The Ultimate Guide to Cold Calling in 2022

January 4, 2022

Sara Howshar

Cold calling is one of the most critical parts of your sales process. When done right, it can reduce your sales cycle length, help you identify more opportunities, and efficiently grow revenue. If you’ve been in sales for any amount of time, you know that the best practices around executing cold calls have rapidly changed thanks to new technologies. Well, we’re here to help demystify the art of cold calling. We’ll get you started with the latest tools and insights, including scripts, cold-call templates, data-backed tips, and more.

What is Cold Calling? #

Cold calling is contacting any prospect by phone who currently isn’t “raising their hand” at the moment.

This means the prospect won’t be expecting your call. That’s okay, but you’ll have to work even harder to convince prospects to trust you and break through.

Cold calls are different from warm calls, where prospects have viewed or downloaded content on your website. They’re also different from hot leads, who have requested you to call them.

You should have a process in place for approaching warm calls and hot leads, though here we’ll focus on cold-calling specifically. To learn more about how to handle warm leads, check out this video.

Get Started with Cold Calling #

At a high level, the perfect cold call includes four components:

  • An introduction
  • Connecting statement or “reason for calling”
  • Qualification
  • Ask

Two things are essential for successful cold-calling: a sequence in place and persistence.

According to the State of Conversation Intelligence report, the average successful cold call sequence spans 20 days and includes four calls to the same person.

The Cold Calling Process #

In addition to being persistent, you’ll want to take a structured approach to the cold calling process to increase your chances of success. And you’ll want to align your approach to industry best practices.

Chorus.ai has analyzed data from millions of cold calls across more than 300 organizations to better understand how top-performing teams work their cold calling process. Our analysis has shown that:

  • The average length of cold calls that convert into a next step is 7.5 minutes.
  • Reps talk for 40-45% of the conversation and ask four questions, including two to three engaging questions that solicit responses of 30 seconds or more.
  • Prospects typically ask five to six questions. Topics like discounts, pricing, and competitors come up one to two times each.

We’ve also found through our research that in an ideal cold call, both the rep and prospect will each engage in a monologue for more than 30 seconds. So, it’s really important for sales pros to be confident and engaging when making a cold call. With that in mind, let’s dive into the twelve cold calling tips that can help you to succeed. Compare your current cold-calling process and results to companies of a similar size and Average Contract Value (ACV) to see how you stack up.

What a typical cold call to close funnel looks like

Ever wonder how many cold calls it takes to close a deal? Here are the industry averages according to our call recording data:

2 Cold Call Funnel

On average, it takes 106 dials, 32% opportunities, and a 19% win rate to close a deal of $16,500.

12 Cold-Calling Tips and Best Practices #

Now that you know what an ideal cold call looks like and sounds like, let’s dig a little deeper into some of the best cold-calling techniques.

1. Be Strategic and Prepared #

Never go into a cold call, cold. You need to do your prep, just as you would for any other sales call. Also, avoid the rookie mistake of reaching out to unqualified prospects—you want to focus on pursuing quality. Here are some key resources to consult before you pick up the phone:

  • Dedicated account lists, including strategic and named accounts with owners. You can score and prioritize the accounts by key criteria that matter most to your business, such as hiring in certain divisions, new location openings or product launches, budget or headcount, and immediacy of the account’s planning season.
  • Detailed personas for your top prospects, including detailed explanations of how they quantify a return on investment (ROI), and what their needs, challenges, and passion points are.
  • Research top accounts, including trends impacting their industry, related tools they use, and recent company news you can reference.

Cold call scripts that leave room for personalization and can help you manage common objections and address FAQs.

2. Fill Out An Account Planning Template #

Outline your plan of attack - prioritizing key accounts and opportunities first.

3. Bring the energy on cold-calls #

As noted earlier, you need to be confident on cold calls if you want to break through with prospects who weren’t expecting to hear from you in the first place. Being energetic can help you exude confidence.

To boost your energy, consider the following:

    • Standing up during the call (such as power posing)
    • Speaking louder than normal by projecting your voice (not shouting, though)
    • Over-emphasizing key phrases to capture a prospect’s attention

4. Focus on learning and engaging, not selling #

The key to a successful cold call is getting a prospect to open up. You don’t have much time, so work quickly to create “engaging moments” during your conversation. These are moments when you’re connecting with your prospect so effectively, that they’re excited to share with you for 30 seconds or longer. (At Chorus.ai, we measure engaging moments in terms of prospect talk time on a call. The longer the prospect monologue, the more engaging the moment was.)

How do you create engaging moments? With engaging questions, of course! These are open-ended questions that prompt responses of 30 seconds or longer. Here are a few examples:

  • How are you currently approaching [challenge] at [company]? What tactics and platforms do you use?
  • It seems like you already know a little bit about [topic/challenge]. What solutions have you explored thus far?
  • Now that you know a little bit about what we do, what questions might you have for me?
  • Is there anything that might stand in the way of us continuing our conversation later?

5. Drive toward an “ask” or next step #

One of the most important cold calling tips we can offer is to always remember that the cold call is not the forum for trying to close a deal. Instead, you want to use this conversation to help move a prospect toward the next step in the sales process by trying to understand:

  • If your prospect has a clear need/challenge you can help to solve
  • How much the prospect knows about your category
  • Whether anyone else should be involved in the purchase decision-making process
  • If the prospect is just starting to explore options or if they’d be interested in implementing a solution soon
  • What the prospect needs from you to move forward in the sales process

In short, a cold call should help you learn if the account is qualified and what the next step should be to advance the discussion. That next step might be setting up a discovery call or a demo, depending on how educated your prospect is and how much information you gather during the cold call. Or perhaps you simply need to send some collateral, like a case study, and then offer to engage with the prospect later when they’re ready to talk details.

Pro tip: While it can be tempting to ask about the budget during a cold call, we suggest avoiding this topic unless the prospect is clearly educated and looking to buy in your category soon. That said, it’s still a good idea to have some talk tracks around pricing at your fingertips, just in case the conversation pivots in that direction.

6. Anticipate common objections and FAQs #

We mentioned that it’s important to have best-in-class responses for common objections and FAQs.

Our call recording data shows that prospects will ask 5-6 questions on cold-calls. Prospects also tend to bring up objections around budget, pricing, and competitors at least once early on. While this may seem challenging, it’s generally a good sign that your prospect is educated on the market, and educated prospects are more likely to close.

Here are some examples of common cold call objections that come up on:

“I’m just not interested.”

  • Try saying: “I understand, NAME. So are you saying that X challenge is not important to you in your role at COMPANY?”
  • Or, “Can you help me find someone else at COMPANY who may be more focused on Y?”

“We already use X competitor”

  • Try saying: “We’re very familiar with X COMPETITOR. How are they working out for you so far – are you seeing the results you’d hoped for? Is there anything that could be improved?”

“This seems like it’d be too expensive for us.”

  • Try saying: “We heard something similar from X COMPANY and they were able to drive X RESULTS/ROI. What worked for them was… Knowing that, would you reconsider learning more?”

“I don’t have time to talk right now.”

  • Try Saying: I can tell I caught you at a bad time, so I’ll get straight to the point…

“I don’t think this will work for us right now.”

  • Try Saying: “I’m curious to know why you feel that way, especially because we’ve had so much success with similar companies. Can you help me understand by explaining a little more about why you think this isn’t a fit for X COMPANY right now?”

7. Embrace rejection on cold calls #

Rejection happens. And it happens a LOT when you’re cold-calling. In fact, according to the State of Conversation Intelligence, the average connected cold call only lasts 80 seconds long. Only ~10% of cold-calls last longer than 2 minutes – and that’s if the prospect even picks up!

When you face a rejection, ask the prospect for feedback. You could say, for example: “I appreciate your honesty. The hardest thing about my job is not knowing whether we can help someone. Do you mind telling me why you don’t think we can help you?”

Cold calling can be a drag and a morale-bruiser, especially when you encounter people who are downright rude when they reject you. So, it’s important not to take things too personally, and to find humor where you can. You might consider creating a Slack channel for your team, where you can share funny stories about your cold calling experiences.

Coaching and practicing will also help you learn to deal with rejections smoothly and avoid letting the prospect turkeys get you down.(Later in this post, we offer some tips for self-coaching, peer coaching, and more.)

8. Use voicemails alongside cold-calls #

Our analysis of sales call data shows that 90% of cold calls will result in a voicemail. This isn’t necessarily a black hole. Think of it as an opportunity to make a warm connection with a prospect, or to offer something of value that will inspire the prospect to call you back.

Try using these voicemail strategies in your cold calling process:

  • Warm introductions: “NAME, X person in X division recommended that we speak today, which is why I’m calling.”
  • Personalization: “NAME, I’ve been thinking about X COMPANY, and I’m going to share some ideas by email to solve X CHALLENGE. I will call again early next week to get your feedback on the ideas I shared and would really appreciate your feedback.” (Then, connect with the prospect on LinkedIn.)
  • Establishing credibility: “NAME, I’m calling because I’ve helped X SIMILAR COMPANY address X CHALLENGE and wanted to share some ideas with you. I’ll follow up with a case study by email, but I’ll call again next week to go through it with you and see if you have any questions.” (Here again, connect with the prospect on LinkedIn.)

When leaving voicemails as a cold caller, here are some do’s and don’ts you’ll want to keep in mind:

  • DO keep voicemails under 20 seconds or less
  • DO leave your name and info last0—lead with value
  • DO use an upbeat, friendly, and energetic tone of voice
  • DO incite some urgency
  • DO use your prospect’s name and your name
  • DON’T try to sell in the voicemail
  • DON’T leave only one voicemail—follow up

9. Use social selling alongside cold-calls #

Social selling is also a great way to bolster your cold-call process and help prospects better put a face to the name.

What is social selling?

Social selling is contacting any prospect on social media channels, such as LinkedIn or Twitter, by requesting to connect, sending a private messaging, addressing them in conversation via communities and threads, or commenting on content they shared. The goal of social selling is to build awareness and learn about prospects. Social selling can also be used to set up meetings, such as discovery calls.

When it comes to social selling, here are some best practices to consider:

  • Show up and really engage. Don’t automate things. Be yourself!
  • Address things you have in common, such as your university or mutual connections
  • Don’t pitch - provide valuable information that shows you’re an expert in your field

10. Employ the right technologies #

Technology plays a key role in making your cold calling process more efficient and effective. So, in addition to maximizing the cold calling tips outlined above, you’ll want to ensure you and your team are employing the right technologies. There are many resources on the market today, and they generally fall into the following categories:

  • Automation platforms, for manually automating tedious tasks such as dialing, navigating phone trees, waiting on hold, talking to gatekeepers, and scheduling follow-ups.
  • Full sequence management platforms, which integrate cold calling into your sales process alongside tactics like phone, email, SMS, and social.
  • Conversation Intelligence (CI) platforms, like Chorus.ai, which record cold calls and pull the transcripts into your customer relationship management (CRM) system. You can use CI platforms to pull insights from cold calls to improve your talk tracks and conversions. And you can build coaching pathways and certifications for reps so they can improve their cold calls and benchmark against top performers.

Contact data platforms, which provide accurate emails and phone numbers for prospects, as well as insights on how to personalize your cold calls based on recent account news.

11. Use KPIs to measure success #

You also need to measure your cold calling success. As a general rule of thumb, if you can convert 30-40% or more of your connected cold calls into a meeting, you’re doing a fantastic job. Consider using the following cold call KPIs as a starting point for tracking your performance:

Inputs:

  • Monthly revenue goal
  • Average deal size
  • % of cold calls that close

Monthly goals:

  • X dials
  • X connects
  • X cold-calls that move to late stages
  • X closed won deals

Weekly goals:

  • X dials
  • X connects
  • X cold-calls with next steps

12. Prioritize coaching on cold calling #

Even if you have all the right tools, best practices, and other resources in place for cold calling, you’re not going to be successful if your team isn’t receiving coaching. Coaching processes include:

  • Self-coaching: Reps can listen to their recorded calls and their peers’ calls alongside a rubric.
  • Peer coaching: This process might entail each rep commenting on a teammate’s cold call, highlighting two positives and two things to improve.
  • Manager-led coaching: This type of coaching usually takes place in one-to-ones, where the rep presents one of their cold calls to their manager for review and analysis. Typically, in these sessions, the manager will focus on helping the rep develop a specific skill, such as how to handle objections or ask engaging questions
  • Group film review: This process occurs when a rep submits a cold call for review and the entire group shares feedback. The person who submitted the call first self-critiques the call before the entire group weighs in.

We hope you find these cold calling tips and best practices useful in helping you and your team to become more successful at turning prospects who weren’t expecting you to call them into customers who are very happy that you did.

Coach with Cold Call Central #

Chorus has built a new experience tailor-made for SDRs and SDR leaders.

Cold Call Central provides long-awaited insights into the cold calling process so that SDRs and SDR leaders can coach more dials to success.

You can find answers to questions like:

  • What happened on my team’s calls today?
  • Why aren't we getting enough meetings booked?
  • Are my reps qualifying the meeting correctly?

Our Cold Call Center zeros in on the front lines by helping the prospector drive more pipeline, build more relationships, and book more meetings!

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