Cold calling is right next to root canals on most people's list of fun things to do. Who really wants to get rejected by strangers—repeatedly? Unless you're a glutton for punishment, cold calling probably isn't your favorite way to generate new leads. But here's why cold calling matters: It's quick, cheap, and wildly effective if you do it correctly.
Think about it.
Cold calling is quicker than SEO and content marketing, which requires planning, writing, and waiting (hoping) for the search engines to give you some love. Cold calls, on the other hand, take seconds to make and average 3 to 6 minutes when you successfully connect.
Cold calling is cheaper than pay-per-click ads because it costs more to deploy an ad campaign than it does to dial through call lists.
And because it’s a tactic so many people are resistant to, there's often less competition on the phone compared to other lead generation strategies, like paying for Facebook ads. Plus, cold calling has the added advantage of human connection. No other marketing strategy can compete with starting an individual conversation with a prospective client.
But there's a science to cold calling, and many people get the wrong result because they haven’t taken the right steps.
So here you go, 14 time-tested tips on how to make effective B2B cold calls.
1. Understand the B2B Buyer
Many cold call strategies are geared to the B2C (business to consumer) model. They focus on convincing one buyer to try their product.
B2B lead generation requires a different cold calling strategy. When approaching most organizations, you'll have to get approval from multiple stakeholders. You'll need to make it past the gatekeeper, impress the decision maker, and also gain the confidence of their higher-ups to ensure that everyone is onboard with purchasing your product.
To do that, focus on building a relationship. This will take time, and won’t be accomplished in your initial call. This is why your first call shouldn't be to shove your product in the prospect's face but to spark their curiosity while opening the door for future conversations.
2. Create Your Focused Prospecting List
It's key that you qualify your prospects before picking up the phone to cold call them. You'll save time and frustration by carefully identifying the right prospects.
It starts with knowing your target market and building a good list. The more specific you can get, by job title, location, industry, company size or other essential attributes, the better. Then it pays to do a bit of research; through the target company's website, LinkedIn profile, press releases, or blog posts, for example.
But don't spend too long learning about their individual organization, as it can be a waste of time, especially if they hang up in your face. Instead of delving deep into each company, be sure to understand the industry as a whole so you can craft the right opening script. As you learn more about your prospects through discovery calls, you'll be able to tailor your approach specific to that company.
3. Warm Up the Cold Call
You can dial without priming, but it's better to warm up a prospect if you can. A quick LinkedIn message or Twitter response a few days or a week ahead of your “cold” call can improve your chances of accomplishing your mini-goal (which we'll discuss next).
Sending along a short video or video series can also be a super effective tactic to capture interest and lay a strong foundation for an outreach call later.
Because it almost always takes multiple touchpoints to land a sale, anything you can do to warm the lead in advance of your call will improve your odds.
4. Create a Multi-Pronged Goal
Cold calls rarely produce immediate sales. This is especially true for B2B cold calls where you have to get approval from multiple stakeholders. Don't create a singular, unrealistic goal and then get disappointed when you don't accomplish that goal.
Instead, create multiple mini-goals that leads your prospect further down the sales funnel. Make the goal of the call the mini-conversion and have a follow-up scheduled to keep the process in motion.
Goal one may be to send more information.
Goal two may be to schedule a demo or appointment.
Goal three may be to review the package you've created, so a decision can be made.
Create a systematic process that guides your prospect down the funnel toward an informed and enthusiastic conversion.
5. Create an In-Call Checklist
Once you understand the industry that you're targeting (by focusing on their challenges) and create a list of mini-goals, it's time to develop a script.
Nope. Scratch that.
Instead of a script, create an in-call checklist. Your checklist will give your call structure, direction, and ensure that you hit all of your key points.
The in-call checklist is similar to a script, but here's how it's different: A script sounds impersonal (because it is). If you have a script, you may be tempted to read from it, and your prospect will immediately recognize that you're reading from a script. This won't build trust, which is the one component you need to move the call forward. You can use a full script if it really seems natural, but it really has to be delivered properly.
By contrast, an in-call checklist will act like a skeleton that you build upon. This skeleton, or outline, contains important points you want to hit in the call.
However, you may find it useful to create a standard introduction script which can relax your own performance anxiety at the start of a call.
Back to the in-call checklists, you’ll need to create two: One for gatekeepers and one for decision-makers. You'll likely run into more gatekeepers than decision-makers during your cold calling, so be prepared to give them a reason to forward your call to the decision-maker.
Include the following in a basic checklist:
- A greeting
- The purpose of your call (introduce yourself, follow up, moving from gatekeeper to decision-maker)
- Why your product should matter to them and how it solves a real pain point (lean into what you know about their industry as your starting point)
- Prepared responses to objections and hesitations (make a list of common objections and your persuasive replies)
- A scheduled future contact
6. Give Them a Reason to Hang On
People get antsy when they realize you're cold calling them. No one wants to be sold to. This is why you should start each cold call with a strong incentive for why the prospect should stay on the phone.
How do you do that?
Lead with a question. Your question can be the simple, three-word prompt: “How are you?”
This polite starter activates your prospect's courteous mode, and makes it less likely to get immediately hung up on.
Alternately, you can go with a longer opener, such as: "Hi, [prospect name]. I'm [your name] from ABC company. We help [kind of business you're talking to] to [achieve specific benefit or result/solve primary pain point]. Would you be open to a quick discussion to see if it might be a fit for your company?"
It all comes down to adding real value to the prospect, whether it’s via a freebie, or even just framing things from the perspective of their benefit and not your features. When it’s all about them and what they get, it moves you from being an annoying salesperson to more of a consultant.
7. Don't Start Off Your Call With Negativity
Don't ask your prospect, “Did I call at a bad time?” The question may seem like you're showing concern for the prospect's time, but it sets you up for negative responses because it makes the prospect immediately defensive.
Of course, you’re calling at a bad time and interrupting their day.
Instead, be transparent and say, “I know you're busy, so I’ll make this call quick with one question: [insert a simple question that piques the prospect’s curiosity while also acknowledging their pain point].”
8. Focus Your Attention on Your Prospect
After introducing yourself and your service, focus on your prospect, especially what they need and how you can help them achieve their goals. Your goal isn't to sell, it's to gather information that you can use to improve your chances of closing a future sale.
Make time to listen.
It's incredible how many sales people don't actually listen to the prospect's objections and instead rely on their script, which may not fully answer the prospect's concerns. Listen to what your prospects are saying and be sure that they feel validated. The easiest way to do this is through repeating their concern and providing a direct answer.
9. Practice Your Cold Calls
You can practice by actually calling or you can work with your team to perfect your pitch.
While you'll learn from both, it's better to do the latter. Your team members can provide constructive criticism so that you improve exponentially faster than you would through making real-life cold call mistakes.
10. Be Positive
Cold calling can be a blood sport. It's hard not to bruise your ego a bit in the process, and there’s a good reason most salespeople develop thick skin.
However, maintaining a positive attitude can propel you through a cold call session. Your positive attitude can also impact and appeal to your prospective customer. If they are a recipient of your positivity and enthusiasm, they are more likely to hear you out. Believe it or not, simply smiling as you talk can make a big difference, as a smile can actually be heard!
11. Call Your Prospect Multiple Times
If your prospect hasn't asked you to stop calling, then keep calling.
Remember, it takes on average between 9 to 12 interactions before a prospect has built enough awareness and trust to try your product. Some of those interactions are over blog posts, emails, and ads, but many are over the phone, especially in the B2B space.
Most salespeople give up too early. Be the one that's persistent.
12. Call Multiple Prospects
Cold calling is a numbers game. The more you call, the better your odds are of getting a new prospect. But don't just randomly call a variety of prospects. Focus on one industry at a time. This allows you to personalize your message each day to the specific pain points in a particular industry without getting confused or forgetting a key point.
If you only deal with a specific industry, consider targeting other criteria such as company size or how you obtained their contact information (i.e. did you collect their information as part of an inbound strategy or did you find it through research?).
You can save yourself the hassle by using a modern and intuitive power dialer software. While some dialer software results in an off-putting delay that increases hang-ups, PhoneBurner's connections are delay-free.
13. Take Notes
You'll learn from each call you make, even if that call results in a hang-up. In addition to taking notes about a prospect before the call, also take notes during and after the call so that future calls build on what you already know.
PhoneBurner has a built-in CRM that allows you to access notes about your prospect and also record new information as you learn it. Find out more about PhoneBurner's CRM feature here.
14. Embrace Rejection
With cold calling comes rejection. It's inevitable. Break through the fear by implementing the above preparation strategies. Also remember not to take it personally.
If they say “no,” don't be afraid to ask why you're not a viable solution right now. Even if you can't move forward with that particular prospect, you can learn more information that can help you on your future calls.
No one likes rejection and with cold calling, you're often subjected to non-stop rejections. But, like most things in life, you can learn to stack the deck in your favor.
With positivity and persistence (and this handy list of cold calling tips), it should be a cinch to improve your success rate with B2B cold calls going forward.