The Ultimate Guide to "Cold" Calling: A Comprehensive Plan for Improving Your Outbound Calls

Jeff Osness

April 22, 2024

15 mins

Table of Contents


  • We recommend calling prospects who have consented to being contacted instead of cold calling outright. This opens your team up to less risk and gives you a higher likelihood of success on your outbound calls.
  • PhoneBurner provides features that can help your outbound calling by improving live answer rates and setting you up for better conversations. These range from Branded Caller ID to CRM integrations and more.
  • Some calling techniques work for B2B and B2C calls—like smiling or standing up while you’re on the phone to improve the energy you’re conveying in your voice.
  • Other techniques are more specific to the type of call you’re on. Understanding B2B buyers is vital for success on outbound calls to businesses, while selling solutions and understanding your value is often the key to successful B2C sales calls.

Every sales rep has probably heard or used the term “cold calling” at some point in their careers—but while this basic outreach technique is common, many people also find it challenging. That goes for prospects on the other end of the line, too. In fact, cold calling can even be perceived as annoying and unethical if you’re not careful about it. So what should you do?

We’re here to help. Below, the PhoneBurner team teaches you how to maximize the value of your outbound calls by focusing on prospects you already have a business relationship with, shows you how our industry-leading power dialer can help, and provides you with a list of tips for making outbound calls in different situations.

Why Cold Calling Isn’t Actually the Best Outbound Strategy

Cold calling is one of those terms that means different things to different people.

Some use it as a catch-all term for any and all call campaigns where a list is involved.

Some use a more specific definition, and consider cold calling any calling activity where the contact is not fully expecting your call. In other words, calling a customer to tell them about your spring sale is a cold call.

And for some, cold calling literally means calling “cold” lists; that is, people who you have no business relationship with and no consent to call.

At PhoneBurner, this third definition is something we don’t recommend. Beyond compliance considerations, we believe the days of using cold, bulk lead lists to “spray and pray” for business are behind us. That said, calling as a sales strategy is very much alive… when you call the right people. 

As part of PhoneBurner’s Responsible Communications initiative, we stress the importance of trust and safety on all calls initiated through our platform. We also emphasize the importance of having meaningful conversations instead of simply focusing on call volume.

Customer picking up call from sales rep after opting in to contact

Customer picking up call from sales rep after opting in to contact

Who to “Cold” Call

Fact: Your calls are far more likely to be answered, and you’re much more likely to have a positive conversation, if you’re contacting a prospect who knows you, or at least knows of you having interacted with your brand, website, or one of your owned resources or assets. So try focusing your “cold” calls on:

  • Prospects who have voluntarily opted in to receive calls: These people have already expressed an interest in what you’re selling and consented to being contacted. Perhaps they’ve filled out a form, requested information, created an account, or attended an event. You have far greater potential with targeted leads like these.
  • Aging prospects with whom you still have a relationship: These people might not be directly expecting your call, but reaching out to them can often reignite their interest.
  • Existing customer lists: Don’t forget about existing customers as a high-potential bucket to contact by phone. Whether to improve your relationship via check-ins, inform about new products, services, and upsell opportunities, or extend an invitation to an event, calling customers can be as effective as calling prospects.

These strategies are a win-win. By focusing your outbound calls on people who want to receive them, you’ll improve live answer rates, prospect experience, and conversions.

How PhoneBurner Can Help

PhoneBurner uses several features to improve live answer rates on outbound calls and help drive more meaningful interactions with prospects. These include:

  • Branded Caller ID: Encourage live answers by using numbers prospects recognize.
  • Tier 1 Carrier Support: Reduce the risk of calls being mislabeled as “Spam” or “Scam Likely”.
  • CRM Integrations: Record data for each prospect and use it to power conversations.
  • Workflow Automation: Complete post-call tasks in seconds for seamless follow-ups.

Start your free trial of PhoneBurner here—then read on for a list of tips you can use to improve the conversations you’ll start with our platform.

Customer picking up call from sales rep after opting in to contact

General Tips for Improving Outbound Calls


According to a study by the University of Kansas, smiling during a stressful situation (like cold calling) can lower your heart rate and reduce your stress—even if it’s a fake smile.

Not only does smiling affect how people see you, it also changes the way you speak. Therefore, smiling can actually improve your success rate on cold calls. Even though your prospects cannot physically see you, they can still sense your demeanor by listening to the tone of your voice.

If your voice is warm and confident, you will have better chances to strike a conversation. If you sound forceful and rushed, they will quickly decline.

Stand Up While Talking

People can sense your energy levels by the tone of your voice. For example, when you sit or hunch over, the tone of your voice can naturally drop in energy and create a boring conversation with your prospect.

As a cold caller, your voice is your most powerful tool—so you want to support it in every way you can. In addition to smiling while on the phone, try standing up! This can help make you feel more confident and in control.

Here are some good tips on how to improve your speech while standing:

  • Practice power poses to give yourself more confidence
  • Stand with your chest wide open to give your lungs as much room to expand as possible
  • Use your hands when speaking for better clarity and more energy

Have a Strong Opening Script

The first few seconds of a call can make or break your success.

That’s why it’s so important to have a strong opening script that paves the way for a productive conversation. Good openers depend on a number of factors. Your industry, the kind of list you’re calling, even the kind of person you are (what works for some, doesn’t work for others).

Here’s a list of 9 call openers to add to your arsenal so that more of your answered calls turn into quality conversations.

Have a Great Voicemail Script

The reality is, a lot of calls go to voicemail. Good voicemails can earn you callbacks, or increase your chances of a live answer on a subsequent call. With Apple’s Live Voicemail feature, iPhone contacts can see a live transcript of your message, and accept your call as you leave it!

Bottom line? A great voicemail script is vital for outreach. With PhoneBurner you can leave custom messages when you choose, or leave one-click pre-recorded voicemail messages to save time. For more help, see our tips to improve sales voicemails.

Practice Selling by Having More Conversations

Conversations should be practiced. Good sales teams always have a pre-game warm-up session preparing them for a great day in successful cold calling. But you can also practice IRL by having conversations with the people you see every day.

Make it a priority to have more interactions to build your comfort muscle. Try talking to cashiers, baristas, neighbors, and anyone else you see on a daily basis. This will help you build social momentum and improve the conversations you have with potential customers.

See Also: How to Make a Conversation Interesting

Use Power Words

Tim David wrote an impactful book called Magic Words, which dives into the semantic meaning of how words are influential and can inspire people to take action.

Here are seven of his power words to use on your next cold call:

  • Yes: Saying “yes” enacts laws of agreeability, which David says, “eases tensions, creates rapport, and opens minds.”
  • But: Whenever you say the word “but”, you’re essentially erasing everything you said before it. So if you must say “but”, have the following words be positive and memorable.
  • Because: Using the word “because” adds depth to the original statement which can add strength to your pitch, giving prospects more reason to buy.
  • Their Name: A person’s name is their favorite word and it breaks through an important attention barrier. When you say a person’s name, it heightens their interest and focus which makes selling your product/service much easier.
  • If: It’s not easy to get people to imagine themselves using your product or service. By including the word “if” in a scenario, selling will be much easier because you got them to envision themselves as the perfect customer.
  • Help: When you ask for help, you are showing vulnerability. Asking for help is also a way to connect with others and foster engagement. According to David, fostering engagement “is a powerful force in creating connection and rapport.” which makes people more willing to do business with you.
  • Thanks: Thank your customers, they love to feel appreciated. Because customers know that you deal with many conversations a day, they will be more likely to fall in love with your brand when they receive a personalized message of thanks.

Add these words to your next sales pitch to get the most out of your “cold” calls.

Sell the Benefits

People don’t buy based on features, they buy based on benefits. On your next sales phone call, focus on the advantages your product will bring to your prospects.

Here are some effective ways to frame the benefits of anything you’re selling:

  • How your product will save them time
  • How your product will better their output
  • How your product will better their health
  • How your product can maximize their profits

Ask Good Questions

The better you know your prospect, the easier it is to sell. In order to learn more about your prospect, you must ask questions about their wants, needs, and the problems they’re trying to solve. This also helps you build stronger relationships with them.

Here are some sample questions to start:

  • Most [job title/audience qualifier] I speak to express [priority X/pain point Y]. Does that resonate?
  • What are some short or long-term goals that you want to achieve?
  • Is there any gap in your current solution that would benefit you to fix?
  • What’s holding you back from reaching your goals?
  • What’s your greatest strength or weakness? And how can you overcome this?
  • Why did you choose this particular product?

Be Genuine

People buy from those they like and trust. If you are anything less than honest and forthright with your prospects, it will destroy not only the relationship you have fostered but all the potential referrals your prospect could have given you.

So be honest about your product, how it helps, and even where it falls short. Show your prospects every detail of information that will help them make the right decision. Even if the sale doesn’t go through, they could potentially refer you to more leads just because you fostered a genuine relationship.

Smiling sales rep on B2C phone call

How to Improve B2C Calls

Seek To Solve Instead Of Sell

Hard-selling to customers is out; providing solutions is in. Successful B2C calling now hinges upon your ability to learn about prospects so that you can provide the most value during your sales approach.

Be Prepared

The mantra that "sales is a numbers game" has long been debated. But there's no denying that a high quantity of conversations means nothing unless you're having quality conversations.

That means investment in better, more targeted leads, using software to help qualify potential prospects, encouraging referrals, stronger email and social outreach, better research prior to dialing, and prepared scripts that effectively speak to your prospect's goals and pain points.

Use a Single Line Dialer

No one likes answering the phone and hearing dead air while an agent comes on the line. It's a surefire way to have your cold calls start off on the wrong foot.

That's why smart sales organizations are choosing power dialers over multi-line dialers such as predictive dialers—which increase call volume, but often at the expense of call quality.

See Also: Predictive Dialer Software vs. Power Dialing Systems

Be Convinced Of Your Value

B2C calling is a job in which a lot of people make it clear they don't want to talk to you. That's okay. Your work is still very valuable and results in a lot of happy clients.

As a sales professional who calls for prospects and appointments, commit to not letting rejection get the best of you. Instead, learn from mistakes, focus on what you can control, and remember all of the positive responses you receive along the way.

Never Stop Building Your Rejection/Objection Response Library

There are two great ways to get past rejections and objections:

  • Adjust your script to prevent the objections from being raised in the first place. Rejection is often a sign that you failed to credibly convey the right value or benefit upfront.
  • Have a response prepared that immediately causes the prospect to re-think their position. Keep a library of the objections you get and the responses you can use to effectively get the conversation going again.

Learn Tempo

A successful call starts off with the right tempo and does not move too quickly or slowly towards the close. One of the biggest indications that your tempo is off is when customers interrupt you and ask you to send more information. At that point, the sale is likely lost because you made your pitch too soon or got ahead of yourself. Or, you took too long to illustrate the benefit that would have moved the conversation forward.

The best way to learn tempo is to focus on how naturally (or, unnaturally) calls progress and by paying attention to your prospects' responses and tone. It’s an art, but practice makes perfect.

Focus on the Call

If, during a cold call, you are responding to intra-office messages, getting distracted by things or people around you, or getting lost reading your notes, then your calls are likely to go off the rails.

Staying on target means better active listening and more success. Read our guide on how to increase sales with active listening.

Get Training

Even the most experienced cold callers make repeated mistakes, or simply have room for improvement.

Unless you're proactive about being evaluated, getting feedback, and making adjustments you're likely not as successful as you could be. PhoneBurner’s Whisper, Listen-In, and Barge features can help sales managers coach their agents in real-time and join calls when needed, driving better results and improving long-term performance.

Sales rep on B2B sales call in office

How to Improve B2B Calls

Understand the B2B Buyer

Acknowledge that B2B purchasing involves multiple stakeholders. Focus on building relationships rather than making an immediate sale. Initiate curiosity and prepare for ongoing discussions.

See Also: Turn Gatekeepers into Advocates Instantly

Create a Focused Prospecting List

Build a targeted list based on job title, industry, and other relevant details. Use concise industry research to understand general trends, saving deep dives for later stages. Using a CRM is essential here. PhoneBurner integrates with 200+ CRMs to make tracking prospect information easy.

Warm Up the Cold Call

Enhance initial contact by engaging on social media or sending informative emails, resources, or even videos. This primes your prospects, making a successful cold call more likely.

Establish Multi-Pronged Goals

Instead of aiming for a direct sale, set incremental goals like providing information or scheduling demos to progressively guide prospects through the sales funnel. Since business decisions often involve several layers of consideration, this kind of long game is vital for success.

Utilize an In-Call Checklist

Replace rigid scripts with a flexible in-call checklist to maintain structure while ensuring a natural conversation flow. Adapt your approach based on the call’s progress.

Practice Makes Perfect

Talking to others in your workplace is a great way to practice B2B calls. Regularly role-play with colleagues to refine your approach and adapt based on feedback, improving your effectiveness and confidence on real calls.

Persist with Follow-Ups

Continue to contact your prospects regularly, as multiple interactions are often necessary before a B2B sale materializes. Persistence pays off.

Diversify Your Calls

Focus your calling efforts on specific industries daily to tailor your pitch effectively. Utilize efficient tools like power dialers to improve call quality and success rates.

Take Detailed Notes

Document insights from each call to tailor future interactions more precisely. Utilize CRM tools to maintain and access these notes easily.

Embrace Rejection as an Opportunity

Learn from each rejection by asking for feedback and using it to enhance your future calling strategies. Rejection is not personal, but an opportunity to improve.

Give Your Outbound Calls a Boost

Whether you’re calling a new prospect who has opted in, an aging one with whom you want to rekindle interest, or a business that you have a relationship with, the small details often make the difference between a closed sale and a missed opportunity. Use the tips above to set the right tone off the top and drive positive outcomes for your outbound calls.

The tools you use can give you an edge as well—and PhoneBurner is free to try! Start with a free trial and see how we can empower you and your team to have more conversations that matter.

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