When it comes to cold calling, this right here is the worst advice:
“You were born with two ears and one mouth—listen twice as much as you talk.”
The “name of the game” in cold calling is different than other types of sales calls, such as sales discovery calls. Cold calls are not necessarily about listening or asking great questions.
They are about buying time, educating, and selling the meeting.
Achieving that goal is just as much about being listened to as it is listening well.
Let me explain.
We have a rapidly growing database of over 1 million sales call recordings. 90,380 of those (currently) are outbound, connected cold calls.
We analyzed the content of those cold calls with natural language processing. The aim was to use data to identify the anatomy of a successful cold call:
Successful cold calls were defined as those that ended up in a held follow-up meeting.
To maximize the insights we could surface, we filtered out “no answer” and IVR calls. In other words, the “unsuccessful” cold calls in this analysis still contained a conversation that we could analyze and compare to successful cold calling conversations.
Let’s take a look at what we uncovered.
The Name of the Game In Cold Calling Is Buying Time
The most striking difference between cold calls that result in a meeting and those that don’t comes down to how long you can keep the prospect on the phone:
The longer the call, the greater your odds of getting the meeting.
Every sentence you utter has one and only one purpose: to get the listener to listen to your next sentence.
Some of that involves passing the torch to the customer and getting him or her talking. But only so you can craft your next sentence more resonantly; more targeted.
Cold calls are won inch-by-inch, second-by-second. So pre-call planning (even a minute or two) is a good idea.
Let’s continue to unpack the data to bring more richness to our understanding.
After all, does length cause success? Or does success cause length?
4 Cold Call Statistics You Can’t Ignore
1) Successful Cold Calls Involve Less “Listening” Than Other Calls
The optimal “talk-to-listen” ratio for discovery calls is as low as 46:54. But cold calls are different.
The talk-to-listen ratio for successful cold calls is higher than unsuccessful ones. The rep “owns” more of the conversation:
Sure, it’s great to get the prospect talking if you can.
But only if it’s targeted (ever tried to ask “What are your priorities” on the outset of a cold call? How’d that work out for you?)
To get someone to agree to a meeting, you have to inform and educate them. That requires you to talk in a way that resonates. Let’s break down that “talk-to-listen” ratio into its component parts.
2) Successful cold calls involve longer (not shorter) “monologues” from the sales rep
The average “longest burst of talking” in a successful cold call is 37 seconds. By contrast, it’s only 25 seconds in unsuccessful cold calls.
Successful cold calls have 50% longer uninterrupted bursts of talking.
Yep, you read that right. Be careful with correlation and causation here. Maybe long monologues like this cause success.
But maybe the reps was given the opportunity to speak for that long as a result of something else. In either case, it’s another testament to the idea that buying more time is the name of the game.
3) Successful cold calls also involve more frequent “monologues” from the sales rep
There are 70% more 5+ second monologues in successful cold calls — 20 vs. 12 per call:
Let’s contrast these data points with what’s going on on the prospect’s side of the conversation.
4) The average prospect monologue length in successful cold calls is only 3.5 seconds
That is, how long you can get the prospect to talk uninterrupted. It’s 8 seconds in unsuccessful cold calls.
Prospect monologue: 3.5s vs. 8s. Successful cold calls actually don’t have long bursts of talking from the customer. Your job is not discovery. It’s to get the meeting.
Like I said earlier, the job of a cold call is not discovery. It’s to educate and get the meeting. Pre-call research is your discovery.
Don’t get me wrong. A small amount of ad-hoc discovery is useful. But it should be economical and targeted. If you’re executing a SPIN Selling sequence on your cold calls, it’s probably overkill.
Successful cold calls don’t have more questions asked than unsuccessful ones. There was no difference there.
The Most Successful “Opening Lines” for Cold Calling
So far the data we’ve presented only illustrates the skeleton of a successful cold call: interaction and behavior-based stats.
What we haven’t yet discussed is fleshing out that skeleton with the words, phrases, and content of a successful cold call. That’s what’s in store for our next post, which is scheduled for 2 weeks from today.
We’ll talk about the most successful opening lines for cold calls, how to wrap them up to get the next step, and anything interesting we find in between.
In the meantime, here’s the complete list of words that sell — if this doesn’t maximize sales, I don’t know what will!
Also published on Medium.