The Art of Cold Calling in 5 Easy Steps

November 17, 2020

There have been considerable questions asked in the SaaS community as to whether or not cold calls are as valuable as they were pre-COVID. We asked several industry experts for their take. They each replied in the same emphatic fashion: “Yes!”

For industry leaders like Lars Nilsson of Sales Source, “The phone is more relevant than ever before.” That’s not to say, however, that the sales landscape itself hasn’t changed. The art of cold calling might still be key to a sales team’s success, but the art of cold calling has changed along with the market. Any successful sales team needs to combine a pre-COVID dialing cadence with revised cold calling techniques. You need to adjust your approach in order to build trust in a post-COVID environment. It’s not just a simple numbers game anymore.

We’ll show you how to match your cold calling strategy to the times in five easy steps.

What Is Cold Calling? #

Cold calling involves any direct contact with a prospect by phone that had not been previously solicited. If your prospect hasn’t requested a call or had any contact with your sales team, then the first contact by phone is considered a cold call. Any approach that is provoked by an interaction on your client site or with your online materials (content marketing, demos, etc.) is considered a cold approach.

Your sales reps will use cold calling as a precursor to a more extensive later discovery call. The discovery call is the phase of the sales process during which the angles of a potential client relationship can be puzzled out. On that initial cold call, however, your sales rep’s main job is to convince your prospect of their knowledge of the prospect’s pain points and show how your product fits into the picture.

1. Your Perfect Call Script #

Russ Hearl, enterprise lead at G Suite, still encourages his teams to double down on the calls in their cadences. He encourages them to pick up the phone and engage with a prospect on a human level.

Russ has built several sales teams from the ground up at FedEx, Salesforce, DoubleDutch, and now Google and has some interesting tips for reps — selling is about connecting with people in real-time, asking great questions, listening, and thoughtfully responding. So put your best foot forward when taking phone calls with prospects. The fastest way to improve your selling and interpersonal skills thereafter is to engage with people in real-time. You should privilege this over asymmetrical communication channels like email, especially post-COVID when inboxes are full.

With those basic principles in mind, you can build truly effective cold calling scripts.

A great sales script will include many of the following attributes:

  • Lead with your justification. Why are you calling? What’s your value add? You can afford (and should be encouraged) to make small talk on longer sales calls but not on this first approach.
  • Create rapport. You’re giving your follow-up a better chance of success if you can establish rapport with a customer based on a mutual LinkedIn connection or even past experience at a common company.
  • Display an understanding of customer pain points and assert how your product fits into their “story.” Use open-ended questions to advance your understanding of these two concepts.

There’s plenty more that you can think about when creating a script for successful cold calls, but all sales professionals should bear the above fundamentals in mind when developing their own particular styles.

2. Research in the Art of Cold Calling #

Ask any of history’s most famous commanders and they’ll tell you that battles are mostly won before the first shot’s fired. So it is in sales (thankfully, without the shrapnel risk, mostly). Absolutely key to success in the art of cold calling is your preparation, and both research and a general standard of prospecting are a part of this preparation.

It’s not just a case of a quick Google search and dialing a phone number. Research should be considered a key part of the sales process, and successful cold callers treat it as such.

In addition to looking for mutual connections, as listed above, look for information on:

  • New hires at the company that might suggest a need for the product you’re providing (e.g., a new VP of inbound sales? they might have use for your suite of sales tools)
  • Information on recent seeding rounds
  • Information on competitors of yours whom they may have worked with
  • How your product performance compares to industry benchmarks

Finally, before picking up the phone, make sure your sales reps know the outcome they want from this call. Where in the sales process is this prospect right now? What, as per your understanding of their needs, should the next steps look like? Having this knowledge helps make follow-up more straightforwardly actionable.

3. In the Ideal Cadence, Call Your Prospect 4 Times Over a 20-Day Period #

At, we analyzed over 1 million cold calls made using sales engagement products like Outreach. Chorus research shows that a successful cold calling sequence lasts 20 days. Cold outreach does not mean badgering the same contact endlessly for months. In fact, if you’re doing that, it may well be that your prospecting is off and that you haven’t targeted the right decision-makers in the first place.

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This means you have to try about four times to have that in-depth conversation (which lasts about 7.5 minutes) with the prospect that results in a booked meeting. So, ensure you have at least four to five calls in your cadences, and once the cadence is over, turn the contact over to marketing for nurturing. Your reps should also aim to ask two to three questions that create “engaging moments,” encouraging answers of 30 seconds or more, and to monologue for 30 seconds or more at a time.

4. Every Voicemail Is an Opportunity #

Also, when the prospect does not respond or declines your call, do you use the opportunity to leave an engaging voicemail?

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Voicemail can sometimes be overlooked as a pillar of follow-up, but given the fact that major players like Lars Nilsson believe that “emails are way...down” compared to telephone outreach, they’re still vital. In a sense, being able to leave a voicemail for your potential customer provides a different sales terrain than a regular call, one with its own benefits.

You may not be able to use your regular sales pitch or employ all the usual means of getting your prospect’s attention (visual presentation, the creation of engaging moments, etc.). However, through voicemail, you can deliver a compact, effective précis of your product and the positive impact it can make. This might involve pointing your prospect to a particular passage in a resource you’ve sent over (or that you know they’ve seen) or a quick summary of your value proposition relative to their pain points.

At its best, a well-placed voicemail can foreground success on a later call.

5. The Art of Cold Calling & Beyond #

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The ideal cadence also includes an equal number of emails and some social media touches. In fact, your social media component should comprise more than just a few “touches.” Good social selling has been shown to increase a company’s revenues by 16%; done right, it’s an assured lead generator. During the cold calling process, however, it is a key component of follow-up. Wherever you first made contact with a prospect, that’s the best place to follow up with them. If the first contact was made through LinkedIn, then use LinkedIn as your primary avenue.

Putting social media or even remote Zoom events in the mix is now all the more important given the overcrowding in traditional channels like emails since COVID first hit. With this in mind, be careful overprioritizing cold emails, and avoid common tonal mistakes.

So Many Cold Calling Tips... #

...and, hopefully, more than enough cold calls for your team to be taking full advantage of all of them. Some of the best practices for cold calling are universal across all kinds of sales calls - speaking clearly and with enthusiasm, telling your prospect’s story with your product (not your own story), being polite and to the point without coming off stiffly.

That said, there are also a number of cold calling tips that are unique to this bit of the business. Be firm and direct, remembering that failure is to be expected (90.9% of all cold calls are unsuccessful), and remember that while the quantity of cold calls is easy enough to do, quality is what will tell in the end.

Want more cutting edge sales insights to beat the post-pandemic downturn? Tune in to Chorus’ Weekly Briefing series for the freshest and best hot-takes from top industry leaders.

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