Cold Calling Experts Share Their Insights on Making It Work

August 21, 2019

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The definition of cold calling has changed over the years. This practice used to involve ticking through a (generally unqualified) list of phone numbers and reaching out to total strangers; today, we call that a waste of time. In the modern era, a cold call to be any call or outreach that a prospect is not expecting from you. 

Sometimes, that does mean getting in touch with someone you haven’t yet met, though it should never just be a name on an arbitrary list. In these cases, you can greatly improve your odds of a warm reception on the other end by following cold calling advice from those who’ve honed their crafts.  

Adopt these tips from eight cold calling experts to make your outreach less chilly. 

Go In With a Plan

Winging it rarely gets you far in sales. Top sales reps approach every aspect of their selling process strategically. When prospecting, you wouldn’t reach out in any capacity without putting a plan in place. It’s just as important to do that before making a call.

According to Steli Efti, founder and CEO of Close, “When selling on the phone, oftentimes sales reps don’t understand how to structure a call. If you don’t have the right plan going into a sales call, it’s going to be much harder to close the deal. Every sales call, from a cold call to a closing call, should follow a pre-planned structure that is meant to optimize the likelihood of a desired result.”  

Conducting recon is vital, according to Smart Selling Tools founder Nancy Nardin. She recounts far too many instances where a salesperson reached out to her, following up on an online form-fill, with no idea what she does.

“If they had done a modest amount of research before calling (like visiting my site to learn what the heck my business is), they'd know I’m not a typical prospect,” Nardin writes. “Then, they could have come up with a much more interesting introduction – one that might actually engage me in a conversation.”

Warm Them Up

One of my biggest objections to traditional cold calling is that it’s simply not necessary to go in cold anymore. With all the tools at your disposal and information at your fingertips, you should be able to connect in some way with a prospect before you ever pick up the phone. In fact, reaching out with value can pave the way for the prospective buyer to agree to a call. 

Dean Moothart, Director of Client Solutions at LeadG2, recommends that you “share relevant content that positions you as thought leader and then follow up. Sending your target contact an email before you call can help if it’s written well. Don’t send a generic email. Use the information you uncovered … and include links to relevant thought leadership content (blog articles, white papers, eBooks, etc.). It is even better if you are the published author of this content. This will help you position yourself as a subject matter expert in the eyes of the prospect and not just a run-of-the-mill salesperson. Who doesn’t want to talk to an expert who has experience solving their business problems?”

Cold Calling Scripts Can Help 

The use of cold calling scripts is frowned upon by some, because if it’s obvious you’re using one, your robotic conversation is going nowhere. But Anthony Iannarino argues that – when used smartly – scripts can be helpful for salespeople trying to gain comfort with the practice. His approach was to use index cards featuring different prompts.

“Sales prospects are never going to have any confidence in you if you sound like you are reading from a script, it’s true. But scripts aren’t magic,” Iannarino writes. “You have to get comfortable with them with practice and over time. As I continued to make calls, I found it super effective to have access to effective language so I didn’t feel as blindsided when objections came up. As my competence and confidence grew, I found I didn’t need the cards at all. But they were a huge crutch in the beginning.”

PipeRev founder Marc Wayshak agrees with this seemingly against-the-grain stance, taking it even a step further on his blog. “The best TV shows and movies out there don’t sound scripted at all—but in fact, they’re very tightly scripted. The same is true for effective cold calling,” Wayshak explains. “What we want to do is make sure that we’re focusing completely on that prospect, and not using any wasted verbiage. When salespeople make calls that are not scripted, they’re all over the place, the call takes forever, and the prospect is completely uninterested. So script out the entire call.”

Make It Personal

You want to build rapport with a prospective buyer as soon as possible. To make that connection, it helps to unearth something relevant and significant as you prepare for the discussion. As Jill Konrath, sales keynote speaker and best-selling author, says, “I discovered that the only way to capture the attention of these corporate decision makers was to create a very personalized message based on in-depth research in their firm. Once I started doing this, I started setting up meetings.”

Adam Honig, co-founder and CEO of Spiro Technologies, suggests, “Look them up on LinkedIn to see if you have any connections. Google them to find common ground to talk about. Maybe even search their Twitter or Facebook profiles to get more background information to form a connection. Find that personal, human touch to build immediate rapport. Just hitting them up with the standard blah blah isn’t going to work.”

Get Them Talking

Outside of hearing your call go silent because the prospect has hung up on you, your biggest fear is probably hearing “no” (“No, I’m not interested,” “No, that’s not a priority for us”…) One way to avoid this is by doing more listening instead of selling. But to get prospects talking, you need to come in with an insight.

As Mark Hunter says, “The buyer never ends the discussion or hangs up on you when they’re doing the talking. You get them talking by sharing information that you think they might find interesting. Lead off by engaging them with something from a macro perspective – an industry perspective – to get them talking.”

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