Skip to content

How to build a killer cold calling strategy

If the stats are to be believed, the dice are loaded against cold callers. On average, it takes 18 calls to connect with a prospect.

Let’s make that clear - 18 calls just to connect, not even to engage or make a sale. It’s enough to make even the most battle-hardened sales veteran call in for evac! 🚁

Here’s a question for you:

Does cold calling really have to be that hard? 

At Cognism, our B2B sales team is a model for cold calling success. Last quarter, they increased their number of meetings booked by 20%, breaking company records in the process - and all this during an unprecedented global pandemic!

What’s behind this phenomenal hit rate?

Skilled salespeople, persistence, great sales tech...these are all good, but what really matters is a strategy. You need to have a sales strategy for cold calling. Without that, you’re going into battle without a plan and setting yourself up for defeat.

So, we asked our sales team a simple question: what is your cold calling strategy? They replied with these 5 simple steps. 5 steps to help you build out a killer cold calling strategy for your SaaS sales team.

Want to see the tips? Just keep scrolling 👇

5 tips for building a killer cold calling strategy 📞

1 - Know who you’re calling 🕵️‍♂️

The road to cold calling success starts long before you pick up the phone.

Your first task is to improve the list of leads you’re going to call. You’ll never get the results you want if you’re calling the wrong people at the wrong time.

Kick-off this process by working out who your ideal customer is. Think about the type of person who would get the most value out of your product or service. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What industry are they in?
  • What’s their job title?
  • What’s their company size?
  • What technology do they already use?
  • What business challenges do they encounter day-to-day?
  • How would your product help to solve those challenges?

When you’ve got the answers to these questions, put them all together to make your Ideal Customer Profile, or ICP. Your ICP should be an easy-to-understand document that tells you exactly who you should be cold calling.

Next, build out a list of leads that matches your ICP right down to the ground.

You can do this manually via LinkedIn/online research, or you can use tech to make it quicker. Cognism Prospector is a list-building machine - simply select a few filters, click a few buttons, and you’ll be given a lead list that’s 100% relevant to your chosen profile.

2 - Prioritise your cold calling leads 📇

Knowing who you’re going to call is one thing; getting their contact details is another. Once you’ve built a lead list containing all the B2B data you’ll need, what then?

Not every lead you call is going to be totally ready for your pitch. What you need to do is work out a system for prioritising your leads, so that you’re hitting the right people, at the right time, with the right message.

Sales triggers are what will help you out at this stage. These are any events or occurrences that open up an opportunity and make a sale more likely. Examples include:

  • When a lead is promoted to a decision-making role.
  • When a company secures a new funding round.
  • When a company announces expansion or acquisition.
  • When a company relocates to a new office.

There are 2 ways of managing sales triggers: either you can track them manually, by following the lead and their company on LinkedIn - though this can be a very time-consuming and inaccurate process - or you can use tech to do it for you.

Again, Cognism Prospector includes sales triggers as standard, informing you of the best times to cold call.

Prioritise your list of leads using sales triggers. Put the “trigger-ready” leads at the top of your list and the leads that aren’t at the bottom. Don’t worry - we’re not going to ignore those “trigger-less” leads. They still fit your ICP, after all!

At this point, loop in your marketing team. Ask them if they’ll be able to create some content aimed at the less sales-ready leads, warming them up while you progress to the next stage.

3 - Smile and dial! 😀

The third stage in our cold calling process is where the action happens. This is where you pick up the receiver, punch in numbers and get selling!

Sounds easy, right?


This is the stage that can make or break a sales rep.

We asked our SDRs for their advice on how to make a successful cold call. Here’s what they told us:

Research the lead thoroughly before you pick up the phone

Connect with them on LinkedIn. Visit their company website. Take note of anything you find that’ll help you on your cold call.

Focus on pain points

Ask open-ended questions to uncover them. For example: “How much time does your team spend on finding new business?” Then, present your product as the perfect solution to that pain.

Speak with energy and confidence

Be aware of how you sound over the phone. Don’t be a robot! If you don’t sound enthusiastic about what you’re selling, the prospect won’t be interested in buying.

Be an active listener

A good tactic is to repeat the prospect’s words back to them. For example: “Okay - your sales team are finding their leads through LinkedIn.” This shows you’re engaged and paying attention.

Bolster your cold calls with customer case studies

Have some stats to hand about how your product helped them. Just make sure the case study you’re quoting from is relevant to the prospect’s business!

Take notes

Always take notes when you’re on a cold call. If you don’t, you will forget what was discussed! Tidy up your notes after the call ends. The key points to focus on are the lead, their company and whether you had a good rapport with them.

Cognism's SDRs share their cold calling do's and don'ts in this fun and informative video! Press play to get some great sales know-how!


4 - Add email and social to your strategy 📧

For us at Cognism, cold calling is the most essential outbound sales activity. It’s where deals are won or lost. But it can be made even more powerful if it’s used as part of a combined, multi-channel approach.

Outbound email, social selling, voice and video messaging...these are all elements that the modern B2B sales rep has to master.

People are active on so many more channels, and the channel that one lead prefers will be different from the next. You want to be engaging with your leads on the channel that matters to them.

Start by creating a timeline of all the steps you’re going to take and on which days. This timeline is called a cadence. Have light-touch, introductory steps (LinkedIn connection requests, personalised emails) at the beginning of the cadence, before ramping up engagement later on with cold calls and personalised videos.

For more information on sales cadences, check out our article on the ultimate B2B prospecting cadence.

Regardless of whether you use our cadence, or you develop your own, the idea is to contact your leads using a mix of methods. Doing this will increase your chances of getting a response.

Now, you can manage cadences manually, using your business email account, work phone and Outlook calendar. But again, you’ll find this to be a real drag on your time. The most successful sales teams use B2B prospecting technology to automate their cadences.

5 - Track your cold calling progress 📈

Don’t overlook this final, but crucial, step. Analyse your cold calls and identify areas where you can improve. Here are some practical tips:

  • Record your cold calls, both good and bad. Listen back to them. Why did the successful ones work so well? Why did the unsuccessful ones fail? What can you learn from them?
  • Share your best cold calls with the rest of your team. Encourage them to do likewise. Create a process for sharing knowledge across your team. At Cognism, we have a #coldcalling Slack channel dedicated to this!
  • Try A/B testing your cold calls. Over a period of weeks or months, practice 2 different styles of sales pitch. Test each version on real-life prospects. Which style was more successful? Use any insights to improve your calls going forward.

The bottom line is: when you see a pattern of what’s working on your cold calls, double down on it. When something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to change it. Be data-driven in everything you do.

Bonus tip - don’t miss our new Dialler feature! 📱

At Cognism, we’re hard at work to make B2B lead generation easier for our clients. So far, our Prospector has helped 500+ customers find their ideal prospects and send highly targeted cold emails at scale.

Now, we’re taking it a step further!

We’re excited to introduce our Dialler, a new key feature for Cognism Prospector.

With our power Dialler, not only can you create a call queue of your ideal prospects and call them in bulk, but you can also access granular prospect data, add notes, mark the sentiment of each call and analyse results. This means less time spent on building lists and other manual tasks, and more time spent on engaging with leads and closing deals. It’s a cold caller’s dream!

Want to be one of the first people to try our brand new Prospector? Click 👇 to book your test drive today! 

See the new Prospector

Read similar stories


What Is a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)? Strategic Guide for 2022
What is a Marketing Qualified Lead and how is a SQL different? Click to read our guide and uncover everything you need to know about mastering the MQL.
Common cold call objections and how to respond
Objections are an inevitable part of cold calling; the trick is to keep the conversation going to gather more information. Read this blog to find out more.
Strategising for every stage of the customer adoption process | Cognism
The customer adoption process is a broad topic. We break it down and outline strategies to improve your customer adoption rate in this article.

Experience the Diamond difference.

See how our phone verified contact data can increase your connect rate by 7x. Book a demo today.

Skyrocket your sales

Cognism gives you access to a global database and a wealth of data points with numbers that result in a live conversation.

Find customers ready to buy

Cognism intent data helps you identify accounts actively searching for your product or service – and target key decision makers when they’re ready to buy.