Published: July 12, 2017 | Last Updated: July 18, 2017

"Greetings friend! Do you wish to look as happy as me? Well, you've got the power inside you right now. So use it, and send $1 to Happy Dude, 742 Evergreen Terrace, Springfield. Don't delay. Eternal happiness is just a dollar away!"

This script, memorably used by a scheming Homer Simpson when he got his hands on an auto-dialing machine, sums up the impersonal and patronizing nature of cold calls. Hey, it might be a nice-sounding offer (Eternal happiness? Sign me up!), but is anyone still listening after the message opens with a pre-recorded “Greetings, friend”?

At the risk of coming off a bit chilly, we need to put this out there right off the bat: cold calling is dead. Useless. Extinct. There is really no place for the strategy in today’s environment, at least not under its original definition.

The statistics are stark: less than 2 percent of cold calls result in a meeting, and the relative cost per lead with this approach is extraordinarily high. More and more, the industry is recognizing it as a waste of time.

No More Cold Calls Infographic via Unifyo

Yet, abandoning the cold call is much easier said than done. When maximizing leads and opportunities is our objective, we need to get as many lines in the water as we can. And while we can all acknowledge its imperfections, reaching out cold often feels like the most efficient way to do so.

In every aspect, the rules of selling are undergoing a transformation in the digital era. It’s time to rethink cold calling. How can we turn up the temperature and inject some warmth into inherently frosty intros? Are there cold calling templates and scripts that actually prove effective? Which pitfalls should we avoid at all costs?

5 Reasons Cold Calling No Longer Works

  1. Decision-makers are busier than ever

  2. Increasingly mobile work environments mean less time spent at a desk

  3. Prospects now do most of their research online

  4. Buyers find it annoying

  5. It’s time-consuming and delivers terrible ROI

Join us as we explore actionable solutions for one of the greatest challenges salespeople face today.

A New Cold Calling Definition for the New Age

Let’s establish this first and foremost: When we refer to “cold calling” we don’t mean it in the traditional sense. In modern selling, the term needs to be more flexible, encompassing unsolicited outreach as a whole. For some cases, dialing up a non-qualified prospect might be a good option, but usually it is not.

Only one out of 50 customers list the phone as their preferred method of being contacted. Decades ago, when salespeople were reaching prospects on their office lines, cold calling made more sense. Today, with more individuals relying on their personal cell phones for work, sales calls from an unknown number feel more intrusive. The ubiquity of caller ID also makes these attempts easier to screen.

Email is more preferred for these purposes, but of course, breaking through crowded inboxes is a daunting proposition on its own. Social media can be effective, but here too exists a delicate balance between being helpful and obnoxious.

We are here to offer up practical cold calling tips you can use today. But first, let’s cover tactics to avoid when prospecting.

5 Cold Calling Techniques to Avoid

Before we outline advisable cold calling strategies and example scripts, here are five mistakes you will always want to avoid, regardless of the communication channel.

1. Not Researching Your Prospect or Customer Before You Call

The very reason cold calls fizzle is the same reason we use them to begin with: they’re quick. You may not have time to extensively research everyone on your list of contacts. However, there are some quick ways to gain a basic level of knowledge about a prospect within just a few minutes. We’ll get to those in a bit.

2. Talking at Sales Prospects Instead of Listening to Them

Any sales outreach should align with the premise of discovering pain points and helping find solutions. Initially, listening is much more important than trying to solve. You should be all ears, and let your prospect do the explaining. By carefully absorbing the details your prospect shares, you can customize your offering as a suitable answer for their distinct need.

3. Failing to Provide Potential Customers with Specifics

One of the more common cold calling techniques we see is the use of vague and unspecific language to try and draw someone in or capture their intrigue. However, you are far more likely to gain traction by providing concrete numbers and benefits. Cut through the ambiguity and give your prospect some real, relevant data to chew on.

4. Bragging About Your Service or Product

“Do you wish to look as happy as me?” Alright, Homer, let’s take it back a notch. Obviously you should be confident in what you’re selling but coming out of the gates too salesy is a sure way to stumble.

5. Making Assumptions About the Prospect’s Needs or Desires

Even if you do your research, you will not know everything about these prospects going in. While it is great to ask about the obstacles they face, don’t presume to know what they are.

5 Cold Calling Strategies That Work

These are the practices that generally yield better results when it comes to cold calling or emailing.

1. Tap into Social Intelligence for Sales Outreach

Researching a prospect takes less time than it ever has. You can glean so many insights from a quick scan of LinkedIn profiles or Twitter feeds. What content do they share? Which topics do they discuss most? What are their publicized interests outside of work? Having this information in hand can warm up a cold call.

2. Complete Research on the Sales Prospect’s Industry

If you work largely within one vertical, then you probably have a good handle on the market trends and news. If you sell to different industries, take a little time to brush up on what’s happening in those where your prospects operate. Lead your communication by referencing a news story and asking how it might impact their business. You want to come off as an expert on whatever is important to the buyer.

3. Personalize Your Sales Communications

When we recommend personalizing your communications, we don’t mean dropping a first name into an otherwise cookie-cutter script. Inserting a prospect’s name into a generic message comes off the same way as Homer’s “Greetings friend” salutation, and B2B buyers who deal with endless promo materials are quicker to recognize such gimmicks than most. Customize all elements of your outreach so it speaks to the reader in a direct way. You should generate plenty of material for such purposes with the previous two steps.

4. Use Digital Sales Tools to Automate and Optimize Your Efforts

Salespeople cite relationship building tools and sales intelligence tools as the most impactful technologies for their jobs. There are a variety of apps and services available that can take assist with research steps, or track and document interactions. One example is Rapportive, which collects info from a LinkedIn profile and then displays it right there in your Gmail interface.

Graphic: Impact of sales tools on cold calling efforts


5. Embrace Inbound Marketing Principles for Selling

Of course, it is best when prospects reach out to you instead of the other way around. Take every measure to make yourself discoverable and approachable. Craft social profiles that paint you as a helpful voice of authority in your niche. Use subtle tactics for getting in front of potential customers, such as liking their tweets or sharing their status updates on LinkedIn. Comment thoughtfully on blog posts, and write your own if you can find time. When implemented effectively, these strategies can increase your pipeline and heat up your leads.

Cold Calling Scripts for Engaging Outreach

To be clear, no one should be using an actual script for calls or emails. If you are copying and pasting (or reading) the same exact copy, and only swapping out a name at the front end, you are not setting yourself up for success.

What we will provide here is a cold calling template to follow for better results. This is a blueprint for more meaningful and engaging interactions.

5 Ways to Warm Up a Cold Call or Email

  1. Effective Attention-Getter

  2. Friendly Introduction

  3. Customized Value Proposition

  4. Conversational Tone

  5. Position Yourself as a Listener

Identify yourself immediately and quickly explain the specific relevance of your call or message. If possible, explain how you came across them (“I saw your blog post on such-and-such” or “I noticed we have a mutual connection in so-and-so”). Any time you can offer a free resource, with no expectation of reciprocation, you’ll increase your chances of a response. And, again, leave the door open for them to do most of the talking or writing.

Keep these stats in mind when strategizing for cold calls or cold emails:

+ A LinkedIn InMail is 3 times more likely to get a response than a standard email. (Source)

+ The best times to reach a contact via phone are between 8-9am or 4-5pm. (Source)

Graphic: Best time of day to make sales calls


+ Web leads are nine times more likely to convert if contacted within the first 5 minutes after a sign-up. (Source)

+ Top B2B sellers are on LinkedIn 6 hours per week. (Source)

+ 77 percent of customers list email as their preferred method for being contacted. (Source)

+ Short and sweet: Subject lines with 30 or fewer characters, and only one or two words, get higher open rates. (Source)

+ B2B buyers are 5 times more likely to engage when introduced by an acquaintance. (Source)

+ Salespeople are 4.2 times more likely to gain an appointment if they have an established connection with the prospect. (Source)

Last Call

Cold calling continues to fade out as a selling tactic, but with the right steps you can still reach an abundance of contacts and achieve results. It’s all about making these calls, emails, or messages less cold by developing context, familiarity, and an understanding of the prospect’s needs.

By the end, you will be much more pleased with the fruits of your efforts and can come away smiling, without even needing to send a dollar to Happy Dude.

"I love Sales Navigator as it has ended my need to cold call! Very easily, I can see who I need to contact in order to get a warm intro to various targets..."

Gillian O'Rourke Business Development Manager, Invest Northern Ireland

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