Revive cold calling in 2023: Cognism’s cold calling playbook
Breathe new life into your cold calling process with Cognism’s playbook, updated for 2023!
Keep reading and you’ll discover:
- A 9-step process for making the most of your cold calls
- How to call successfully from opening to closing
- Tips for qualifying, pitching and handling objections
- The best tools to help you become a champion cold caller
Cognism’s cold calling process
This is the process used by Cognism’s SDRs when cold calling prospects. It begins with steps to take pre-call and ends with post-call activities.
Right-click and save this infographic; refer back to it when building out your own cold calling process 👇
Now, let’s run through each of these steps one by one 👇
1. Pre-call: how to improve your calls
The number one thing you have to do when preparing for a cold call?
It’s simple - you have to make time for it!
We encourage Cognism SDRs to block out time on their calendars specifically for research. After all, you can’t have a conversation with someone if you don’t know anything about them or their business!
Don’t go overboard, though! Calling is still much more important than researching. You’ll learn a lot more from picking up the phone and talking with prospects than you will from making endless notes about them and their business.
Ryan Reisert, Cognism’s Brand Ambassador, had this to say:
“One of the reasons so many SDRs struggle with cold calling is because they invest a tremendous amount of time researching before they make their first outbound attempt.”
“This is not a good use of time until you can confirm the prospect is indeed a phone picker-upper.”
How to research prospects on LinkedIn
It’s been calculated that 80% of B2B leads are sourced via LinkedIn, which is why Cognism’s outbound sales team favour this platform for pre-call research.
So how should you go about researching prospects on LinkedIn?
Cognism’s SDRs follow these 3 steps 👇
1. Connect with the prospect
2. Visit the company website
3. Read up on the latest industry news
Make a note of anything useful that will help you build rapport on your call.
Make a note of recent company events/milestones and the language/terms the company uses.
With this knowledge, you will sound like an expert in their field - helping you to build trust with the prospect.
This is the follow-on workflow:
- Dedicate an hour in your calendar 3 evenings a week to research companies or prospects on LinkedIn that you think would be a good fit.
- Use Cognism’s Chrome Extension to export fully compliant contact data into your CRM.
- From this data, create a list of leads for you to call first thing in the morning.
How to connect with prospects on LinkedIn
When sending your prospects a connection note on LinkedIn, it’s best to keep it short and sweet. Like this:
Hi (first name),
I would be curious to know if you’re open to new tech that would accelerate (company name)’s business development process?
If you’re looking to acquire more clients, I’d be interested to chat. If not, I’m happy just to connect.
How to use voice notes and videos
Personalised voice notes and videos are great tactics for getting prospects to engage. They’re especially useful for prospects you’ve been trying to reach for a while with no luck.
Here’s an example from Cognism’s SDR Manager, Rachel Goldstone 👇
And the best time to send voice notes and videos?
LinkedIn users often check their messages first thing in the morning, so it’s best to send them before 9 am.
SDRs from Cognism, Confluent and Capdesk discuss how to identify best-fit prospects. Press ▶️ to watch the video.
2. How to get past the gatekeeper
In 2023, you really shouldn’t be calling gatekeepers at all.
If your B2B data and lead lists are up-to-date, you’ll be dialling decision-makers daily. Being hyper-targeted is the name of today’s cold calling game!
That said…encountering gatekeepers is something that will always happen at some stage on your cold calling journey. Even the most hyper-targeted cold calls will be answered by a receptionist or PA from time to time.
And here are some top strategies for dealing with them 👇
Be honest and polite. If a gatekeeper asks if you’re a cold caller say yes. It will look very bad on your behalf if you get through based on a lie - all you’ll succeed in doing is annoying your prospect. What’s more, if you brush a gatekeeper off, they’ll brush you off.
Key takeaway: if you have a good rapport with the gatekeeper, they’re much more likely to put you through to the decision-maker.
Speak like you’re in a rush or are more important than you actually are. This can get you past the gatekeeper without them asking too many questions.
Speak with confidence
If you sound timid or hesitant, then the gatekeeper will probably realise you’re a cold caller. Remember that gatekeepers will be speaking to multiple cold callers every day. They know how the game is played!
Don’t sell to the gatekeeper
This is B2B sales 101!
Don’t mention what you’re selling to the gatekeeper. It just gives them more ammunition to turn you away. Save your pitch for the prospect!
Remember names and make notes
The gatekeeper can be a powerful internal ally for connecting you with the prospect. Take note of what they say - especially things like pronunciations and job titles.
Use your mobile to make the call
Connection rates are often higher when a mobile number pops up on a caller ID.
The bottom line is: mobiles and direct dials are the ultimate ways of getting past gatekeepers.
3. How to open a cold call
Josh Braun has some great advice for opening a cold call.
You have to ask your prospect for permission to continue.
Josh says this is the best way of building trust with your prospect, right from the very beginning. People are usually very unlikely to say “no” to someone when they’re asked for their time.
“The truth behind every conversation with a prospect is one of two things - yes, they want to continue talking to you, or no, they don’t want to talk to you at this time.”
How does this work in practice?
Simply ask your prospect if it’s okay to talk. Sound calm and sure of yourself when doing so.
Here are some examples from Josh:
“Hi (first name), I’m Josh. We’ve never met, but I was hoping you could help me out for a moment.”
“Hi (first name), you’re probably going to hate me because this is a cold call. Would you like to hang up or roll the dice?”
“Hi (first name), I’m Josh. We’ve never met but I was hoping to speak with you briefly. Do you have 2 minutes?”
What’s the best way to open any cold call? Check out this video from Josh Braun!
4. How to build rapport with your prospects
What is mirroring?
Your tone of voice plays a huge part in a successful sales call.
When speaking with a prospect, pay attention to how they engage with you. What you need to do is match your voice to the way they talk.
This is called mirroring.
Why is mirroring important?
If you respond in the opposite tone to your prospect, all you’ll end up doing is annoying them, and they won’t want to accept your call again after that.
How to use mirroring
While it may seem impossible to prepare for an unknown prospect’s tone, you can sometimes tell from their role.
For example: a Director might be more pragmatic, while someone like an HR Manager might be more chatty.
This isn’t always the case, as sales calls can be unpredictable. But keeping this in mind can help you prepare for what you might face when your prospect answers the phone.
If the prospect is short with you
Don’t be rude or pushy, just get to the point and avoid unnecessary chit-chat.
If the prospect is friendly and conversational
Keep the conversation going for as long as needed before steering them in the direction of why you’re calling.
For example: if you ask them how they are and they ask how you are, don’t just jump straight into your pitch - answer their questions genuinely and honestly.
Building rapport: top tips
Having a good rapport with your prospects is a fundamental element of sales calls. For some SDRs, it can be the trickiest skill of all to master.
Check out these tips from Cognism Sales 👇
Be friendly, even if someone is being rude
In most cases, people never react badly to a friendly person.
If the prospect is rude to you, it’s best to respond with:
“I’m sorry you’re having a bad day, I just need a few minutes of your time.”
“It sounds like I caught you at the worst possible time…” (pause and wait for a response)
Say something to catch the prospect’s attention
Think about what your prospect would find most appealing about your product/service - then highlight it!
“We provide a platform that can generate revenue for you.”
“We provide a platform that can provide contact details for your SDRs.”
Say the prospect’s name, often!
This recommendation comes from How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, a huge favourite with Cognism’s sales team.
People like to hear their names in conversation - they feel respected and recognised, meaning that you leave a positive and lasting impression.
Focus on the prospect’s pain points
First of all, show the prospect that you understand their pain. Then demonstrate how you can help them fix it.
Listen and repeat
Repeating what a prospect says back to them shows you’re listening and engaged.
For example - after your prospect reveals how they’re finding sales leads, you can respond with something like:
“Your SDRs are finding their leads through LinkedIn and reaching out via cold calling and email. Fantastic, so…(next questions/follow up with how you can add value.)”
Refer to any of your past or current customers that are similar to the prospect’s business. This can be based on company size, industry, location, etc.
And even better - if you have a case study on them, use the data from it! Show your prospect how much value you’re offering to someone else just like them.
Find out how to catch your prospect’s attention - watch this video featuring Josh Braun and Cognism’s Enterprise AE, Will Gay!
5. How to qualify prospects
Usually, you’d decide on your total addressable market before speaking to prospects.
After that, the best way to qualify a prospect is to do your research (see the Pre-call section) and then, when on your cold call, ask them questions.
This is a list of qualifying questions from Cognism’s sales team playbook 👇
- What does your current sales strategy look like?
- How does your sales team generate new leads?
- Who would normally be involved in buying decisions for new tech?
- What tools are you currently using?
- What regions are you looking to prospect into?
- Have you used data providers in the past?
- What did you like about them? What did you dislike?
- What are your current business growth goals?
- Are you in a position to take on new clients right now?
Morgan J. Ingram and David Bentham critique cold calls live on air and suggest improvements - listen to our Revenue Champions podcast below 👇
6. How to pitch your product
We have a question for you…
In 2023, do you even need to pitch your product anymore?
Josh Braun has a theory he calls “poke the bear”.
What does “poke the bear” mean?
It means that instead of being very ‘sales-y’ and going in with a product pitch, you have to arouse the prospect’s curiosity.
How do you do this?
By getting your prospects to think about their company and their processes. Is their current process really delivering results for them? Or can you show them a better way?
To start poking the bear, be comfortable with mirroring. Repeat what your prospects say back to them - sometimes, things that sound sensible coming out of our own mouths sound ludicrous when coming out of someone else’s.
For example - if the prospect says:
“All my sales team manually find their leads.”
You can say:
“Your sales team find ALL their leads MANUALLY?”
You’ve just identified a pain point that the prospect didn’t even know they had!
Josh expands on his theory:
“You’ve got to get them to think differently, scratch their head and think ‘hmm, maybe I do need this, let me look into this some more’.”
Ryan Reisert and Josh Braun share their cold calling insights - press ▶️ to hear their takeover of Cognism’s Revenue Champions podcast!
7. How to handle objections/obstructions
If you use the “poke the bear” method, you might not need to handle objections, because you’re getting the prospect to think differently about their current solution.
But if you do encounter any objections or obstructions, here are some strategies for dealing with them 👇
Yes, we did say “objections” and “obstructions” - the two are different but equally important.
An objection is something your prospect is unsure about regarding your product or service. As an SDR, it’s your job to change their mind with facts and tell them why what they think isn’t the case.
Objection handling examples
At Cognism, we follow a five-point plan when facing objections:
Here’s how this works in practice. Let’s say a prospect says:
“I’ve heard your data isn’t that great.”
You can then ask them a question - like this:
“What have you heard about Cognism’s data?”
This is a very searching question, as it encourages the prospect to open up and reveal their objections. They might say something like:
“I’ve heard it isn’t GDPR-compliant, which is very important to my business.”
In which case, you’d tailor your response by offering a solution like this one:
“Cognism is fully GDPR-compliant and registered with the ICO, the UK regulator. Our platform was designed in collaboration with a top tier legal firm and our patented AI verifies our data daily and in real-time, maintaining accuracy and compliance.”
You can then confirm by asking:
“Does that make sense?”
If the prospect says “yes”, then you can move on to a new question. If they say “no”, then you’ll need to explain further.
How to resolve the most common objections
For some added help, we asked our sales reps to name the top 4 objections they face on their daily calls.
There’s no surprise that the 4 most common B2B sales objections conform to the BANT criteria - that’s Budget, Authority, Need, Time.
Is the prospect willing and able to spend?
Is the prospect the ultimate decision-maker?
Does the prospect have a problem that your product can solve?
Is the prospect looking to buy quickly?
Let’s take a dive into how to resolve BANT objections 👇
Budget - “I don’t have the money to buy.”
When a prospect says they don’t have the budget, first find out why. Is the price too high or don’t they see any value in your product?
If they don’t see the value, detail how your product or service will add value. Explain how it’s helped other companies achieve great results (have 2-3 stats from your case studies on standby).
If they feel the price is too high, don’t immediately offer a discount. Instead, suggest bespoke payment terms that help spread the cost of investment, without reducing the overall price.
Authority - “I’ll have to speak to my boss about this before deciding.”
It can be demoralising when you discover the person you’re talking to isn’t the ultimate decision-maker. However, this objection is easily resolved.
Ask the prospect what their concerns are and, if you can, provide information that will help them when they refer their query upwards. You might even turn them into your product’s biggest cheerleader! In B2B sales, there’s nothing quite as powerful as having an internal champion; they can sell your product to their higher-ups for you.
If their boss does need to get involved, stay calm and immediately organise a time to speak with them.
Need - “I really don’t need your product right now.”
You know the value your product can bring to the prospect’s business - so what’s stopping them from buying?
Maybe they love a certain feature but aren’t a fan of another. Or maybe they just can’t see how it could help.
Resolve this objection by knocking them out of the park with a relevant case study or some customer stats.
But…what if they say this?
“We’re already working with (company name) who does this.”
Handling this one all comes down to product knowledge. The best SDRs are also product experts - not just of their own, but of their competitors as well.
Here’s a good tactic for responding to this objection:
“You’re using (company name). That’s fantastic, I hear they’re wonderful - but where are you targeting? They target the US, but our focus is global.”
You can see how you can quickly take an objection and flip it around, making the prospect see it from a different angle. It’s all about turning a disadvantage into an advantage.
Timing - “It’s not the right time for us to buy.”
What you need to do here is uncover the reason behind the objection. You can do this by - yep, you guessed it - asking more questions!
“Why isn’t it the right time for you to buy now?”
Whatever the prospect comes back with, the most important question to ask next is:
“When would be the right time for you to buy?”
This question will get the prospect thinking. Their answer will be incredibly revealing. They’re basically telling you when they would purchase your product!
What you need to do next is create a sense of urgency. Let’s say the prospect replies with:
“We’ll look to buy after we’ve hit our H1 revenue target.”
Then you can then reply with:
“Our solution can help you hit that target - just as we helped (company name) to generate $40k in revenue last year.”
What if you can’t resolve the objection?
If the prospect asks you something that you genuinely can’t answer - don’t wing it!
Tell the prospect you’ll have to refer their question upwards - and always, always agree on a timeframe for you to supply a response.
An obstruction is when the prospect gives you an excuse as to why they can’t do something - they don’t have the time for the call, for example.
If that’s the case, you can reply by telling them you’ll send them an email.
Keep them on the line by asking them what they’d like to see in the email! More often than not, you’ll get them talking and they’ll forget they were too busy and just wanted an email.
Dealing with objections/obstructions: top tips
- If the prospect asks you a question, answer it to the best of your ability, before asking questions of your own.
- Be an educator, not just a salesperson. Know your product and share your knowledge and enthusiasm about it.
- Always go back to the mirroring technique. It’s a skill but the best SDRs are quick to gauge what a person is like and what kind of day they’re having.
- Take an objection and build on it until you turn it around. Always look on the positive side!
Get more objection handling advice from this Cold Calling Live episode of Revenue Champions. Press ▶️ to listen.
8. How to close a cold call
You’ve qualified your prospect, they’ve heard your pitch and you’ve helped them overcome all their objections. Now here it is, the moment you’ve been waiting for - closing the call!
The first step is to stay calm. Be assertive and clear about what it is you want.
Beyond that, here are 3 sure-fire tactics to reel them in:
1st tactic: Seeing the product
Tell the prospect that they’ll find more value from seeing the product in action, rather than having you explain it to them over the phone. Ask them if they have time to see it.
2nd tactic: Wasting their time
Suggest that your cold call is actually a waste of the prospect’s time. Wouldn’t they rather see a demo?
The dialogue might go something like this:
“Look, (first name), rather than me rambling on at you, would you be against seeing the platform over a 15-minute call? I could run some personalised searches for you based on your target market and show you the quality and quantity of data that we have.”
3rd tactic: Giving them a freebie
This tactic is a favourite of Ryan Reisert. He said:
“Offer the prospect something for free. It can be a workshop or free offer where they can come away at least learning something new or getting something they can immediately put into action.”
Here’s how this might sound at Cognism:
“Do you have any objection to setting up a 10-minute meeting where we can quickly build you an intent-based or trigger-based lead list and give you a free data sample to see how our data compares to what you’re using today?”
From researching to closing, we’ve got more cold calling advice for you! Press ▶️ to watch Cognism’s sales tutorial.
9. Post-call: what to do after the call ends
Your post-call activities actually begin during the call itself! You need to take notes as the call progresses and you learn more about the prospect and their needs.
There’s no downside to taking too many notes. The better prepared you are, the more likely it is that the prospect will buy.
To start, grab a notebook - it’s a cold caller’s must-have! Typing up your notes on a laptop while the call is happening can be very distracting, both for you and the prospect.
So do this old-school - with some paper and a pen!
You could even draw up a template to write your notes on. Most of Cognism’s SDRs use the following layout:
Brief description of the prospect’s company, location, industry and size.
Ideal customer profile
The industries and job titles that the prospect’s company targets.
How the prospect’s company generates new business.
The main tools used by the prospect’s team.
The prospect’s long/short term business goals - how can your product help?
Personalised notes/information that could be useful in follow-ups.
How detailed should your notes be?
It depends on how much information you manage to get from your prospect - it’s best to write down the key points during the call, then fill in any gaps once the call has ended.
Cold call admin
The SDRs job doesn’t end when you book a demo.
There’s still admin to do after you’ve put the phone down, starting with:
Typing up your notes
Type up your notes directly after the call. This way, you won’t forget anything.
At this point you should also double-check the information you’ve received; there should be no inaccuracies when the account is transferred to your AEs.
Log the notes in your CRM
Once your notes are typed up, log them in Salesforce or whichever CRM your company uses.
Be thorough - include every scrap of information you recorded. The AE will need all that intel to conduct the demo and close the deal.
The Cognism sales team has a famous mantra:
“If it isn’t on Salesforce then it doesn’t exist!”
We asked Cognism’s sales team for their top cold calling tips. Watch the video below to hear their answers 👇
Remote working advice: how to cold call effectively from home
Lockdowns may be slowly coming to end, but many reps are still cold calling from home.
How do Cognism’s SDRs cope?
Here are some WFH tips from our team.
Follow a routine
Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean it’s time to get disorganised. Get up, do some exercise, get ready for work and plan your day as if you were still going into the office.
Set up a workspace
It’s important to have a dedicated space to work from. You’re unlikely to feel the same sense of motivation working from your couch as you would working at a desk.
Block out time for important tasks
Be sure to block out time on your calendar to remind yourself of important tasks you need to complete.
Keeping a positive mindset during this time is crucial - both for your mental wellbeing and for your job performance. Cold calling can be a stressful vocation, with SDRs facing a daily grind of difficult conversations and rejected calls.
Counteract this by trying to get a good amount of exercise - 30 minutes each day is the recommended amount. Even if it’s just a quick walk in the morning or at lunch, it will help you release some endorphins and clear your mind.
Take a break
Doing too much can lead to burnout - and you don’t want that! Neither does your company. So take frequent small breaks and lunches every day to give your mind a rest.
How do Cognism’s SDRs stay motivated while working from home? Press ▶️ to watch them share their thoughts.
The best cold calling tools
There’s been a lot of advancements in technology to help smooth the process of B2B sales and cold calling in particular, but here’s a list of the main tools that Cognism’s reps can’t live without 👇
A free extension for your Chrome browser that transforms LinkedIn into a lead generation powerhouse.
Simply click on any LinkedIn profile and you’ll get a wealth of business data straight from Cognism’s compliant database - including direct dials, emails, sales trigger events, technologies, recommended contacts and more.
The undisputed leader in revenue intelligence software, Gong is a truly awesome tool for empowering and enabling outbound sales teams.
It captures and analyses every touchpoint in the sales process, delivering real-time insights on meetings, calls and emails.
Salesloft is the top-rated software that helps B2B sales teams close more deals, faster.
It provides everything from cadence automation, an integrated dialler for cold calling and powerful reporting and analytics.
A global, world-beating player in the CRM space, Salesforce is trusted by Cognism to manage our sales and marketing activities.
Want to know more about Cognism? Press ▶️ to watch our explainer video.
Cognism = the ultimate cold calling tool
- We give you access to a global database and a wealth of data points.
- We help you to qualify target accounts and identify the buying committee.
- We enable you to start conversations with prospects who are primed to buy.
- We’re easy to use and fast to adopt - you can start using Cognism on Day 1.
Take a tour of our platform and discover why Cognism is every rep’s favourite 👇
Find out how Cognism can change the way you do Sales.