How to Handle Cold Call Rejection (With Ryan Reisert)
Getting a win from a cold call can be such a thrill. It can be a huge boost to your confidence - but in equal measure, rejection can sting.
No matter how long you’ve been in the cold calling game, getting 10, 20, or even 100 rejections a day can be exhausting. And unfortunately, cold call rejection is an inevitable part of sales.
Some won’t answer the phone. Others will tell you straight up they’re not interested in what you have to say. Arguably the most taxing calls are the ones where you feel a little hopeful.
You feel like they’re engaged in conversation, they like what you have to say and as you go in to close the deal - ah, nope. It’s a no-go. ❌
How do you pick yourself back up to go again?
To answer this, we asked sales expert Ryan Reisert to share his advice and insights.
Never fear! The answer to cold calling rejection is here. 👇
Reframing cold call rejection
A rejection isn’t really rejection. A rejection is actually just information. 📊
This is something Ryan told us.
But what does he mean by it?
He means that you shouldn’t take no for an answer. In fact, he explained that it’s important for SDRs to recognise when they’re wasting their time with someone who simply isn’t interested and won’t ever be.
“Part of the role of an SDR is to go out on a fact-finding mission, learn about the prospect's pain points and see if they might have a solution to help.”
“So a rejection, in reality, is data to inform you on their situation and circumstances at that moment in time.”
“It isn’t permanent. Things change. You can follow up another day. Sometimes it’s just an issue of timing.”
For example, let’s say you call your prospect on a busy Monday afternoon.
They don’t know who you are, and you’ve interrupted them in a flow - they’re busy preparing for a big meeting. 👩💻
They might tell you they’re not interested in speaking to you, mumbling something about being too busy to talk.
But that doesn’t mean that under less pressured circumstances, they wouldn’t want to hear what you have to say.
Your window to ask questions is short. And Ryan’s advice is to gather as much information about why they're rejecting you as possible.
“Try to understand it. If they tell you ‘it’s just not for us’, then ask questions like:
- Is it just not for you right now?
- Do you have an alternative solution?
- Is this something that simply isn’t on your radar ever?”
“And from this, you can get an idea about what is holding them back. Maybe you send them some follow-up information. Some might engage. They visit the website, now [they’ve accepted cookies], they get ads, so they might come back someday.”
Knowledge is power, after all. The more you can understand where your prospects’ heads are at, the easier it is to follow up with them later. Hopefully, when it’s more convenient to talk. ✅
Understanding the buyer's pyramid
Another useful way to reframe how you view your success as a cold caller is to put your calls in the context of Chet Holmes’ Buyer's Pyramid.
Ryan explained more about the framework. It shows what percentage of your audience is likely to be buying at any moment in time.
- Only 3% of the people on your list are buying now.
- About 7% are open to buying.
- Roughly 30% are not thinking about it.
- The other 30% don’t think they’re interested.
- And the final 30% know they’re not interested.
“So by that logic, 6/10 of your cold calls will almost definitely end in a rejection - just by simple statistics.”
“Only 1 in 10 are in that ‘buying now’ or ‘open to it’ category. And some of them may have already been researching a competitor.”
“Your winning zone is the 30% that aren’t thinking about it yet. These are the prospects you are most likely to influence.” 💥
“Most people starting out cold calling will fall into the 3-10% conversion rate range.”
You can see how understanding the maths allows you to visualise what’s realistic in terms of success. Ryan said:
“Most SDRs aren’t getting as many rejections as they should be. They don’t make enough dials, and they give up after one or two rejections because it feels tough.”
“But if you want to be a good SDR, you have to be willing to make the nine calls where you get rejected in order to get the tenth call where you book the meeting.”
Hit ▶️ to watch Ryan break down Chet Holmes’ Buyer's Pyramid.
Does preparation prevent poor performance?
We asked Ryan, is there any sales call prep work you can do before the call to reduce your chances of rejection?
He told us:
“Of course, skill matters to an extent. Having an effective cold calling framework behind you and the ability to manage a conversation confidently can help.”
“But even if you are as prepared as you can possibly be. You’ve practised, you know your script inside and out, and you’ve prepared responses for as much as you can think of…”
“You will still get rejections.”
“Because it isn’t about you. If your prospect isn’t ready to talk yet, there isn’t much you can do at that time.”
“So accept it, move on to your next call, and see how you can follow up with this prospect in future.”
To a certain extent, cold calling is a numbers game. Get to understand the maths and try not to take the rejections personally.
What to do when you get rejected on a cold call
Think about what happens when you enter a physical store. The shop assistant comes over to ask if you need help finding anything. 💁♂️
You reply, ‘No thanks, I’m just browsing!’
But then the shop assistant tries to change your mind:
‘Are you sure? Let me tell you more about how great these products are. Why would you come into the store if you weren’t going to buy something?’
It wouldn’t take you long to turn on your heels and walk out of the shop.
So, reacting this way on the phone is likely to have a similar effect. Your prospect switches off, their guard comes up, and you’re quickly brushed off.
“This is how a lot of SDRs are told to operate, book meetings at any cost and try to change your prospects' minds.”
“But generally, people don’t respond well to being told what to do, or feeling forced into making a decision.”
“Most prospects are already wary of salespeople calling and have been conditioned to avoid them.”
“Your prospect hasn't requested this phone call, and you’re calling them unannounced. So respect their decision to not speak to you if it’s not a good time.”
“Try to have empathy; I’m a human being, and you’re a human being. We don’t know each other, and I may have interrupted you in the middle of something. Try to put yourself in their shoes.”
The reality is you’re more likely to make a good impression on your prospects if you’re honest and frank with them.
Maybe you realise your solution won’t solve the problem they’re facing. But you do know another SDR who works with an alternative that might.
Offering that information is likely to do a lot more for your reputation instead of forcing your pitch down their throat.
“If you can offer your prospect value, they'll see you care about helping them. They’re far more likely to remember you and want to work with you in future if their circumstances change.”
How do you respond to the cold calling objection: "Can you put it in an email?" Hit play to find out. 📞
Advice from a cold calling pro
It would be an understatement to say that cold calling is hard.
Seriously though, it’s tough when your day job involves people hanging up on you.
That being said, getting bogged down in the rejections won’t get you anywhere.
Ryan offers some reassurance:
“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 list. Review the suitability of your prospects for your product or service and adjust your message where necessary.”
If you need more one-to-one support with cold calling, depending on your company environment, ask your manager if you could work with a mentor. If that structure doesn’t exist inside your business, then look outside. LinkedIn is a great place to network with and learn from seasoned sales pros.
Sharing your experience of cold call rejection with someone who understands might help you find areas for improvement. And it will remind you what’s realistic in terms of success metrics.
Like any job, there will be peaks and troughs, but the highs of winning those meetings make the hard work worth it. 💪