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6 Tips to Win at Sales Call Planning

You’re sitting at work, and it’s just turned 9am. Time to start cold calling.

You’ve got your list to dial, but you’ve got a nervous rumble in your stomach… and no, it’s not because you forgot to eat breakfast. 😬

Is it because your sales call prep isn’t up to scratch?

If you’re new to sales or still learning the ropes, it’s important to hone the preparation skills that make cold calling easier.

Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered! Keep reading for tips on planning a sales call. 📞

1. Research your customers

It’s like the old saying, fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

If you don’t do the research, how do you expect to plan your sales call? Below are some of the best ways to research your prospects before picking up the phone.

Know your ICP inside out

You can’t sell anything to anyone if you don’t know who you’re selling to! This is where your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) comes in.

Undertaking careful research to establish what buyer is the perfect fit will save you hours and hours speaking to prospects that aren’t interested (or even in the market for) your product.

Your ICPs should consist of buyers who will benefit from your product or service while giving you enough value in return to make your business profitable. This ROI could include referrals, buyer insights, testimonials, and revenue.

In most cases, your ideal customer should be able to use your product to boost their bottom line, as well as:

  • Reduce costs.
  • Drive efficiency.
  • Improve the productivity/wellbeing of staff.

The main aim of establishing an ICP is to align your sales and marketing teams. That way, both are going after the same type and quality of prospect.

Connect with your prospects where they hang out

Another great way to research prospects is to connect with them on social media.

You may already be building up a personal brand online where your prospects hang out. For example, on LinkedIn.

Sales superhero Morgan Ingram explains the benefits of connecting with your prospects online. He says:

“The fastest way to build brand affinity is to have conversations with your audience.”

“If someone has taken the time to engage with your post and left a comment, then don’t ignore it. Ask questions, share insights and spark friendly debates.”

It’s important to build that sense of familiarity before starting the cold calling process. That way, when you pick up the phone, you’ve already established a small connection with your prospect.

Use a sales intelligence tool! 

We’d be silly not to mention it…

Sales intelligence tools are a game-changer when it comes to doing research. And there are so many options out there to choose from.

The main benefits of using a sales intelligence tool like Cognism is the number of hours saved and the accuracy of the data when it comes to researching prospects.

Discover how salespeople use Cognism to connect with their ideal buyers faster than ever before - press ▶️ to watch our explainer video.


2. Practice with a script

We get it. Cold calling can be an uncomfortable and nerve-wracking experience when you start.

But there are plenty of resources for salespeople who want to plan their sales calls. David Bentham, Cognism’s Director of Sales Development, says it best in his LinkedIn post below. 👇

Practicing with a cold calling script is a great way to keep your nerves in check for those first few calls. Especially if you’re worried you might forget what you want to say. The more times you practice, the more you’ll be able to recall the points you want to share with your prospect.

Run practice sessions or tune into Cognism’s Cold Calling Live workshops; these are a great ways to get constructive feedback from other sellers about your approach.

Check out Brad Norgate, Senior Enterprise SDR, sharing his cold calling script for sales leaders below.


3. Get your opening right

When it comes to starting a conversation with a prospect over the phone, how do you do it?

For Jason Bay, Founder & CEO at Outbound Squad, it’s all about your tonality and pacing. He explains that you should “talk about half as fast as you think you should talk and really ennunciate the words in your opener.”

There’s more than one way to start a conversation. So it’s a great idea to experiment with what openers work best for you.

Review your calls and make a note of the openings that you give you the best responses from prospects. If you’re unsure what kind of openings to use, check out 17 of the best from the Cognism team. 💡

Once you’ve experimented with different openers and found what works for you, stick to it. This means you won’t worry or think too much about what you’ve got to say in those crucial seconds at the start of the call.

Hit play to hear more advice on tonality and pacing from Ryan Reisert and Jason Bay ▶️


4. Prepare for objection handling

It’s a cast-iron rule of preparing for a sales call:

You will experience objections on your cold calls. Knowing how to handle them is a key part of sales call prep.

Active listening is the best way to kickstart your objection handling process. As a sales rep, it’s your job to speak less and listen more. That way, it’ll be easier to pick up on the customer pain points that might be blocking a sale.

Use the 70/30 rule as your guide. It’s the number one rule of communication when making sales calls. The rule states that a prospect or lead should do 70% of the talking and the rep only 30%.

Combine active listening with asking open-ended qualifying questions, and you’ll be able to help your prospect solve their issues and learn from their objections.

Morgan and David team up to break down five common sales objections and how to handle them. Watch the clip below 👇


5. Change your mindset

The thing is, cold calling isn’t just about booking demos.

The more pushy and ‘salesy’ you are on a cold call, the more your prospect will want to turn and run.

So, when it comes to prepping for sales calls, it’s essential to focus on having meaningful conversations with your prospects. That means showing them you’re just a human on the other end of the phone.

As you build up a rapport with your prospect, bear in mind that not everyone will be in-market to make a purchase. According to Chet Holmes’ Buyer’s Pyramid, just 3% of people on your list want to buy right now.

And in times of economic uncertainty, the buying committee gets even bigger. So it’s vital to have meaningful conversations that don’t always lead to a pitch.

If your product isn’t right for your prospect, do you know of another that would be a better fit? Focussing on the needs of the prospect and setting them up for success will mean that you’ll be front of mind when they’re next in-market for your product.

This will also help you generate social proof that you’re not just there to make a sale; you’re there to make a difference to your prospects.

Press play to hear from Galem Girmay and Ryan Reisert on how to have meaningful conversations in sales.


6. Nail your closing

So, you’ve done your research, practised your intro, prepared yourself to handle objections and your focus is having a meaningful conversation with your prospect.

But how do you close out your call?

Be prepared to address any questions prospects have about your competition ahead of time. Your approach should be similar to practising objection handling. Make sure you acknowledge their questions and provide value with your answers.

  • Focus on the buyer. This helps you to control the conversation in your favour. Make use of resources like battlecards and leverage this time to educate them about your product.
  • Be transparent. Buyers research products in-depth before they even speak to sales. There’s no point trying to be smoke and mirrors because today’s prospects are educated; they’ll know about any flaws before purchasing.
  • Lean into your unique selling point. What makes your product different from the rest? Is it your features? Is it your customer success team? Make sure your prospect knows!

If you’ve had a positive result and you’re booking your prospect in for a demo or getting them to sign on the dotted line - congrats! Closing is one of the most exciting parts of the sales process for the client.

And if the result wasn’t what you wanted - don’t worry. Ask for some feedback so you can learn and improve your approach.

Regarding handling cold calling rejection, Ryan Reisert recommends that salespeople look at their stats holistically instead of in a vacuum.

“Some days, you will have more rejections than others, but have a look at your stats across the month. They generally normalise over time.”

“If you have a hard day, but you only had six conversations, maybe those were the 6/10 that were never going to be interested.”

“Make some more calls; the next few might be better! You have to hang on for the layup. If you let the first ten get to you, you might give up but stick to the process. The numbers usually work out.”

“If not, then go back to your call list. Review the suitability of your prospects for your product or service and adjust your message where necessary.”

Most importantly, stay respectful and shake off the rejection. Move on to the next sale!

How to handle cold call rejection

Sales call prep: final thoughts

Preparing for a sales call might seem daunting at first. But we hope you’ve learnt some new tricks that should make those cold calls run more smoothly!

Here are the highlights again.

  1. Research your prospect and know your ICP inside out.
  2. Practice your cold calling techniques and ask for feedback from peers and mentors.
  3. Establish the right tonality and pacing for your sales call openers.
  4. Address all issues and handle any objections before closing your call.
  5. Stay customer-centric and have meaningful conversations, even if it doesn't end in a sale.
  6. Highlight your unique selling points when closing. If it doesn’t work, don’t let the rejection get to you.

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