Many subjects in sales elicit a strong, emotional, binary response from salespeople; none more so than the question of cold calling.

Some people swear by them, to this day.  Others declare them dead, obsolete, etc.  How can both of these be right?

Like most things in life, “is that good” is too simple of a question.  Luckily for those of us who relish the beauty to be found in nuance,  there is more to the cold calling question than a simple thumbs up or thumbs down.  When done poorly, cold calls are painful on both sides of the phone.  When done well, they just aren’t so bad.  Sure it would be better to lie on a warm beach sipping from a cool drink, but then again you could say that about most things you do at work – that’s why you get paid to do them!

So if we are going to cold call, what should we do to make it work?  Here are a few tips:

1 – Know what you are going to say in the first 20-30 seconds
You want to be able to deliver your call with confidence, and you must be sure that you say what you need to say in those precious first seconds when you actually have the attention of the person you called.  You may be nervous, which makes it easy to screw this part up – so yes, you should use a script.  Not a complex one, but a simple one.  Not for the whole call, but for the first 20-30 seconds for sure!  Read Stephan Schiffman’s book on cold calling to get some ideas, or send me an e-mail and I’ll send you an excerpt from my book that might help.

2 – Have the right reason for the call
I first started cold calling when I sold promotional products.  At first, I told the person I was calling that the reason for my call was to suggest that we should meet in person so that I could demonstrate all of my great ideas.  It was not so compelling, or effective.  Later, I started calling people with a trade show coming up in the very near future, and I suggested that we meet so that I could help them come up with a good promotion for their upcoming event.  Same basic idea, just more targeted and time sensitive.  That was much more effective.

Your industry will be different (unless you happen to sell promotional products), but ask yourself – is the reason I am suggesting a meeting compelling to the prospect?  If not, find a new one, and build your call script around it.

3 – Don’t sell on the cold call
Unless you sell via a one-call-close-by-phone methodology, the goal of the cold call is probably to secure an opportunity to talk more about the possibility of a sale.  That might mean a longer phone conversation, a later phone conversation, or in most cases a personal meeting.  Whatever the case, the first thing you need to sell is the idea of a sales conversation before you start selling your product or service.  Once you secure agreement for a sales conversation, you are not on a cold call anymore, even if the same phone call continues as a sales call; you are now on a sales call, or on your way to a sales call in person at a time you agreed to met with the prospect.

4 – Be ready to close
Most of the time, the close of a cold call is an agreement for a meeting – so be ready to make that close before you pick up the phone to make the cold call.  Have your schedule ready, and if you will meet them in person at their office, know where they are located so that you can schedule a meeting that fits in with the rest of your schedule.  Once you are ready to set a meeting, don’t lose momentum by fumbling with your calendar.

You’ll need make a lot of cold calls before you can really measure results.  Give it an honest try, and work smart.  Then you can weigh in on the debate about whether they work or not, but from a position of knowledge, not opinion.  Making five dials, getting one surly receptionist or one grumpy CEO on the other end and giving up is not a reasonable effort upon which to measure the effectiveness of this prospecting method.

If cold calling is impossible for you, there are a LOT of other ways to prospect.  However, whatever prospecting method you choose, you’ll probably need to follow that up with a call to set up a meeting – which is a LOT like a cold call.  At the end of the day, a cold call, a call to set a meeting, or a call to check in with a client after a long period of inactivity all have the same dynamics.  Get comfortable with this kind of call, and find a way to be effective with it, and your career will move forward much more systematically than if you simply complain that this can’t work for you, and avoid trying to make it work for that reason.


Authors note (AKA shameless plugs)

So, this 7-step sales process and associated topics…. Yup, I write about that a lot. I’ve been working with it since I developed it about 25 years ago – in my own diverse work experiences, with my teams when I had them, and with clients ever since.

If you would like to develop you own personalized and customized, highly effective and efficient B2B selling system, here are some further steps you can take:

The Salesman’s Guide to Dating is a free or very cheap (depending on Amazon) Kindle book that walks you through the sales process using the familiar analogy of dating. It’s a good, fun and quick way to get your mind around the whole process and how the pieces fit together.

Building Your Sales Process (BYSP) is a free and very thorough exploration of the same 7-step process that will walk you through the development of your own customized, personal B2B selling system. When you are done, you will know exactly what to do to get new business.

The Momentum Selling System® is an inexpensive but very robust online sales training course that is similar to BYSP, but goes deeper into the concepts behind each of the steps, and also helps you develop a plan not only for the 7-step process but also addresses mindset, repeat business and client base management.

If none of that sounds right, I do personal coaching and offer a free 30-minute intake session so that we can both learn if it makes sense to work together 1-on-1. If this sounds interesting, click over to the coaching page on this site and sign up for the free session.

Here’s to your success!