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The ultimate cold calling script for CEOs

It’s Monday morning, 9am.

You’ve got a list of names and numbers in front of you. Top of the list is the CEO of a B2B sales company.

You adjust your headset. You dial the number.

And then…you freeze.

You don’t have a script in front of you. You don’t know what you’re going to say!

And now, the cold calling fear is on you! 😱

But wait a minute…

It doesn’t have to be this way. You CAN ace that call with the CEO.

All you need is a cold calling script that delivers.

And in this article, we’re going to give you just that.

Keep scrolling! 👇

Why you need a cold calling script for CEOs

Even the most seasoned cold calling pros refer to scripts from time to time.

Ryan Reisert, Cognism’s Brand Ambassador and an expert cold caller in his own right, said this about cold calling scripts:

“They’re useful for any SDR. Too many salespeople cast them aside, imagining them like a rigid, line-by-line teleprompter.”

“It’s a framework. A structure. The dotted line down the middle of a road.”

You especially need them for CEOs. Why so?

  • They’re extremely busy people - every word you say on your cold call with them has to count; they haven’t got time to listen to waffle.
  • They’re the number 1 expert in their company/product - you have to prove that you’ve done your research and that you know their pain points inside and out.
  • They receive 100s of cold calls every week - CEOs are savvy about B2B sales; they know more than anyone how the game is played. You have to engage with them effectively and make yourself stand out from the crowd.

Our cold calling script for CEOs is going to follow Ryan’s notion. It’s going to be a framework for you to optimise/make your own, not a line-by-line read-out of everything you need to say.

Get Ryan’s B2B sales cold calling script - press ▶️ to watch his training video.


Before we get stuck into the script itself, it’s time for a little sales psychology…

The goal of cold calling CEOs

When cold calling a CEO, you have to rethink your goals.

The usual outbound sales tactic of getting the prospect to agree to a meeting, by hook or by crook, just won’t work with them. CEOs have too much experience; they know all the tricks of the trade.

Remember that all cold calls are interruptions. You’re literally interrupting the course of someone’s day by calling them.

Your mission as a salesperson is to convert that interruption - not into a meeting necessarily, but into a two-way interaction between yourself and the prospect.

The best way of doing this is to try something that Josh Braun calls “detaching from the outcome.”

In a nutshell, it’s about how changing your behaviour on a cold call and being less “sales-y” improves rapport and actually increases the chances of a positive response.

Josh explains more:

“What you should do is let go of assumptions and create an environment where prospects feel comfortable telling you the truth, which is either, yes they’d like to share a little bit more and continue the conversation, or no they don’t want to at this time, and either way you’re okay with that.”

“It’s almost like you’re indifferent to whatever happens on the call. And when you do that, coincidentally and ironically, you feel and sound less sales-y and manipulative, which is more inviting to people. And so they open up a little bit more and they’re more motivated to listen to what you have to say.”

So, when calling CEOs, give detaching from the outcome a go. Turn your calls into safe spaces where conversations can flourish, rather than simply being engines for booking meetings.

Pre-call: how to research CEOs

We asked Leslie Venetz, Founder of Sales Team Builder, for his advice on how to research CEOs and their companies before you pick up the phone.

“The best way to get the attention of a CEO is relevant, hyper-personalisation in your outreach. In order to achieve that level of hyper-personalisation, you must get to know the organisation by doing research.”

Leslie recommended the following for pre-call research:

Talk to the CEO’s direct reports

Look up the company on LinkedIn and map out its organisational structure. Identify the people who likely report into the CEO and outreach to them.

Find out as much as you can about the CEO and their company from their colleagues. In particular, ask them about the business challenges and pain points that the CEO deals with.

Never underestimate the importance of this step. You’ll get a much better picture of the CEO’s company by engaging with the people inside it. You might also create an internal champion, someone who can refer you directly to the CEO and help you gain buy-in with them.

Quick hack for busy SDRs - use the Cognism Chrome Extension to source contact details for any LinkedIn profile.

Visit the company website

Browse on over to the CEO’s company website. Check out the blog, check out the news section. Are there any recent stories or achievements you can use on your call?

Take notes and get a feel for the company’s product portfolio and customer base. The CEO will know this info like the back of their hand - you don’t want to be caught out.

Study competitors

It isn’t just useful to view the CEO’s company website; you should also do the same for their competitors.

It’s likely that the CEO will bring them up as examples on your cold call, so being clued up on them is a must. Researching competitors will also give you a good grounding in the CEO’s industry; they will be aware of all the latest news and trends, so you should be too.

The best time to call CEOs

Alex Olley is the co-founder and CRO of Reachdesk, the global corporate gifting platform.

He shared this post on LinkedIn where he talked about getting a cold call at 8:20 am 👇


So, in Alex’s words, “the early bird catches the worm.” Call your Chief Exec before the working day begins and they get too busy to answer.

The best length of a CEO cold call

Marty Spargo, CEO at Reize, thought that it’s best for SDRs to keep their calls brief:

“One of the things to take note of when cold calling a CEO is the duration of the call. Business owners and leaders don’t have time and frankly the patience to entertain long and boring phone calls.”

“When cold calling a CEO, get to the point right away and be respectful while doing so.”

The CEO cold calling script

That’s all the prep and theory out of the way - now let’s get into the script!

Starting with 👇

The intro

The most valuable thing you can do in your cold call intro is to ask the CEO for permission to speak.

Psychologically, it’s gold dust. It puts the CEO in a position of power, which of course they’re used to in their day-to-day. It also puts them at ease on the call - instead of being immediately pitched to, they’re being engaged in a conversation.

Ryan Reisert recommends the following permission-based openers:

  • “Hi (first name). We’ve never met, but I’m hoping you can help me out for a moment. Do you have two minutes?”
  • “Hi (first name). I’m Ryan from Cognism. You weren’t expecting my call. This is the first time I’ve reached you. Do you mind if I take 30 seconds to share exactly why I called?”

Another good tactic is to be upfront that this is a cold call:

“Hi (first name), it’s Ryan from Cognism. You’re probably going to hate me because this is a cold call. Would you like to hang up or roll the dice?”

What connects all these openers is that you’re seeking approval from the CEO to continue. It’s worth noting that people rarely say “no” when someone else asks for their time.

The goal

Having asked them for permission, it’s likely the CEO will reply with something like:

“Sure, I’ve got two minutes. What’s this about?”

Or:

“Okay. What are you calling about?”

At this point, the CEO will be expecting you to dive into your pitch. That’s precisely what you mustn’t do!

Instead, disarm the CEO by putting the goal of your cold call front and centre.

Like this:

“The reason I’m calling today is to find a time on your calendar to introduce my company. I was wondering if you might have some time in the afternoon, next Wednesday or Thursday. How’s that work for you?”

Or this:

“I’m looking to schedule 10-15 minutes for an introductory conversation sometime early next week. Would you have 10 minutes on Thursday afternoon at say 1pm?”

The purpose of doing this is twofold:

  1. It creates transparency on your cold call - the CEO is now under no illusions as to why you’re calling.
  2. It opens up the conversation - the CEO is now intrigued by you; they’ll want to know more.

With that in mind, the CEO will probably reply with:

“Wait a minute, what’s this about?”

Or:

“Could you tell me what you want?”

Just think about that for a moment. This is pure cold calling magic - the CEO of a target company is now asking YOU for more information.

And then it’s time to make them aware of…

The problem

At this point in the cold call, you need to tease out the CEO’s pain points. They may not even know that they have a problem - but once you define it for them, it’ll be easier for them to visualise how you can help.

Start with a soft, one-line pitch (note: this section is based on Cognism’s USP - you can adapt it to suit your company):

“I work for Cognism, the B2B data provider.”

Then go into the problem:

“I’m curious about how your team generates contact data for your key prospects. Typically speaking to CEOs like yourself, they say their teams have mixed results with outreach by not having enough mobiles and emails not always delivering.”

“Does this resonate with you in any way or am I a million miles off?”

Note the use of the phrase “I’m curious” - this takes the pressure away from your cold call. You’re not a sales rep, you’re just a curious person. Remember that CEOs love to talk about their businesses, so asking them a question about it will definitely pique their interest.

Note the use of the phrase “typically speaking to CEOs” - this builds trust on your call. It makes you sound like a consultant, rather than a salesperson. You speak to CEOs regularly and you know the kinds of problems they face.

When asked the question from above, and bearing in mind you’ve done your research into their pain points, most CEOs will reply with:

“Yes, that resonates with me.”

At this point…

PAUSE!

Don’t say anything. Wait for the CEO to speak.

9 times out of 10, they’ll come back with:

“So, what do you guys do?”

That pause is absolutely crucial. In the words of Morgan J. Ingram, pausing for 1.5 seconds after a prospect has finished talking means that “they continue to talk and then you get more information from them.”

In this case, by pausing, you’ve opened up a space for the CEO to ask you something that other sales reps can only dream of.

That’s right - they’ve just invited you to deliver…

The pitch

Follow up the CEO’s question with a short, succinct pitch. Include the names of other companies in the CEO’s industry, if possible.

Again, this pitch is optimised for Cognism, but you can change it to match your product/service.

“We have a tool that generates verified mobile numbers and email addresses for contacts in your ICP. Our client (company name) was having issues generating the data they needed, but since they started working with us, their reps have cut hours off their prospecting time.”

And again - pause!

If the CEO doesn’t say anything after 1.5 seconds, you can try for a close:

“Would it make sense for you to see the tool for yourself? Would Thursday afternoon at 1pm work for you?”

Now, it’s unlikely the CEO will agree to a meeting straight away. First of all, you’ll have to resolve…

The objections

Every B2B cold caller encounters objections from prospects - and none more so than from CEOs!

To help you out, we delved into Cognism’s sales call library and compiled a list of the most common objections that our SDRs face. Plus, we’ve provided options on how to handle them.

Objection 1 - “I’m really busy. I don’t have time for this!”

  • “I understand you’re a busy professional. That’s why I’m proposing a quick 10-minute conversation at a time when I’m not interrupting you.”
  • “I understand you’re really busy. Looking at my calendar, I see an opening next Thursday at 1pm. How does that look on your calendar?”

Objection 2 - “You’re wasting your time. I’m not interested!”

  • “This sounds like it might not be a priority right now. But typically, when I talk to CEOs, they tell me their reps are struggling to generate quality leads. Is that a problem for you or am I completely missing the mark here?”
  • “Let me ask you a question: if I could show you how you can generate verified leads at scale and even save you (time/money), wouldn’t you be happy you took a few minutes to take a look?”

Objection 3 - “I’m already working with a competitor.”

  • “That’s great, I hear they’re very good. Just out of interest, is there anything you think they could improve?”
  • “That’s interesting. However, all I’m asking for here is 10 minutes of your time for an introductory call next week. How does next Thursday at 1pm look on your calendar?”

Objection 4 - “Send me more information.”

  • “Sure, I’d be happy to send you more information. Just so I’m not wasting your time, what would you like to know?”
  • “I could send you more information, but it would be quicker for you to see the tool for yourself. Would you be totally against having a 10-minute call next week?”

The close

The best way of closing cold calls with CEOs is to not come across as too pushy. Don’t go straight for the meeting - instead, give the CEO the freedom of choice. Keep in mind that Chief Execs are used to being in control in their working lives.

Say something like:

“Would it make sense for you to see the tool so you can review what your options are?”

Josh Braun explains the psychology of this:

“It’s about reducing pressure. These words are very intentional around reducing pressure and letting the prospect be in control of if they want to move forward or not. Because ultimately, when you take the freedom of choice away, people retreat.”

Tom Lavery, Founder and CEO at Jiminny, had this advice for SDRs:

“The best way to close a call is to identify the next step - be that another meeting, a demonstration with their team, or another tangible action that moves the deal forward. Ideally, you want to obtain commitment to that next step before the call ends.”

Cold calling CEOs: top tips

Mackenzie Whipp, Business Development Specialist at Online Optimism, gave us this checklist of tips for calling CEOs:

  • Clearly state your goals in the first 30 seconds. Capture the CEO’s attention early and start off with a strong hook. This can be a quick: “Can I have two minutes of your time?” After this, you can begin your business pitch.
  • Go into the call knowing what your objective is. Stay focused on this objective and try not to deviate.
  • Educate the CEO about the benefits of your product. Don’t focus on product features; instead, tell them about the results they could see if they were a customer. Use case studies to build up some social proof.
  • Tell the CEO that you appreciate them taking your call. CEOs are busy people; they’ll be grateful that you’ve shown consideration for interrupting their day.
  • When closing the call, see if there are any questions on their end. Ask the CEO if they would like an email summary of the call. Don’t forget to thank them for their time and tell them to have a great rest of their day!

Final tip - don’t give up!

We’ll leave the last word on cold calling CEOs to Adil Advani, CEO at WellPCB:

“The best advice to give SDRs who cold call CEOs is not to give up. There will be many that tell you they’re unavailable, but if you keep at it who knows what can happen?”

“When the CEO gets on the phone with someone and realises they want the business, there’s a greater chance of conversion because of how rare those calls actually are.”

The ultimate cold calling podcast

Every month on Cognism’s sales podcast, Revenue Champions, we host Cold Calling Live. Listen to veteran cold callers Ryan Reisert, Josh Braun and Morgan J. Ingram as they call prospects live on-air and dissect the toughest job in B2B sales.

You’ll find all the episodes here 👇

Listen to Cold Calling Live

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