B2B Sales

Cold Calling Best Practices

One of the most difficult steps in the B2B sales process is booking that initial meeting with your prospect. And cold calling is one of the most common, effective, and often fear-inducing ways of doing so. 

So, to optimize that little time you have to build enough trust and rapport with your prospect to book a meeting, here are ten cold calling best practices for B2B sales reps. 

#1 Know Your Prospect

When you pick up the phone to make a cold call, it can be intimidating. There are just so many unknowns. How will they react? What questions will they ask? What objections will they give?

That is why it is crucial to capitalize on any opportunity to bring a little certainty to the conversation. 

One way to do that is by researching your prospect. You can come to the call knowing their experiences, motivations, and responsibilities. That knowledge will help you cultivate more confidence before you dial, and lead better conversations after. 

That’s because when you have information about your prospect, you will know which questions to ask and which benefits of your product or service are relevant to their position. 

Here are a couple of methods for gathering intel about your prospect.

Your Ideal Customer Profile

The first form of prospect information should not require much research. If you created an ideal customer profile (ICP)—the categorical description of your best-fit customers—you can be sure you are calling on prospects that need your product or service. 

Your ICP companies will have a lot in common (e.g., size, budget, pain points, goals), so you won’t need to scour the internet for this hard to find data every time before you make a call. 

Here’s an example of an ICP: 

ICP

If you don’t have one already, here is how to create an ICP

Research

You can also gain info about your prospects through research. You can go through your CRM to examine past activity with the prospect and their account or explore their company website or LinkedIn profile. 

Thorough research is essential, and you should be looking for a couple of key insights to bring up during your conversations. 

Key Insights From Research 

Experiences you two have in common

Example: You both went to the same university or participated in a similar volunteer program. This is a great way to break the ice on a cold call and form a little rapport. 

“{Name}, before I dive into business, I have to bring this up. While I was looking over your {company website/LinkedIn}, I noticed in your profile that you volunteer as a {volunteer program}. I actually do the same, and it’s been such a rewarding experience.” 

Day to day responsibilities

Example: Your prospect manages marketing content. Now you know which benefits to bring up in conversation and which pains they may suffer. 

Recent publications

Example: A blog post your prospect wrote about content marketing. You can read the article and express your thoughts on the piece during the conversation. 

If you can come prepared with these insights, you will enter the conversation with confidence. And, most importantly, the prospect will see you as a professional who did their homework. 

#2 Open With Pain Points 

When you get someone on the phone, you have to make the first fifteen seconds count. 

If you don’t get their interest in those first fifteen seconds, you will lose them. 

To do this, Mike Weinberg, B2B sales consultant and author of “New Sales Simplified”, recommends that you lead with common pain points, framed in a short customer-focused story. 

If you do this, you can often pinch a nerve in the prospect that will excite their attention. For example, if a lot of your customers despised the administrative work in their jobs before your solution automated it, bring up that tedious administrative work to new prospects. 

Not only does this method make them sit up in their seats, but it makes you sound like a value-provider that has helped similar companies. 

Also, with this strategy, your mindset changes. You believe yourself to be what you truly are, a helpful consultant, not a pushy interruption.  

Here is how Mike Weinberg opens a cold call: 

“{Name}, Mike Weinberg here, I head up a new business for {Company Name}. The reason for my call today is because a lot of {Prospect Title}s from companies like yours, {Prospect’s Company Name}, have been coming to us lately because they are fed up with {Pain Point 1} and how it’s leading to a lot of {Pain Point 2}.”

Pause and wait to see if the pain points hit a nerve. If so, you will receive a response. If not, then add one more into the mix. 

“They are also exhausted from {Pain Point 3}.”

At this point, your prospect will either respond favorably, acknowledging that these are pains for them, or show no interest, which is fine and normal in prospecting. 

Either way, you have established yourself as a helpful person in the industry, which could help you book a meeting with them down the line. 

Pro Tip: As you see in the cold call example above, the words “fed up” and “exhausted from” are bolded. That is because they are power phrases. Weinberg recommends using these phrases to introduce pain points because they command attention. 

Here are some power phrases to try out: Exhausted from, fed up with, sick of, frustrated with, annoyed with, upset by, really suffering from, distracted by. 

cold calling power phrases

#3 Script Only Your First Sentences 

In B2B sales, there is a constant debate over whether or not sales reps should create scripts to use on their cold calls. 

But, the best method is actually a combination of the two, where you script only your first few sentences. Why only the first couple of sentences? Well, because it is the ONLY predictable part of a cold conversation. 

After your opening, a prospect could say anything. They could tell you they are on vacation or say an unfamiliar objection. That variability means you have to be agile and adaptable for the rest of the conversation, essentially going with the flow while still adjusting the sails based on changes in the wind (their responses). 

cold calling script tip

If you try to script out the entire conversation, you will sound robotic and freeze up when things don’t go like you imagined. 

While you can plan the beginning of the cold call, you cannot plan the exact words to move you and your prospect to the desired outcome—time on their calendar. 

Benefits of Scripting Your First Sentences

Here are a few benefits of planning only your first few sentences and why it’s one of the best practices in cold calling. 

Create a Repeatable Process

It is mentally draining to create a new strategic way to open each call, especially when you might be making 60 a day. If you know your opening to each cold call, you are going to save a lot of time and avoid overthinking. 

You Create a Testable Process

Since you are repeating the same lines over and over, you will start to notice something: whether your words work or not. 

Then, you can adjust accordingly or try an entirely new introduction. Check out what your colleagues are using with success. 

cold calling script tip #2

If you open with pain points as we discussed, you can test out different pain points each week and see which ones produce longer conversations or more booked meetings. 

You Gain Confidence

If you have said the same few sentences enough times, you are going to master them. So, at a point, it will start to sound natural, not memorized, which will put the prospect at ease. 

Also, you can start perfecting your tone, emphasizing certain words to sound as confident and compelling as possible. 

Cold calling is tough work, so any way to build confidence is advantageous and will make it easier to dial again and again. 

Caveat: If you find something about the prospect during research that you would like to bring up, don’t be afraid to go off-script. 

#4 Take Interest In Your Prospect

A lot of the time, great cold calls—the ones where you make connections with your prospects—are the ones where you barely talk business. Instead, you might talk about sports, your prospect’s vacation plans, or something going on in your industry. 

The best conversations usually happen when you can talk about everyone’s favorite subject: themselves. 

To do this in a cold call, stay fluid, and be open to following unplanned paths like you would when talking to an old colleague you bumped into at the grocery store. 

If your prospect says they are on vacation, don’t just ignore it and push through to your planned business questions or predetermined pitch that you may be eager to share. Instead, relax into the moment, and ask about that vacation. 

If they complain about being super busy, ask what they are working on. These conversations will yield more favor than any elevator pitch.

As Dale Carnegie, author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” wrote, 

dale carnegie quote

We all do things we are proud of or excited about, and it is nice to have someone take an interest in us every once in a while. 

So if you show genuine interest in your prospect’s life and business, booking meetings will become a natural side effect. 

Pro Tip: Mirroring

If you are struggling to find ways to get your prospects talking about themselves, try mirroring. It is a technique used by Chris Voss, FBI Negotiator and author of “Never Split the Difference,” to get people talking about themselves or their feelings. 

Mirroring: Repeat the last couple of your prospect’s words back to them, in a questioning tone. 

Example:

Prospect: “Yeah I’m really busy at this time of the year.” 

Salesperson: “This time of the year?” 

Prospect: “Yeah, this time of the year we always have a lot of paperwork to do because of all the inspections at the properties. It’s all we can focus on… etc. 

cold calling best practice - mirroring

As you can see, the salesperson learned a lot about the prospect right there, and maybe even uncovered some problems they can help solve. 

Psychologically speaking, people feel inclined to elaborate when you use the mirroring technique. 

#5 Sell The Meeting, Not Your Product

During a cold call, you must have your goal in mind. And many new B2B sales reps make the mistake of focusing on the wrong goal. They should not be trying to sell the product or service on this initial call. 

Instead, the goal of a cold call should be to sell the meeting. You set the meeting and then, in the meeting, you sell the solution. 

This sequence is emphasized in a lot of B2B SaaS sales processes where the business development representative sells the meetings to cold prospects. Then, the account executive holds the meeting and sells the solution. 

It is set up this way for good reason. No prospect is going to agree to buy a solution during a cold call. Also, there is not enough time to make a thorough discovery and present your solution. 

An added benefit is that once you have the goal of selling a meeting in mind, cold calling becomes a lot less intimidating. Why? Because you don’t have to be prepared to explain every feature and benefit to the prospect at this time. 

On a cold call, you can just focus on building trust and igniting a little bit of interest. That is all. 

How to Build Trust?

Build trust on a cold call by doing your research, being polite, and talking about how you have helped other clients with specific problems. 

How to Ignite Interest?

Ignite a prospect’s interest by describing pain points you will relieve or benefits they will receive from your solution. 

Then ask for the meeting.

On another note, do not be afraid to ask for the meeting. That is the point of the call. Some sales reps keep a timer next to them to ensure they ask early. When the conversation goes past the five-minute mark, they will immediately ask for the meeting, no matter how the conversation is going. 

asking for a meeting in cold call

If you can get someone to talk with you for five minutes, you should be able to convince them to take a 20-30 minute sales conversation or web-demo. If they have spoken to you for that long, they must see something in you or the solution that they like, or at least respect.

Example of asking for the meeting: 

“{Name}, from our conversation, it sounds like this could be something that provides a lot of value to your business. Would you be open to setting up a {web-demo or formal meeting} with us so we can review our services in-depth? 

#6 Use The LAER Framework to Handle Objections

Objections get a bad reputation—something you have to “handle” and overcome. Instead, it’s helpful to see objections in a positive light, as opportunities to connect with and better understand your prospects. 

Objections on a cold call come in many forms:

  • I’m too busy to talk right now.
  • We don’t need any help right now.
  • We don’t have the budget for any new solutions.
  • We already have something that takes care of this. 

Or the classic objection, 

  • I’m not interested. 

These are so common, and no matter how well you do at the opening of the call, you are going to run into variations of these. 

So, don’t blame yourself, and use the LAER Framework, a strategy based around listening, to handle any objection that presents itself. And remember, a lot of the time the given objection is not the real one. 

LAER framework

I’m super busy” could mean “I don’t trust you yet.” 

With the framework, you are trying to uncover the true objection, or at least form a connection with your prospect through conversation and understanding. 

For instance, pretend your prospect says, “We just have a lot going on right now.”

  1. Listen: Just listen. 
  1. Acknowledge: Say something to show you heard them and aren’t bulldozing past their objection. For example: “Totally understand {Name}, It seems like a lot of VPs in {Target Industry} have a lot going on this time of year.” 
  1. Explore: Ask them a question, preferably open-ended one. For example: “What keeps your team busy over there?” 

Next, the prospect will respond with an answer. Maybe they have a lot of administrative work to do or recently made a big change in their organizational structure. 

Whatever it is, your job is to listen, and then decide between two options: 

    4a): Respond: Respond if what you are selling can help them solve their problem. If they don’t state a problem, move to 4b.

    4b): Repeat: Repeat the process, starting at Acknowledge, focusing on asking more questions and learning about them. 

Even if you don’t come away with a meeting, you will have created something just as valuable: a personal connection. 

Now, when you follow up down the road, the prospect will remember you as the friendly, understanding salesperson who actually listened to what they were saying. 

#7 Accept Rejection as a Part of the Process

The first test for B2B sales reps is to overcome the fear of failure by accepting rejection as a part of the prospecting process. 

rejection in sales

The harsh truth is that most of your cold calls will result in failures, especially if you define a successful cold call only as one that generates a booked meeting. 

On the other hand, if you define successful cold calls with other metrics such as length of the conversation, learnings, and potential future sales, every conversation you have will be a little bit of success. The rejection will be a step towards the booked meeting. 

And keep in mind, on every cold call you gain a few bonuses: 

A Connection

Most of your booked meetings will not come on the initial cold call. The prospects will agree to a meeting after that. It could be on the third call or the fifth follow-up email. 

But, without that first cold call, you would not have formed the human connection that allows you to finally persuade the prospect to take a meeting.

Bravery

That racing in your heart that comes before a cold calling block will never completely disappear. Even the 10-year pros get it. However, with each call you make, your stress levels drop, and your courage soars. That will help you not just in sales, but in every aspect of life. 

Too scared to start a business because you might fail? Well, not after you have been rejected 50 times every day for the past six months. 

3 Ways to Overcome the Fear of Rejection

Practice on Smaller Accounts

If you are new, start by calling on accounts that don’t matter too much. It will take the edge off. This is not to prevent you from destroying your chances with big accounts. It’s more of a mental thing.

Because even if you mess up on a cold call to a huge account, they probably won’t remember you when you call again next month. Decision-makers get a lot of cold calls. 

overcoming fear of rejection

Start a “Funniest Cold Call Fails” Channel

Nothing takes the scare out of a horror film like your friend laughing at the monster. 

That is why a lot of sales reps share their failures, making the job not seem so scary after all. It also helps to know all of your colleagues go through struggles when making cold calls. 

Shift Your Mindset

Think of yourself as the person you are: a value provider who is trying to help these companies solve their problems. If someone rejects you, it is their loss. 

This mindset will allow you to push through and continue making the calls after discouraging or even rude rejections. 

Also, know that fear loses its power when you constantly go into your fear. That is one of the reasons why so many CEOs and Entrepreneurs, like Mark Cuban, preach the importance of starting in sales

Learnings

A lot of the time when you come away from a call empty-handed, it is because the prospect just did not want to engage with a salesperson. That’s common. 

However, sometimes there was something you could have done better to book the meeting. Maybe you spoke too quickly, forgot to ask the right questions, or did not understand a process they brought up. 

If you can hit pause after each call and reflect on what you might have done poorly, you will improve with each call you make. 

#8 Schedule Cold Calling Blocks

The best artists, creators, and inventors make sure they block out periods to put all of their focus, passion, and attention on the project in front of them. No interruptions allowed. 

Successful salespeople adopt this same strategy. When you are making cold calls, do them in uninterrupted blocks of time so that you can enter into what psychologist, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, calls the flow-state:

“Being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

Mihály Csíkszentmihályi 

Can you remember a time when you were completely lost in your action, whether it was while playing a musical instrument, studying, or skiing down a mountain? 

If yes, then you were in the flow state. 

And you can enter this state of mind in sales calls also, and your conversations will feel effortless. Here are some ways to make the most out of your cold calling blocks: 

Schedule uninterrupted blocks

First and foremost, choose times that work for your energy levels and your schedule. It could be from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm every day. And if possible, try your best to call at times when your prospects will actually answer. 

callhippo study for cold calling

That time is hard to nail down, but according to this study by CallHippo, the best day to cold call is Wednesday, and the best time to call is between 4 pm and 5 pm. The second best time to call is between 11:00 am and 12:00 pm. 

Set block goals 

It is also helpful to set goals for the cold calling blocks. For example, you could try to make 25 calls in a 1.5-hour call block. 25 is a good number to aim for, and it will help motivate you to stay on track. 

Have a list ready 

Avoid multitasking by having a list of ICP prospects ready to call down. That way, you can easily bring your prospects info up onto your screen and dial their number, confident they are a good lead with specific attributes. 

You do not want to fall out of the flow state by taking the time to research your prospects before each call. 

#9 Don’t Give Up On The First “No”

When you ask for a meeting to further discuss your product or service, most prospects will just say no out of habit. It’s automatic. 

And, unfortunately for their quotas, most salespeople will give up right there and take that “no” as the final say. 

quote about saying "no"

But, it’s not the end just yet! Mike Weinberg, the cold calling expert we mentioned earlier, recommends that you do not surrender after one “no.” He says you should anticipate that first rejection, and be ready to ask for a meeting three times

Yes, three times. 

He explains how he does it in his book “New Sales Simplified”

“{Name}, I understand that you’re {objection}. Visit with me anyway. I promise you’ll get value and ideas from our time together, even if we end up not being a fit to help you.”

This way of asking works so well because the words “visit” and “fit” are both positive and disarming. Also, he explains that the meeting itself will provide something of value for the prospect. It has intrinsic value.

For example, a prospect could gain insights into the industry or learn what technology their competition is using. 

This may seem uncomfortable or pushy at first, but it must be done. 

This persistence shows you are confident in your ability to help.

A lot of Mike’s sales students come back to him and point to this tactic as one of the most impactful in their success. 

Remember, it is easy to shy away from conflict. But when you are prospecting, you have to be able to ask for the meeting a couple of times if you want to be taken seriously and see results. 

#10 Speak Slowly And Clearly When They Pick Up

It is incredible how many new salespeople forget this advice as soon as they hear the prospect’s voice. To understand the importance of speaking clearly and slowly, think about this: 

When you answer a call from an unknown number, what is the first thing you are trying to figure out? 

You want to know two things:

  • Who is calling you?
  • Why are they calling you?

That is how your prospects feel. So, to satisfy their needs, be sure to speak slowly and clearly so that they can wrap their heads around who you are and why you are calling. That will make them feel comfortable

Rushing through the opening of the call is not only bad for comprehension but also sounds stressful. A slow tone is much more calming for the person on the other end of the phone, and it will disarm their “stranger danger” defenses. 

quote about speaking slowly

So, after you have introduced yourself and they know who you are, it is time to tell them why you are calling. 

The best way to do that is simply by saying, 

“The reason for my call today {Name} is because…”

People want to know why you are calling as quickly as possible, so make sure you tell them early on. 

Now, if you do this correctly, your prospects will feel more comfortable talking with you. And you will have successfully gotten past the hardest part of the call, the introduction. 

Conclusion

Some B2B salespeople obsess over a bunch of tiny psychological tactics to get their prospects to agree to a meeting when really, all it takes are three key ingredients: trust, rapport, and interest. 

And the most effective way to achieve all three targets on a cold call is by demonstrating that you are a human, like them, trying your best to help solve their problems. 

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