9 minutes
March 30, 2021

Cold calling: The 6 top dos and don’ts for sales teams

Looking for cold calling tips? Every sales team can learn from these cold calling best practices to engage and convert prospects to warm leads by utilizing modern cold calling etiquette.
Sabrina Jowders
Table of Contents

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Cold calling — the process of reaching out to prospects over the phone without any prior contact — is a critical part of each sales rep’s day-to-day. At the same time, it’s also exceptionally challenging due to factors like rejection, navigating gatekeepers, and the need to build rapport quickly. 

Getting the best cold calling outcomes starts with following proven best practices and avoiding missteps that can thwart your progress. Keep reading to learn more about how to optimize your cold calling efforts and win more business.

Key takeaways:

  • Despite how reps might feel about cold calling, it’s still a critical sales responsibility
  • Cold calling is difficult, but proper research and preparation can make it easier
  • Reps can get better cold calling outcomes by avoiding pitfalls that turn prospects away

What is cold calling in sales?

Cold calling is one of the most effective tools for breaking into an account and capturing a prospect’s attention. When done correctly, cold calling provides prospects with a personal experience, which can lay the foundation for a strong business relationship.

When you think of cold calling, you might think of a boring phone call with a sales rep who’s just trying to push their product or service on you. This perception is perhaps the reason why 48% of B2B sales reps say they’re afraid of making cold calls, according to Harvard Business Review.

Is cold calling effective?

For the LeadIQ team, cold calling is currently our highest performing outbound channel with an average 31.87% connect to meeting conversion rate — a measure of the tactic’s effectiveness in an age where 75% of Americans won’t answer phone calls from unknown numbers.

While your company’s mileage may vary, cold calling is still a cornerstone of outbound strategies. After all, different prospects respond to different communication channels. For this reason, reps need to develop multi-channel approaches to increase the likelihood they engage a prospect with the right message in the right place at the right time.

Even so, cold calling often gets a bad wrap. To increase the chances your cold calling efforts are successful, read on to learn about some tactics you should incorporate into your cold calls — and some behaviors you should avoid at all costs.

How to cold call: the dos

At a high level, a cold call should take 5 to 10 minutes of a prospect’s time, and the experience should be a pleasant one. It’s the sales rep's job to make the prospect feel comfortable and open to the conversation. Here’s how you can do that.

✓ Do your research

If you call someone who’s essentially a stranger and you don’t know much about them, your cold call is unlikely to be fruitful. By doing your due diligence ahead of time, you can learn more about prospects before connecting with them, which makes it easier to personalize each conversation. Using a tool like LeadIQ, you can research prospects inside the platforms you’re already using, transforming cold outreach into something warmer.

✓ Be yourself

Nobody likes a script being read to them. If you think that someone can't tell that you're reading a script over the phone, you're wrong. Great sales reps make connections and build relationships. When you take the business jargon out of the conversation and your true personality shines through, prospects feel more comfortable. If you want better cold calling outcomes, be authentic.

✓ Be confident

A prospect probably won’t be too eager to chat with you if you seem unsure of what you’re saying. Make sure you’re thoroughly prepared and in a good mood so you project confidence on cold calls. Knowing key details about prospects before hopping on the call can set your mind at ease. It also helps to have one or two back-up questions or topics related to each specific prospect that you can pull out if you reach an impasse.

✓ Provide value

Whenever you’re connecting with prospects, you should be providing value to them. In each interaction, listen to them thoroughly, figure out their pain points, and add value that addresses their problems. Whether this you’re sharing a recent eBook or an article you came across online, the action shows you’re attentive and trying to help them succeed.

✓ Focus on relationship building and actively listen

The best sales reps focus on establishing a relationship and gaining their prospects' trust. If you want to improve cold call outcomes, don't push your product or service on prospects during the first interaction you have with them. These aren’t customers, you have no existing relationship with them, and they have no reason to trust you. Luckily, you can gain their trust by actively listening to them. Believe it or not, listening is the most important ingredient in building trusting business relationships.

✓ Ask open-ended questions

To encourage prospects to share more information about their needs, challenges, and pains, reps should ask open-ended questions on cold calls. This approach leads to deeper conversations, allowing reps to uncover valuable insights they can use to tailor their sales pitches to better meet the prospect’s needs. Open-ended questions also demonstrate genuine interest and curiosity, helping to build rapport and establish trust with prospects.

✓ Handle objections gracefully

Whenever you’re making a cold call, you need to be ready to handle objections. By acknowledging objections empathetically and addressing them with confidence, clarity, and grace, reps can turn potential roadblocks into opportunities to further engage the prospect and provide solutions. Prior to picking up the phone, be prepared to address common objections; if you don’t know the answer, don’t make something up. For tips on how to overcome cold call objections, check out this post: Common cold call objections & how to handle them

✓ Leave voicemails

If your prospect doesn't pick up the phone, that doesn't mean all hope is lost. Leave a voicemail, but be short. Let them know why you called, and leave your name and number at the end of the message. Pro tip: Many voicemails are being read as transcripts nowadays, so make sure you’re clear in your messaging.

✓ Follow up

To maintain momentum and nurture relationships with prospects, reps should follow up after cold calls. This shows persistence and commitment to addressing the prospect’s needs, increasing the chances of conversion over time. As an added bonus, following up also provides opportunities to address any lingering questions or objections, further nurturing the connection and moving the sales process forward. After a call, send follow-up emails that discuss next steps. Even better, try to schedule a follow-up meeting before ending the call in the first place.

✓ Recognize that ‘no’ isn't failure

Salespeople hear the word no a lot. While that word can be discouraging, a no isn't necessarily a dead-end. Just because someone doesn't need your product or service at that very moment doesn't mean they might not need it down the road. So don’t let the word no discourage you. Stay in touch with prospects who say no and continue providing value. When the timing’s right, they’ll know where to find you.

Cold calling fails: the don’ts

Cold calling usually gets a bad wrap because some sales reps aren't courteous of the prospect's time. If you want to improve cold calling outcomes, you need to do everything you can to make the experience a pleasant one. To do that, here are some pitfalls you should try to avoid.

✘ Jump straight into your pitch

A cold call is your first interaction with a prospect; you haven't earned their trust or interest yet, and you haven’t established credibility. One of the best ways to start a cold call is by opening with a question that addresses a problem or issue you know your prospect faces and that you know your product or service can fix. It’s best to focus on establishing a relationship and gaining their prospects' trust before pushing your product or service on them.

✘ Don’t read from a script but don’t ramble

Since you don’t want to come across as robotic or insincere, avoid reading from a script on cold calls. At the same time, you need to steer clear of rambling, which can lead to confusion, loss of interest, and a lack of clarity in your messaging. Finding the balance between being prepared and staying adaptable allows you to maintain a natural conversation flow while ensuring key points are covered during cold calls.

✘ Waste their time

Whenever you’re making a cold call, you’re calling someone out of the blue. They could be in the middle of working on something important. Be thoughtful and respectful of their time. If they say it's a bad time to talk, take them at their word and ask to reschedule. When you're cold calling, you're essentially intruding on someone's day. If you want to win their business, your call has to be worth interrupting their time.

✘ Don’t focus on features

Since prospects are more interested in how a product or service can address their needs or solve their problems, avoid talking about features on cold calls. Instead, shift the focus to benefits and value props to better align your pitch with the prospect’s pain points and priorities, making the conversation more relevant and compelling. Highlighting benefits over features also demonstrates your offering’s practical utility, increasing the likelihood of capturing the prospect’s interest.

✘ Don’t be aggressive

Unless they’re eager to alienate prospects and damage a relationship before it begins, reps shouldn’t be aggressive on cold calls. Pushy or aggressive tactics can lead to pushback and immediate rejection, shutting down any possibility of a future engagement. By adopting a consultative and respectful approach, reps can build trust, establish rapport, and create an environment that supports meaningful conversations.

✘ Hang up without a follow-up

When the conversation is coming to an end, ask to schedule a follow-up meeting. Let the prospect know that you’ll be emailing them to recap the call and also sending a calendar invite for whatever time you agreed upon. Ultimately, it’s your job to make sure the conversation continues after you get off the phone.

✘ Forget that the prospect is the focus

Don't forget that every cold call conversation should be all about the prospect — not your company. Tailor the conversation to the prospect. Ask questions and uncover pain points. Whatever you do, avoid pitching your product or service on the first cold call unless the prospect asks you to.

✘ Forget to record the call and record insights into your CRM

Every cold call provides valuable insights for coaching, training, and improving sales techniques. At the same time, cold calls can also help sales teams learn more about their ideal customer profile (ICP). For these reasons, reps need to record every single cold call they make. By using a platform like Gong, you can ensure that all critical information about prospects, objections, and outcomes is documented for future references and analysis.

✘ Try to overcome all concerns & objections

Don't try to counter all cold call objections. Instead, dig a little deeper to find out what's really behind the objection. In certain cases, there will be some prospects that will have doubts or concerns about what you’re trying to sell. Accept that you may need to let some prospects go if they can't get past these concerns.

✘ Take it personally

Not everyone is going to be super thrilled you're calling them out of the blue. As such, rejection is a necessary part of all sales activity. Prospects who say no aren't rejecting you personally, so don't take rejection personally. Instead, realize that some prospects are just saying that your product or service isn't a good fit for them. That’s it. Don't be over-sensitive. You’re just doing your job, and getting nos is inevitable.

Ready to uplevel your cold calling game?

Cold calling can be scary and stressful. However, cold calling opens doors to building business relationships and closing deals.

Now that you have a better idea of some cold calling tactics to embrace and which to avoid, it’s time to bring your new knowledge into the field. Next time you make a cold call, be personable and let your personality shine through. You’re not a robot behind a computer screen, and you’re not a money-hungry sales rep, either. You’re a person — just like your prospect — having a conversation. Be confident, listen, and add as much value as you can. The cold calls will turn into conversions before you know it.

Learn how LeadIQ can provide your reps with the contact data and messaging they need to build pipeline through targeted cold calling campaigns by scheduling a demo today.