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Common cold call objections and how to respond

Eeeeek! One of the toughest parts of cold calling is undoubtedly the objections. 

Knowing what to say to someone who has hinted (or said very blatantly) that they don’t want to talk to you. 

It can throw you off your confidence.

But the truth is, objections are not rejections. There is a difference between ‘take me off your list and never call me again’, and ‘I’m busy, I can’t talk right now’. 

We spoke with Ivana Ivanova, a Cognism SDR who loves objections. 


Because she sees them as an opportunity to ask questions, dig a little further and open up the conversation. 

She, along with other Cognism SDRs, have a list of common objections and ways to respond at her fingertips. A list of notes she can refer to during the call. So she can stay level-headed and continue the conversation!

We asked her to share these with us, so we can pass them onto you. Keep reading to find out how to respond to common cold call objections!

Pay attention to the tone

Before you even start to consider the words that come out of prospects’ mouths, you should analyse their tone as they answer the phone. 

So much of human-to-human communication is non-verbal, and you can learn a lot about how interested your prospect is simply from the tone of their voice. 

Say they answer the phone with a sunny sounding ‘hello’; you should try to match this upbeat energy and intonation with an equally sunny reply. 

Calls that start this way will likely be easier to manage. Generally you’ll have less resistance when moving into your pitch. 

Ivana shares that when she first started as a sales development representative, she was taught to always make calls with a smile on her face. 

You’ve surely heard of this - the old “smile and dial”!

The idea here is that prospects, even over the phone, can tell that you’re smiling. They can hear it in the way you speak, which can help get conversations off on the right foot.

Not all calls will start off with rainbows and fairies, unfortunately. Sometimes you’ll be able to tell that the person on the receiving end of your call isn’t instantly happy you phoned. 

You shouldn’t try to match any negative energy with equal negativity. It’s unlikely you’ll get far that way. 

It’s always a good idea to keep things as positive as you can - but it’s smart to note that you may have more objections coming.

Ivana elaborates on this:

“If you say for example, ‘Hi Jack, how are you?’ and you get back a flat ‘I’m good’, without asking how I am in return, then that is essentially the first road block.” 

“They have their guard up and you can tell the conversation might be a little more tricky.”

“You can usually turn the conversation around with your positive intonation, and for any common objection I have a strategy to lead the conversation on.”

So what are those strategies? Don’t worry, you won’t have to wait long. They’re coming up right now! 👇

“Can you send me an email?”

Ivana has a few ways to respond to this particular objection as there are multiple reasons why the prospect might say this. 

  1. They don’t like phone calls, they prefer to speak over email. 
  2. They’re busy at that particular moment, so it's not convenient to talk.
  3. It’s a brush-off: they want you off the phone and don’t plan to read your email even though they’ve asked for it.

Therefore Ivana tries to figure out the reason behind this objection so she can respond appropriately, for example:

"Yes, of course I can send you an email! What in particular would you like me to include in the email? Is there any specific information you’d be interested to know?"

"Yes, of course - I appreciate you must be very busy. Is there a better time when I could call you back?"

Ivana adds:

“In this one, you’re directly ignoring their request for the email - but it’s because I feel as though they’re not going to open whatever email I send them. I want to get them back on the phone.”

Plus, in this instance, having a scheduled time to speak is beneficial. Why? Because you’re more likely to get your prospects’ full focus, especially if it’s simply a timing issue in the way.

“In my experience, when I call back and say ‘you asked me to call you back’, they’re more open to talk to me.”

The last one is a little more controversial and won’t work for every prospect but Ivana finds that with certain prospects, when the conversation is more lighthearted and jovial, you can say something along the lines of:

“Let’s be honest, you’re a very busy person and your mailbox is probably full, you’re never going to open my email. Do you have a minute for me to explain why I called just now?”

Ivana tends to judge in the moment which of these three responses feels right to use, based on the information she can gather.

“Our process is working well, we don’t want to change anything.”

You may feel as though this objection is a closed door. They’re happy with the way they’re doing things at the moment and don’t wish to change 🤷‍♀️

But you can continue to ask questions and dig for more information. With any luck, you’ll uncover certain pain points to work with.

Ivana starts this expedition by saying:

“Oh that’s fantastic, so what is it that’s working so well?”

She tends to find this gets people talking as they like to share what’s working well for them. It’s a chance to share their successes. 

“We already use (enter x competitor here).”

Again, this feels like a solid ‘not interested’ type of response, but this is one of Ivana’s favourites. 

“This is a great opportunity to start a conversation. You get a chance to compare your solution to their current setup.”

Ivana has a trick up her sleeves to get her prospects talking about the solution they have in place. 

“I ask them to rate their experience with the competitor out of 10.”

“Rarely do you have people answer saying 10, which then means you open the floor to ask:

“What’s missing? What would make it a 10? What features do they not offer that would help increase that score?”

There you have it - the pain!

Then you can share the ways that your product or service could solve those pains. 

“How much does it cost/what’s the price?”

While asking about pricing isn’t an objection on the surface, some prospects don’t like to proceed in the process without knowing what the cost is going to be. 

Depending on the industry or the product or service being sold, SDRs may not know the prices in the first place. Plus prices may change based on the number of people in the company, the features chosen or a whole variety of other factors. 

In this instance, Ivana responds by saying something like this:

“We offer bespoke services, it depends on what you need from our features. My product specialist can tell you more about the price in the next call.”

Ivana tells us:

“Generally, that intrigues people enough to come to the next meeting.”

“I don’t have time - I’m busy.”

The trick when answering this one is figuring out if they’re genuinely super-pushed for time, or if they’re simply brushing you off because they’d rather not spend their time talking to you. 

You’ve got to remember, most people have a hard time trusting salespeople, so they’re going to try to keep you at arm's length - setting the expectation right from the beginning that if they sniff BS, they’ll drop off the call. 

Ivana tends to follow this format when she is told her prospects are busy:

“No worries, I will be really quick - I promise!”

“Then I go into my pitch - often, they end up speaking to me for like 10 minutes.”

“If they tell me again that they’re busy, I’ll usually push a second time saying I won’t take up much more of their time.” 

“But if they’re very persistent about dropping off the call, then I’ll try to find another time for us to talk. I’d ask them:”

“Is there a convenient time when I can give you a ring back?”

“So then they say in 30 mins, tomorrow or Friday next week or something - and I can call them back then.”

Another tip Ivana has in this scenario is to shoot them a 5-minute calendar invite - if the call isn’t on the same day, that is. This way, the prospect remembers to expect your call.

If you don’t get a chance to ask for another time to speak during your short conversation, then try to follow up shortly after the call. 

Ivana suggests sending over a LinkedIn request, including the following message:

“Sorry I didn’t catch you at a convenient time today, I was hoping to speak to you about xyz. Is there another time that might work better for you in the coming week?”

What’s important to remember here is that when someone is busy, they haven’t rejected you. They haven’t heard your pitch - so don’t rule them out yet!

“We don’t need it/we only do inbound.”

This next one is industry-specific for Cognism, but the underlying objection ‘we don’t need it’ can be applied across the board. 

Ivana tells us that she sometimes hears ‘We only do inbound lead generation so a tool like this wouldn’t work for us, we don’t need it. We don’t do outbound’

“I still won’t end the conversation saying ‘oh no worries, goodbye’.

“Instead, I ask them more questions. Such as:”

"Where do you get these inbound leads?"

"Where do you get your data from?" 

"How do you keep your data fresh?"

“I’m likely to learn something by asking these questions. That then allows me to show them how our tool would work for them.”

“I won’t ever end a call after a prospect objects to me the first time - unless they ask me to remove them from my list. I always try to get into a conversation and learn more, just in case there’s a fit that isn’t initially obvious.”

Even if this example doesn’t perfectly fit your industry, you can apply this same logic. If a prospect raises this objection, ask them more questions about their current set. You’ll soon discover if there are features to your product or service that do fit their requirements.

“The timing isn’t right.”

Maybe your prospect has already allocated their budget for the quarter.

Maybe they’re bound by a contract for a few months. 

Maybe the circumstances mean the stars don’t align for you to make a deal at this moment in time. 

So this prospect is a no-go for the time being.

But they could be a future opportunity. 

Ivana suggests trying to find out more about their organisation. Things like:

  • What do they do?
  • What systems do they have in place?
  • How might their environment change in the coming months?

This way, she gauges how long to leave it before trying to contact them again in the near future, and when she does, she has new information to guide her in the next conversation. 

For example:

“Hey, I spoke to you in June and this was your situation - this is what we spoke about. What’s going on for you now?”

This objection is simply kicking the can a little bit further down the track so you can pick up at a later date.

“I’m the wrong person to speak to - this isn’t in my remit.”

Oops, so maybe your list was a little off. Or your research came up with the wrong decision-maker within an organisation. 

But don’t worry, this is your opportunity to get a referral to reach the right person. 

And the best thing about this?

When you give the right person a call, you already have an in. 

You can say:

“I gave (name) a ring earlier today and they said you’d be the best person to speak to about this.”

A prospect is far more likely to be open to talking if you name-drop someone else in their business.

So what do you say when you reach the wrong person? Ivana suggests:

“Oh sorry to bother you, do you happen to have the phone number for the best person placed to speak to me about this? Who in your organisation manages (x)?”

Then off you go! Get back on the phone and call the right contact 🙌

What if the prospect is grumpy, moody, emotional?

This isn’t exactly a verbal objection, but if you’ve spent any time in outbound sales, you’ve probably had someone who’s obviously having a bad day on the other end of the line. 

This might mean they’re not in the right headspace to talk to you, or willing to make any decisions quite yet. They may even hang up the phone.

But that doesn’t mean they won’t feel differently at a later date.

Ivana says:

“In cases such as this, I’d always call back in 2 or 3 days. You’d be surprised at how different their mood can be.”

You can always acknowledge the previous attempt to call too, saying something along the lines of:

“Seems like the last time I called, I caught you at the worst moment - is now a better time to talk?”

Conclusion: reframing objections

In case you hadn’t already realised, objections are great. Objections are far better than silence. You can’t dig into silence! 

If a prospect gives you reasons why not, try to give them reasons why to. 

Prospects are going to be sceptical; they may feel as though their current solution works fine, so why bother changing? Or they might be up to their eyeballs with other work and don’t want to waste time. 

It’s your job to show them it’s worth their time talking to you. Offer them value. Show them how your solution can fit their needs. Alleviate their pain. 

See each objection not as a challenge, but as an opportunity. 

Want more cold calling insights? Sign up to our bi-weekly Sales Leaders’ Digest newsletter! You’ll receive the latest advice from sales expert Ryan Reisert.

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