Cold calling is (and will always be) a foundational skill in sales. But it can be daunting if you’re new to it.
If you want to learn how to cold call — or just improve your skills — your best approach is to watch what experienced sales reps do, listen to recordings, and of course, study cold calling examples.
Having said that, you’ll continue to struggle if you don’t understand the underlying structure of a successful cold call.
So today, I’m going to give you a 6-step framework that will work for every call you make. Then, I’m going to give you real-life cold calling examples that my team and I use on our best calls.
That way, you get the cold calling examples you need, but you also get a framework that will help you adapt these examples to your product, your brand, and your situation.
Let’s get started, shall we?
How to Cold Call: The Framework for Success
Every successful cold call has six major components.
- Quick Pitch
- Qualifying Questions
- Overcoming Objections
- Product Benefits
Keep reading to learn how to handle each one of these stages, including why they are important and examples of scripts you can use at each stage.
The first part of the cold call that we are going to look at is the introduction. Cold calling introductions are critical because you only get one chance to make a first impression.
This includes your interaction with the gatekeeper. Believe it or not, your interactions with the gatekeeper is just as important as those you have with the decision maker.
I can recall starting out in inside sales and hearing sales reps around me become short or rude with the person answering the phone on the other end.
Understand, this will get you nowhere. But more importantly, it will be a negative representation of the company or product you are calling about.
In the introduction, it’s important to always be courteous but also be to be inquisitive.
When you have reached the right person, here is how we open:
Hello (Insert contact name). I am (insert AE name), calling from itelligence, an SAP Platinum Partner. Do you recall receiving an email from me regarding digital transformation in the manufacturing industry? (Pause for confirmation)
We like to keep things short and sweet and also reference collateral the prospect has received from us. That way, it’s not an entirely cold call.
If you put too much information in the introduction, it will overwhelm the prospect. They will either brush you off and request to be contacted another time or just waive the not-interested flag right away. In this case, less is truly more!
If the person answering the line explains that who you’re asking for isn’t the right contact, ask more questions. Be prepared to give them a quick explanation of what you’re trying to accomplish, since their time is just as valuable as the person you’re seeking to speak with.
Here is an example of an introduction where the contact you have isn’t the appropriate one:
I am sorry about that. They were just who I had on my record. Could you tell me who is handling (insert topic/reason for the call) for (insert company name) now?
2. Quick Pitch
The second part of a successful cold call is the quick sales pitch. This is simply a short message that gets your idea across in a clear, powerful way.
Quick pitches are important. It’s in these early moments of the call that the prospect will decide whether they’re interested or not. That being the case, it’s important to cut to the chase in your quick pitch — time is money for both you and your prospect.
In this part of the call you’ll need to explain to the prospect why you are contacting them.
Prospects today are receiving more calls than ever before, so make sure your reason for doing so is relevant. You need to be solving a clear pain point for them.
There’s nothing worse than doing cold outreach where what you’re offering is not relevant to the prospect you are trying to engage. You should be able to easily identify why your product/service is relatable and useful to the prospect.
Here is an example of a quick pitch that we use internally today:
I wanted to have a conversation with you about how we are helping businesses just like yours on their path to digital transformation. We help you prepare for this at your own pace through our proven framework, broken down into bite-sized pieces so you can learn more about the impact and prepare for the transition.
3. Qualifying Questions
The third element of a good cold call that we’re going to unpack is qualifying questions. These are a great way to engage your prospect and establish credibility early on in your conversation. What I enjoy most about them is that they shine a light on curiosity, which is a key prospecting trait.
Asking a series of simple questions can tell you so much about your prospect. More times than not, the prospect is used to people TELLING them how to do things versus someone ASKING them about things.
Qualifying questions are an essential aspect to cold calling. By asking these types of questions, you get a better understanding of your prospect’s needs as well as their ability to buy your product or service.
You want the conversation to feel natural, so by asking and allowing the prospect to respond, you’ll be better equipped to direct the call to overcome their fears and objections and/or close.
When you ask qualifying questions, it’s important your tone reflects curiosity and not boredom from the countless times you’ve recited your sales scripts. As you think about creating qualifying questions for your prospects, it’s important to keep these items in mind:
If you are reaching out without being relevant, it will be very difficult for you to succeed. Prospects don’t want to hear us talk about ourselves, but rather, how our products/solutions will benefit their business.
Rule of Three
When I prospect, if possible, I will try to ask them three questions. This is for 2 primary reasons.
First, it allows the prospect some space to talk. Nothing frustrates prospects more than overtalking, so these questions allow them space to talk.
And second, you can learn so much about your prospect with these 3 questions, as they shouldn’t have similarities or overlap with each other. Forcing the prospect to think will help them provide you with honest feedback and allow you to prescribe what you think is the best for them.
What is the goal of your questioning? Are you looking for people to sign up for a demo? Are you pushing them to a discovery with an account executive? Whatever that is, you need to make sure your questioning is geared towards getting you to that end result.
Here are some examples of qualifying questions:
- What business problems are you seeking to fix right now?
- Have you tried solving this problem in the past?
- What is the vision of your company as it relates to (insert product / service)?
4. Overcoming Objections
The fourth element of cold calling is overcoming objections. This is the part of the call that, honestly, most of us anticipate even before we pick up the headset.
Overcoming objections, just like the examples listed above, is a key aspect of cold calling, because it can make or break the call you are having with your prospect.
While I was shy at first about rebutting customers, I really honed this skill, and I quickly became a master of the craft as I responded to more and more objections.
Things I would often hear on calls were:
- I need to talk to my boss
- It’s too expensive
- Just send me some information
While all of these will warrant different responses, please take a DEEP breath before doing so. Many times in my career I was quick to respond, and that caused the person on the other end to feel that I wasn’t hearing them. I actually had someone say, “You know…. You’re just like every other call I get!”
After the receiver crashed down, I felt awful. I took a short break to compose myself, and from that call on, I made it a point to be strategic in my responses and make it clear to my prospects that I heard their concerns.
Here is how I overcome the objection, “Just send me some information”:
Sure, I would be happy to. To make sure I send what you’re looking for, what piqued your interest the most?
I really enjoy how this emphasizes my intention of meeting customer’s needs, but it also tells me whether they’ve been listening to the conversation.
Another common objection we hear is, “Now is just not the right time.” Here is how we respond:
I certainly understand that and appreciate your honesty. When do you think the time would be to have this conversation?
A lot of people are quick to write off prospects who push things out, but the truth is, I have had folks acknowledge my respectfulness and later give me their business for not being too pushy.
Lastly, you may also hear, “You’re just too expensive.” Here is how I respond to that:
I can certainly understand how you feel about that. A lot of our other customers have felt the same way
Rather than get into a price war, I always lead with acknowledging their concern, followed by value.
5. Product Benefits
Going over your product benefits is an important part of your cold call script. This is your chance to show the prospect why you’re a good fit — but it needs to be handled carefully. If you get into them too early, the prospect will feel you are too “pitchy.”
When contacting prospects, you need to actively listen for the perfect place to insert benefits. If a prospect is telling you about their pains, write those down, and then link that back to what your product or service can alleviate.
I believe this is best done right in the middle (or meat) of the call. This way your prospect has a chance to first know who you are, but you also get to know more about them before you jump into your pitch.
If you come in too late with product benefits, the prospect could feel as though you’ve wasted their time by either not actively listening to their concerns or prescribing the wrong solution.
In both cases, they feel you’re just reciting the same product benefits over and over. I can’t tell you how much that will turn your prospect off. You will have a hard time gaining that trust back, and that’s only if you’re even given a second chance at the account.
Here’s an example of inserting product benefits organically into a conversation:
So I heard you mention that your existing CRM has a hard time staying up to date. With our more agile one, you won’t have the worry of not being able to support new business modules or processes due to it being the next-generation CRM.
The last stage in the cold call is the close. While most feel the close always signals the end of the call, sometimes it can happen right where it begins. The prospect could bring the call to a screeching halt and dismiss all of that hard work by saying two simple words: “Not interested.”
We’ve all been there, and it’s a sickening feeling.
You almost feel like it was a cruel game the contact was playing. They had you cover all of that material, and exercise all of those hours of training only to arrive at the worst possible ending. In my experience, this often occurs when the close doesn’t feel natural and seems like a separate part of the call.
To make your closing effective it should be assumptive.
Here is an example of what we use today:
How does your calendar look for a conversation?
Asking this question provides a CTA (call to action). The prospect has to look at their calendar and determine what, if any, time they have for a further conversation.
They also may tell you, “I don’t have time.” For that, I suggest you reply with,
I completely understand, I am quite busy myself. Is there any way we could squeeze in a 15 minute call to show how we can help with (insert their pain)?
At this point there should be enough intrigue on the prospect’s end to have them respect this and ultimately book that discovery call.
Another example of a strong closing would be to offer the prospect a free demo or trial. While i haven’t worked somewhere with this model, a lot of prospects appreciate seeing things in action before they commit to going all in. There is a value in letting them see the benefits first hand, and it gives you a great reason to call them back to purchase.
Putting It All Together
If you’ve been struggling with how to cold call, this is your recipe for success.
By combining these cold calling tips and examples, and plugging them into my proven cold calling framework, you’ll see immediate improvement.
Remember, though, each component is as important as the next, so keep that in mind during your outreach to your prospects.
Now, all that’s left is for you to pick up the phone, put your cold caller’s cap on, and get to work.