Cold Calling

The Terror of Cold Calling

By Wendy Weiss, Sales Trainer, Sales Coach, and Author, Weiss Communications

The Terror of Cold Calling. But fear not! Here are: Top Ten Tips for Terminating Telephone Terror

1. Make telephone calls
Few things are more terrifying than the unknown. The fear you create for yourself is far worse than the reality of cold calling. Once you start making telephone calls and continue making telephone calls, it gets easier. You overcome fear by doing.

2. Make a lot of telephone calls
If you have only one prospect to pursue, that prospect becomes overwhelmingly important. If you have hundreds of leads, no one prospect can make or break you. The more calls you make, the more success you will have.

3. Prepare
Prepare for cold calling the way you would for any major presentation. Know what you want to say, how you want to say it and how you want to represent yourself, your company, your product or service. And know the goal of your telephone call.

4. Practice
If you are new to cold calling or uncomfortable with cold calling, practice your pitch out loud. Role-play with friends or colleagues. Practice various sales scenarios. This way, you will not have to worry about what you are going to say. You will be prepared, and you can focus in on your prospect.

5. Start with less important leads
It will be good practice and less stressful. Once you feel more comfortable, start working on the more important leads.

6. Stay calm
You will, for the most part, be talking to people who will appreciate your call. If a prospect is rude, remember: This is not personal. They may just be having a bad day. Move on.

7. Your priorities and your prospect’s priorities are different
You want an immediate “yes”; your prospect may want to finish a report, finish a conversation, start their vacation… Be very careful not to read negative or extra meaning into early conversations with your prospect or prospect’s secretary. If, for example, your prospect’s secretary says that your prospect is “on the phone,” “in a meeting” or “out of the office,” that does not translate to, “My prospect knows that I am calling and is avoiding me.”

8. Some things are out of your control
If a prospect does say “no,” ultimately, that is out of your control—but what is within your control is continuing to prospect and continuing to make calls. It is also within your control to improve your cold calling skills, take seminars, read books or hire a coach—then, fewer prospects will say “no.”

9. Arlene’s Game
The object of Arlene’s game is to focus on rejection. The goal is to reach 100 points. You get 1 point for every rejection. Give yourself 1 point for every “no” answer. If your prospect says “yes,” that’s a bonus! Focus on acquiring points. The more calls you make, the more points you acquire. When you reach 100—You Win! Give yourself a prize!

10. Have fun
This is not life or death—it’s only a cold call. The fate of the world does not rest on you and your telephone. You will not destroy your company or ruin your life if a prospect says “no.” Loosen up, be creative, have some fun!


Five Steps to Cold Calling Success

By Ron La Vine, Founder and President, Accelerated Sales Training, Inc.

Are you having a hard time reaching decision-makers, setting up well-qualified appointments, getting past gatekeepers, gathering information or finding if you are calling on an appropriate prospect in the first place? Maybe it seems impossible to get your cold calls returned or you are getting stuck into an endless loop of voice mail. The big problem today in cold calling on businesses is that it is so hard to get a response.

It is a bad situation, but it really doesn’t have to be. This problem often stems from sales training where reps are trained to start selling BEFORE they have determined if there is a need to sell. The problem becomes further compounded when sales representatives think they are speaking with a decision-maker, but they really aren’t. They have the urge to speak about their solutions rather than to ask questions and listen to the complete answers and all of a sudden cold calling becomes really difficult.

Becoming successful at cold calling requires you to switch from the old ‘If I make enough calls, I’ll sell something’ to ‘If I speak with the person who has the authority and need to buy and if I have the right solution to fit their needs, then they will buy’ approach. This approach emphasizes finding the decision-maker(s), using exploratory questions and active listening to gather the information needed to understand who has the authority to buy, if there is a need to buy, and if so, what you should be presenting so the prospect will buy.

Step 1: Establish Call Objectives
Your first objective should be to locate what we will call the ‘WHO’ or decision-maker(s). Second, you need to determine if a need exists. Third, suggest a solution based upon the information you’ve gathered. Fourth, ask for and set up a time and date for specific action steps.

Step 2: Find the Decision-maker(s) First
Before you can find the ‘WHO’, you must first know how to work your way through the maze of a large organization. It is easy to get sidetracked by someone who says he/she has the authority to buy but doesn’t.

There are three approaches into an organization: TOP DOWN (most effective) or SIDEWAYS IN or BOTTOM UP. Whatever direction you choose, remember to seek out the ‘WHO’ first.

The easiest one of the three is the ‘top down’ approach using the power of referral from above. Cold calling goes much easier if you always start at the top of an organization and work your way down. It is much easier to work your way downstream than fight your way up stream.

On your initial call, your goal is to discover ‘WHO’ is responsible for making decisions to buy your type of solution. Start with these questions: “Maybe you can help me? Who is responsible [for your solution]?” “Do you have a [ask for the highest level title] responsible for the final decision to acquire [your solution]?”. Such as, “Do you have a CIO or a CFO?”

This isn’t the time to talk about your solution. Your goal is to find the ‘WHO’ first. A set of questions in this order will keep you out of sales mode and help you stay in information mode. These questions will diminish your fear of rejection and build your confidence since people are usually willing and able to answer them. You’ll also find people less defensive and more helpful when they don’t feel like they are being sold something.

You start by calling the headquarters receptionist and after confirming the address, ask for the name and correct spelling of the CEO (or President, etc.). Next ask to be transferred to the CEO’s assistant.

The advantage of calling the CEO’s assistant is twofold. One is they work and deal with the higher level people (C-level, VPs, etc.) and secondly when they refer you to the person they believe is the ‘WHO’, that person or their office’s gatekeeper will usually take your cold call.

The reason for this is, it is very difficult for a subordinate to refuse a call coming from a superior or a superior’s office (make sure you tell the truth and say you were referred by the CEO’s office). This fact alone eliminates many of the roadblocks such as getting return calls or being put through to the decision-makers themselves. Remember, you DO NOT want to speak with the CEO or President, you want their assistant.

When you are transferred, the first thing you need to say is that you were referred by the CEO’s office (or the CEO if you speak with them).

Using the sideways approach begins with choosing a department such as Investor or Public Relations, Purchasing or Sales. Your objective again is to find the ‘WHO’.

Finding the ‘WHO’ using the bottom up approach begins by calling on people who work in the mail room, an outlying factory, retail location, or customer service and then working your way upwards.

Remember to be flexible and continue transferring to different departments to maximize the value of each call. The objective is to find a live person who will speak with you and provide more pieces of the selling puzzle.

Starting from the top and establishing the who’s who of the organizational hierarchy eliminates a person at a lower level in the organization from saying “Don’t go above me, you deal only with me.” This is because you can mention all the names of the people above.

Step 3: Ask Permission to Speak
From a business perspective, there may be nothing more valuable than our time. Let people know that you respect their time by asking, “Is this a good time to speak?” or “Do you have a few minutes?” before using your opening statement. Not only is this a more professional approach, you’ll find people will offer their full attention since you’ve been given their permission to speak.

If it isn’t a convenient time for your prospect to talk, SCHEDULE A FOLLOW-UP CALL and then HANG UP THE PHONE. Why waste their time or yours? If they are busy, you certainly will not have their attention. Make a good impression by being polite and respectful of the other person’s time.

Step 4: Use Direct Open-Ended Questions
Start by using direct questions such as: “Who is responsible for?” or “How do you currently handle?” or “What are you doing in the area of?” or “When do you plan to make a decision on?” or “Why do you think that is?” Direct questions demonstrate you are in control of the conversation and you know what you are doing.

Avoid using weak questions or statements: “Could you possibly” or “Might you be able to tell me?” or “I’m just trying to find out some information” or “I was hoping to find out” – These type of statements imply a lack confidence.

Step 5: Summarize Your Conversation
At the end, and after any conversation involving action items, summarize verbally and in writing important points and clarify time and date specific next steps. Follow the verbal summary with a written one in an e-mail, and then call to be sure the information was received.

Use a summary email to help you move forward towards the close of a sale. This email provides a detailed summary of what you heard during the conversation, what it means and what are the next steps to be taken, by whom and by when, in order to complete the sale.

In this email include:

  • Prospect’s Company Background (describe the past and current company situations).
  • Current Challenge or Situation (list the needs, problems, pains or challenges and why they are occurring).
  • Timing (specify the evaluation completion and decision dates you have been told).
  • Evaluation Process (identify who will conduct the evaluation and the criterion that will be used).
  • Decision Process (note who will be involved in making the decision and how will they decide).
  • Budget (establish that budget has been set aside or there is access to budget).
  • The Next Step (layout of the process of who will do what and by when).
  • A Signature (include your complete contact information and a tag line explaining the benefits of your solution).

You can make cold calling easier and more effective by starting at the top and by following these steps.

      1. Establish call objectives
      2. Find the decision-maker(s) first
      3. Ask permission to speak
      4. Use direct open-ended questions
      5. Summarize your conversation


Want to remove fear and rejection from cold calling? View cold calling as an informational puzzle. Your goal is to see how many pieces of information you can get on every call. When you gather information you didn’t have before, you’ve got a result. If you’ve got result then you haven’t been rejected. This puzzle approach will allow you to maximize your valuable selling time by calling on the people who can and will buy from you.

Cold Calling or Using the Telephone for Success: Is Prospecting that Scary?

By Philippe Lavie, President, KeyRoad Enterprises, CustomerCentric Selling® affiliate

In this article, you will discover complaints sales people and their organizations have in identifying and securing qualified leads. I will review different prospecting methods and the level of effectiveness each delivers. You will then read about the common denominator that links both the methods and these complaints. We will define what a qualified lead is, and finally, we will review some ways to generate qualified leads using the common denominator, the telephone, to contribute to the success of sales people.

I am always amazed to hear sales people complain about how difficult it is to build their pipeline and therefore meet or exceed their revenue target. I often hear gripes like:

  • Marketing is sending me poor leads and I am wasting my time going after them.
  • Prospects don’t call me even though we have a terrific product feature set advertised all over the place.
  • I call new prospects but they never return my calls.
  • I can’t get anyone on the phone to present what I offer with players that can buy from me.

    The other complaint I hear from companies is that their sales people are not good at prospecting. These companies know they need a better qualified pipeline. They implement what everybody else has implemented to generate leads, from email campaigns, direct mailing, trade shows, seminars, and then some. Unfortunately, it only perpetuates what has failed to create the desired outcome of effectively and cost efficiently generating qualified leads.

    Upon review of these pipelines, I find that few have qualified leads. I am therefore astonished when sales people act surprised when they are not meeting or exceeding their quarterly and yearly revenue target.

    Achieving sales goals and meeting revenue target are a sales person’s responsibility. It is part of the job definition. We, as sales people, have no excuses at the end of year if we have not reached our goals and made the money we want to make. Whatever lead marketing or any other part of the organization comes up with is simply icing on the cake. Therefore, it is our responsibility to prospect and create the opportunities we will need to meet our objectives.

    Type of prospecting tools and methods
    The University of Carolina business school published the results of a research they did, dealing with the effectiveness of different prospecting approaches. Here is a brief summary of its findings:

    How effective is: Always Usually Occasionally Never
    A recommendation from someone inside your company 16% 68% 16% 0%
    A referral from outside the company 8% 36% 44% 12%
    A letter from a salesperson followed by a direct call 4% 20% 40% 36%
    A contact at an off-site meeting 0% 44% 32% 24%
    A direct telephone call from a salesperson 0% 20% 36% 44%

    Even though cold calling appears to be the least effective method of prospecting, the use of the telephone is paramount to all these methods.

    What is the common denominator? The Telephone
    Whether you cold call, warm call, or hot call, there is one tool you will use: the telephone. Unfortunately, here is what a telephone looks like in the mind of a sales person when cold or warm calling:

    And if you are a sales person, then you know what I am talking about. Fear of rejection, being a bother to the prospect, or forcing a solution they may not need, are some of the psychological reasons people resent using the phone. Is it any wonder then why sales people dread picking up this tool to build their pipeline?

    So what the sales person does is to rely on marketing to create leads and engage in any and all activities aside from the using telephone in attempt to create opportunities. Unfortunately, to be successful, a sales person has to create leads.

    What are leads?
    For under-performing sales people with below quota performance, every prospect, that calls in or with whom they have a beginning of a conversation, becomes a hot prospect in their pipeline. For companies that participate in trade shows, every person that scans their business card is also a strong qualified lead, right? The challenge is, at times, the prospect looks like this.

    My question is: Does this look like a professional with the ability to buy what you have to sell? Does he have power to move the buying process forward? Can he, more probably than not, access unbudgeted and unallocated funds to pay for what you have to sell? Unlikely, I would say.

    Never the less, pipelines are full of such leads. As soon as a prospect calls or expresses any interest in your product features, (s)he becomes a qualified one, with a smiling face and great potential, right!?.

    NO. A qualified lead and prospect is defined as a person with a known job title, working in a specific company you know something about, with an identified goal to achieve, a problem to solve, or a need to satisfy. When such a situation has been identified then and only then can a sales cycle start. So, how can you use the telephone to qualify the prospect, collect information about the company, and identify whether there is a goal to achieve, a problem to solve, or a need to satisfy?

    Using the Telephone for Success
    As the chart showed, cold calling is the least effective way to create opportunities. Never the less, using the telephone is paramount to all these business development activities, whether cold calling, warm calling, or hot calling. Moving forward, I want to focus on the cold and warm calls.

    After researching the company you want to target and having identified the title you want to speak with, here is the roadmap to a great call:

  • Dial the number of the person you want to talk to or dial the main company number and ask to be connected to the person you want to reach
  • If you get to a voicemail, zero out and talk to an assistant, the receptionist, or anyone available in the company that can give you the information you want to collect. This information should be about the company, its operating procedures as they relate to what you have to offer, who is responsible for the area your offering addresses, what objectives, goals, needs these individuals have, and how to contact them more effectively.
  • Ask to be connected again to the person you want to reach, or one of the key players you identified in your conversation with the assistant or receptionist. If still going to voicemail, zero out and ask to talk to that person’s administrative assistant, present what you have to offer as if you were talking to the key player, and ask to have a meeting or conference call time be secured with the key player.

    Do you think such a discovery conversation with an assistant or receptionist will better prepare you to have an intelligent conversation with your prospect? Once you have identified reasons why your prospect would consider evaluating your products and services by identifying a goal to meet, problem to address, and a need to satisfy, don’t you think you now have a qualified lead?

    And with such a qualified situation, wouldn’t that eliminate some of the psychological barriers sales people have against using the telephone for prospecting? By standardizing and codifying cold calling approaches, we have seen companies improve their conversion rate from prospects to qualified opportunity by 50% and their win ratio by 40%.

    In summary, prospecting is a must for every sales person. It includes many methods, although all use the telephone as a common denominator. Learning how to use the telephone for success for cold, warm, or hot calling is paramount to individual sales success. Is it scary? For some it is, although it does not have to be. Learning how to manage your calls, how much time you spend cold or warm calling during any given day, and using well known techniques to increase one’s hit and conversion rate will contribute to making using the telephone for success more effective.