Cold Calling 101: 13 Steps to Cold Calls That Work!

Do cold calls feel like a waste of your time?

You wouldn’t believe how many salespeople tell me cold calls just don’t work for them anymore.

In reality, cold calls actually can work for you. In conjunction with the right strategies, cold calling can be one of the most effective ways to get through to your ideal prospects.

Sometimes, you just need to start over from the beginning to get back on track.

That’s why, in this video, I’m going to take you back to basics with Cold Calling 101, showing you 13 simple steps to cold calls that work. Check it out:

Cold Calling Video Summary:

Cold Calling Step #1: Cold calling can’t hurt you.

Cold Calling Step #1: Cold calling can't hurt you.

The first step to effective cold calling is to realize that cold calls aren’t going to hurt you. Many salespeople are so scared of potential rejection that they hold back when it comes to taking risks with cold calling.

But to implement the right cold calling strategies, you have to get comfortable with taking risks. That means you need to face your fears, and realize that cold calling can’t hurt you.

First off, it’s important to understand that there’s nothing a prospect can actually do to harm you. Quite frankly, there’s just nothing they can do. They can’t even really report you to anyone. (Yes, I’m sure in some countries there’s a way for salespeople to get “reported” somehow—but the reality is, the risk of this is so low, it’s a waste to think about.)

The best way to deal with cold calls that go south is to stop taking yourself so seriously. If it seems like a cold call is going nowhere, start to get playful. Take more risks, as opposed to getting more nervous. You’ll find that, as a result of your new approach and lack of fear, a lot of those calls will actually turn around and get back on track.

Knowing that cold calling can’t hurt you will make you a stronger salesperson than ever before.

Cold Calling Step #2: Make cold calling a game.

Cold Calling Step #2: Make cold calling a game.

Cold calling is about numbers. It’s about pushing through potential rejection until you ultimately get through to a prospect who’s a good fit, is willing to have a conversation with you, and might lead to a next step.

The reason that most people hate making cold calls is that there’s a low success rate—around 1% or 2%. This low rate of success means that in order to get one scheduled meeting with a prospect, salespeople have to make 99 calls that go nowhere.

The more you can make this process a game, the better off you’ll be. Have fun. Be playful. Make cold calling a game. If prospects are being rude, step up your game and thicken your skin. Try something totally new. Be willing to make cold calling a game.     

Cold Calling Step #3: Be willing to take risks.

Cold Calling Step #3: Be willing to take risks.

I know it might seem like this step is repeating some earlier ideas, but it’s so important, I can’t emphasize this enough. Taking risks is absolutely key to cold calling success. When you take risks during cold calls, your likelihood of success will increase for two reasons.

First, when a call is going off track, you can save it by stepping in with a contingency plan. This may seem too risky for most salespeople, but as a result of taking that risk and pushing back on the prospect, you’re increasing the chances of the call working out.

Second, being willing to take risks makes the process of cold calling much less painful. When you’re comfortable with the idea of risk-taking—and potentially messing up—the discomfort of cold calling lessens dramatically. The reason most people in the world are unwilling to make a cold call is that they’re just afraid of messing something up. When you’re not afraid of making a mistake, good things start to happen.

On the other side of this coin, you’ve got to be willing to deal with the consequence of a call going wrong. And you know what? It’s not that big of a deal. It doesn’t matter. If you completely screw it up, it doesn’t matter.

I remember one of my first successful cold calls was with the head of marketing for a Fortune 500 company. And I remember being so nervous, but I also remember thinking that I really had nothing to lose. I realized that I’d gained nothing up til that point, so if I was willing to take risks on that call, I was more likely to be successful. As a result of that mindset, I was able to schedule that meeting, which ultimately turned into a sale. But if at any point along the way that call had gone south, and it didn’t turn into a meeting, so what? Like one of my mentors always used to say, “Some will. Some won’t. So what? Next.”

Cold Calling Step #4: Warm it up as much as possible.

Cold Calling Step #4: Warm it up as much as possible.

I don’t mean get warmed up for the call; I mean warm up the actual cold calling interaction with the prospect as much as possible—before it happens.

Make sure that by the time you actually get prospects on the phone, they already know who you are. This requires that you incorporate the cold call within a prospecting campaign.          

A prospecting campaign should be a full process of 20 touches over the course of a couple months. Send them emails, send them letters, stop by their office, or doing whatever else you can to make yourself known to prospects. Then, when you get a prospect on the phone, the interaction is already warmed up.

Recent data shows that most salespeople give up on the first or second attempt when contacting a prospect. But most of the attempts that actually get through happen on the sixth or even seventh attempt. Be sure to warm up your cold calling as much as possible, so that way it’s not actually a real cold call by the time you get them on the phone.

Cold Calling Step #5: Script out the entire call.

Cold Calling Step #5: Script out the entire call.

I get more pushback on this idea than almost any other sales advice I give. So many salespeople tell me, “Oh, I don’t like to use a script. It makes me sound scripted.” My response is always the same, “What’s your favorite TV show? What’s your favorite movie of all time? Do you think they didn’t use a script? Of course they did. They practiced the script, so that by the time they actually went to film it, it looked totally and completely natural.”

The best TV shows and movies out there don’t sound scripted at all—but in fact, they’re very tightly scripted. The same is true for effective cold calling.

Make sure your entire cold call is scripted out. By doing this, your calls are going to be so much tighter than they ever were before. Going off the cuff is going to get you into a lot of trouble. What we want to do is make sure that we’re focusing completely on that prospect, and not using any wasted verbiage. When salespeople make calls that are not scripted, they’re all over the place, the call takes forever, and the prospect is completely uninterested. So script out the entire call.                               

Cold Calling Script #6: Know your first seven seconds cold.

Cold Calling 101: know your first seven seconds cold

We don’t often think about how we’re initially introducing ourselves to prospects. By knowing your first seven seconds inside and out, you’re going to be so much more likely to get to a next step with a prospect on a cold call. In cold calling, those first seven seconds are buying you the next 25 seconds.

Use those first seven seconds to catch the prospect off guard. Then, throughout the entire call, you’re always fighting for those next 25 seconds.

Know exactly what you’re going to say in your first seven seconds of every cold call. A best practice is to use pattern interrupts that make the prospect think, “Maybe I should talk to this person. Do I know this person? Do I not know this person? Should I be polite? Should I be rude?” You want to begin the cold call in a way that catches them off guard, and buys you time.

One line in particular is effective at this. Try opening your next cold call by saying, “Hey George, Marc Wayshak calling, how have you been?”

Cold Calling Step #7: The more you talk about you, the worse you do.

Cold Calling Step #7: The more you talk about you, the worse you do.

The data shows that when salespeople talk about themselves or their own companies, they do significantly worse with prospects. The more you talk about yourself when cold calling, the worse you’ll do.

Don’t focus on how great your company is, what you do, or who you are. Instead, you want to get through your introduction quickly, and immediately talk about the purpose of your call. Don’t tell your whole story. Just introduce yourself, state the purpose of your call, and then turn the conversation over to focus on the prospect’s own challenges and objectives. That’s all they care about anyway.      

Cold Calling Step #8: Focus on the challenges you’re seeing.

Cold Calling Step #8: Focus on the challenges you're seeing.

During cold calling, one of the best ways to engage prospects in conversation is to focus on the challenges you’re seeing in the marketplace. This will show that you have your finger on the pulse of what’s actually happening. You’re showing that you have real expertise, and you’re not talking about yourself. You’re providing some real value around those key challenges the prospect is dealing with.

At the same time, you’re increasing your chances of engaging the prospect in a conversation they actually care about. Your more likely to get them talking, telling their story, and talking about their challenges. When prospects open up like this, your chances go up of scheduling a meeting and ultimately closing the sale.                            

Focus on the challenges you’re seeing by using a line like this: “George, right now I’m finding that a lot of companies in your marketplace are dealing with the following challenges: x, y, and z.”

Cold Calling Step #9: Engage them to start talking.

Cold Calling Step #9: Engage them to start talking.

As I said before, the more prospects start to talk in a meaningful way, the more likely they are to stay on the phone with you, and the most likely you are to schedule a next step that turns into a sale. While so many salespeople are focused on pitching whatever it is that they sell, they should instead be engaging prospects in a true dialogue.

Don’t let your cold calls become monologues where you’re just listing off challenges the prospect is facing and how you can solve them. Instead, work hard to engage them to start talking—because once they start talking, they’re in.                           

So let’s say you’re on a cold call and just used that line from the previous step: “George, right now I’m finding that a lot of companies in your marketplace are dealing with the following challenges: x, y, and z.” Now, follow this up with: “Does that resonate with you?” or “Do these issues ring true for you?”

What you’re doing is inviting them into the conversation. Let’s say they say, “No.” Then maybe you follow up with a question like this: “Fair enough, it sounds like this conversation doesn’t even make much sense. Before I hang up, could I ask you just one last question?” And they’ll always say yes to that.

This is your last change. Say something like this: “If there were one thing that you could be doing with [something related to whatever you sell], what would it be?” Let them answer. Engage them to start talking.

Cold Calling Step #10: Dig into what’s really going on.

Cold Calling Step #10: Dig into what's really going on.

Once you’ve got the prospect talking, don’t go into pitch mode. When a prospect says, “Actually, one of the challenges we’re dealing with is this,” don’t say, “Well, I’ve got the solution for you!” Instead, say, “Tell me more.” Dig into what’s really going on. Ask questions about the challenges the prospect is facing. Make sure the prospect understands the value of solving those challenges. Do your due diligence to find out if the prospect really is a good fit for what you sell.                               

Cold Calling Step #11: Get that next step locked in.

Cold Calling 101_ Get that next step locked in

This is the most important part of cold calling. You absolutely must establish a next step. I always ask salespeople, “What’s the purpose of a prospecting call, or a cold call?” They respond, “To get a sale.” But that’s not true.

Yes, the ultimate goal is to get a sale in the long run. But the short-term goal of a cold call is just to get a scheduled clear next step. This means that we need to ensure that we lock that next step in. Whether it’s a face-to-face meeting, a webinar, or a phone call, get it on the calendar.

Cold Calling Step #12: Confirm the next step.

Cold Calling Step #12: Confirm the next step.

When you get someone to agree to a meeting, while you’re on the phone with them, send out a calendar invite. Make sure that it gets into their inbox, and that they accept the invite.                               

Say, “George, can I make a recommendation? How about we set up a meeting, where I’ll come to your office, and we can really dig more deeply into this, and I can share with you some best practices on how many of our clients have solved these challenges before. Would that make some sense?” If George says, “Sure, yeah, absolutely,” then you say, “Great, so what would work for you?” Go back and forth, nail down a time and a date, and say, “Are you in front of your computer or your phone by any chance?” George will say, “Yeah, of course.” Say, “Great. I’m going to send you a calendar invite right now, and just be sure that you see it come through. This way we can avoid any back and forth. Does that make sense?” And George will say, “Sure.” Confirm that next step.

Cold Calling Step #13: Don’t run away from the phone after each call.

Cold Calling Step #13: Don't run away from the phone after each call.

As I said before, cold calling is about numbers. It’s about making a lot of dials. The difference between cold calling that’s effective and cold calling that gets you nowhere is simply a matter of picking up the phone right after you hang up with your last prospect. Get right back onto the phone, dial the next number, and keep pushing through.

Don’t run away from the phone after each call. Get right back into the next.

I’ve never seen people who are great cold callers making only five cold calls at a time. The most effective cold callers are making many, many dials each and every single day. That might mean 20, 30, 40, 50, or even 100 dials in one day. And the only way you get through that number of dials is if you don’t run away from the phone after each call.

So, there you have it. Now you know Cold Calling 101, and you learned the 13 steps to cold calls that work. I want to hear from you. Which of these ideas did you find most useful? Be sure to share below in the comments sections to get involved in the conversation. If you enjoyed this, check out my free eBook on 25 tips to crush your sales goals.

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About the Author Marc Wayshak

Marc is is the best-selling author of three books on sales and leadership, including the highly acclaimed titles Game Plan Selling, The High-Velocity Sales Organization and his forthcoming book, Sales Conversations, Mastered.

Marc is a contributor to Inc, HubSpot, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Huffington Post Business. He also hosts a popular YouTube channel on sales strategy with over 103,000 subscribers.

Marc helps thousands of people his data-driven, science-based approach to selling that utilizes all the best tools available to sales organizations today.

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