IF You’re Going to Make Cold Calls, This is How to Do It

John Barrows
March 20, 2019

“Cold calling” is getting harder and harder to justify these days. Less people are picking up the phone, some executives don’t even have office lines anymore, the layers of gatekeepers are getting thicker and harder to navigate. It’s brutal out there. With all this, I still think cold calling has its place and can be effective IF done right.

First, let me be clear on my definition of what successful “cold calling” does and does not look like. I DO NOT think calling through a list of names with a generic elevator pitch can be effective. On the contrary, I think it can actually do more harm than good these days. I also don’t think making 50 dials sprinkled throughout the day to random people with varying messages can be effective either. However, being targeted with your message, staying focused with your calling and combining it with e-mail can be very effective.

The ideal approach to cold calling is to spend some time on your prospect’s website or Linkedin profile and find something specific to reference about them or their company and make a direct connection to the value your service can provide. However, most of the reps I work with are being asked to hit a certain volume of activity a day (30-60 dials) which doesn’t leave a ton of time for extensive research. I still think we should segment off about 1 hour a day to do the research and make those type of calls to our top tier target accounts but after that, we need to get the volume up there. Here’s a step by step process on how to be effective and relevant when doing volume cold calling:

Step 1: Segmentation

The best way to get the volume of calling up while still being targeted and relevant with your message starts with segmenting your target list. The more categories you can segment your target lists by (industry, title, existing technologies, competition, etc.) the more targeted you can be. I like segmenting by title and industry to start with.

Step 2: Develop your message

If you can get a good enough sized list by title (CEO) and industry (Tech) then you can start to figure out what those people care about and what their priorities are by doing a simple search on google for “CEO Tech Industry Priorities 2019.” After understanding their priorities you can come up with a message about your services that speaks to them. The easiest way to do this is by checking out any case studies you might have for companies in the industry you’re focusing on and see what kind of results you were able to drive for them.

Once you find a good case study with a solid result you can develop an attention-grabbing message that sounds something like this:

“We showed XYZ company in your industry how to drive (results) using our solution” or “we’re working with other (executive title) in your industry to help them address their (x) priority by….”

This message should be no longer than 15 seconds, focused on getting their attention and should solicit the response “how do you do that?”

Step 3: Develop your qualifying questions

In addition to having a specific message, we also need specific qualifying questions to ask. The good thing about staying focused on a specific group of people and knowing their priorities is that you can come up with very specific questions that show you know what you’re talking about when reaching out to these people and you can stay away from the generic BANT questions.

Among other things, you can simply ask questions like this:

“We’re working with other executives in your industry to address these three priorities: 1,2,3. How do these align with your priorities and what other ones are you specifically dealing with?”

Step 4: Prepare your supporting materials

Since we’ve already used the case studies to help develop our messaging to a targeted group we can use them to tell the story if/when we get the “how do you do that?” response after our attention-grabbing statement.

Step 5: Know what you’re asking for

The clearer and more specific you are with your call to action the better results you’ll get. Are you calling high and asking for a referral? If so, who are you asking to be referred to? A specific department? Title? Or, are you asking for time on the calendar of the person you’re calling? If so, how much time do you need? When do you want it? Be clean and specific.

Step 6: Deliver the message

When you deliver the message make sure you pay attention to the structure of your call and actually map it out before you start making your calls. How are you going to introduce yourself? What is the reason for your call? What are you asking for? What happens on a live call vs a voice mail? Write it down and practice a few times before you start.

Step 7: Block time

As I said earlier, I think that making 50 dials sprinkled throughout the day is a waste of time. You can’t gain any momentum or learn anything that way. However, if you block off an hour, prepare with the steps above, make sure you have your list ready and do nothing else but make calls during that hour you can accomplish a lot. The first few calls are going to be rough as you try to smooth out the delivery but then you’ll start to catch a groove and be far more effective as you go. By focusing your time and approach to a specific target you can also be far more efficient with your calling and will be able to make 20-25 dials in an hour with some good conversations mixed in. With prep and call time included this approach allows you to make 50 dials in about 3 hours, leaving the other 5+ hours to do whatever you want.

Step 8: Track and measure your results

Lastly, we need to make sure we track and measure our results. By taking a specific approach with a specific message to a target audience and segmenting an hour to do so we can figure out fairly quickly whether a message/approach is working or not. I usually keep a pad of paper and pen on my desk and count how many calls, referrals and meetings for each approach. I try each approach at least twice with an hour call blitz each time to get at least 50+ data points that I can use to compare to other approaches. If I can get anything around an 8% conversion ratio (meetings+referrals/calls) I put that message/approach on the list to use again. Anything below 8% I will try something else and keep split testing different approaches until I find one that works.

I know this seems like a lot of work but what’s the alternative? Pick up a list of names and start blasting through them with a generic elevator pitch praying to trip over an opportunity and hoping for a 1% conversion rate? Have fun with that.

Today I’m hosting my first ever workshop that’s open to the public in my hometown of Boston. Take a look at the agenda and let me know where we should host future workshops. Thank you to our event sponsors SalesLoft, LeadIQ, and Costello

JBarrows Sales Training Boston Workshop
John Barrows
Founder & CEO, JB Sales