Sales reps are often required to have a variety of skill sets. And one of the most important skills a sales rep must possess is the ability to pick up the phone or get on a Zoom meeting and get in touch with potential prospects.
Being able to control the flow of the conversation and guide prospects through the call while maintaining their attention and interest is among the most critical skills for a sales rep. In other words, the skill to excel at cold calling.
When done right, cold calling can be a super powerful sales technique. This guide helps you get started with cold calling and provides tips for winning at cold calling.
What is cold calling?
Cold calling is a method of prospect outreach, which a sales representative uses to get in touch with a potential client not previously contacted in an attempt to sell a product or service.
It is one of the older lead generation channels that has been somewhat pushed aside for other more popular ways of finding new leads. However, since the focus on remote sales is seeing a resurgence, cold calling and relationship building skills are more important than ever.
So if you want to get in on the action and put your conversational selling to the test, let’s get started.
How to get started with cold calls?
There are many different things that you have to take into consideration to be successful in cold calling. The following three aspects are key:
First and foremost, you have to make sure you’re prepared for your call by researching your prospect, their company, their potential needs, and gathering any intelligence you may have about their interest in your offering.
Secondly, you need to truly believe in what you’re selling and be accountable for it. And, this needs to come through in your call, in your tone of voice and in what you say.
Third, you have to be an active listener. While cold calling, we tend to think about how and what we say, active listening helps more than we think.
So basically, you need to come prepared, be attentive and helpful. Always focus on gaining long term trust over short term gains.
How to build a cold call script?
Most sales teams tend to have a cold calling script or cold email templates so sales teams can be on the same level. However, you would offer a better experience to your prospects if you didn’t follow the script word for word but use it more as a guideline for how the call should develop.
In fact, it would be much better if you just keep your script/template as an outline of things you want to cover as part of your call.
A cold calling script should include the following points:
- Introduction - start off the call by stating who you are, what is purpose of the call and how to capture their attention
- Problem - ask open-ended questions to find out what problems they are facing and how they’re dealing with it at the moment
- Solution - explain how your solution can help them fix or alleviate their problem by presenting a specific use case scenarios
- Objections - how to handle any objections that may pop-up and if possible to turn the objection in an opportunity
- Closing - how to effectively close the deal, by addressing any remaining questions and objections they may have about your product or service.
The 5-Step B2B Cold Calling Technique
To really nail cold calling, you need to pay attention to the basics. So let's take a detailed look at each of the five main stages of a successful cold calling outreach.
1. Preparation beats improvisation
Remember that before you even pick up the phone, you need to do your homework. That means finding information about the person you are reaching out to and the company they work for. That way, you can know in advance if you're about to call the decision-maker or an influencer who might help you with a warm introduction to the decision-maker.
Having the right data insights will clue you in on two things. First, if they fit your buyer persona —you'll know what type of problem they may be facing that your product could solve and if they have the authority and deciding power to close the deal.
And secondly, it tells if the company they work for falls within your ideal customer profile or not.
Here's the information you need to have about your prospects besides their name and phone number:
- Position in the company or job title
- The company they work for and industry
- Location of the company
- Competitor products they use (if any)
- Their tech stack (if applicable)
- Any recent hirings or leadership change
- Annual revenue and number of employees
While all of the above information is great to have, in reality, the accuracy of the information you have about your prospects is never complete or completely reliable. That said, even if you can check just a couple of the points above, you're off to a good start.
Bonus tip: You should also check the prospect's social media (preferably LinkedIn) profiles or use a tool like CrystalKnows to help break the ice and start the conversation.
2. First impressions matter when cold calling
Your introduction sets the tone for how the cold call will play out. Introduce yourself, the company you work for and the purpose of cold calling. Personalize the conversation. That said, personalization is more than using their first name, and at the same time, it's not about supporting the same football club. Keep the conversation contextual to business with an informal tone of voice.
Bonus tip: What’s a good opener to start off when cold calling?
Don’t start the conversation with “Is now a bad time?” because this gives your prospect a way out before the conversation starts. Instead, it’s better to go with something like “How have you been?” making the dialogue more personal. Experiment with the opening line and get creative. Your goal is to get their attention and start building rapport.
Talk about a pain point they might have (based on your research) and ask something like:
- Does this issue sound familiar?
- Can I show you how we approach this?
- Any of these ring a bell with you?
So, in short —you need to give your prospects a reason to hear you out.
3. Have a conversation
Going through a call as if it were a checklist doesn't help anyone. Instead, it gives a very robotic experience to the prospect. This is one of the reasons why cold calling gets a bad rap. No one wants to talk to an automaton that is not invested in the call.
Put yourself in their prospect's place. Next, you'll need to put in the effort and engage your prospects. Commit to not just selling but solving their problems and helping them overcome their challenges. Again, active listening is the key. Don't go over your talking points trying to sell, but actually, listen to what they're saying. Double-check with them on key points and ask them about additional details. This way, your prospects know that you're actively paying attention and looking for a way to help them.
Look for cues in their tone of voice to know where you stand. Do they sound curious or indifferent? Are they actively participating in the conversation, or is it you talking 70% of the time?
Pick up on vocal cues to switch up your tactics. For example, if they don't cut you off but sound disinterested, then perhaps it's time to end the conversation or ask to send them your offer and re-engage later on.
4. Qualify your prospects
One of the main goals of your first call to a prospect is to confirm that you are contacting the right person. This way, you'll quickly know if it's worth it to proceed with the call. One of the oldest and most widely used sales qualification methods is BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline). This method focuses on determining their budget, if they are a decision-maker, whether they need your product or service and purchase timeline estimate.
Here are some examples for BANT open-ended questions:
- Budget: Do you have a budget set aside for this purchase?
- Authority: Who else will be involved in the purchasing decision?
- Need: What challenges are you struggling with?
- Timeline: How quickly do you need to solve your problem?
There are many different sales qualification methods to choose from depending on the business model, customer retention as a goal, and the cold call's main purpose, whether it is to arrange a meeting or focus on a sale.
5. Use the right cold calling tools
You can't effectively use your skill set for B2B cold calling without proper automation. That's why you need to have the right cold calling tools at your disposal. Of course, by now, you must've already chosen a dialer to contact the prospects in your CRM. So, let's talk about the last piece of the puzzle. An important part of your cold calling will be the intelligence you get during the call and after the call.
An easy way to capture and analyze that information is with the help of conversation intelligence software. It can record and transcribe conversations and provide detailed, actionable insights for you and your team. Another great feature that will surely benefit your sales is AI-powered note-taking. Through a quick keyword search, you can find competitor mentions and note objections often during calls.
7 Tips for Cold Calling in 2021
Now that you know how to build a cold calling script and the important steps of a cold call, here are a few tips to increase your chances of success.
1. Warm-up before the call
Before getting to cold calling your prospect, it’s a good idea to warm them up. First, reach out to your prospects using different channels. For example, send them a cold email or reach out to them on LinkedIn to lay down the groundwork for the upcoming call. Next, generate interest with an introductory email and close the sale with a phone call. This is how you can use a multichannel outreach strategy with a multi-touch approach for better results.
Another key aspect is to take steps to reduce the no-shows. Sometimes prospects genuinely forget about the one-off meetings that happen outside of their day-to-day work even though it’s on their calendar. Sending a reminder makes you look thoughtful and organized. Using a tool like Avoma, you can automatically send email reminders to participants, so they show up on time or request to reschedule. It saves you a lot of time.
2. Don’t be generic
Do enough research about the prospect before getting into the call. For instance, you can use something that a prospect shared on social media to show that you are genuinely interested in knowing them and helping them achieve their goals. Don’t let it be just another cold calling attempt for you, and yet another sales call they had for the day.
Have a clear agenda as to what you want to cover as part of your call. In fact, you can even have a suggestive cold calling script in front of you when you jump on a call. This will be your process for the first few calls. As you get the hang of it, though and start to build up your conversational skills, try mixing up a bit.
To keep the meeting interactive and avoid it from being a pitching session about your product, ask questions to better understand the prospect’s needs and encourage them to ask questions whenever possible. Have a template for yourself based on the points you want to cover as part of your call.
3. Ask don’t interrogate
When your prospect feels relaxed (and not as if they are under a magnifying glass), they tend to divulge more information. But, on the other hand, don’t make your prospects feel as if you are a detective and they are strapped to a chair as part of an interrogation.
Secondly, avoid too much pitching. The prospects need to feel that they are part of a conversation and not listening to a sales pitch. Ask open-ended questions to get specific relevant information. For instance, if it’s a discovery call, your template needs to help you get the following about your prospect:
- Understanding the pain point of your buyer
- What’s the business need they are trying to solve with a product like yours?
- Who else are they evaluating alongside your product?
- Is there a timeline for implementation?
- What’s the next course of action after the call, etc.
4. Build rapport to have a two sided conversation
Building rapport is at the heart of building relationships and trust with your prospects. People like to do business with people they like and trust. So, if you, as a sales rep, are merely focused on driving your agenda or hitting your quota, you are possibly missing an opportunity to earn their trust. When you work in an industry where your goal is to help your customers achieve their goals and objectives, your relationship needs to be more than hitting your numbers.
And adding to the previous tip, don’t do all the talking and give them a chance to share their goals, pain points, etc. Research data says that it’s usually the salespeople who talk more than 70% of the time in any sales call. And that is no bueno.
Looking at the data from our online meetings, we at Avoma have found that the recommended sales: customer talk ratio is 40%–60%. And if you are talking for more than 60% of the total time on the call, you are probably not listening enough.
5. Call at the right time
It’s not just who you call and what you say, but it is also important when you are cold calling them. The right time for cold calling varies from industry to industry, so depending on your target market, some testing on your part will be required.
However, data shows that the best time to give your prospects a call is at the end of the working day, around 4pm to 5pm. By that time, people are finishing up their work tasks and would listen to what you have to say. Some sales reps report successful calls around 10am as well.
And in case you’re curious, the worst time to make a cold call is around lunchtime, 1pm to 3pm, since most people would be out of the office for lunch right after the majority of the workload is done. Also, around that time, productivity drops dramatically.
6. Keep improving your objection handling
Objections and rejections are a big part of the B2B cold calling process, and to be honest, it happens all the time. Sometimes a prospect may not be interested in what you have to say. And that’s perfectly fine and not the end of the world.
Always look for a way to transform an objection into an opportunity. But if they’re a hard no, thank them for their time, ask for feedback and politely end the call. Asking your prospects for feedback always helps you understand why the conversation didn’t progress further.
Take time to reflect on your sales calls or meetings. What you do after the call can be the difference between losing the value of the conversation completely or making it extremely useful. You need to learn from it to improve yourself for future calls.
Listen to the calls of other sales reps on your team and learn from what’s working well for them. Reps have several calls a day, and sometimes you might not have the time to listen to the entire conversation, listen to specific parts of the conversation such as demo, pricing conversation, etc.
7. Learning continuously and have a feedback loop
The only way to get good at cold calling is through practice and experience. You won’t become a skilled cold caller overnight. However, here’s what you can do to improve your cold calling:
- Record every call with a prospect - this can help you review important parts of the conversation later on to track your performance and improve.
- Keep notes for additional insights - after ending a call while it's still fresh, write down any piece of info that you think it's important.
- Collaborating with colleagues across functions - Be collaborative —let your product, customer success and marketing teams listen to your calls. Work with them to improve your tone of voice, talking pace and choice of words. Go over your cold calling scripts and ask for their input. Using a tool like Avoma lets cross-functional teams comment on certain aspects of your call so that you get a perspective on how you could have handled a situation differently.
To summarize, cold calling can be an effective sales tactic if used properly. To have a successful call, first, you’ll need to have accurate data and target the right prospects. Then you’ll need to quickly capture their attention and address the key points of interest through a series of questions while engaging in a conversation.
Following the steps and tips outlined in this article will get you started. Finally, keep practicing and review the AI-assisted notes, transcripts and call analytics to improve your cold calls to close deals quickly and more successfully.