29 Aug 2013

By Henrik Gøthler

Co-CEO & Partner, Sales and Marketing

Does cold calling work? It will if you follow these 6 rules!


Studies prove that cold calling remains among the most effective and targeted ways to connect with potential new prospects and customers.


Still, some sales reps are reluctant towards cold calling. But often this is caused by bad experiences because the sales rep was not properly prepared or didn't communicate the proper value propositions.

This you can change! Here are our six rules for making cold calling a success for your company!

1. Priority matters
Before initiating a cold-calling campaign, you need to have a list of qualified leads that fit your target audience and would be likely to need your product or service. It’s a good idea to rank the list into groups like A, B and C or segment it into industries or geographical areas – just to mention a few parameters.

Make sure to be very specific about the job title for your ideal decision maker, industries or financial aspects of the leads (i.e. you don’t want to spend time cold calling companies with instable financials). Decide on some important parameters and criteria and skip the leads that don’t meet them.

When determining who your decision maker is, always go for the higher ranking person – like a person who is responsible for a budget. Contacting leads with too low rank is a waste of your time. Your leads are only qualified if it meets the criteria for your decision maker.

2. Automate administration
Sales reps are busy people, and their time spent making cold calls between meetings and other sales activities should be spent well.  An outbound dialer system for optimizing the lead management and cold calling process will ease the administrative burden and retain a focus and pace when sales reps do outbound activities.

Decision makers are hard to reach! On average, a sales rep will have to make 6 call attempts before he/she reaches a decision maker.  CRM systems (or excel sheets) are not suited for handling this complex contact flow efficiently.

A lead management system also ensures a best practice for your cold calling activities, so you collect the information from the conversations needed in order to keep improving your lead database. Information like “Agreement with current vendor expires in 2 months” is critical for timing your next follow up call.

3. Keep your lead database LEAN
Constantly improve your lead quality and keep focusing on segments that are most likely to have a need for your product or service – and hence will be more likely to keep buying from you. Cold calling is also a way to discover if a lead for some reason no longer matches your buyer criteria. Let those leads go, so you can focus on better leads.

4. Make sure to answer: What is in it for me?
No matter how qualified your leads are, they are not very likely to engage in a conversation, unless your cold call answers the question: What is in it for me? The answer may vary according to industry, company size or season, but before making the call, always consider:

- What are the recent trends within my prospects market/industry?
- What challenges do they face?
- What is the most important benefit that they get from my product or service?
- How can I help them improve/succeed/overcome challenges?
- Which similar customers have my company helped?

Your decision maker gets several cold calls a week, so clarifying these points will increase your chances of sticking out and get his/her attention. Decision makers are busy, so you have to get this across within the first few seconds. Include specific examples or customer case stories to grab your lead’s attention.

Finally – it’s also a matter of how you say things. Put on a friendly, sincere and confident tone. Try practicing to your own voicemail and ask yourself the question: “Would I listen/trust this person if he/she called me?”

5. Let new technologies help you
Even though a direct call remains most effective for sales conversations, don’t forget to take advantage of modern technologies that can help you get hold of the decision maker. Find names, common connections or industry relevant details on social media – just to mention a few of the potentials. 

6. Cold calling is NOT about selling (right away)
Cold calling with the purpose of closing a deal can seem like “mission impossible” and cause reluctance towards ever making outbound sales activities. Rather, cold calling should be seen as a tool for getting through the preliminary stages before closing.

So, focus on the first few milestones and consider a cold call a “lead qualification” call or an introductory call. Don’t cold call and ask if the lead wants to buy now. Consider cold calling an activity to initiating a professional relationship. 

If you manage to get a professional conversation from your cold call, or arrange for an introduction meeting, you can determine if the lead has a need for your product and if they are likely to buy on a later stage. That will take the pressure (and cold calling reluctance) off of you – and your prospects.

Also read: How to create the perfect cold calling script

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