When you search “cold calling guide” on Google, you see 116,000,000 results.
Cold calling, it turns out, is not dead. It is alive and well and still in high demand. This disproves the many articles proclaiming that cold calling is dead.
Another quick search and you will find industry leaders, such as Dmitri Akhrin, president at CRMDialer & IRIS CRM, explaining that “cold calling can be effective when done correctly. Cold calls are one of the staples of the modern sales process.” Plus, you will also see statistics stating that cold calls are the second top sales strategy in use today.
Cold calling is still an essential sales strategy tool. Business leaders must consider including it in their sales prospecting plan and sales team training process. This is the key to unlocking outbound calling success.
Read on to learn how you and your team can make effective calls to increase leads and sales. Here’s what we’ll be covering:
What is cold calling?
Cold calling is an outbound call tactic used to create interest and awareness for your product. It also increases the chances that prospects will move through your sales funnel towards the point of conversion.
Cold calling is usually “cold,” because you’re calling someone who knows little-to-nothing about your product and/or your business. On the other hand, warm calling happens when the prospect makes the first contact.
It’s important to note that cold calls are not limited to phone calls. They can also apply in other facets of your sales strategies, such as having a cold email template. Although we will mention several cold calling methods throughout this guide, this article will mainly focus on calls.
Why is cold calling important to your business?
Cold calling transcends the limits of online interaction.
For example, it is challenging to know if a person is sincerely interested in your product when you talk to them online. They might be giving you the answers you want to hear, just so they can end the conversation as quickly as possible.
However, with cold calling, you can clearly understand the customer’s sentiments via the tone of their voice and body language (if you conduct sales efforts in person). Thus, you can more effectively navigate the conversation and know if the person is a quality lead or not.
Furthermore, cold calling builds rapport and forms the foundation for a stronger relationship with customers.
Compare the effects of a 15-minute conversation you have with a person to the experience they get from reading blog and social media posts about the launch of your product–which do you think has more impact?
By speaking to them, you can even learn about the pain points of the prospect. It’s important to find out the types of questions or concerns they have when buying products or services like yours. This is extremely valuable information. Sales, marketing and product development can use this info to increase overall sales performance.
Cold calling may not be a highly scalable sales method, but, as Paul Graham (co-founder of Y Combinator) says: you sometimes need to do things that don’t scale.
Guide to cold calling: transforming prospects into leads
We’ve all had an experience like this:
You receive a call from an unknown number, and within seconds of answering, the person at the other end of the line is reciting a sales pitch for a product you don’t need. Immediately, you end the call. You might even block the number.
Are your employees falling into the trap of becoming that sales rep who is making unsuccessful cold calls, inefficiently using their time and energy, and losing potential leads? This guide walks you through everything you need to empower sales reps to transform prospects into leads successfully.
Before the cold calls
If this is the first time that your team is cold calling or if you’re involved in sales team training, then you know that cold calling is a nerve-wracking experience. 80% of new salespersons experience reluctance before their cold call.
It’s normal to be afraid, but with some preparation, you can decrease sales reps’ anxiety, and help them bring more confidence to calls, as well as sound more authoritative and professional. Your customers will feel it, too!
Here’s how your agents should prepare for a call:
Cold calling is like your first interaction with your crush. You want to show that you care by doing a little research, but not so much that you appear creepy (i.e. don’t Facebook stalk them!).
Conducting a light investigation on who they’re calling will not only provide onhand icebreakers and talking points for agents to use during the conversation, but it’s also a great sales personalization technique.
Here is the information that your employees should gather prior to conducting a cold call:
- Name (learning how to pronounce their name is a big bonus!)
- Company and industry
- Related technologies
- Tools they use to perform their job
- Some interests that you can find publicly online (pets, hobbies, etc.)
2. Cold email template
Cold email templates help you and your sales reps get their foot in the door before calling. It’s an initial step towards nurturing a lead prior to getting on the phone with them, and helps them recall your name and company later on during the actual call.
Here’s what you should include in their cold email template:
- Subject line that is compelling yet credible
- Body that contains a value proposition, social proof, and statistical proof (optional)
- End the body with a simple call to action and give prospects a reason to respond
- Tone should be conversational and natural but still authoritative
It also helps to read the template out loud to know if it sounds too much like a sales pitch or too stiff. Don’t forget to proofread your work and run it through a grammar checker, such as Grammarly, prior to sending it! Also, make sure to personalize!
A well-written cold email template will help you generate more leads for your sales reps to close in their calls.
As the old adage goes: practice makes perfect.
Encourage your sales reps to practice their cold call script until it becomes second nature. By doing so, they will make their calls sound organic and persuasive, correct bad habits, and strengthen their weaknesses.
Another advantage of practicing is that they will memorize essential details of the script and thus, decrease their reliance on it during the actual call.
They can practice cold calling by standing in front of the mirror and repeating the script to themselves. They can also roleplay with their colleagues to prepare for various types of situations. Another is to start with colder calls on their cold call list so that they won’t feel under as much pressure to be perfect (which can lead to making mistakes) and so they can be ready by the time you reach the more important prospects on the list.
Cold calling tips
1. Ideal customer profile
Contacting ten quality leads is a more efficient use of time than calling 100 prospects who are not potentially interested in your product. The key to knowing who your quality leads are is to know your ideal customer profile, which you can achieve through sales and marketing alignment.
The ideal customer profile tells you the type of businesses and industries that are more inclined to buy and use your product, among other things. For example, the ideal customer profile for cloud-based calling applications is call centers and customer service companies.
Pro cold calling tip: Contact someone who has buying power (also known as a key decision maker). When you call someone in the lower ranks at a company, your efforts will be wasted, because they do not have the power to enact decisions. However, if you do run into this situation, you can instead ask them to connect you with a person who does have buying power.
On the other hand, cold calling executive-level leaders will get you an automatic no. They will be less inclined to listen to your cold calls and might even gain a less favorable impression of your company for wasting their time.
2. Best time
Have you experienced calling an office after 5:00 PM on a Friday? If you have, you know that people usually don’t answer the phone. The same goes for when you call during lunch break.
Knowing the best time to call helps your sales reps get to the first action of cold calling–talking to someone on the other end of the line.
Although there are many recommendations you can find regarding the best time for cold calls–such as calling between 8:00-9:00 AM and 4:00-5:00 PM–the ideal time to call varies and depends on your ideal customer profile. The recommendations can serve as a good basis, but it’s important to take notes on the times that the prospect does answer the phone, so you can use this data in the future to optimize answer rates.
Also, be aware of timezones when cold calling outside your geographical location. No one wants to be woken at five o’clock in the morning by a cold call!
Pro cold calling tip: Leverage callings tools and applications to make this process faster and more effective. Many have features that analyze your outbound calls and call answer rate and show you a graph of the times that your prospects are most or least likely to pick up the phone.
During the call
Your sales team has now completed the preparation process and done the practice to build their skills to make cold calls. Now that they’re armed and ready with the right skills, what are the best practices they should follow during cold calling for a successful sales call?
Your sales reps should be direct when introducing themselves. They should also state their name, their company, and the purpose of the call. Use the prospect’s name so the cold call will feel more like a personal sale than a spam call. If it’s not too complicated, request your sales reps explain how they got the prospect’s contact details to add authority to their cold calls, and to increase the chances of lowering the prospect’s guard.
Do not ask soft questions, such as “Is now a bad time?”, because your sales reps will be giving prospects an exit strategy and decreasing their chances of making a successful cold call by roughly 40%. Instead, ask questions about them, such as “How have you been?”, which catches prospects off guard, immediately making the cold call feel more personal and natural, and can increase your success rate by 10.1%.
Remember, you only have ten seconds to convince prospects that the call is worth their while, so make the most of your introduction.
2. Cold calling scripts
Cold calling scripts are both the boon and bane of cold calls. Outbound calling scripts assist callers, giving them ready information on the value proposition of their product, information on their prospect, and much more. In short, scripts ensure that you are maximizing your lead. However, a script loses purpose when your employees–especially those who are still undergoing sales team training–are using it word for word, making them sound like a robot and not driving the conversation in the right direction.
Avoid the latter by having your cold call script in bullet points and improving on it as you gain more experience in your calls. It also helps to have a cold call script template that answers the following questions:
- What are the solutions that our products offer in order to solve the prospect’s problems?
- Does the prospect have this problem? Why do I believe so?
- Does the prospect want to solve the problem? Why?
- How do I help this person?
Pro cold calling tip: It is smoother and more efficient to manage cold calling scripts when you’re using a cloud calling database. Cloud calling databases will have your client’s history and profile in one easy-to-view dashboard. You can also make notes in real-time and easily share those important details during your sales and marketing alignment and sales strategy meetings.
3. Active Listening
You’ve probably heard this time and time again: active listening is an important part of sales strategy, both on-call and in person.
Active listening makes your prospects feel respected, acknowledged, and encourages them to engage further in conversation. As a result, they will be more inclined to share with you important information and be more willing to listen to your value proposition.
How do you do this? By repeating back details to your prospect and asking them about details that aren’t clear to you. Give verbal cues that you are listening and ask questions that are relevant to the conversation.
4. Open-ended questions
Open-ended questions turn five-second cold calls into fifteen minutes, which research shows increases a cold calling’s success rate.
Not only that, it gives you valuable information, such as the specific pain points of your prospect, their company’s goals, and main motivators, which allows you to find a vision match between their needs and the product you are selling. Another advantage to open-ended questions is that you make the conversation feel intimate and gain talking points for future conversations.
Todd Volmer, who has been an enterprise sales leader for more than twenty years, recommends getting the answers for these five specific areas, abbreviated as PNAME:
- Process: how does the company buy solutions like yours?
- Need: how badly does the company need your solution?
- Authority: who can make the purchase happen
- Money: do they have funds to buy your solution? How much does it cost them not to have your solution?
- Estimated timing: what’s the time-frame for decision making?
Pro cold calling tip: Avoid yes or no questions and too many “why” questions. Doing so will make the call sound like an interrogation and immediately signal alarm bells in the prospect’s mind. Instead, focus on balancing expertise, likability, and authority.
5. Call to action
Have a clear and definite call-to-action (CTA), so that prospects know what they should do next after the call and will encourage them to make an actionable decision. CTAs also help reinstate the purpose of your call and the value of your product.
If you’re lucky to get a prospect who wants to close the deal right away, then the CTA is obvious. Otherwise, the CTA of cold calls is to continue the conversation by scheduling the second call with the prospect, a showroom visit, or a demo (if your product needs to be personally viewed and sampled).
Cold calling tips
Rejection is a natural part of sales strategies, from outbound calls to inbound calls. In cold calling, your sales reps will experience this a lot.
That being said, rejection should not be used as an excuse to not try to turn a prospect into a potential hot lead. Instead, your team can take measures to improve by learning how to navigate such conversations and create a possible opening for future conversations. After all, it takes an average of four attempts to turn a no into a yes.
How? By being aware that it can happen, and being polite once it does happen. Leaving a polite impression is better than an insistent and annoying one. Another is to have your sales reps review their rejected cold calls to see how they can do better next time.
Pro cold calling tip: “I’m busy, send me the details” and similar phrases are not automatic rejections. You can instead turn these around by replying, “When can I schedule the next call? I’ll send you a Google Calendar invite with the details.” This way, you can still create an opening for a potential yes in the future, and avoid wasting the time you’ve spent nurturing the lead thus far.
2. Warning signals
Sometimes, when your sales agents are cold calling, they may encounter a prospect that shows interest in your product, however, it is only to copy it for their own company, rather than buying yours. You can avoid this and other similar scenarios by watching out for the following warning signals:
- If your prospect is more involved in your technology and your company’s emerging market more than how they could leverage your product to improve their business
- When your prospect is showing over-the-top enthusiasm about your product, they are probably not the real decision maker. Decision makers are more measured about cold calls and thus, will be asking more questions than giving you yeses.
3. End goal
The end goal of cold calling is to generate awareness and interest in your product and company, and ultimately, to set a future meeting to demonstrate your product features.
By remembering the end goal, your sales reps will be able to keep the conversation on track and avoid having conversations that are too long-winded. As a result, they will have more time to make other cold calls and increase sales performance.
After the outbound call
Cold calling does not end after you put down the phone. Don’t forget that you’re building the foundations for a stronger relationship with your prospective and future customers.
Here are the steps which sales reps can take after a call ends to increase the chances of turning leads into customers:
After cold calling, send an email to your prospect to reaffirm the details of the conversation and the scheduled time of your next call. Sending a follow-up email will also help prospects remember you.
Make sure your email contains the following:
- Details of the product that the prospect showed interest in
- If you can, send a calendar invite with the details of the next call. This will make sure that prospect makes time for it and does not forget about it.
- End the email with a direct question that confirms the mutual agreement to move forward in the sales process.
- Your email signature: name, position, company, and contact details
2. Review and learn
Like many things in life, cold calling is a constant process of learning.
Schedule a session when your sales reps can review their cold calls regularly. This will help them learn how to cold call better in the future. Encourage your reps to also ask for cold calling tips and cold calling guides from their supervisors.
Also include this step in your sales team training so your team can learn from their mistakes. This will help your team become masters in the art of cold calling. When skills improve, it will be easy to turn prospects into hot leads within just a few minutes.
Cold calling is more than thriving, it remains one of the most essential sales strategies for businesses to this day.
What is dead, however, is inefficient cold calling.
Avoid falling into this trap by following this cold calling guide. Soon, you will see higher connect and conversion rates. You can also leverage technology to strengthen your team’s skills. This creates a more effective and productive cold calling process. As always, the goal is too stay one step ahead of your competitors.
For example, tools like Aircall – purpose-built cloud-based phone systems – can significantly increase the capabilities and efficiency of your cold calling team. Aircall’s power dialer can automatically detect phone numbers from web pages. It then generates a customizable list where you can create call-back reminders and add notes to ensure all prospect information is up-to-date. Click-to-dial feature is also included, which reduces the time spent inputting numbers one at a time or misdialing. This ultimately increases call center efficiency overall.
Another benefit of Aircall’s cloud-based phone system is that everything is in the cloud. This means your sales and marketing alignment will be easier to achieve at every stage in the lead conversion process, since information can easily be shared in real time between departments.
Want to change those nos into yeses? Transform prospects into hot leads?
Contact us to schedule a free demo of Aircall for your business.