Cold calling is still an essential part of any winning sales strategy. A comprehensive study from Rain Group found more than half of senior buyers prefer a phone call over other forms of sales outreach. But it’s hands down the most terrifying part of the sales process for people new to sales: most of us would rather eat a plate of worms than pick up the phone.
You’re putting yourself out there: To be judged, to be told no, to be laughed off the phone (seriously this has never happened in my 15 years in sales but it is still a real fear for many).
I remember my first cold call – I was so nervous I had a bucket next to me (just in case). I was going in completely blind, no set up, no script. Nothing. Needless to say it was a complete disaster (and no, he didn’t buy the magazine subscription I was trying to flog). I learnt one lesson very quickly:
Successful cold calling comes down to one factor: preparation.
This guide will give you three easy steps to prepare yourself for cold calling, giving you the confidence to pitch yourself and your product to any client. These steps are the building blocks of any successful sales strategy – get this right and the rest will seem like a walk in the park.
We will cover:
Step 1. Craft a snappy opening line: Your first words can make or break a sale, learn how to explain what you offer in order to hook people in.
Step 2. Perfect your (non-salesy) sales pitch: If selling yourself makes you cringe, you’re not alone. Explain what you can achieve for your customers without being salesy.
Step 3. Keep the conversation going: How to avoid toe-curling awkward silences and find the perfect way to finish the call.
But First, Why Is Cold Calling So Damn Scary?
There are so many reasons cold calling gives us the chills, not in the least the classic fear of rejection. Here are 5 more you may be feeling:
- You don’t want to be associated with the ‘S’ word: There’s a bit of a stigma around sales these days (we have all had THAT bad sales experience) and many people don’t want to be associated with that.
- You don’t want to expose yourself: Most roles can hide under the company ‘blanket’ behind e-mails and screens, but not sales. It’s one of the only roles in business where the person is on the front line.
- You feel the pressure to perform: Picking up the phone to make a sales call there makes us feel like we’re on show, much like public speaking or networking, this doesn’t sit comfortably for most non-sales people.
- You don’t want to look desperate: Some of our clients have even told us they feel that by running sales themselves, they worry it may look like their business is struggling.
- You feel uncomfortable ‘bigging yourself up’: Self-promotion is very hard, especially if you aren’t from a sales background. Even more so in Aussie culture where we pride ourselves on our humility.
Do I Really Need to Master Cold Calling? Can’t I Just Email Instead?
With text messages replacing phone conversations and voicemails rarer than a French steak, many of us are forgetting the value of a phone call. We’d much prefer to hide behind the comfort of a well-crafted email and cross our fingers for a response, but consider this stat:
The average person deletes 48% of the emails they receive every day.
Cold calling is suddenly looking like a good prospect, right?
Here’s how to reframe cold calling so it’s not scary:
- Everyone is always selling: Whether it’s persuading your three-year-old to wear socks, or going for a job interview, sales skills are essential in every aspect of life
- It’s just two humans having a chat: There are no tricks, it’s just two regular people talking together about something mutually beneficial
- It’s FREE (if you do it yourself) costing nothing other than your time. And if you decide to outsource to professionals like us, it can be a very cost effective way to grow your pipeline.
The point is that good sales isn’t salesy. When you have a good sales experience it doesn’t feel negative. You feel like you have come away with something you need or want for a good price. And this goes for cold calling too.
3 Steps to Cold Calling Confidence
So how do you do cold calls that don’t feel salesy? It’s all about preparing and feeling confident when you pick up the phone.
I’ve put together three simple steps that I advise all my clients to do before they make their first cold call. Follow these to calm your internal butterflies and start picking up the phone with confidence.
Step 1. Create Your Opening Line
First impressions count. And when you’re cold calling, it all starts with your opening line.
Your opening line is the foundation of your entire sales strategy – whether it is writing an e-mail, connecting on LinkedIn, cold calling or networking – it all comes back to one line.
How to Craft a Snappy Opening Line
First, picture your ideal client – here’s mine:
All jokes aside, you should already know who your ideal client is – if you don’t have one then you need one. If you do this step without an ideal client in mind it won’t be nearly as effective. You may have one or many, but make sure you have one opening line per niche target market.
Got your ideal client? Now answer these two questions:
- What problem do you solve for them? Sales is all about positioning. How does your product or service fit into their specific need? If you’re not sure, go back to your initial strategy – why does your product exist in the first place?
- How exactly do you solve that problem? Relate your service offering back to their problem – and be specific in how it solves that problem.
A recruitment firm specialising in temp admin staff. People can call us last minute when they REALLY need some staff and they will arrive that morning.
A CRM business. We create a clear picture of your customers by enabling every sales person to easily and accurately detail their clients in an organised system.
Your Turn: Create Your Opening Line
Here’s an easy script for you to customise for your business
Hi, my name is…………………………..
I am from/calling from/getting in touch from……….(company name)
We help………………………………(niche target market)
to……………………………(the problem you solve)
by………………………….(how do you do it?)
Here’s my Opening Line
Hi, my name is Jenny
I am calling from True Potential Sales
We help small businesses to improve their sales pipeline by mapping out their sales process from start to finish
Ready to try yours? Download your FREE printable opening line script here. Customise a version for each of your target clients and print them out to have in front of you when you make your calls.
And the beauty of this is it isn’t just for calls. Once you have it in place you can use in anywhere:
- Opening a call
- Starting an e-mail
- Intro on social messages
Pro Sales Tips:
- It is important that you confidently deliver your opening line in full at the start of the call. If you trail off halfway through you’re not going to deliver the message. After this – the floor is ready for your prospect to chime in, so stop talking and ask some questions.
- If you’re in a sticky spot or the conversation stalls, ask more questions.
I’ll say it again, preparation is key. You don’t necessarily need to practice it out loud (mirror practices are definitely not essential) but make sure you run through different opening lines for each type of client.
Next up, it’s time to sell yourself…
Step 2. Sell Yourself (Without Being Salesy)
There’s a reason sales has a bad wrap:
The truth is that the best sales people aren’t cocky or showy. But they DO sell themselves.
How? Here’s a simple way to position your offering without the icky sales aftertaste.
How to Craft Your (Non-Salesy) Sales Pitch
The best way to show your ideal client how amazing you are is by demonstrating how you can solve one of their key problems. Instead of saying how great you are, sell an outcome and a fact.
To start, answer these questions:
- What problem does your client have?
- How can you solve that problem?
- How have you solved that problem for similar clients?
- What was the result?
- What did your clients say?
By communicating this way, you are telling success stories of your business rather than directly bragging about how wonderful YOU are. And you are demonstrating how you have been able to do this for someone else – someone just like them.
Download this free printable script to create your Non-Salesy Sales Pitch now.
Pro Sales Tips:
- Replace “I” with “we/our company” and it instantly becomes less personal (and less cringy).
- Hard facts and numbers are essential. Make sure you have some results you’ve achieved either documented or well established in your mind.
- Get specific. Make sure you show how your product/service is hyper-relevant to them. Has it worked for a client in the same industry or sector?
- Once you have this nailed, you can flesh it out to create a great customer case study for your website.
Your Non-Salesy Sales Pitch Script
[Insert your opening line here].
I wanted to talk to you because we have been helping another [type of company] who have found it really hard to differentiate themselves in their competitive market.
We have built them effective [offering] and [offering] that has [result you have created].
They were delighted. Is this something you would like to achieve too?
Download a free printable script to customise this for your business.
See it in Action
Hi, my name is Jenny. I am calling from True Potential Sales. We help small businesses to improve their sales pipeline by mapping out their sales process from start to finish.
I wanted to talk to you because we have been helping another small consulting company who have found it really hard to differentiate themselves in their competitive market. We have set them up with an easy-to-follow sales strategy that has given them a 20% increase in sales in the first 2 months. They were thrilled. Is this something you’d like to achieve too?
We are a digital marketing agency that specialises in the recruitment industry.
I wanted to chat today because we have been helping another recruitment agency who have found it really hard to differentiate themselves in their competitive market. We have built them effective converting websites and created a marketing strategy that has increased their leads by 200% year on year. They were delighted. Is this something you would like to achieve too?
Download a FREE printable script and create your own non-salesy sales pitch. Customise it and print it out to have in front of you when you make your cold calls. Once you’ve done this, get in touch and we’ll run you through it with a free consultation to make sure it’s spot on.
Step 3: Keep the Conversation Going
Now you’ve expertly delivered your opening line and pitched your services, you need to get your prospect talking. The last thing you want to hear is the sound of silence. There is nothing, I repeat NOTHING worse than an awkward silence on a cold call.
The best way to do this is to start asking questions. And yes, some questions are better than others…
Every time I come off the phone and think “geez, that didn’t go so well” I can ALWAYS link it back to the types of questions I asked.
Open Questions are Your Answer
While closed questions definitely have their place (like in your sales pitch) they only allow for one of two answers: Yes or No. Once they’ve answered, the pressure of keeping the conversation going lands squarely back in your lap.
Open questions (who, what, why, when, how) are generally much better for this stage of your cold call. By asking an open questions you encourage a longer answer and allow the conversation to flow. You also get a chance to gather more information on your prospect’s challenges and blockers to buying, which you can then use to ask even more open questions.
The questions you ask should be aimed at working out what their current situation is and what problems they may be experiencing.
Here’s Some Open Questions to Try:
- How would you rate your current provider?
- What is your biggest challenge at the moment in relation to x?
- What are the roadblocks for you in reaching you current goals?
- What research have you done previously into x?
- What experience do you have with x?
- How did that go for you?
- What are your plans for x?
Like a Delicious Burrito, Wrap it Up
The conversation is going along nicely but you can sense it’s time to wrap things up.
Now’s the time to go back to your objective – was it to book an appointment? Close a sale? Or simply to qualify the company? I hear way too many cold calls dwindle into nothing with a tepid offer to email some more information (which will inevitably end up in the trash folder).
This is not the time to be timid. Ask your prospect directly for what you want.
e.g. If your objective is to set an appointment you can say:
“It sounds like you are very similar to our client X who we worked with last year. Are you free next Tuesday for me to come in for half an hour?”
Or if you product/service has a lower price point there is a higher chance you can sell over the phone and don’t need appointments. In which case, once you have gathered enough info from your potential client you can match up your offering based on their needs:
“Our offering X/Y/Z will help you to solve the problem you just explained to me (repeat the problem back to them). Would you like to go ahead with that one?”
The point is, always ask for what you want, it can be surprising who says yes! You can have a painful call with the toughest objections but they still say yes to an appointment or agree to progress the process to the next step.
All great athletes watch their match footage after a game to see where they went wrong. Be like them. After each call, have a think about how well it went. Could you have handled it differently? Could you have asked more open questions? This will help to build your cold calling skills as you go. If you are new to cold calling, I would expect 3 out of every 10 conversations to be positive and engaged. If you are not hitting this, go back to step one in this guide or get in touch with us for one-on-one sales coaching and advice.
So there you have it, three steps that will have you Beyonce swaggering your way to the phone to make your next cold call.
Still Nervous about Cold Calling?
About the Author
Jenny White is the Managing Partner of True Potential Sales. After 15 years’ on the front line of sales in IT, recruitment and advertising in the UK and Australia, she decided to put her knowledge to good use and help others improve their sales processes and pipelines. Together with her business partner Chris Hull, they created True Potential Sales. They now have a team of sales people across Australia providing sales expertise and campaigns to small and medium sized businesses. Jenny lives with her husband, Tim and their two small daughters, Tessa and Nina in Helensburgh, Northern Illawarra.