Cold Calling for Founders: Building Your Outbound Sales Foundation

Cold calling has changed substantially since the old school sales days portrayed in Glengarry Glen Ross and Wolf of Wall Street.

The simple action of picking up the phone and dialing down a list of names hasn’t changed much in practice, but it has evolved in favor of a more data-rich world of qualified leads. Today, every consumer generates an almost incomprehensible large amount of valuable sales data– web-page visits, clicks, location information, credit card purchases, and more.

Modern salespeople are able to leverage lead lists that are exponentially higher-quality than their predecessors. The process of calling strangers may seem daunting at first, but if you’re a startup without a substantial network in your industry, it’s likely that cold calling will be a regular in your strategy arsenal.

Here’s how to get the most out of your cold calling in 2020.

Cold Calling Best Practices: Make Cold Calls Warm

Cold calling is a numbers game like any other sales channel; it takes about 18 call attempts to reach a human. Once you do make contact, you need to refine your conversation to establish as much value and human warmth as possible in a short amount of time.

Leverage all available information in a way that elicits a positive reaction. Some savvy salespeople gather more information about their prospect on LinkedIn and Google.

Example structure:

  1. Capture customer’s attention

    • “[Customer name], Good morning! It’s great to have reached you personally.”

  2. Identify yourself and your company

    • This is [your name] from [your company] the leading…”

  3. Give reason for your call or email (incorporate 2 benefits you are providing the customer)

    • “The reason why I’m calling you today specifically is to [list benefits].”

  4. Make a questioning / qualifying statement (incorporate 1 big benefit)“

    • Surely, like [adjacent company in customer’s industry] you are also interested in [largest benefit].”

  5. Ask for the appointment or next step of your funnel

    • “What works better for you? A demo at 3pm tomorrow, or the same time next Tuesday?”

For example, “Hey Sam, this is Alex from [Company]. I read your article on LinkedIn about Atomic Habits and it really resonated with me, I found that book super enlightening. I thought you might be interested in [BENEFIT], we work with thousands of [Sam’s category] to [do XYZ].

Use Cold Calls as a Crossroads for Learning

Focus more on learning during the call rather than making a quick sale.

Cold calls are a mutual opportunity to gain knowledge: you want to learn more about your prospect to qualify them as a lead, and your prospect may want to learn more about you and your solution.

Make sure your follow-through after call keeps the prospect interested and engaged in your offering.

If you attempt to warm up your prospect by asking to send them a resource to learn more, will they like what they see?[1]  If they check out your LinkedIn profile, will they be inspired to trust you?

Clarity is Key

You have a small window of time to communicate your value proposition, so get to the point.

A simple and direct cold calling script can help you perfect and refine your message. The better you rehearse your cold call pitch, the more fluid and natural you become in your delivery.

A simple fill-in-the-blank script can make any anxiety that comes from a cold call seem mundane. As you dial prospects, you’ll get a better idea of your pitch’s most salient points and its lulls, allowing you to optimize your message for the next batch.

Calling with clarity begins from within– you must be crystal clear on your pitch to be able to deliver it with confidence.  Check the following boxes before you dial:

  1. Why does this person need my services?

  2. What do I want them to do at the end of the call?

  3. How can I provide or demonstrate during the call?

Be Strategic with Your Cold Call Questions

Asking questions is a useful way to nudge the conversation along and keep your prospect engaged, but you can only ask so many questions before you start eating into the prospect’s patience.  Each question should have some interest payoff.

Don’t fall into the trap of using up your questions to simply gauge comprehension or attentiveness. Make your prospect interested with your questions and only focus on questions that can advance the sales process.

For example, “yes or no” questions like “did you get my email last week?” might be useful if the answer is yes, but otherwise contribute to a lethal lull if no.

Use questions to demonstrate your awareness of trends, opportunities, and threats in their industry and role.

Cold Calling Voicemail Strategy

It’s highly likely the majority of your cold calls will end up in a voicemail. Keep the pipeline of information conversational, direct, and establish a clear action recipients can take to learn more.

While the voicemail *beep* is technically the start of the shot clock, many salespeople shoot themselves in the foot by speaking too fast or rambling to jam their message in. Instead, focus on the right words. You can’t substitute quality with quantity and speed. Remember, the mission isn’t to bombard recipients with a long message– it’s to get that call back and book the next steps.

The average sales rep leaves 70 voicemails per day, each requiring about 60 seconds. To save yourself the trouble of having to say your voicemail spiel hundreds of times per week, use voicemail drop technology via Outreach.io or similar. Record your one perfect voicemail message and leave it at the click of a button.

Follow up your voicemail with a LinkedIn message to introduce yourself and why you called. A good bulk of voicemails are spam calls and people are naturally indifferent or antagonistic to voicemails from strangers, so establish an additional touch point that gives recipients an opportunity to know who’s calling.

Final Thoughts

The art of conversation and persuasion isn’t going out of style anytime soon.

Each cold call is your first touch point to warm your leads up and fill your pipeline with interested and engaged prospects.

Be authentic, embrace rejection, and don’t read off a script like a robot for goodness sake. Cold outreach might be difficult at first, but it plays a strong role in a broader outreach plan.