Warming Up to Cold Calls: 10 Cold Calling Techniques for New Sales Reps
It’s more challenging than ever to get prospects to respond to cold emails. One reason is simply email fatigue.
The pandemic triggered the assumption that because people weren’t working in the office that they could only be contacted by email. As a result, an email tidal wave slammed onto prospects, and they stopped responding. In 2020, the average cold email response rate dropped below 1% for the first time, according to HubSpot. And that continued to get worse in 2021.
Sellers incorrectly assumed people didn’t talk on the phone while working from home. In fact, the opposite is true. People craved connection, and the smartphone became a critical device during that time.
If you’ve been avoiding the phone for the past two years, you need to get over that. Prospects aren’t going back to the office full time. Hybrid work is here to stay. And if you want to have meetings with prospects, you must call them.
I had the opportunity to talk with Chris Beall, CEO of ConnectAndSell, about the benefits of cold calling during a recent webinar, How to Improve Cold Call Success Rates. What follows are some insights he shared, as well as cold calling techniques that top-performing sellers use to get meetings with prospects.
4 Reasons Why Cold Calling Is Important
Talking on the phone may not be your cup of tea. For many, it’s daunting and intimidating. You’re interrupting someone’s day—someone who doesn’t have a clue who you are, what your product is, or why you’re calling them. Then there’s the added pressure of having such a small window of time to connect with the prospect, make an impression, and get the meeting.
Those cold conversations, however, are powerful and are proven to be an effective way to set up meetings. Here are four reasons why they are so important.
- Faster way to get meetings: With the right approach, you can get a prospect to agree to a meeting in about a minute. It takes 7 seconds to establish trust with the prospect and 1 minute 8 seconds to get them to agree to a meeting, Beall said. There’s no need to bond and develop rapport with a person to get a meeting. That comes in later meetings.
- Higher success rates: Cold calls work in every industry. And if done well, high-performing sellers can achieve a 30% appointment rate.
- Conversations lead to relationships: Meetings aren’t the only measure of success from phone calls. Often, cold calls lead to connections on social media, email conversations, or follow-up phone calls, Beall said. And those connections and conversations can lead to a meeting.
- Improved email engagement: If you send an email to someone immediately after a phone conversation and use this subject line: “Thanks for the conversation today,” they are 14 times more likely to open the email and respond, Beall said.
10 Cold Calling Tips
With the right cold calling techniques and coaching, any sales rep—in any industry—can achieve cold calling success. Here are 10 tips sellers can use today to start getting meetings with prospects.
1. Use “Pattern Interrupts” in Your Opening
Prospects are tuned into the typical cold call opening and have objections ready to roll off the tongue the moment they hear them. So, avoid openings like these: “Can I have a minute of your time?” or “Is this a good time for you to talk?”
Instead say something that throws the prospect off guard or causes them to think for a moment. Some examples:
- “Hi, Mr. Smith. This is Rich. If I told you this was a cold call, would you want to hang up?”
- “Mr. Smith, this is Rich. Can I have 27 seconds to explain why I’ve decided to call today?”
The key is to think of an opening that is unique, unusual, or makes you sound different than average callers.
2. Delay Your Pitch
Prospects aren’t ready for immediate pitches. Chances are you’ve interrupted them, and they are still thinking about what they were working on when your call came in. Your goal is to get them to agree to talk.
One way to do that is to ask, “Do you have 27 seconds for me to tell you why I’ve called?” You aren’t asking for the world, but you’re getting permission for more time. If they say no, you can move on. If they say yes, move to the next stage of the call.
3. Personalize the Conversation
The most successful cold calls are when the seller presents a valid reason for getting in touch. Use a trigger event that sets up your value proposition. Some examples:
- “I read an article you recently wrote about common mistakes made by sales reps on sales calls, and it really resonated with some of my own thoughts on the topic.”
- “I noticed online that you are hiring aggressively for SDRs in your London office. …”
Within seconds, you make the cold call about the prospect, demonstrate you’ve done your homework, and in most cases, earn the right for more time.
4. Use the Right Words
You want to get prospects talking about problems they’re dealing with. More importantly, though, you want to use specific words. Analysis of high-performing sellers show using these specific words and phrases led to meetings:
- Don’t have the time
- Missed opportunities
5. Turn Your Pitch into an Infomercial
There is no faster way to bore and annoy a prospect than to fill their ears with your product. Instead, treat your elevator pitch as an advertisement. Lead with a problem your product solves and ask whether that resonates with them. Some examples:
- “Ms. Jones, have you ever been frustrated by the fact that only 1 or 2 reps on your sales team generates most of the team’s revenue?”
- “Ms. Jones, when onboarding sales reps, do you find it painful at how long it can take to ramp a new hire to becoming a top performer?”
By asking questions like those, you position the problem—one you know your product can solve. Then you can follow their response with a solution, while being mindful that it still should not be a product pitch. For example:
- “I help sales leaders in industries like yours better understand what their top sales reps say differently in their sales conversations, so they can get more of their team shouldering the revenue number.”
- “I help sales leaders in companies like yours ramp up more new hires to top-performer level up to 1/3 quicker by giving them access to example sales calls, which lead to successful outcomes.”
6. Ask a Strong Question and Listen
A lot of sales reps make the mistake of talking too much. They continue to talk about product features and don’t encourage dialogue. When that happens, prospects are more likely to end the conversation, saying they have another meeting or to send more information.
Instead ask a question that allows the prospect to expand on why a specific problem you mentioned resonated with them. And listen. Once the prospect admits they have a problem, they are more likely to keep talking with you.
7. Embrace Objections
Sales reps typically don’t enjoy receiving objections, but the most successful ones embrace it. An objection is a piece of immediate, real-time feedback on your cold calling technique. It’s free training on how you can be better next time. Change your thinking to welcome the objection and you will reap the rewards.
Example objection: “We don’t have budget for this right now.”
To overcome objections like that, respond by first acknowledging the prospect’s situation and then provide a possible solution. In this scenario, the sales rep could say, “I understand. In fact, most people I speak with typically don’t have a budget set aside for solutions like ours. That’s why I am keen to just see if there is an opportunity for us to help you. And if there is, we could figure out a business case together if it makes sense.”
8. Keep Conversations Short
The big driver of cold conversations is the desire of the prospect to get off the call with their self-image intact, Beall said. They don’t think, “I’m so glad a rep called me out of the blue and told me how to do my job.” They’re looking to get off the call. And the longer you stay on, going back and forth with them, the less your chance is of getting a meeting.
9. Be Specific when Scheduling Follow-Up Calls
In their rush to get off the phone with you, a prospect might say, “Call me next Tuesday morning.” Don’t get off the call without setting a specific date and time and sending a meeting invitation. Include in the meeting invitation instructions about the objective of the call, call-in numbers, and any other related information.
10. Make Follow-up Conversations Relevant
At the start of your follow-up call, mention the reason the prospect gave for not being able to talk. It’s a sure-fire way to help them remember you, build trust, and warm up the call.
For example, if you call someone and they say it’s a terrible time to talk because they’re getting into a taxi, mention that in your follow-up: “The last time I called, you said it was a bad time and you were getting into a taxi. I hope this is a better time for you to talk.”
Want more cold calling tips and techniques? Watch How to Improve Cold Call Success Rates to learn how to execute a phone-first outbound strategy to connect with prospects and dominate your market.