21 Cold Calling Tips to Keep Prospects on the Phone and Increase Sales
Most sales reps will tell you that cold calling can be difficult. But it can also be a very successful way to gain more leads and increase sales. Especially if you are aware of the best practices and strategies to use.
I’ve called many prospects and I’m going to show you some cold calling tips that make this process much easier.
What Is Cold Calling?
Cold calling is making contact with a prospective customer or client with who you have had no previous interaction before. While we generally think of cold calling as making a phone call, it can also apply to making a contact in person.
While cold calling can be challenging, it has advantages. For one, it lets you make a personal connection with someone, unlike making a contact by email or social media. You also get immediate feedback and can use the call to make a follow-up visit or call without waiting for someone to answer an email — which can easily get ignored.
It is true that cold calling can be intimidating. You are asking someone who has never expressed interest in your product or service to listen to your pitch — or at least take time out of their schedule to talk with you.
However, with the right approach and mindset, you can find success in cold calling.
What Is the Success Rate of Cold Calling?
Cold calling has been used in business for decades. Despite its difficulty, it is one of the most effective techniques for gaining leads — and making eventual sales.
As many as 82% of buyers say they are willing to meet with a salesperson who contacts them with a cold call. In fact, 62% of buyers are hoping to hear from product or service representatives when they are actively looking for a solution to a problem.
Many cold calls lead to a meeting with the potential client. Of people contacted with a cold call, 75% end up scheduling a meeting or attending an event because of the unsolicited call.
Your success rate on cold calling depends largely on your persistence and ability to connect with your potential customer.
21 Cold Calling Tips to Increase Your Success Rate
Preparing yourself with the right information and using the right strategies can make cold calling one of your favorite approaches. Here are 21 cold calling tips I recommend for driving more sales on the phone.
1. Know Your Prospect Well Before You Pick Up the Phone
Researching your prospect is the most important thing you can do before making a cold call. Knowing some information about them will give you insight into questions to ask and topics to talk about.
Ultimately, your goal is to understand how you can meet their needs with your product or service.
Visit your potential client or customer’s website and social media pages, including LinkedIn. Read their About Us page for information on their company story, mission statement, and leadership. Determine the specific person in a decision-making role that you will call.
Search for press releases, news, and read customer reviews. If they have a brick and mortar establishment, visit it if appropriate.
As you research your client, determine what their pain points are. Assess what is important to them, form an understanding of their business and potential needs. Make note of your common interests.
Proper research will allow you to personalize and offer value to your cold call, and the prospect will appreciate that you are in tune with their needs instead of making a generic call with a stale cold calling script.
2. Understand How You Can Benefit Your Potential Customer
Your research will give you clues about how you can make your prospect’s life better. Your first call will give you additional insight.
With each customer, there is a key benefit that will trigger buying desire and cause the customer to purchase your product or service.
At the same time, there is a key fear or doubt that will hold the customer back from buying. Your initial job in your first cold call with your prospect, and the key to qualifying them, is to find out exactly what benefit will cause this customer to buy from you, and exactly what fear or doubt might hold this customer back from buying from you.
When you make your cold call, keep it about your prospect, not about you. The goal of your initial contact is not to sell anything or convince them to buy. It is to make a genuine connection that will lead to further interaction with you. Make the connection by focusing on what they need and what you can do to benefit your prospect.
3. Interact With Your Prospect Ahead of Time
Consider interacting on social media with potential customers or clients before making cold calls. Connect with them on LinkedIn, follow their Facebook Page, subscribe to their YouTube channel, or follow them on Twitter. Check their website for links to these and other social media platforms where they have a presence.
You can also react to their posts and make comments as well. This will give you several touchpoints with your potential client, and they may remember your name and profile picture when you place your cold call. Make sure any interaction you have is genuine.
For instance, do not “like” a post simply to be noticed. React to and share posts that you find relevant, useful, or interesting. The best business relationships are built on authenticity and mutual trust.
Interacting on social media also gives you another avenue to get to know your prospect’s pain points and priorities before calling them. It provides you with talking points you can use to make a personal connection with your prospect as well.
4. Be Very Patient and Persistent
To succeed at cold calling, you must have patience.
It takes an average of 18 calls to make a connection with a buyer. You may be sent to voicemail countless times or asked to leave a message. If you give up too soon, you may miss a golden opportunity.
Ninety-two percent of people in sales give up on a prospect after four “no’s.” However, 80% of prospects say “no” four times before they say “yes.”
Being persistent and patient is an essential component of cold calling. Do not expect quick answers or results.
Potential clients or customers will not automatically trust someone who is calling them out of the blue. You must earn their trust — just as in building any meaningful relationship — which usually takes time, consistency, and a genuine focus on meeting their needs with the product or service you have to offer. If you determine that you cannot meet their needs, move on rather than forcing a mismatched fit.
5. Don’t Attempt to Sell On Your First Cold Call
On your first call, you should never attempt to sell.
Focus on information gathering. Unless you are selling something inexpensive that requires little thought, you want to interview the prospect by asking questions. Take notes and tell them you will come back to them.
Focus on building the relationship and coming across as friendly, genial, and non-threatening.
Determine the goal of your call ahead of time. Often that is setting up a time to meet or talk more in-depth. Work toward that goal efficiently, and don’t waste your prospect’s time.
6. Use Rejection to Your Advantage
In the sales profession, you must be willing to accept rejection. The best sales reps receive rejection; it is the nature of the business. The same principle applies to cold calling.
Expect rejection and do not take it personally.
Instead, analyze why the prospect may have said no and use this to improve your pitch, product, research techniques, and approach.
Perhaps you needed to have more information before placing the call. Maybe your product is not a good match for them after all, or it may be out of their budget.
If your approach needs improvement, use the experience to fine-tune your cold calling techniques. Did you try to sell too soon, or did you talk more about your product or service than you did about the prospect?
Use rejection to your advantage by being introspective. Remember to remain patient and persistent and follow these cold calling tips, and you will have more and more successful cold calls.
7. Outline What You Want to Say In Advance
It is vital to be prepared with what you want to say and ask before placing cold calls. This will help calm your nerves and guide the conversation so you stay focused on the goal of the call.
Make sure your talking points are personalized to each prospect and you don’t come across as reading from a cold call script. You might comment on a social media post that you found interesting and ask the prospect to elaborate. You could mention that you noticed on their website or in a press release they are expanding into a new niche market and you have some ideas of how to make the transition smoother for them.
Being prepared in this way immediately shows the prospect you have done your homework and seem to have a genuine interest in them that goes beyond simply making an unsolicited sales pitch.
8. Do Not Read From a Cold Calling Script
While writing out what you want to say is one of the cold calling tips I recommend, you should not read directly from your cold calling script. You will sound robotic and impersonal if you do, and your prospective client or customer will pick up on that and tune out. your interaction with a prospect should never feel scripted to them
Personalize each call, which goes back to the importance of conducting research.
Always remember that cold calling and sales, in general, should be very personal. You should focus on your customer’s needs as an individual on a case-by-case business.
This is how you build relationships with your customers and have long sales relationships to come. Using cold calling scripts verbatim can make the call feel less personal, and this is something you want to avoid.
9. Zero In on Your Target Customer
Instead of casting a wide net and trying to contact everyone, know who your target audience is and focus your efforts on them.
Do your research to find your target audience. Avoid wasting your valuable time — or theirs — by calling the wrong people. Do your due diligence to identify potential clients or customers that are likely to benefit from and be interested in what you have to offer. Then reach out.
10. Know the Best Time to Call
The best time to make cold calls will depend on your industry and the individual prospect’s routine.
However, weekday afternoons tend to be consistently more successful than early morning calls. Many people use the first few hours of the workday for deep thinking, settling into the workday, and getting high-priority tasks done. An unsolicited call may feel like a major, unwanted interruption.
In the afternoons, especially, many people are winding down from the day and hesitating to start a new task due to lack of time. A cold call at this time can then become the perfect way to fill that space of time. Between the hours of 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. tend to consistently have a higher rate of answered calls.
Research your prospect’s regular business hours and plan the time you will call. Try different days and times of day when you are having trouble getting through.
You can also use trigger events to determine the best time to call. Use publicly available information and services like Google Alerts to keep track of when a prospect is expanding, has merged with a company you already sell to, has received recent funding, or has had a new executive hire — who may be more open to new ideas.
11. Use the Right Opener
The first sentence you say to your prospect can be the key to getting your foot in the door or having it close on you.
Opening with a simple, “How are you?” or some version of it has 3.4x more chances of booking a follow-up meeting. “How have you been?” increases your success rate by 6.6x. This is likely because the phrase is personalized, which engages your prospect.
Stating the reason you are calling is also an effective opening, increasing your chances of getting a meeting by 2.1x.
Personalize your openers for more success. Use the information you’ve gathered through your research to open with a compliment or recognition or hit a pain point.
12. Don’t Overwhelm Your Prospect During Your First Meeting
When you are “cold meeting” a prospect for the first time, keep it simple.
What this means is that, at the most, you carry a simple folder rather than a briefcase full of brochures or samples.
If the prospect is interested and wants a presentation and more information, you can always go back to your car to get what you need and bring it in. But, when you go in without a briefcase you lower the stress of initial sales resistance and cause the prospect to relax and open up to you sooner.
13. Create a Conversation
Make sure your call or visit is not a monologue of you speaking most of the time. Create a back and forth conversation instead.
Ask relevant questions, and listen to their answers. Key in on what they are saying that can help you determine what their needs are.
Aim to make your prospect feel comfortable with you. Be genuine and build trust.
14. Keep Your Prospects Relaxed
The longer your prospect remains relaxed, and the more they open up to you, the more likely it is you will make the sale in the long run.
Keep your phone call short, unless they are clearly showing an interest in engaging in deeper conversation with you. Be conscious of not wasting your prospect’s time.
Refraining from trying to make a sale and personalizing your approach will help you keep your prospects relaxed.
15. Leverage the Right Words
Words are powerful, and some words tend to either raise or lower your close rates.
Avoid the words “discount” and “contract” during your cold calls as they lower your likelihood of getting another chance to meet with the prospect.
The phrase “we provide” when used four or more times in a call lowers your close rate by 22%.
More successful words are “will” instead of “try,” “I will find out” instead of “I am not sure,” “challenge” instead of “problem,” and “help you” instead of “sell you.”
16. Save Your Pitch for Later
Remember that the purpose of a cold call is to set up a meeting or second call at a later date, not to make a pitch.
Save your sales information for when you meet later, and focus on developing a rapport on your initial cold call.
Go over your outline several times before making cold calls so that you are familiar with the prospect, have the goal of the call front of mind, and avoid sounding like you are reading from cold calling scripts.
Practice mock cold calls with a manager, friend, or fellow sales reps. Ask them to play various roles, such as a prospect who is not interested, one that is combative, and one that opens up to you quickly.
Engaging in these scenarios will help you be more prepared to have a successful cold call, despite any objections or challenges.
You will become more confident and less nervous, making cold calling easier for you.
18. Ask Open-Ended Questions
Questions that require a simple “yes,” “no,” or one-word answer do not facilitate a conversation. Using too many of these questions makes the cold call a dry question and answer session and is likely to lose the interest of your prospect.
Asking open-ended questions engages your prospect and encourages them to talk more. You will also be able to gain more insight into their needs and ability to buy with open-ended questions.
The technique allows you to get to know them better so you can empathize with them so you can see how you can provide a benefit or solve a problem.
Open-ended questions often begin with “what,” “why,” or “how.” Some examples of good open-ended questions for cold calling are:
- What are the top priorities for your company right now?
- How would you describe the problem you’d like to solve?
- What does the ideal solution look like for you?
- What other questions can I answer for you today?
- Why isn’t your particular process working for you?
- What is your timeline for making a purchase?
19. Avoid Settling for an Email
Most people are very busy and may prefer you to send information in an email. It is an easy way to end the phone call without being impolite.
However, such an email has a low potential for getting read, and your potential for setting up a follow-up meeting drops.
To handle this common situation, agree to send the email but ask more questions that will help you set up a meeting.
Ask your prospect what they are looking for in the information you will send them. This will hopefully get them talking about what their needs and pain points are, which helps you personalize the information you will send them.
You might also suggest scheduling a live demo instead or just an email, pointing out that it will save the prospect time and effort.
If you do send an email, ask to schedule a meeting time or follow-up call when you can discuss the contents of the email with them.
20. Leave Effective Voicemails and Follow Up
Most cold calls lead to voicemails, so you need to develop strategies for leaving effective emails.
Like your cold calls, voicemails should be personalized. Use techniques that will pique your prospect’s interest.
Decide on just one takeaway message you want to leave with your prospect so you will avoid dumping too much information on them or rambling. Keep your message under 20 seconds.
You might say you are aware of the challenges their company is facing and you believe you can help. If you have been recommended by someone they trust, this can be your message.
Use an upbeat and friendly tone of voice, and be sure to address your prospect by name as well as give your name and contact information.
Then follow up. Keep track of the content of the voicemails you leave so you can refer back to them and build on the content if you have to leave more voicemails. Practice persistence and keep calling back.
21. Overcome Sales Objections
Understand common objections and plan how you will respond.
For a prospect who tells you they do not have time to talk to you, tell them you understand and ask when they might have five minutes to spare so you can help them manage the things that are taking their time or causing stress.
If they say they need to discuss the matter with their team, offer to set up a group meeting or Zoom call that involves everyone.
For potential customers or clients that say they already use a competitor, offer to give them a case study of how you helped another company similar to theirs reach a goal or solve a problem. You could also say you’d love to share with them how other customers have found success with you overusing a competitor.
If they say what you are offering is too expensive, let them know you do not expect them to buy right now and try to find out their needs by asking if they can give you more information on why your solution seems too expensive.
Convert Your Cold Calls Into Warm Calls
Cold calling is one of the most long-standing approaches to gaining leads and increasing sales. It allows you to build relationships with potential customers or clients. Although it can be difficult, using these cold calling tips will give you the confidence and strategies to succeed.
For more cold calling tips, to help you increase your rate of successful cold calls, and to learn how to qualify the best leads, download my free sales prospecting checklist. Your goal is to turn cold calling leads into warm leads, which means on your second contact with your prospect, they will already be familiar with you and are more likely to continue engaging with you.
What are you waiting for? Try some of these cold calling tips today and remember, the more cold calling you do, the better you will get at it, and you will see your bottom line increase.
About Brian Tracy — Brian is recognized as the top sales training and personal success authority in the world today. He has authored more than 60 books and has produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on sales, management, business success and personal development, including worldwide bestseller The Psychology of Achievement. Brian's goal is to help you achieve your personal and business goals faster and easier than you ever imagined. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin and Youtube.