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Cold Calling: How To Turn Prospects Into Customers

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We may live in the time of TikTok, where an unknown number calling your phone strikes fear, but in my 13 years of training sales teams, I’ve found nothing is more impactful than the cold call. In fact, cold calling accounts for up to 50% of new deals, according to Dale Carnegie Training.

The hard truth, though, is that cold calling can be painful. Many sellers avoid it whenever possible, fearing confrontation and rejection. But with the right cold calling tips, it’s actually easier than you think. With a few simple strategies — most rooted in solid research and planning — you can make successful cold calls without getting cold feet.

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What is cold calling?

Cold calling is a way to introduce your product or service by phone to people and businesses who otherwise wouldn’t be aware of your offerings. 

There are a few key steps involved. First, you need to identify your target prospect by determining the ideal business type and industry for your product. Then, conduct online research or use paid research agencies to identify businesses to target, as well as contact information (ideally of finance or operations leaders). 

After you’ve figured out who to call, you can then research the biggest pain points your target companies face, which you can use to draft a pitch or script. Last, but not least, make the call.

Why is cold calling important? 

With the advent of caller ID, cold calling may seem dated. But there’s a big reason why it still works: prospects have to respond in real time, which gives you an opportunity to address any concerns and gather a lot of information in a short period of time. Email or social media messaging may be convenient, but it gives the prospect a chance to think about your pitch and easily say no — or just not respond. 

Cold calling also helps prospects solve nagging problems with products and services they haven’t considered. To do that successfully, however, you need to thoroughly understand the prospect’s pain points and needs before the call. 

9 cold calling tips that will help you land new leads

The perfect cold call starts with preparation and research. This “pre-approach,” combined with some mental prep, will help you tailor your approach and communicate effectively. 

Here are some cold calling tips that can help you break through the initial fears and find success:

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1. Identify specific problems your prospect faces

Prospecting doesn’t work unless you are intimately familiar with the prospect’s unique challenges. Take some time to review their website (especially their blog), their social media accounts, and any news articles about them to see what pain points they’re dealing with. This allows you to frame your product features as solutions they need right now.

2. Collect case studies that show the success of your product

You can brag about your product or service all you want, but your customers make the most compelling case for you. They’re seen as more relatable and objective. That’s why you need testimonials and case studies that speak to the value of your product and how it solves your prospect’s pain points. Additionally, collecting any available data on ROI or customer performance can help you quantify the benefits of your product or service.

3. Draft a call intro, not a whole script (with the help of AI)

Once you’ve completed your research, draft a quick-hit intro script that ties together basic info about your company with an open-ended question. This allows you to collect more information you can use to frame your solution. 

Make sure you create a new script for each prospect (no two are alike, after all), keep it to no longer than 30 seconds, and include the following elements: 

  • A quick intro about you and what your company does – 10 seconds
    Hey there, Taylor! Glad we could connect. Jessie here at sales training company Dale Carnegie.
  • A point of connection, like a referral name or something you share in common, to help build rapport – 10 seconds
    I saw you at the recent sales training conference. Wanted to connect in person, but didn’t have the chance, so thought I’d give you a call. 
  • A note about why you’re calling, highlighting a key pain point for the prospect, and a prompt to gather more information – 10 seconds
    We’ve seen lower quota attainment in the XYZ industry. We are working closely with others in the industry to increase overall results by focusing on sales strategies. Would love to schedule a time to hear about your team and see if we may be able to help.

This is really all you need to draft. The rest of the call will depend on how the prospect responds to your open-ended question, like, “What specific pain points or bottlenecks are you looking to address?” Make sure you listen carefully, and only ask more questions to help you identify three key factors in their decision-making: time (when they need a solution), money (how much they can afford), and impact (what a perfect solution would look like, preferably framed by metrics they’re trying to hit). 

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Oh, and you don’t need to wrestle with wording. You can use generative AI tech to help you get the language right. 

4. Plan to call in the middle of the day

Your prospects may be increasingly distracted and busy. No wonder. Recent layoffs mean smaller teams are having to do the same amount of work. To ensure you’re maximizing your chance of getting a prospect on the phone, avoid calling during busy parts of the work day (typically first thing in the morning and the end of the day). 

You can also do a little social reconnaissance to see if your contact has obligations, like a major conference to attend, to make sure you’re reaching them when they’re able to answer the call. If calling during “best” hours doesn’t work, send an email and schedule a time to call. 

5. Practice (and breathe) before the call

Getting into the right mindset for cold calling is critical. If you rush in, anxious about the outcome, you’ll come across as frenzied. To ensure you’re confident and comfortable, do two important things: practice your pitch in front of a mirror or with a colleague, and take several deep breaths before you pick up the phone. 

Simple, right? It doesn’t need to be complicated. I’ve seen reps use these cold calling tips for years, and nothing else beats them.

6. Speak slowly and clearly — then listen

With script in hand and prospect on the phone, be sure you enunciate and articulate everything you’ve written down. You’re not trying to rush through it. You want the prospect to know who you are, why you’re a standout, and what you have to offer. 

After you get to your open-ended question, listen. No, really listen. Take notes as the prospect talks to help you frame follow-up questions. When there’s a natural pause, ask anything that might help you collect information on time, money, and impact (see tip #3 above). People like talking about themselves, so give them the opportunity.

7. Don’t mention your product until the end of the call

Collected enough information to fully understand your prospect’s needs? Now, it’s time to plant a seed. As you get ready to close the call (try to keep it to 15 minutes), connect one of the pain points mentioned with something you have to offer — a product feature, a low-cost subscription, or increased ROI. Let them know you have a viable solution that can be tailored to their needs. 

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Here’s the catch: don’t give away the store. Use this connection as an opportunity to ask for a follow-up meeting so you can explain your solution further. After all, this isn’t a sales call. It’s a cold call. 

8. Be clear about next steps

Many sellers put their energy into gathering information or making a pitch while cold calling and forget the ask at the end: How can you move the deal forward?

Know in advance where you want the call to land, and be prepared to ask for the next steps. For example, if they seem interested in product features, suggest scheduling a demo to walk them through your product. If they’re wavering on the real impact of your solution, send an email with case studies they can read. 

Make sure the next step is clear and, ideally, on the prospect’s calendar. You can even summarize next steps at the end of the call to make sure there’s no confusion. 

9. Take time to identify highs and lows after the call

One of my biggest cold calling tips is to take some time after the call for a self-assessment. The more cold calls you make, the more you can learn about what works and what doesn’t. That’s only possible when you take the time to analyze your calls. 

Don’t worry, this is only a five-minute exercise. Instead of just running through your call sheet, make a note of call highs and lows as soon as you hang up. Specifically, note moments when you felt confident and the prospect was engaged. What was being discussed in these moments? Do the same with lows. When did confidence flag and prospects disengage? 

As you continue to analyze your calls, you’ll identify patterns. This will inform how to draft your cold calling scripts and make it easier to approach prospects in the future. 

Take the plunge into cold calling 

Cold calling may not be the newest technique in the sales game, but it’s still an effective way to generate new business — if you do it right. By doing your research, building rapport, and giving your prospect a chance to share their problem in detail, you’ll make it easy to position your product as the ideal solution. 

What are you waiting for? Pick up the phone and start turning those calls into customers.

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