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10 ways to improve your cold calling strategy

February 7, 2019

Cold calling is not dead! It’s still a fast, cost-effective and powerful part of the B2B sales process. A cold calling strategy is essential for B2B prospecting. Here’s how to improve yours.

You’ve probably heard that cold calling is dead. You’ve probably been told that in the age of outbound email, social selling and other modern B2B lead generation techniques, there’s no place for it.

🚨 Newsflash! 🚨 

Cold calling has been around since 1873 - and guess what - it’s not going anywhere!

Most of the organisations that claim cold calling doesn’t work aren’t doing it correctly. Get cold calling right, and it can be the most powerful weapon in your B2B sales arsenal. 

Cold calling success comes down to the work you put in before you pick up the phone. The better you plan, the more likely you are to win. Here are 10 ways you can improve your cold calling strategy.

Keep scrolling 👇 for our top tips on making better sales calls! Alternatively, use the menu to navigate around this page.

Define your cold calling objectives | Build a highly-targeted prospect list | Use sales triggers | Research your prospects | Write a script | Practice makes perfect | Call at the right time | Learn how to handle objections | Analyse and adapt | Be positive in the face of rejection | Cold calling from home | Cold calling infographic | Warm up your cold calls with Cognism

1 – Define your cold calling objectives 📋

Sad to say it, but “smile and dial” isn’t a proper cold calling strategy! Before you pick up that phone, you need to sit down and plan. What do you want to achieve from your cold calls? Are you looking to book a meeting? Invite the prospect to attend a webinar? Persuade them to view a live demo of your product?

Take some time to define your call-to-action (CTA) before each call. Remember that your CTA will be different depending on the prospect.

Cold calling is just Phase One of a multi-stage sales process. Your goal might just be to move the prospect onto the next stage - and that’s ok! Test a few different objectives and see what works best for your product.

Once you understand where you want a conversation to end, the route becomes much clearer.

“Work out your goal for each cold call before you pick up the phone. Stay 100% focused on it and don’t allow yourself to deviate.”

- Nancy Newman, Associate Sales Director, Cognism

2 – Build a highly-targeted prospect list 🎯

Being generic will get you nowhere. In 2020, you need to make your cold calling messages as relevant to your prospects as they can possibly be. Therefore, you need to build a laser-targeted prospect list, focusing on an extremely narrow slice of the market.

This is our 2-step process:

Step 1 - Identify your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

This is the single most important thing when creating a cold calling strategy. If you’re speaking to the wrong people, everything else falls to pieces. 

The benefits of a precise ICP are high-quality  targeted leads, better outbound, smashed targets, greater efficiency and consequently, more revenue - this all results in a more motivated, confident sales team. So take your time and get it right!

Make a start by downloading our Ideal Customer Profile handbook! It contains everything a B2B sales rep needs to develop a winning ICP for cold calling.

Step 2 - Scale it up

Use a B2B prospecting tool, such as Cognism Prospector, to build an accurate, fully compliant lead list based on your ICP. Et voila - sales just got way more effective!

“The first thing any sales team needs before they start hitting the phones is a great list of contacts. Having access to great leads is a sure-fire way to keep motivated.”

- David Bentham, Inside Sales Director, Cognism

3 – Use sales triggers ⏩

Sales triggers (buying triggers, marketing triggers, or conversion triggers) can be defined as any event that could create an opening for contact with a prospect.

In cold calling, timing is everything. Here are some examples of sales triggers that could improve your chances of converting on a cold call:

  • New C-suite executives.
  • New funding.
  • Sector announcements.
  • New legislation.
  • Company hiring.
  • Conferences and events.
  • Company relocation, expansion or merger.
  • Changing job role or title.

Each of these time-dependent data points, when spotted, can make the difference between an interested prospect and a hard no. Also, being able to reference one of these when you speak to a prospect shows you’ve done your research. Just try not to be too telepathic…it can sound creepy! 😆

“The modern sales rep will use technology such as Cognism Prospector to identify these sales triggers, so prospects can be approached at the optimal time.”

- Nick Roberts, Alliances and Partnership Manager, Cognism

Get a quick guide to the cold calling techniques that really work! Cognism's sales team share their knowledge below.


4 – Research your prospects 🕵️‍♂️

Once you have your list, find out as much as you can about the people you’re going to call. A little bit of research goes a long way - if you just throw a load of information at a prospect without making them feel valued, you’re basically a pop-up window. 

Here are some tips to ‘warm up’ your cold call:

  • Check your CRM (or equivalent) - this should be your first port of call. If your company has had previous contact with a prospect, reference it. The worst thing you can do is have the same conversation twice - that’s a big turn-off.
  • Look up your prospects on LinkedIn - people share a lot of information on their social platforms. Look for posts they’ve written, shared or commented on. Also, check their job title to confirm that they fit your ICP.
  • Look for articles written by the prospect - if you can find one, note down a few interesting facts and mention them on your cold call. Also, consider their tone and match it when you reach out. Mirroring a prospect can help you build rapport. 
  • Look for recent events in the prospect’s career - if they’ve had a recent promotion or won an award, congratulate them! People love sharing their success stories, and mentioning them will set a positive tone.

“Before any cold call, learn 3 things about the prospect. Even if they don’t pick up, that information will still be there next time. You’ve got to be prepared on every call… there’s no excuse.”

- Alex Olley, Co-Founder, Reachdesk

5 – Write a script – but don’t let it suffocate you! ✍️

Having a cold calling script can help you stay on track. If you’ve got a reminder of your key selling points in front of you, then your cold calls will be more effective. It’ll help you convey tried and tested lines which will make your prospects sit up and take notice.

But, don’t rely on it too heavily.

Reading a script word-for-word will make your pitch less relevant and more boring. Also, forcing a script on your sales team can clip their creative wings. Here are 5 tips for implementing a beneficial sales script:

  1. Have a reason to call and tell your prospect what it is straight away.
  2. Get to the point quickly. Don’t make your script any longer than it needs to be.
  3. Focus on how you can help, not what you can do.
  4. Ask open-ended questions so the prospect can realise their own use case for your product.
  5. Keep the tone conversational. Don’t bombard your prospect with jargon or terms they may not be familiar with.

Finally, don’t end a cold call without getting an answer, one way or the other. Remember your defined objective (see Step 1) and steer the prospect towards a close. Is the prospect interested in seeing a demo - yes or no? Remember that the worst answer you can get in sales is “maybe!” 

The bottom line is: a cold calling script should be flexible, not set in stone. It should give your SDRs the space to innovate but enough structure to help them stay focused on their objective.

“As far as scripts go, I prefer more of a framework approach. We run a personalised approach here at Gong. It shouldn’t sound like you could pick up the phone and say the same thing to everyone.”

- Madison Gress, Senior SDR, Gong

Are you a sales rep struggling to make the most of your cold calls? Our video will guide you through a 5 step process to cold calling success!


6 – Practice makes perfect 📞

Even when you’re using a script, you don’t want the prospect to know you’re using a script. You don’t want to sound like a robot.

Before you start calling, practice your script until you know it inside-out. Think about the objections you may encounter and have an answer prepared for them. Focus on the basics, and innovating will get much easier. Here are some examples of additional skills you can add to your toolkit:

  • Tonality - get excited about what you’re selling. If you can’t convey your excitement to the prospect, why should they get excited about it?
  • Pauses and hyperbole - pausing to emphasise certain points will help you draw attention to your key selling points.
  • Mirroring - listen to how your prospect talks and mirror it. This will help you build rapport.
  • Repetition - repeat the comments your prospect makes. This acts as a guide for the prospect, leading them to uncover more about their business.

Remember, in order to add these layers of skill into your cold call, you must have the script and objectives nailed down.

“You don’t want to get tongue-tied or lose the flow on your cold call. Keep in mind 2-3 facts or stats and use them every time.”

- Charlie Beale, Senior BDM, Cognism

7 – Call at the right time ⏰

There are times of day when people are happy to take cold calls. There are times when it’s not convenient. Research the best times for your target industry.

That said, don't allow yourself to be too restricted by time. Sometimes the best time to call is right now. Plan your most important calls at convenient times, but don't use timing as an excuse for inactivity!

If you find yourself speaking to a ‘gatekeeper’, such as a PA or receptionist, have a plan to get past them and get through to the prospect. Here are some ideas:

  • Try to sound ‘senior’ - keep calm and relaxed. Speak confidently, slowly and concisely. If you can do this, you’ll sound experienced and important. The gatekeeper may be less inclined to hold you up.
  • Don’t sell to the gatekeeper - the gatekeeper is not a decision-maker, so don’t pitch to them. In fact, say as little as you can get away with. Be friendly, charming and professional.
  • Give the impression that you know your prospect well - use first names when you ask to speak to your prospect. If the gatekeeper asks what the call is regarding, use a piece of information you’ve already found out while researching them (see Step 4).

Lastly, don’t call your best leads at the beginning of your cold calling drive. Save them until later in the process, when you’ll be more confident and better equipped to answer their questions.

“Treat the gatekeeper with respect and leverage the insight they have. More than 50% of cold calls are answered by some sort of gatekeeper, so devising effective strategies to interact with them is an important first step for any sales rep.”

- Matt Buchanan, Co-Founder, Service Direct

8 – Learn how to handle objections 🤔

A prospect will rarely be ready to convert immediately after your sales pitch. They will likely have some questions or objections. 

Responding to regularly occurring objections is a science. Add responses to your script and learn them. Alternatively, if you find that you are constantly running into the same questions - adjust your sales pitch to answer them in advance.

Believe it or not, responding to new objections is also a science. Follow these rules:

  1. Listen to the prospect’s objection - the prospect is never wrong! Take their objections seriously. They’re a sign that the prospect is interested in your product and wants to know more. Chances are they’ve just not heard the right information yet!
  2. Reposition your pitch in a way that answers their question. It’s the same pitch, but from a different angle.

Each time you hear a new objection, think about what you said, and what you could’ve done better. You’ll improve over time.

For faster results, take a look at our Cold calling objection handling playbook. It’s full of great ideas to improve your ability to iron out any issues at the end of your cold call.

“Give them the space to raise objections if they want to. Objections aren’t a bad thing; on the contrary, they’re a sign that the prospect is taking your product seriously!”

- Hector Forwood, Co-Founder, Hoist

Learn what the top B2B sales objections are - and how to overcome them! Watch our sales training video below.


9 – Analyse and adapt 📈

To understand how well your cold calling strategy is working, collect as much B2B data as you can.

What times of day are best to call? How many calls does it take to get through to a prospect? How long are you spending on each call? How can you improve those numbers?

Record your calls and go through them with your sales leader. Look for ways to enhance your sales skills. Identify areas of your cold calls that are working well and areas that aren’t.

Use A/B testing on your cold calls to gauge if certain cold calling methods work better than others. A scientific approach works better than a scattergun one.

“Breaking down the customer journey into individual steps makes it easier to optimise and improve the overall customer experience. The most effective way to optimise each step is by using metrics and gathering information to create a data driven sales strategy.”

- Jonathan Ilett, Sales Director, Cognism

10 – Be positive in the face of rejection 🙂

No one is saying cold calling is easy. No one wants to be a ‘professional interrupter’. You will receive your fair share of rejections. However, the trick is to remain positive and persevere. Never give up. The first step to building up resilience is to accept that rejections happen.

If you’re struggling to close deals, refine your technique. Review your sales process and figure out where you’re losing prospects. You may be able to pinpoint something you can change to improve your next call.

When you receive a rejection, don’t take it personally. Stay professional and ask the prospect for feedback. Thank them even if the feedback’s negative. Then, take a deep breath and move on. Make your next call as quickly as possible. Don’t let rejection affect your confidence.

Finally, make cold calling fun by sharing war stories with your teammates. You’ll end up being able to laugh about your problems and maybe even learn some new tricks.

“One good thing to remember. We don’t all enjoy cold calling, so make yourself do it anyway and get over the hump and fear. Set yourself a goal and do it.”

- Madison Gress, Senior SDR, Gong

Bonus cold calling tips - cold calling from home 🏠

It’s true that the nature of cold calling has changed with the ‘new normal’. It’s also true that with these changes, cold callers have had to adapt.

This doesn’t mean you can’t achieve great results! Here are a few of the changes we have witnessed, and the ways in which we’ve adjusted our strategy.

1 - Direct dials are more important than ever

With less people in the office, work numbers are becoming less valuable. Many companies are taking the plunge and opting to work remotely full-time. For cold callers, it’s more important than ever to find direct dials!

Start by searching on LinkedIn, and whenever you contact a lead through another channel, ask them for a contact number.

Though it’s harder to get hold of people, there’s an upside to working from home. If you’re able to get through to someone, they’re usually more willing to talk to you. Many people will be looking forward to a chat after a long day of working in isolation!

2 - Your ICP may have to change

During this crisis, certain sectors of the economy have been struggling. Industries who rely on these sectors for business are having to realign their targeting.

Reconsider your target market. Think about who really needs what you sell, right now. Think about which sectors are currently doing well, right now. The people who fit both of these descriptions should form your new ICP.

Get creative with your calling list and pick up the phone. These adjustments don’t have to be permanent. For now, flexibility is more important than ever.

3 - Tech can help you sell

It can be harder to find a connection with remote prospects. Loads of companies are getting creative with their outreach to stay ahead of the curve. Fortunately, we’ve listed a few technologies which will help you keep your edge.

  • Vidyard - video technology where you can record short pieces of video and embed them into emails. It’s a way to warm up a cold approach, helping prospects put a face to a name.
  • Reachdesk - Reachdesk used to be the people who would send cupcakes to your prospects’ desks. Now, they send UberEats vouchers. Why not use Reachdesk to buy your prospect dinner?
  • Kluster - this great piece of software analyses CRM data, putting it into easy-to-read, manageable formats. It drives better sales forecasting and decision-making.

Get more tips for staying motivated while cold calling from home, courtesy of Cognism's sales team! Watch our fun and informative video below.


Save our handy infographic 🎨

There you have it! 10 ways to become a better cold caller. We know it was a lot of information, so we created this infographic for you to refer to whenever you’re in doubt!

Right-click, hit save, and call it up whenever you need some inspiration!


Warm up your cold calls with Cognism 🔥

A cold caller is only as good as his lead list.

Cognism can propel your cold calling into the 21st century. With 16 data points on over 400 million B2B contacts worldwide, you can build a red-hot prospect list to keep your sales team firing on all cylinders. 

Find out how Cognism could become a part of your sales arsenal. Speak to one of our experts today - simply click 👇

Request your demo now