Cold Calling 101: 11+ Steps to Cold Calls That Work!

Salespeople are constantly asking me about cold calls

The most common frustration I hear is: “My cold call script never works. Prospects just don’t want to hear from me.”

But there are plenty of salespeople out there making cold calls that are super effective.

They’re setting up tons of appointments through cold dials.

So, what makes some cold calls more effective than others?

More often than not, it all comes down to the cold call script being used.

There are a few strategies you can use to start making more effective cold calls that end up in sales. One of those strategies is to improve your cold call script.

In this video, I’m going to show you how to build a cold call script that actually works. Check it out:

Why Prospects Push Back on Price

1. Always follow a cold call script.

1. Always Follow a Cold Call Script

This might sound obvious, but it doesn’t matter how good your cold call script is if you don’t use it consistently. Any salesperson who makes a lot of cold dials and doesn’t follow a script is doing the equivalent of banging their head against a cement wall as hard as they can 20 to 50 times a day.

You simply must follow a script for your cold calls. Always.

Many salespeople push back on this idea. They say, “If I use a script, then I’m going to sound scripted.” If you feel like you sound scripted, you just need to practice more. Try the script over and over again until it feels more natural to you and stops sounding scripted. That’s it.

I use a script every time I make a dial, and it doesn’t sound scripted because I’ve practiced it countless times. Just think of an actor in a movie. Without a script, it doesn’t work. You need to have a script every single time you’re making a cold call.

2. Pattern interrupt with contingencies.

2. Pattern interrupt with contingencies.

Your script for the first 10 seconds of any cold call is extremely important. Those 10 seconds set up the call for success or failure. Now, most salespeople today are starting cold calls by saying, “How are you today?” Don’t do that. Instead, break the pattern.

I call this “pattern interrupt with contingencies,” and it’s key to any successful cold call script. You want to interrupt the pattern by asking a different question or using another phrase to engage the prospect in a way they haven’t heard a lot. And then have your contingencies ready.

For example, instead of opening the cold call by asking, “How are you today?” instead ask, “Did I catch you at a bad time?” or “How have you been?” I don’t care what it is—just break the pattern and be different.

Then, be ready for the prospect’s response. When they try to get off the phone, use the prepared contingencies in your script to keep the call going.

If the prospect replies, “Yes, this is a bad time. Can you try me later?” you want to have one sentence built into your script that will get the call to the next step in the conversation. That’s what contingencies are all about.

3. Get permission up front.

3. Get permission up front.

When it comes to building a cold call script that actually works, it’s imperative that you get permission to continue the call from the prospect up front. If you just plow through your script without asking permission, prospects will either stop paying attention or try to get off the phone as quickly as possible.

Craft your cold call script to say something like, “Would it be okay if I just shared with you exactly why I called and, if afterwards it doesn’t make sense, we can hang up? Sound fair?” This is a great way to get permission to continue the call.

4. Super-short intro.

4. Super-short intro.

The introductory part of your cold call script should be very short. You simply don’t have a lot of time. Your prospects are busy—typing something on their keyboard, looking at emails, texting, getting yelled at by a spouse during a pandemic. Whatever it is, there are lots of other things on their minds. So keep you introduction super-short, one sentence only.

This is why a script is so important. If you don’t have a script to keep you accountable to that one-sentence intro, you’re going to meander all over the place, and your prospects will lose interest.

5. Dangle the carrot.

5. Dangle the carrot.

Picture a horse that’s walking around, chasing a carrot that’s dangling just out of reach in front of its face. What is the carrot that can get your prospects to engage with you on a cold call?

Your cold call script must include a piece of content or insight that serves as the carrot to dangle in front of your prospects, so you can demonstrate something that gets them to say, “This person is useful to me. I’m willing to stay on the phone just a bit longer and hear them out.”

6. Demonstrate quick insight.

6. Demonstrate quick insight.

Demonstrating insight makes your cold calls much more effective because it enables you to be seen as someone with expertise and authority, as opposed to just a cheeseball salesperson.

Think about what can tell your prospects that demonstrates some real insight, and build that straight into your cold call script. Is there some data, statistic, or information you can share to quickly engage them?

7. Share their challenges.

7. Share their challenges.

This is one of the best ways to demonstrate insight through your cold call script. Say something like, “George, some of the challenges that I’m seeing a lot of our clients face in today’s marketplace are A, B, and C.” By sharing challenges that your prospects find relevant, you show that you’re an expert in their world—and they’ll be much more likely to want to connect with you.

8. Engage.

8. Engage

Once you’ve crafted your cold call script to share challenges, you want to build in true engagement for your prospects. So you might say, “George, some of the challenges that I’m seeing a lot of our clients face in today’s marketplace are A, B, and C,” and then follow up with the engaging question, “Does any of that sound familiar to you?” or “Does that make any sense for your world?” The actual question you incorporate into your cold call script isn’t that important. The point is to have a question in there that truly engages the prospect in conversation and can really get them talking.

9. Keep your cold call script short.

9. Keep your cold call script short.

Keep your cold call script short. Why? Because cold calls are short.

If the prospect starts talking a lot and they want to keep going, that’s fine—but don’t build out a super-long script because shorter scripts are much more effective at actually scheduling the appointment.

Remember, the only goal of a cold call is to get a meeting of some kind scheduled on the calendar as a result of the call. The more you meander, chat, and blab, the more likely you are to lose the prospect.

10. Make a recommendation.

10. Make a recommendation.

Once you feel like you’ve got them engaged and talking, it’s time to make a recommendation. Build something like this into your cold call script: “George, can I make recommendation?” The prospect will say, “Sure.” Then you can say, “Okay, great. Why don’t we schedule a call and…,” fill in the blank. Make a recommendation for that next step.

11. Get the clear next step.

11. Get the clear next step.

Always get a clear next step scheduled at the end of a cold call. The only successful cold call is one that has a clear next step. It doesn’t have to be a sale. (Chances are it’s not going to be a sale, but you always want to have a clear next step before you get off the call.)

The best clear next steps are scheduled appointments in your calendar. Be sure to build language for scheduling a next step right into your cold call script, so you never skip this critical point of the call.Sales Training Expert

So, there you have it. Now you know exactly how to build a cold call script that actually works. I want to hear from you. Which of these tips will you implement in your own cold call script? Be sure to share below in the comment section to get involved in the conversation.

Why Prospects Push Back on Price

13 More Cold Calling Tips


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:

Step #1: Cold calling can’t hurt you

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 sales reps 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 techniques, 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 sales reps 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 sales 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.

Step #2: Make cold calling a game.

Step #2: Make cold calling a game.

When thinking about how to make a cold call, one of the basics is that 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 and setting a time to talk.

The reason that most people hate picking up the phone and 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, sales reps 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.     

Step #3: Be willing to take risks.

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 techniques. When you take risks during cold calls, your likelihood of success will increase for two reasons.

First, when a sales 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 sales 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 get that meeting and schedule a time to talk, 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.”

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

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 to pick up the phone, the interaction is already warmed up.

Recent data shows that the average sales rep gives 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.

Step #5: Script out the entire call.

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 cold calling 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 techniques.

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 create cold calling scripts for the entire call.                               

Step #6: Know your first seven seconds cold.

Step #6: 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?”

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

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

The data shows that when sales reps 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.      

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

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

During b2b 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.”

Step #9: Engage them to start talking.

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 sales reps are focused on a sales pitch featuring 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.

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

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

Once you’ve got the prospect talking, don’t go into sales 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.                               

Step #11: Get that next step locked in.

Step #11: Get that next step locked in

This is the most important part of effective cold calling techniques. You absolutely must establish a next step. I always ask sales reps and my sales team, “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 that time to talk scheduled on the calendar.

Step #12: Confirm the next step.

Step #12: Confirm the next step.

When you get someone to agree to scheduling 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.

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

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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