Cold calling might not be easy, or trendy, but it remains an extremely effective lead generation and appointment-setting strategy—if done well.
The problem for a lot of businesses is they don’t have the time or resources to maintain a consistent cold calling campaign on their own. It’s also not a popular task among sales reps; recent surveys have shown that 63% of reps consider cold calling the worst part of their jobs.
But if you’re not cold calling, or if you’re doing it haphazardly or infrequently, you’re missing out on countless potential sales opportunities. Statistics compiled by career-building website Zippia reveal that 82% of buyers have accepted sales meetings after a connection that began with a cold call. And companies that don’t believe in the effectiveness of cold calling experience 42% less growth than those that do.
VSA has seen firsthand how cold calls have helped our clients build relationships, fill pipelines, and close deals.
Here are five cold calling tips and best practices we’ve found make for productive campaigns:
1. Have a strong list
There are people who believe cold calling is a waste of time, and if you’re not targeting the right prospects, they’re absolutely right. Knowing the most appropriate companies to call, asking for the right decision makers, and having the most up-to-date contact information is critical for a successful calling program. Your messaging needs to be relevant to the needs of the prospects you’re calling, or else they’ve got no reason to listen.
VSA has partnered with top-tier providers ZoomInfo and SalesIntel.io, in addition to our other custom list-building tools, to ensure we’re reaching out to the prospects that make the most sense for each client. If you’ve already got your own list, we work closely with you to help enhance it.
Of course, as with every other aspect of a calling campaign, no list should be set in stone. It’s important to use data accumulated after a program begins to continuously make sure you’re calling the right people.
2. Make a positive first impression with a prospect
Surveys have shown that 57% of successful B2B C-level executives prefer to be contacted by phone, so the notion that nobody likes receiving cold calls is false. Still, most people are wary when they get an unexpected call from a stranger and are unlikely to engage in conversation if they’re immediately turned off by something they hear.
The purpose of the first few seconds of a cold call is to give the prospect a reason to stay on the phone for the next few seconds. You don’t want to immediately launch into a sales pitch, but you also don’t want to waste time getting to the point of the call.
Instead, quickly introduce yourself, acknowledge you’re an interruption, briefly describe a key pain point your product or service helps solve, and clearly state the reason for your call (which, in most cases, is to schedule a longer conversation).
Ideally, this should all happen within about the first 30 seconds of the call.
3. It’s OK to be scripted; it’s not OK to sound scripted
VSA collaborates with all our clients to develop cold call scripts for every campaign. We’ve found it’s beneficial for our Business Development Representatives (BDRs) to have scripts in front of them, as opposed to simply trying to wing it during the sales conversation. This keeps them on-point with messaging and ensures the relevant information is always at their fingertips.
At the same time, BDRs should never be robotic in their delivery; it’s often beneficial to provide personal touches during the call. A prospect is much more likely to engage when they feel like they’re having a genuine conversation and not listening to somebody monotonically recite a series of scripted lines. It’s important to talk to your prospects, not at them.
4. Be prepared for objections
Every cold call script should include a list of common objections and suggested responses. These could be universal pushbacks such as “We’re good, thanks,” or “Now’s not a good time” to objections that are unique to a client’s specific offering. Either way, preparing responses to likely objections in advance ensures BDRs are never caught off guard by a prospect’s attempt to rush off the phone.
Some prospects are determined to hang up no matter what, but others can be swayed to reconsider if given a strong enough reason to keep listening. Still, others have legitimate reasons for a lack of interest (they just renewed a contract, they’re happy with their current vendor, there’s no money in the budget, etc). That’s why it’s important to emphasize objection handling during coaching and training sessions with BDRs. There’s a fine line between countering a prospect’s objection and being too pushy, but the right preparation can make it easier to navigate that line.
5. Don’t give up!
The prevailing wisdom is that it takes a sales rep or sales professional team an average of eight cold call attempts to reach a prospect. And yet according to statistics compiled by Chicago-based consulting firm IRC, 44% of salespeople give up after only one follow-up call, and only 8% follow up more than five times. Considering that 93% of cold leads that convert happen after six calls, that’s a lot of missed opportunities for successful sales.
Every effective cold call you make can potentially improve the quality of the next call. Perhaps you’ve developed a rapport with a gatekeeper, who will be more likely to connect you with the decision maker the next time they pick up the phone. Or maybe you’ve gathered valuable information about the best time to call back or the right person to speak with. Even if a prospect says they’re not interested, you might learn of another person at the company with the authority to make purchasing decisions.
VSA knows the value of follow-up calls, but we do not have a hard-and-fast rule when it comes to how many we make. Some industries, such as healthcare, often require a dozen calls or more to reach a decision maker who will answer the phone, while others begin to show diminishing returns by around the eighth call. The data helps determine how many calls make sense for each individual client.
Cold calling can be frustrating, it’s true. Getting busy decision-makers on the phone isn’t easy, and getting them to agree to speak with your sales reps can be even more challenging. Most sales blogs list the cold call success rate at about 2%.
Still, if a solid cold calling technique is done consistently and correctly, they are a crucial first step in the sales process. Backed by the right data, technology, strategies, and skillsets, cold calls are absolutely an effective means of generating leads and filling pipelines.