when facing such an objection:
“I understand that you might be preoccupied. But before I leave with a broken heart, let me know if the following is a priority for you. Are you looking to upgrade your *X* considering the recent uptick in demand due to *reasoning for demand* or is that not a priority right now?” The idea here is that even if you’re losing the prospect at this call, you want to ensure if they’re worth pursuing.
“I understand that you are preoccupied, but before you leave me, in which quarter will solving “X” become a priority for you?” This will help you understand if this opportunity should be nurtured or chucked out.
This brings us to the next minute of the cold call.
The second & third minutes: Drive them curious
Congratulations! You have successfully got their attention. Now comes the easy part, relatively speaking.
Strategy: To solve their problem, you should know their business’ nitty-gritty details. Magnify their pains, and help them with a solution. Now you have to drive them curious. They may or may not have a problem at hand, but even if they do have a problem, you have to find out if it’s one they want to solve.
Here are three things you should learn at this stage (apart from what you found out during research):
- What is a business problem they’re suffering?
- Is solving this problem a priority right now?
- Does the benefit of solving this problem outweigh the cost?
Action: There are plenty of sales methodologies you can select from to craft an impactful cold calling script. You can browse through more of them here. We have used communications-focused sales methodology, the SPIN technique, to unveil their workings, what they’re missing out on, where they lose out on, and where they’re winning.
A sample problem: A super fast-growing company that is on a hiring frenzy is running into problems managing the numerous new joiners. They need HR management software that can manage large amounts of data, and automate all the administrative tasks for the long run.
Talking to the head of HR.
- Are you using a HR management software at the moment? Do you have a plan for managing the upcoming rush of traffic in new joiners?
- Which website do you currently use to manage your HR database?
- How much data do you currently manage? How much of a rise in traffic are you expecting in the next 1 year?
- So does the website function seamlessly with the oncoming traffic of *their answer*?
- How expensive is the software you are currently using?
- Are you happy with the way things are going right now or would you have a few changes to make?
- (The current software is slow, cannot process more than 500 applicants, and the ATS doesn’t work well.) So that means, you might not actually be targeting the right applicants? Is that why hiring is taking too long?
- Listen, that means you’re missing out on *include the amount* worth opportunities? OR How much does that cost you per year?
- If you had enough resources. Would you have taken, maybe, a different path? What would you do differently?
- Could using a powerful HR management software help your company in any way?
- Does it make sense to invest in a HR management software right now? ….. When do you think it can become a priority?
- What gains are you expecting from using a modern HR management software for your team/business?
At this stage, you’ve discovered any of the following bits of crucial information.
- They have a problem that they want to solve
- The cost of the benefit outweigh the solution
- They are sales-ready
- It’s not the right time to engage with them
- They’re straight-up, not interested in solving the problem, not today, not next week, not next year, not ever.
Tip: In 2016, Neil Rackham’s research revealed that top-performing salespeople asked implication questions more times than their peers.
Objection: The objections you face here will be what you expect. Ones who have no need or want of your product. And ones who don’t need it at the moment.
These questions qualify the prospects, because the sooner they’re out of the pipeline, the better it is for your sales team, as they can focus on selling to the right prospects.
Fourth Minute: Build a relationship
Seal the deal with the right move. The right move here is to gently move them along to the next step, not cornering them into a meeting.
Strategy: Take it slow, steady. This is the beginning of your relationship, you don’t want to come off as needy in your first conversation, so ask to move to a simple next step instead of setting up a meeting right away. After all, you can’t ask a stranger for a commitment, it’s highly unlikely you’ll get one. Ask for an email address or set up an appointment depending on whether the prospect is sales-ready. But don’t be afraid to ask for the next move.
Action: James Muir suggests two questions for the perfect close. That’s also the name of his book, ‘The Perfect Close.’ He adds that you need to be prepped with three outcomes for this stage.
- Frame your best case scenario here as a question. For example: “does it make sense for you to talk to experts on how this software can help you solve *the problem*?”
It’s more like a recommendation of what’s the next best step for them to take.
If the prospect says, “yes”, you can move to an ‘Add On’ question: “Okay, some clients at this stage also tried this, ‘an add on’. Would it make sense for you to do this as well?”
- If the prospect says, “no,” you can move to a ‘Fall Back’ question: “Alright, some clients at this stage do this ‘another option’. Would it make sense to do that?”
P.S.: Remember at all steps that you’re trying to help them out, you aren’t selling anything. When you try to sell your solution, the prospect can hear from your tone that you’re just trying to sell. So adjust your tone to not sound like the guy knocking at your door in the morning to sell you encyclopedias.
Part 4: Nine Sales Goliaths You Should Follow For Cold Calling Tips
- Steli Efti, (CEO of Close, a cold calling CRM software)
- James Muir, (author, LinkedIn)
- Kevin Dorsey, (Inside Sales Excellence podcast, LinkedIn Top Voice)
- Lisa Mcleod, (author)
- Art Sobczak, (author)
- Brian, (The Brutal Truth Sales Podcast)
- Jill Konrath, (author of 6 sales books)
- Jason McElhone (CEO of RemoteSales)
- Morgan J Ingram (LinkedIn Top Voice, Podcast & YouTube: The SDR Chronicles)
Part 5: Sample cold calling script
This is the most important aspect of cold calling, well, arguably. Some people prefer the spontaneity of an unscripted call. But if you dear reader are a beginner, it absolutely makes sense to have a script handy. You can use it to guide your call. The power to sway the conversation in your favor rests on how you deliver your script: the tone, the angle, the pitch, and the confidence in your voice.
Serial podcaster, and VP of Inside Sales at PatientPop, Kevin Dorsey, identifies 7 Key aspects in a perfect script:
- The tone of your conversation: As if you’re lost, as if you’re thinking out loud etc.
- Science and customer input: Use words that have an impact.
- Gap questions: Uncover their problems first, do not ask qualification questions first.
- Benefit check-ins: Check how they’re solving the problem they discussed above.
- If/Then’s: If you aren’t solving these problems then you might be suffering…..
- Fill in the blanks: Now that you’ve found a gap in their process, fill in the blanks with a solution. Phrase it as, “This is how we fix…..”
- Practice your script.
Your prospect has been using a competitor’s software for quite some time. You noticed that they left poor reviews of the software on G2. Using tools online, you can find out when their contract with the company is expiring and throw in your hook (cold call) towards the end of the contract’s expiry date. So they know that they have you as a better option.
Here is a sample script on how this scenario can play out:
FIRST MINUTE: GET THEIR ATTENTION
Opener: Hey “name”, I’m X calling from Y company. I read some of the *rival software* reviews online, and I was wondering if you had a few minutes to talk with me about it?
You open with a tone, as KD has mentioned earlier, sound as if you’re lost and you need help.
Gap questions: “Name”, so I heard a lot of complaints against *rival software* about how they don’t *have feature X*. I just wanted to know… Your team is also using *rival software*, right?
SECOND MINUTE: DRIVE THEM CURIOUS
Benefit/check-ins: Oh okay, so it must be difficult to solve *problem Y* then, for you? How do you go about solving it?
They will give you a list of pain points you can use later on.
Fill in the blanks: Wow, that sounds like a lot of work. You know what, *our solution* is actually made for companies like you *describe company characteristics*. *competitor product* might not be enough for a company of your scale. Would you like to learn how we’ve solved similar problems that firms exactly like yours have faced?
THIRD MINUTE: BUILD A RELATIONSHIP
CTA: Shall I send you a video explainer of how we’ve solved *X* for 3 companies similar to your size? It will give you a rundown of how your *problem* can be solved in *three simple steps*. (customize this with whatever suits your narrative)
You aren’t asking for a meeting at all, you’re asking for time to show them how to solve their problem. Watching a video in their own leisure time requires very little commitment compared to a meeting, hence you stand a better chance of getting them to engage with you at later stages.
Objection on date: Shoot the following questions if you asked for a meeting and they couldn’t confirm dates.
1. Can you tell me which day of the week looks better for you?
2. Are you usually free before or after lunch?
Now ask for a time and date from what they have suggested and send them a Calendly link in a mail. Refresh them about the discussion you just had, in the mail along with a link to your website, a contact number, and your LinkedIn profile to boost credibility.
Disclaimer: You don’t necessarily need to hold four minutes of conversation. Think of it as acts, the first act would be to open. The second act would be to engage the prospect, and the third act should be to check if they’re looking for a solution and whether yours is a good fit, and lastly, just ask to move along to the next step.
Tip: If you want to take your call outreach a step further, invest in a sales engagement platform like Klenty or a CRM like Close, or a conversation intelligence platform like Gong. These tools will help you scale your outreach based on intent, improve your scripts based on historical conversation data, and, store and sync all prospecting information to your CRM.
Part 6: Here’s A Checklist To Plan Your Cold Call
Part 7: In A Nutshell
Bruce Lee once said that you should fear the guy who practices his kick 1000 times. Practicing an effective cold calling strategy will help you get better at navigating the murky conversations, and reap steep benefits.
In summary, cut the four minutes down into stages, you open the call, engage the stranger with a couple of intriguing questions, validate the prospect’s problem and see if they’re actually looking to solve the problem, then ask for the next step. But remember at all times: this cold call isn’t your product’s commercial, it is your prospect’s reality show.
Revisit your cold calling strategy by using the following tips:
- Stop calling hundreds of prospects without a plan
- List your best and worst outcomes
- Gatekeepers are friends, treat them as such
- Engage with the prospect before the call to warm your call: drop them an email with valuable information or find out a mutual contact, or a mutual interest to use in your opener.
- Focus on the tone of your conversation: don’t sell, build a relationship
- The first goal of your cold call should be to move prospects to the next step
- Don’t give up after 3 calls, many experts vouch for at least 7-8 times of calling to reach the decision-maker.