21 Cold Calling Secrets (From the Sales Masters)

Cold calling is still a key strategy for successful sales teams.


Here’s the proof: one survey by DiscoverOrg found that 55% of high growth companies (those with at least 40% growth over the last three years) identified cold calling as one of their key strategies.


But, what about companies that feel cold calling is outdated? The same study found they saw 42% less growth than those who say it’s alive and well. However, even though it’s effective, cold calling has changed.

Sales reps must learn to leverage technology and adapt to changing communication styles.

This blog will highlight how some of the best in the business are doing just that. It also includes valuable insights from Chorus.ai’s conversation intelligence platform that analyzed more than one million cold calls made in 2018.


That means you have to hold their attention on an unexpected call for a long time. So, be relevant, know how to get a stranger talking, and be empathetic.

Here’s how the pros suggest you do it.

image 1


Nancy Nardin - CEO, Smart Selling Tools, Inc.


If possible, I warm up the call in advance by finding someone I know that can introduce me. When that’s not possible, I make sure I’m prepared and get right to the point. “Can I have 20 seconds to tell you why I’m calling?” Then, I explain why. I use an approach that feels comfortable to me.

I don’t say things that are taught as the perfect script. I make it my own. If you’ve been told to use a script that doesn’t feel like you, find a way to make it more natural to you.

The key is to do it in a way that doesn’t stray from these key principles.

• Be confident. You’re calling for a reason that will benefit them. Otherwise, why are you calling?

• Be clear on your objective. Unless you’re having a highly transactional sale, your goal is likely to get a meeting scheduled, rather than to close a sale.

• Know their “why.” Why should they want to meet with you? My best tip is to not take rejection personally.


image 2


Scott Barker - Head of Partnerships at Sales Hacker, and Evangelist, Outreach.io


If it’s your job to set appointments than you’ve definitely had countless calls that go like this, “Nah, not interested....click.” One of the most frustrating things about those calls is you know that they didn’t even listen to your value prop. The prospect just went into “ugh. I hate cold callers mode,” bunched you in with every other SDR out there, and hung up the phone.

A trick I used a lot earlier in my career, and still do from time to time, is asking the prospect for feedback at that critical juncture (the part where they hang up on you). I’ll hit them with something like, “Hey, I’m really trying to get the hang of this, is there anything I could have changed in my approach that would have gotten you to take a meeting with me?” What this does is jolt them out of their typical “ugh, I hate cold callers mode.” It puts them into a position of authority, makes them critically think for a second, and then they are in teaching mode.

This works on a number of levels. First, you get free call coaching! Second, I can’t tell you how many times their response was “Hmmm. Honestly, I don’t know...what is it that you do again?” Then, you get a chance to articulate your benefits in a less combative environment (one where they are actually listening). Of course, you’ll still get some people who hang up on you, but give it a shot. It worked for me!

james buckley


James Buckley - Business Development Manager & Brand Ambassador, RingLead


Prospects want to know what you can do for them, not who you are. Lead with the value they will receive. Be straightforward. Transparency wins every time.

When leaving VMs, leave your name and info last. That’s a John Barrows tip I picked up. Also, lead with value. No one cares who you are or who you’re with until you’ve earned the right to tell them. First question I ask is, “Is this a bad time?” The answer to that question tells me a lot about where this is going. It’s not always the best thing to shoot for a “close” on a call. Sometimes asking for more time is more valuable. “When do you have some time to connect?” or “How do I get time on your calendar today?” I ask for the time and hope to use it to my advantage when I get it. Ask for ten, fifteen minutes, or go for the full half hour.

Let’s know one another by the end of this thing. People end calls with me saying things like, “I like your style.” and “you’re really great!” Those make great people for the Cirrus Insight pipeline.

Lindsey Plocek


Lindsey Plocek - VP of Global Business Development & Strategy, Harbinger


We love that quote from Lindsey Plocek. If your tone is too aggressive, the prospect will be turned off right away. Remember you are asking for their help. Have a friendly tone, like you’re talking to a colleague. Be the “friend in need” and people will want to help.

Reference a personal connection or something you know about their company that you have been researching. Ask for advice. Don’t close the deal on the call, but instead figure out who would be a best fit for a follow-up conversation. Do your homework on the organization and the person before reaching out. Use casual, friendly language and remain confident. Don’t be too aggressive or sales-y. Kindness goes a long way.

Don’t ask if now is a good time - jump straight into your “ask” with a little context. Make a joke to lighten the mood. Follow-up with an email. Say, “I know you’re probably busy, so I’m going to be following up with some ideas and potential times in an email since I am confident your company could benefit from us. I have done a lot of research on you to put together a plan.” Bring value.




Russ Hearl


Russ Hearl - Head of Sales, Google Cloud


Outbound business development involves making many multi-channel and multi-threaded touches before you can get a meeting with an account. However, it is during a call that you can get the person’s unabated attention and create the foundation of a relationship. So put your best efforts when you are dialing away!

Avoid the email cadence trap. Selling is about connecting with people in real-time, asking great questions, listening and thoughtfully responding. The fastest way to improve your selling and interpersonal skills is to engage with people in real-time vs. asymmetrical communication channels like email.

If you’re an SDR, the fastest path to get promoted to an AE is to demonstrate you can have great conversations with prospects.

Blake Harber


Blake Harber - Director of Corporate Sales, Lucid


Leverage other forms of communication to get prospects familiar with you. You want them to know your face, voice and tone. Since it takes four or more cold calls to land a scheduled meeting, increase your chances by becoming a recognizable, trusted figure. Accomplish this through multi-channel outreach.

Don’t look at cold calls as your chance to hopefully catch someone and run through a discovery. With such a low pickup rate, use the call as a touchpoint in a multi-channeled outreach cadence. Always leave voicemails that are followed up with emails or LinkedIn messages referencing the voicemail you just left.

You want your prospects to hear your voice, recognize your name and the company you are with, see your email and then see your face on LinkedIn. This type of repetition in a short amount of time creates pattern recognition and significantly increases your chances at getting a response. If you happen to get someone on a cold call, keep it short. The point is to build enough value to schedule a follow-up call where deeper discovery can be done.

Scott Wells

Scott Wells - Director of Sales, Act-On Software


Follow the call or VM with a LinkedIn message or an email with video to add a personal touch. Be strategic with your prospecting by focusing on a specific industry so you can master the same type of talk track, discovering what works and what doesn’t.

Continue to evolve and stay creative because buyers are savvy and standing out from the rest is more and more difficult.

If you only get one shot at a cold call, don’t waste your allotted time with poor messaging or presentation. Amplify your message. This means you must learn the art of starting a conversation and capturing the attention of your audience with your content and delivery.

Eamonn Filinski

Eamonn Filinski - Director of Sales Development, Uberflip


If you only get one shot at a cold call, don’t waste your allotted time with poor messaging or presentation. Amplify your message. This means you must learn the art of starting a conversation and capturing the attention of your audience with your content and delivery.

Much like how actors in theatrical plays need to wear bright makeup to amplify their emotions to fully capture the audience’s attention, we need to do the same with cold-calling (minus the makeup). When cold calling, you only have one of our five senses at your disposal, so you need to ensure that you amplify your energy, sentiment and pronunciation so that the message comes across as you intended to the person on the other side. I’ve witnessed too many people that slouch in their chair, mumble into the phone, or have a very monotone cadence while speaking to customers on cold calls. My advice is to do the following as soon as you make a connection on a cold call:

• Stand up out of your chair (power pose).

• Project your voice as if the person you’re speaking to is 10 ft. away.

• Speak clearly and overemphasize the key points you want the customer to understand.

Like actors about to go on stage, you’ll still be a little nervous while the phone is ringing. But, by using this technique you’ll have more confidence, your message will be clearly understood, and you’ll have more fun making cold calls.


Dan Cilley

Dan Cilley - Co-founder, Vendor Neutral


Leverage other forms of communication to get prospects familiar with you. You want them to know your face, voice and tone. Since it takes four or more cold calls to land a scheduled meeting, increase your chances by becoming a recognizable, trusted figure. Accomplish this through multi-channel outreach.

Ask open-ended questions. They allow cold calling prospects the opportunity to provide more information, including information which will drive emotions, like a specific pain or frustration that the prospect may want to solve or overcome. This enables the caller the opportunity to better understand the respondent’s true needs, and provide a solution that will match.

Ella Kobelt

Ella Kobelt - Partnership Representative, Carbon Lighthouse


If our clients say they aren’t interested, I challenge them with a leading question. For example, I might respond with, “Okay, are energy/operating costs not a concern for you?” Stay out of the weeds. If they ask detailed questions about your product, pivot that interest to scheduling a call. Know that you deserve to be talking to whoever you are cold calling!

Adon Rigg

Adon Rigg - CEO, Insightful Solutions


To be relevant on a cold call you have to speak to the toughest challenge or the greatest value that the contact seeks. Adon Rigg, suggests that we have to show everyone how they can have a bigger and better impact of the company’s bottom line.

Cold calling is easy when you can show your prospect where they didn’t know they wanted to go. My philosophy is that no matter who you’re selling to, from the CEO to the entry-level purchaser, all buyers are either directly or indirectly responsible for their company’s bottom line.

I believe that the key to success is to learn how not to simply sell product, but to create value by impacting bottom-line results.


Scott Leese

Scott Leese - Senior Vice President of Sales, Qualia


Twenty days is a long time to work the same prospect. That means you might have a lot of moments where you feel like you’ve failed. Keep at it. Don’t give up. Learn from your mistakes. Don’t let it prevent you from diving right back in.

Pick up the phone and call. Expect to fail. Take notes along the way. Learn and grow from what isn’t working and what is. Adjust accordingly. Know everything about your customer’s pain, the value in solving it, and your solution is there. This way you will be unafraid of whatever their response is.

Focus on listening more than talking. Ask the right questions. Stay confident. Ask for the business. Never give up.

Curt Echo

Curt Echo - Manager of Business Development, Chorus.ai


Cold calling is not natural. If you convert 30 to 40 percent of your cold calls into meetings, you are doing a fantastic job. If you were to get a 30 to 40 percent on an exam, you fail. You are set up to fail. Embrace and learn from it, so you don’t make the same mistake twice.


Marc Brancaccio

Marc Brancaccio - Sales Director, PayJunction


The perfect time rarely comes. Most of the time, it’s just an excuse to not pick up the phone. Instead of the waiting for the perfect time, work on developing a genuine approach.

What you don’t do is as important as what you do. Here’s short list of cold calling don’ts.

• No gimmicks. They may get your foot in the door, but they don’t add value or build trust.

• No false claim of prior relationship. “I’m calling because Jill said to speak with you” doesn’t fly if it’s not true.

• Don’t wait for the perfect time, perfect situation, perfect anything. Pick up the phone as a natural extension of your selling motion enough times and you will build the right muscles.

• Don’t hesitate to ask for help. If you have good intentions and are genuine in your approach, people will be willing to help you navigate to the right person.

• Don’t give up!


James Murphy

James Murphy - Vice President of Sales, SiteLock


Make your questions count. Don’t give the prospect an easy out by saying something like, “do you have a moment?” Instead, quickly tell them why they should be listening to you. These pros agree.

A large miss that a lot of salespeople fall victim to revolves around the opening of a cold call. Too often I hear salespeople ask, “How are you” or “Do you have a few minutes?” This immediately lets the prospect know they are about to be “pitched,” and the natural instinct is to say no or hang up. In order to set yourself apart, you have to take away these easy outs for the prospect.

Instead, we coach our agents to say something similar to, “I am sure I caught you at a bad time, so I will keep it brief and if you see some value in what SiteLock can do for you and your business, we can schedule a follow up call at a time that works better for both of us.” This helps to lower their guard, and introduces a hint of intrigue from the prospect, which at the very least will gain you one to three minutes for your elevator pitch/value prop.

Amir Reiter

Amir Reiter - CEO and Founder, CloudTask


Do your research and pick possible positioning statements that you anticipate to make before the call. When making the call, announce yourself clearly and start the conversation off by giving the potential lead the goal of your outreach and walk backward. Clearly and quickly tell him or her “why” they should be listening to you.

If they do have a pain-point, they will let you explain the “how,” giving you the opportunity to convert to more meaningful appointments.

Brian Deignan

Brian Deignan - Vice President of Sales, FastSpring


Getting a prospect to share their pain points and value props for more than half the call is a challenge. Especially when they don’t know who you are. So you have to practice getting your persona to open up.

Practice! Rising to the occasion is a valiant thought, but the truth is most people fall to the level of their training when faced with a split second decision. Try these best practices:

• Write out your pitch and practice it out loud. Overemphasize. Your tone will drop in real life, so go overboard like you’re in a play on stage.

• Practice with a buddy. Before you get into full role play mode, go back and forth reading your pitch.

• Role play. Write out a list of top objections and how you’ll reply. Answer with a question.

• Research. Find a few relevant things to talk about.

• Set smaller, personal goals. Scheduling a meeting is great, but getting the prospect to agree to read your email is even better.

• Have fun. If you aren’t having fun doing it, it’s not worth doing. Put a smile on your face. If someone hangs up on you, it’s their loss. Send them a nice email, and I will bet they will take your call on the next round.


Justin Moreland

Justin Moreland - Director of Sales, Adthena


Make your two minutes count. “Cold calling” doesn’t mean you go into the call totally cold. Know who you are talking to. Buyers don’t have time to give you basic information that they know is easily accessible online. Know their demographics and challenges before you dial their number. Social media and other web sources are a treasure trove of data, especially LinkedIn, which now has over 500 million users. In addition to company information, look at specifics about the person you will be speaking to. Note their current and past experience, any shared connections, groups, recent activity and published articles. Here’s what the pros say about putting a face to their prospects.

A little bit of research on your prospect before calling in will go a long way. So spend two to three minutes searching for current news or related events. Study their LinkedIn page so you can tailor your pitch/value prop to what brings value to their role, responsibilities and/or organization. I even leave their LinkedIn picture up so it’s almost like I’m talking to them face-to-face.

Jason McElhone

Jason McElhone - Director of Inside Sales, MarketSource


No one wants to be given a sales spiel the second they pick up the phone. However, you also don’t want to ask if you can try to sell them something since the answer will most likely be no. Here’s how the sales pros tackle the start of their conversations.

Ask for help at the beginning of every cold call. “Hi John, I wonder if you could help me out for a moment?” It puts the prospect into ‘yes’ mode and creates a mutually beneficial relationship. The biggest mistake SDRs make is not getting permission to speak.

A long time ago I learned, never present in the face of no interest. So before launching into your pitch, ask for help. If you catch someone at a bad time, offer to call them back. You have the keys to the kingdom, and that is a solution to their problem.

Once you understand both sides have something to gain, the conversation becomes that much easier!

Michael Miller

Michael Miller - Former Owner, Rise Up Selling


Do excellent research on the person you are calling. This can be done in about 10 minutes. What you are looking for is an honest question you have about your pitch. Now call the prospect, not to pitch but to ask them how you should pitch. The call should be very conversational.

When I had a sales training company, I would call an owner (not a manager) and ask if I could pick his brain for 10 minutes about my pitch. These were unknown people, but I was amazed at the information given, and often the people would say, “If you have something like X, I’ll buy it right now.” Be curious about it all, as well as flexible. You will be pleasantly surprised at people’s generosity.


Gio Flores

Gio Flores - Director of Sales, RingLead

The best cold calling tip that I recommend is the “always” rule and that means when you cold call someone, you always have to remember the following:

• Be honest, transparent and straightforward.

• Be persistent.

• Identify and solve problems.

• Be respectful.

• Be memorable. Make sure they don’t forget your call. Make it unique. Stand out.

• Be credible. Use third-party info to validate your claims.



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