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The funnel above the funnel: A cure for cold calling thirst

Your phone pings. Your eyes flutter. Then your heart sinks. 

The notification reads:

“Somebody Super Liked you. Find out who.”

It’s either a slip of the finger, a trolling swipe, or something even worse. 

An absolute keeno. 

Now, let’s bear this in mind when we think about cold calling

The prospect doesn’t know you from Adam. You’ve called them when they’re busy. And you’re launching into a 2-minute-long pitch that focuses on how great your company is. 

The most likely response?

An unceremonious unmatching. 

But there is a way to avoid this outcome. And that’s by getting your reps to master the funnel above the funnel. 

Ryan Reisert, Cognism Brand Ambassador and author of the acclaimed book, Outbound Sales, No Fluff, explains exactly how. 

Scroll or use the menu below to flick through 👇

Reframing your objectives | What is the funnel above the funnel? | 3 things that help reps leverage the funnel above the funnel

Reframing your objectives 

It’s super important to understand how a cold engagement works if you’re going to be successful.

And where most sales leaders fail is that they use SDRs to try to book meetings on the very first call. 

By doing this, prospects don’t have enough time to make the leap from not knowing who the heck you are, to thinking your offering is interesting, to booking out their calendar.

This is where the funnel above the funnel comes in. 

The funnel above the funnel

The funnel above the funnel is designed to do 3 key things. These are:Sales Funnel

The purpose of this is to ensure that reps don't try to sell your prospect on your product/service immediately.

Instead, they ascertain whether the prospect is both contactable and the right person in the company to speak to. 

Then they confirm the problems, threats, and/or opportunities facing the prospect and whether they are immediate enough to make your product/service relevant. 

Finally, reps book a meeting having properly qualified the prospect, making them easier to close. 

For a more detailed breakdown of each stage, keep scrolling 👇

1 - Build awareness

In the first stage, reps need to get a handle on the basics. 

For example, they need to learn whether the number they’re calling connects to their prospect before introducing themselves and your company.  

They should also document other paths and outcomes along the way. These include whether:

  • The number is a direct dial or mobile
  • The number can only be reached via a dial tree (and if so, what’s the path?)
  • The number has a gatekeeper

By doing this, reps' prospecting attempts will have a far better chance of succeeding. And either way, they'll get to an outcome much faster. 

Now let’s move onto how they can handle different scenarios they experience in the awareness stage:

Alternative scenario 1

Even if your reps do get all the way through to the prospect’s number, there’s a decent chance they’ll go to voicemail. 

When this happens, they should not hang up the phone before they’ve listened to the full recording. Unless you want them to miss out on some 24-carat gold. 

At the end of recordings, for example, the prospect may give their mobile number to text or call if they’re away from their desk. They may also provide you with an email address if that’s how they prefer to be contacted. 

This is all information reps can use to elicit a follow up. 

All reps need to do is record the prospect’s preferred contact method in your CRM and tailor their outreach accordingly in follow up.

Did you know? 💡

Prospects who take the time to program their voicemails will be 100% more likely to pick up the phone than your baseline connect rate.

Alternative scenario 2

If your reps can’t get to someone’s voicemail, that means:

  • The number is bad
  • There’s a dial tree without a name in it
  • An operator/gatekeeper isn’t willing to transfer you or says they’re not there

This means the number is not worth calling again. 

Remember... 🧠

Your reps should be respectful even if they get shut down after “hello”. Because by doing so, they’ll plant seeds they can sow later on.  

And most of all, they should celebrate this part of the process. It’s a key part of the journey to not appearing thirsty or disrupting people when they’re busy. 

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For more of Ryan's insights, sign up to the Cognism Sales Digest ☝️

2 - Gather information

Follow ups connect at 25% by comparison to pure cold calls at 3%. So, in other words, follow ups are where sales are made.

That means your reps can’t just repeat what you said the first time around. Instead, they should leverage their original conversation to compound into their next conversation. 

For example, they could confirm the problem/threat/opportunity they’re facing and expand on it, like so: 

“You mentioned that you were struggling to generate leads in EMEA with your current data provider. Out of interest, how is that data performing for you in AMER?”

And if this is something they care about right now, reps should move them towards booking a meeting. 

Now let’s see how reps could handle another scenario while they’re gathering information: 

Alternative scenario

If your reps didn’t get past “hello” in their first conversation, they won’t be able to compound on much. So give them this disarming opener to use:

“Hey [name]. This is [your name] from [your company]. We spoke [insert day] and it sounded like the worst possible time.”

Generally, even the most aggressive prospects will respond with something like: 

“I’m sorry, what’s up and how can I help you?” 

Now, all of the sudden, your reps have opened up the pathway to consideration. Then they can come in with something like: 

“I know you’re a busy person, but we haven’t had a full conversation yet. Do you mind if I ask you a couple of questions and then I’ll get out of your hair?”

At this point, they’re well on their way to qualifying the lead and getting time booked in the calendar.  

3 - Book a meeting

Once reps have done all this work beforehand, the next stage is simple. 

Now the prospect knows who you are and how you can help them, they’re willing to seriously evaluate your product/service. 

3 things that help reps leverage the funnel above the funnel 

If you want to go the extra mile to ensure your reps are driving the best possible results for your business, you may want to think about investing in these 3 things 👇

Verified contacts

It’s a familiar scenario: 

A sales leader gives their SDRs a list of prospect contact data. 

It’s the SDR’s job to call everyone on that list and pray that they all pick up at some point. But the likelihood of this actually happening is slim to none. 

That’s because a ton of the data on these lists is either inaccurate or out of date. 

In this case, you should expect that your SDRs aren’t going to reach a prospect in 97/100 calls. And for every 100 they get on the phone, you should expect a conversation 25/100 times. 

Clearly, that’s not a sustainable model. 

But phone-verified contact data can go some way to changing this. That’s because the connect rates it can offer are wildly improved. 

For example, you can expect: 

results infographicThis will radically improve the number of prospects your SDRs can qualify and nurture, meaning your AEs can close much more business. 

Cold calling scripts

By mapping your conversation funnel, you’ll be able to get “analytics” that help you address poor performance and optimise your cold calling. 

The key components of this conversation funnel include:

Conversation Funnel

So, for example, if you’re losing people in the intro of your cold calling script, you may be taking too long to introduce yourself. 

If you’re getting past hello but you’re not booking meetings, your value pitch may need updating. 

If prospects are palming you off saying they already have a vendor in place, you may not be asking the right questions to understand their pains and ambitions. 

With this information, you can understand exactly where prospects are leaking out of the bucket, and plug that gap with tweaks. 

The 3 Cs

Once you have these benchmarks, all reps need to do is approach them with consistency, confidence, and commitment. 

Because ultimately, there are only about 5-7 paths a conversation will take. And once reps learn those, they can handle any objections they encounter. 

Double down on industry (not product) knowledge

Sadly, no one implicitly cares about your product. 

Unless you’re Apple. Or Supreme. Or Tesla.

So your reps shouldn’t spend too much time building up their technical and product knowledge. 

Instead, they should become an expert in the marketplace your company is in and the industry it’s serving. 

Get them to learn about your competitors. Get them involved in topical conversations. Get them connected to executives in your company so they can discuss their pain points so they can apply it to their cold calls. 

By doing this, reps will naturally focus on the business problems your company can solve in the context prospects find themselves in.

AEs, meanwhile, can fill in the gaps with expert product knowledge when the prospect books a meeting, and move them closer to conversion. 

Follow the Revenue Champions podcast 

And there we have it!

The recipe to stop your reps sounding more thirsty than 47-year-old Lesley from Swindon is yours 🤝

For more B2B sales trends, check out the Revenue Champions podcast. Ryan's first episode as host will be dropping soon...


But in the meantime, listen to his cold calling live session with Josh Braun above ☝️


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