Cold Calling 101: 13 Steps to Cold Calls That Work
Do you struggle to make your cold calls? Do you feel like they’re a good use of your time? I cannot tell you how many salespeople tell me that cold calling is just a waste of time. It doesn’t work anymore and there’s no way to make it work.
But you know what? It actually works well and what I think you’re going to find out is that it works even better in conjunction with some other strategies. Sometimes we just need to start from the beginning to get it right. I’m going to tell you the 13 steps to cold calls that work.
Cold calling can’t hurt you.
This point can’t be emphasized enough. When I first started making cold calls, I’d get so scared and so nervous about potential rejection that I’d really hold back when it comes to taking risks. But I was really afraid to just put myself out there and it’s so important to understand, there is nothing a prospect can do to actually hurt you.
Quite frankly, there’s nothing they could do, they can’t even really report you unless they are on a “to not call list”. I’m sure in some countries, there is a potential that you could possibly get reported. But the reality is that the risk is so minimal. We need to keep in mind, there’s nothing that they can do.
I cannot tell you the number of times when I finally really started to get into a groove with cold calling. Let’s say a particular call is just going nowhere. It was just going to total crap. And what I would do is, I would start to get more carefree. I would start to take more risks as opposed to getting more nervous.
As a result, a lot of those cold calls would actually get back on track. Knowing they can’t hurt you is going to make you so much stronger than ever before.
2. Make cold calling a game.
Cold calling is about numbers. It is about being able to push through that potential rejection until you’re ultimately getting through to someone who is the right fit, who’s ultimately willing to have any type of a conversation, and is going to lead to a potential next step.
The reason that most people hate making cold calls is that you only get one or two percent success rate. It means that you’re probably going to have 99 calls that go nowhere in order to get one successful scheduled meeting.
So, the more we can make the process of making these calls a game, the more likely we are to actually get through those 99 calls that are ultimately going to go nowhere no matter how good you are at making calls. Just have fun and don’t take yourself too seriously.
If you start to see a call going just completely downhill, be willing to take a risk to try something totally new. If they’re being really rude, maybe step up your game and be a little bit tougher. Whatever it is, be willing to make it a game. It’s a sport, not something that has any threat to your life or to your safety.
3. Cold calling be willing to take risks.
Now, we’ve already gone through some of these ideas, but we cannot talk about this enough. When you’re taking risks during those cold calls, you’re going to have a much higher likelihood of success. For two reasons, one is, that when a call is going off track and you need to step in with a contingency that’s pretty gutsy, we are now, as a result of taking that risk, more likely to get the call back on track than we were before. So, taking that risk actually can help those calls.
Two, being willing to take risks also makes the process of cold calling much less painful. When you’re willing to take a risk and potentially screw up an opportunity, you’re not going to live with that constant discomfort. The reason that most people are unwilling to make a cold call is they’re so afraid of messing something up.
But good things happen when you’re not afraid of making that mistake. And you need to be able to just get through the numbers. You have to make those 100 calls to get that one meeting, so, in the process, you must be willing to take risks. You must be willing to deal with the consequence of a call going wrong.
It’s not that big deal and it doesn’t matter if you completely screw up. I remember one of my first successful cold calls was with an executive, at a major well-known brand.
I remember being so nervous but I also remember thinking that I really have nothing to lose. I’ve gained nothing at this point, so if I’m willing to take risks, I’m much more likely to be successful. And as a result of that mindset, I was able to schedule that meeting which ultimately turned into a sale.
If at any point along the way, that had gone south and it didn’t turn into something. As one of my mentors used to say, “Some will, some won’t, who’s next?”
4. Cold calling warm it up as much as possible.
This might not actually be what you think it means. I don’t mean get warmed up for the call or get psyched or get into good positive energy. In fact, it’s the opposite. In order to start making cold calls, start to making dials, you just pick up the phone, don’t think about it and you just do it.
But what I mean by warm it up as much as possible, is warm up the interaction as much as possible. Make sure that by the time you actually get this person onto the phone and they know who you are, and that usually includes incorporating the cold call within a prospecting campaign. Make it a full process whereby you’re making 10 to 20 touches over the course of, let’s say a couple of months.
That way, by the time you actually get the person on the phone, they’re much more likely to be receptive. That means sending them emails, sending letters, stopping by their office, doing whatever you have to do to get in front of their faces, so that way, by the time that you actually get them on the phone, they know who you are.
In fact, a lot of recent data shows that most salespeople are giving up on the first or second attempt when contacting a prospect. But most of the attempts that actually get through happens on the sixth or even seventh attempt. In between that, there are going to be a number of contacts and be sure to warm up that cold call as much as possible so that way, it’s not actually a real cold call by the time you get them on the phone.
5. Cold calling script out the entire call.
Now, there are not many pieces of advice that I give that get more pushback than this idea. Many salespeople don’t like to use a script because they will sound scripted. And my response always is the same. What’s your favorite TV show, or what’s your favorite movie of all time? Now, think about it.
Do you think they didn’t have a script when they shot that movie or that TV show? Of course, they had a script. They practiced the script so that, by time they actually went to film it, it looks totally and completely natural.
The reason that it’s a great movie or a great TV show is that in fact, it doesn’t look scripted. But it’s very tightly scripted and the same things go for an effective cold call. You want to make sure that your entire call is scripted out and what you’re going to find is that by doing that, your calls going to be so much tighter than it ever was before.
Not using a script is going to get you into a lot of trouble. You’re going to go into diversions. What we want to do is make sure that we’re focusing completely on that prospect. And we’re not using any wasted verbiage.
What I find is that, when salespeople make calls that are not scripted, they just go all over the place and the call takes forever and the prospect is completely uninterested and all they really want to do is get off the phone. Script out that entire call.
6. Cold calling should know your first seven seconds cold.
Now, this may sound obvious or even trite to some people but what I find is that we don’t often think about how we’re initially introducing ourselves to prospects. By knowing your first seven seconds, inside and out, you’re going to be so much more likely to get to that next step.
The way cold calls work always has, always will, is that the first seven seconds are buying you the next 25 seconds. What you have to do is use that first seven seconds to catch the person off guard, so that way, you’re going to get another 25 or so seconds. And then throughout the entire call, you’re always fighting for that next 25 or so seconds.
But none of those additional seconds, later on, happen without having first that strong first seven seconds. You have to know exactly what you’re going to say in that first seven seconds. What we want to be doing is using pattern interrupts to catch the person off guard.
That way, they’ll be thinking like maybe I should talk to this person, do I know this person or do I not know this person? Should I be polite or be rude? We need to catch them in a place where they’ll think of giving you 25 seconds.
Data shows that there are a couple of lines that tend to be most effective. And one of those lines is something that sounds like this “Hey George, Mark calling. How have you been?”
Notice what that line said. It’s not how are you doing but it’s saying how have you been. Now what you’re doing is, you’re catching them off guard in a way where they’re saying, “Do I know this person? Do I not?” It’s not a trick. But what you’re doing is, you’re using the script in a way that actually, the data shows are about six times more likely to get you that next 25 seconds than had you not used those types of a line.
7. Cold calling is that the more you talk about you, the worse you do.
In fact, the data shows time and time again, that salespeople who are going on and on about their own company or about themselves are going to do significantly worse. The more you’re talking about yourself, spending time introducing yourself, talking all about how great you or your company is, the worse you’re going to do.
And by a factor of many times. What you want to do is get through that initial introductory part really quickly and get into the purpose of your call. The purpose of your call is to get right into it, so don’t spend time with lots of sentences talking about your company and your story. They could be thinking that that’s junk and no one cares about that.
Remember the prospect doesn’t care about you, they care about themselves, solving their challenges and accomplishing results. Get through that part about yourself and right into what they actually care about.
8. Cold calling focus on the challenges you’re seeing.
One of the best ways to engage prospects in a conversation during a cold call is to really focus on the challenges that you’re seeing in the marketplace. What this is going to do is, really twofold. The first is that it shows that you really have your finger on the pulse of what’s actually happening.
You’re showing that you have real expertise and you’re not talking about yourself; you’re providing some real value about what are those key challenges that other people are dealing with.
And then two, if you’re talking or mention a challenge that is going to be something that they relate to, you’re more likely to engage them in a conversation. Again, the data shows that the more you can get a prospect talking, telling their story, talking about their challenges, talking about what they care about, the more likely you are to get that second meeting and ultimately close that sale.
9. Cold calling engage them to start talking.
The more the prospect starts to really talk in a meaningful way, the more likely they are to stay on the phone and thus, schedule the next step and thus, turn into a sale. We’ve got to engage them in a way to start talking. And what I find is that so many salespeople are focused on pitching whatever it is that they sell, that they fail to really engage that prospect in a two-way dialogue.
It becomes more of that one-way monologue or that presentation and in this call, it’s too early. What you have to do is engage them to start talking because once they’re talking, they’re in. And so, after you’ve talked about some of those challenges, you should finish that little paragraph with something that sounds like“George, did any of these challenges ring true to you?”
With that, what you’re doing is inviting them into the conversation. If they say no, then you can follow up with a question like this, “Okay, fair enough, it sounds like this conversation doesn’t even make much sense. Before I hang up, could I ask you just one last question?” and they’ll always say yes to that.
Then it’s the last chance, it might sound something like this, “If there was one thing that you could be doing better with, whatever it is that you, related to whatever you sell, if there’s one thing that you could be doing better with, your sales, what would it be?”
Now, there’s silence. Let them fill the space, engage them to start talking. Now I use sales because that’s what I would use on a call. But what is it for you? Is it marketing, operations, food services, whatever? You should get them talking.
10. Cold calling dig into what’s really going on.
This requires that you’ve engaged them in the conversation. You’ve got them going and now what a lot of salespeople get wrong is as soon as they start to get a challenge or two, they go right into pitch mode like, “Well, you are in the right place, we have this awesome new service, this incredible product that’s going to solve everything for you. And by the way, it’s at a low price of just nine ninety-nine.”
Whatever it is, they go into pitch mode because they’re excited that they feel like they’ve got a fish on the line. A great fisherman, when they feel a pull on the line, they don’t just pull it out. What actually they do is give a little bit more line to let the fish really bite onto the hook. That’s exactly what we’re doing here.
When the prospects say one of the challenges they’re dealing with, you don’t say you’ve got the solution. Ask them to tell you more. You go in, you ask questions around those challenges to really make sure that they’re seeing the value of solving those challenges. They’re feeling engaged and they feel like you understand them. Dig into what’s really going on.
11. Cold calling get that next step locked in.
This is the most important part of closing out a call. Any kind of a prospecting call is that you are establishing the next step. I always ask salespeople, what’s the purpose of a prospecting call or a cold call? And they always say that it is to get a sale.
For me, that’s not true. Yes, ultimately, in the long run, a successful cold call can lead to a sale. But really the goal of any cold call is to get a clear next step. This means that we need to ensure that we lock that next step in.
Whether it’s a face to face meeting or an email address or whatever that next step is. Be very defined and make sure you lock that in. Make sure that you have a very clear next step with a calendar invite that goes out, with an accepted invite, with a date, with time, all of that. That way, we know exactly what that next step is and we know who’s going to be a part of that next step.
12. Cold calling confirm the next step.
It’s a technical next step but it’s really critical. Which means that when you get someone to agree to a meeting, while you’re on the phone with them, you send out that calendar invite. You make sure that it gets into their inbox and that they accept the invite.
Let’s say you’ve had a good conversation, say “George, can I make a recommendation? How about we set up a meeting where I’ll come to your office and we can really dig more deeply into this and I can share with you some best practices on how many of our clients have solved these challenges before.”
The prospect says yes then you go back and forth and you nail down a time and a date and send them a calendar invite. And just be sure that you see that come through and so that way it’s in, we can avoid any back and forth. Get it locked in, get it into their calendar so that way that step is very clear.
13. Cold calling don’t run away from the phone after each call.
Calling is about numbers, it is about making a lot of dials. The big difference between effective people who make prospecting calls and ineffective people is that the effective people, any time they get off the phone, they pick it right back up and get to the next call.
Now there are a lot of services that even do auto-dialing so that way, you never even have to hang up the phone. You never even have to physically put down the phone or anything like that. We don’t have to go that far but don’t run away from the call after each call. Get right back into the next.
I have never seen people who are great cold callers making only five cold calls at a time. The most effective cold callers are making many dials each and every single day. So that might mean, 20 to 50 dials, maybe a hundred dials in a day. When you have a successful call, use that momentum to go right into the next call. The only way you get through that number of dials is that you don’t get away from the phone after each call.
Those are the 13 steps to cold calls that work and I hope these ideas are very useful.