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What is cold calling?
Cold calling is an outbound sales prospecting technique when you call someone — who doesn’t already know you — without an appointment. It's an inside sales approach as your sales team — cold callers — reaches out to potential customers remotely through the phone, email or social media.Cold calling can be:
Cold-cold: When the call is your first touchpoint with a prospect
Warm-cold: When you’ve reached out to someone through other channels but aren’t sure whether they know you
Hot-cold: When you’ve established prior contact with a potential client through other media, such as email, LinkedIn or a referral
Why is cold calling important?
The truth of the matter is that cold calling is one of the most effective tools for breaking into an account and getting a hold of the prospect. The reason they fail is that they’re too cold.
It’s not uncommon to wonder whether cold calling is effective in B2B sales.
However, despite controversial opinions, B2B sales teams use cold calling for lead generation, engaging with potential customers and winning multi-million dollar deals.
Cold calling is one of the most effective methods of generating high-value appointments with prospects who fit your ideal customer profile.
In 2022, cold calling doesn’t just mean dialing the phone, but can also include leveraging other channels like emails (cold emails) and social media platforms like LinkedIn (cold messaging).
Moreover, cold calling isn't as cold as it used to be. It's more like warm calling, as your prospects could have looked you up online and go through your website, LinkedIn, reviews and testimonials even before your first outreach.
How effective is cold calling?
The RAIN Group conducted a study that found email and phone to be two of the five most effective ways to do outreach. The study also found that:
82% of buyers accept meetings with salespeople who proactively reach out to them.
71% want to hear from salespeople when they explore new ideas and possibilities for improving their businesses.
75% of executive-level decision-makers are more likely to take a meeting and connect with cold callers if they demonstrate value with 100% customized ROI cases.
7 out of 10 buyers are willing to accept cold sales calls. 56% of these buyers are open to spending 5-10 minutes on the phone with the sales rep to evaluate whether the solution offered is of any value.
So, cold calling can increase your prospects, demos and sales opportunities — provided the tone and content are relevant to the prospect.
Cold calling examples
Companies in telecommunications or in finance selling insurance and credit cards use telemarketing to get new clients.
Employing telemarketing to find new opportunities in sales processes involving decision-makers won’t deliver. However, effective and well-strategized cold calling can get results.
For instance, a 25-year-old startup founder reached out to Mark Cuban through a cold email and bagged an investment for The Zebra, his insurance rate comparison company.
Similarly, two aerospace engineers secured half a million dollars in capital for their space startup by cold-emailing Mark Cuban.
Uber got started with its business by cold-calling limousine and chauffeur businesses in San Francisco.
These are examples of cold calling and cold emailing delivering results, provided the pitch, tone, and content are hyper-customized and tailored to suit the prospect’s needs.
How can you be successful with cold calling?
It’s important to understand the purpose of cold calling in B2B sales. The goal isn’t to make a sale with the first contact — be it an email, a LinkedIn message, or a phone call.
Instead, the purpose of the first call in cold calling is to gather information and build a rapport.The next step is to prepare for a cold call with a solid strategy. A good approach is to divide your cold call into three parts: before, during and after the call.
Interested in learning more? Then check out our guide to acing cold calling and winning deals.
This should be followed by sales training and coaching to help your sales professionals improve their success rates.
Cold calling tips for B2B sales
Here are some cold calling tips and best practices to adopt to be successful with cold calling:
Knowing whom you’re calling and why is crucial for developing sales pitches and cold calling scripts that work. As a result, salespeople sound more relaxed and prepared for their conversations.
So, it would help if you start by finding prospects that match your ideal customer profile and then understand their business to know how your product can help them with their revenue, costs, or productivity.
You can use tools such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Zoominfo and Apollo to find potential leads and narrow down your prospects.
According to Bob Perkins, empathy should be more genuine and caring. He asks salespeople to lead their cold calls with:
“What new challenges are you facing? I'm here to help and give you something that can help you if I can.”
One of the best approaches to help sales reps develop empathy is to make them experience it, participate in actual cold calls as observers and practice scenarios with role-playing or simulations. A sales training program with regular reinforcement through real-time sales coaching is an excellent technique.
According to Ike Kreiger, prospects don't care what you do or how you do it. All they care about is what you can do for them. That’s why it’s essential to let the prospect know the problem you solve before talking about yourself or your solution’s functionality.
Brian Tracy offers similar advice:
“Remember, it is about them, not about you. Client-centered selling is professional selling. You are only selling professionally when you are talking to your client about their wants and needs.”
Your prospects have different channel preferences and communication styles. So, mixing and matching channels can help you reach out to new potential customers wherever they feel comfortable.
A multi-channel campaign — social media (LinkedIn), email, phone — with multiple touchpoints and different levels of personalization can help you make successful cold calls.
According to RAIN Group, buyers say that 58% of their sales calls aren’t valuable.
The report also states that buyers find salespeople sendling generic or automatic-process mail merge emails annoying. The same applies for sales reps initiating conversations without even looking up their prospects on LinkedIn.
Only 37% of prospects in a HubSpot survey felt sales reps who’d made cold calls to them had given information relevant to them. Yet, nearly 75% of salespeople thought they were spot-on with what they knew and pitched.
That’s why sales teams should double-down on research to understand the prospect’s business, industry, pain points, opportunities and best practices.
Besides grabbing the prospect’s attention, this level of research helps anticipate the questions and prepare for potential objections in advance and lets salespeople sharpen their sales scripts or cold calling templates.
According to Brian Tracy, “ask” is the magic word for increasing sales.
He recommends being open, honest, genuine, and asking questions out of curiosity.
This approach is great if you use cold calls as your discovery calls as you can gather information on their pain points, the market landscape and trends, and use these insights to improve your conversion rates.
People across industries and roles use different languages — formal/casual, business/technical, straightforward/diplomatic and so on.
Through research, sales teams must match the language of their potential client to connect with them and make an impact during sales calls.
That’s where a cold calling script and a conversation intelligence tool like Wingman can help. For instance, one of Wingman’s customers noticed that the words they used to set up demos affected their no-show rates by almost 50%.
Most prospects might hesitate answering phone calls from unknown area or country codes. So, you could end up losing potential opportunities. That's why it's a good practice to use local phone numbers to call your leads, as it will have a higher connection rate.
It takes anywhere between 5-8 sales calls to convert a prospect into an opportunity. These follow-ups can also mix and match channels and messaging so that you’re visible and on top of your prospect’s mind.
Cold calling techniques for B2B sales
Gong’s cold call stats report that sales reps who start cold calls with “How have you been?” are 6.6x more likely to get the desired outcome from their conversations. Gong calls it pattern interrupt — altering the natural thought pattern and considers it to be more effective than scripts starting with, "Is this a bad time for you?".
However, this cold calling opener is also a great way to empathize with the prospect by attempting to understand their situation.
Sales reps should also specify the time investment right at the beginning as people are more keen on entertaining calls that are quick and precise.
If you’re looking for a similar approach to use on LinkedIn, here’s an example that combines the principles of pattern interrupt, empathy, brevity and commitment:
"I know we haven't spoken before. Can I tell you really quickly why I'm calling and then you let me know if we should keep on talking....is that cool?"
Objections increase the probability of closing deals, as according to Wingman’s data, the deal won rate went up by almost 30% whenever the prospects raised an objection.
That’s why sales organizations should train their reps to handle objections so that they address their prospect’s concerns and take the conversation forward.
According to HubSpot:
“A successful sale usually happens because the product or service you sell was within the prospect's budget, you had the authority to convince them, they actually needed the service or product, and the timing was right.
This phenomenon is commonly referred to as BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, and Timing).
”That’s why the research and cold call preparation stage should account for BANT and include cold calling scripts on handling objections around interest, trust, budget, authority, timing and the status quo.
Learn how to handle objections with our in-depth, data-driven guide.
It’s best to end the call with a call to action or by going through the next steps. A good approach is to add specifics such as the date and time. Here’s an example:
“Let’s catch up on Zoom at 3pm on the 21st. How does that sound?”
Here’s an article with great sales closing techniques to seal the deal.
Dealing with voicemails and gatekeepers
While preparing for the call, you should also consider having pitches for:
With cold calling, it’s not uncommon to reach a voicemail. During such situations, it’s a good approach to start with relevant insight and offer value that sets you apart from the rest. The pitch shouldn’t exceed 30 seconds and also, shouldn’t come across as sales-y.
Our CEO Shruti Kapoor recommends ending the voice mail with a pattern interrupt — leave it hanging, with no phone number or company name. That’s because the purpose of voicemail is to promote either an email, a direct message or a call.
When targeting decision-makers, you might run into gatekeepers — personal assistants or team members. The best way to get through is to research the gatekeeper and be direct yet respectful with your message and tone.
According to Mark Smith, a BDR at Proposify, sales reps should confidently use the first name of the decision-maker to lead the conversation and improve their chances of connecting with the decision-maker.