The Ultimate Guide to Cold Calling: Frameworks, Scripts, Tools and Resources to Make You A Cold Calling Pro (Part I)

The single biggest fear when it comes to cold calling is fear that you’re interrupting a prospect’s day. You have two options: Interrupt… or get a new career. You must either come to terms with the reality of breaking up someone’s day with a cold call, or go down the street and get a job at the local cafe making coffee for the closers.

If you want to be a top sales performer you need to make calls. As Mike Weinberg, author of New Sales Simplified, says “sales is a verb.” Every sales team I’ve been a part of gives credence to this point, as the most successful sales reps are, without fail, always the most active.

There are many channels to reach out to customers and build relationships. However, we must protect ourselves from the deceptive, misconstrued, and flat out wrong words that many in sales want to hear… that cold calling is dead.  

In fact, quite the opposite is true.

Cold calling is very much alive, and you’d be crazy not to leverage this in your sales process. In his book Fanatical Prospecting, Jeb Blount supports this with evidence of a 15% to 80% contact rate on the phone (depending on industry). This is dramatically better than any cold email campaign. Furthermore, contact rates have only increased in the last few years. We could speculate this is because phone are ubiquitous and nearly attached to people, nobody is cold calling, and prospects are getting burned by irrelevant, impersonal and pestering emails.

Mike Weinberg delivers the simple truth stating that technology is a great supplement to, not replacement for, proactive prospecting efforts. You must welcome the new sales tactics without disposing or neglecting the old ones.

There are 3 major reasons that salespeople fail at cold calling.

  1. Lack of mental preparation: The battle of the mind is half the game, and often overlooked. State of mind that’s hard to quantify and measure, thus neglected.
  2. Lack of physical preparation: Physical preparation includes everything from having the right tools, technology, and resources to setting up your office and workspace in a way that’s most conducive to selling and cold calling.
  3. Poor quality of conversations: The two biggest contributors to this are lack of call framework and inability to differentiate or provide a clear value proposition.

Cold calling isn’t easy. Otherwise, everyone would be doing it. However, with guidance, some advanced tactics, and the right resources at your fingertips, you can learn to be an effective cold-calling powerhouse in under 30 minutes.

In this guide, I want to give you direction on mental preparation, advice to help you prepare for a successful cold call, then end with some wording and even exact cold calling scripts. For the sake of making it easier to digest and implement, I’m breaking this post up into two separate parts, for make sure to come back to the PersistIQ blog next week for The Ultimate Guide to Cold Calling Part II.

Mental Preparation: Preparing the Mind for Anything

When it comes to cold calling mindset matters a lot. It’s easy to hide behind a computer screen and emails, but the thought of making a call to a live person makes some reps tremble in their boots.

That’s why if you want to set yourself up for success you need to have the right mindset before you ever dial a single digit. Once you understand that your motivation to pick up the phone must be rooted in the fact that you are truly helping someone, the game changes.

If you truly believe in your product or service, nothing should stop you. The people who struggle are the ones selling products or services because they need to make money.

As I already mentioned, the biggest obstacle for reps is being seen as an annoying pest. They think, “I don’t want to interrupt people.” For the best advice on this obstacle, I’ll defer to Jeb, who says you have two options: “Interrupt or start a new career.” You must be ok with interrupting because that’s largely what you’re doing. We’ll give you a call framework and scripted talking points to help you interrupt nicely, but you must first change your mindset.

Your Internal Story and Locus of Control

You must also be careful regarding the story you tell yourself. When there’s a certain story playing in your mind, it’s only human nature to find things that support and confirm that story (which is known as confirmation bias). There are two ways to react to any situation – positively and negatively. This goes beyond being an optimist or a pessimist. What is more interesting to look at is the reason you give for the circumstance.

For example, if you didn’t hit your quota for the quarter, are you more likely to give a reason such as “it’s summer, and it’s historically the slowest season of the year for us?” or “I didn’t work hard enough and didn’t spend enough time prospecting?”

The difference is in the locus of control. This means if you are more inclined to give the former reasoning, it’s likely that you have an external locus of control, whereas the latter reasoning would point to an internal locus of control. Simply put, the rep with an internal locus of control believes that he or she can influence events and their outcomes. On the other hand, the rep with an external locus of control seeks to place blame on forces out of their control.

Internal locus of control has been linked with academic success, higher self-motivation and maturity, and lower incidences of stress and depression, and a longer lifespan (Problems and Perspectives in Management Journal). People with an internal locus of control tend to earn more money, have more friends, stay married longer, and report greater professional success and satisfaction.

How to Hack Your Own Emotions and Stay Motivated

Our emotions and experience can even be shaped by our physical bodies. Scoul with every muscle in your face and try to give your best friend a warm greeting. Now, smile as wide as you can and try to deliver a message of boredom. Neither can’t be done. That’s exactly why many sales trainers coach their reps to smile while talking — prospects will hear it on the other end. Some trainers go as far as to advocate for placing a mirror by the phone while making cold calls.

Jeb Blount emphasizes this point: “Studies on human behavior from virtually every corner of the academic world have proven time and again that we can challenge how we feel by changing our facial expressions, the words we use, our self-talk, and our physical posture. In other words, what is happening inside of you manifests itself in your outward confidence and enthusiasm.”

Research by social psychologist Amy Cuddy of Harvard University proves that your posture and body language shapes your emotions and who you are, and thus the way you act. If you haven’t seen her widely popular TED talk on the subject, I highly suggest you bookmark it and revisit it regularly.

Use this technique at the beginning of the day before making cold calls. Stand in a power position with feet apart, hands on you hips, chest out and chin up. Doing this for two minutes is scientifically proven to increase testosterone levels (which increases confidence) and decrease cortisol levels (which decreases stress).

How To Plan and Prepare For A Successful Cold Call

Now that you have the right mindset, you can begin to physically prepare for your cold calls. Let’s start with answering some common question, then dive deep into some specific tactics that will dramatically increase your chances of connecting with prospects.

When To Use a Script and When to Ditch the Script

There’s a time and a place for scripts, but sales reps should not rely heavily on them day in and day out. Scripts should not be used as a crutch for having real, quality conversations.

When I say I don’t believe in scripts, I’m in no way advocating throwing reps out to the wolves without training. Far from it. Rather than giving word-for-word scripts (which is what many reps really want) I’d much prefer outlines and talking points. The call itself should be outlined and the follow a well structured and easy-to-follow framework for consistency.

If you’ve read Mike Weinberg’s book, you can probably tell I share very similar views on this subject, including this crucial point: consistency is key. You can’t determine what works if you’re saying something different every time. Sales is as much a science as it is an art. 

However, at critical points along the way, it may be necessary to recite a line or two verbatim, such as technical terms, product differentiators, or personally tough talking points. I’m even fine with giving scripts to reps who are wet behind the ears, but eventually, I want them to break away and formulate a voice of their own.

There’s Only One Goal of the Cold Call

Don’t pick up the phone unless you have a clearly defined objective of what you want out of the call. You can overcome any obstacles in your way only after you’ve clearly defined your goal.

During a cold call, your sole purpose should be to set up a deeper sales conversation, often called a discovery call. In essence, you’re calling to sell another opportunity to speak. Sounds slightly convoluted, but think about it more and it will make sense.

When you’re cold calling, you’re interrupting them (which we’ve already established). They’re not sitting around waiting for your cold call. This means when you do get someone on the line, you only have a few minutes of their time. The best use of that time is not to attempt to close a deal, do a needs-analysis, or even engage in discovery. The best use of that time is to get on their calendar for a full discovery call.

To accomplish this, your message must demonstrate a sincere interest in listening to them, learning about them, and solving their pain points. It’s easy to overcomplicate this, but having frameworks and talking points will help.

The Magic of Time Blocking

You’d be astonished how much you can get done by applying constraints and forcing you to focus.

All top sales reps know the power of time blocking. If you give yourself an entire day to make 50 cold calls, chances are you’ll be making the last few calls at the end of the day while wrapping up other tasks, and you’ll get the job done. However, if you time block two hours to complete those 50 calls, chances are you’ll get that done leaving you to six hours for other important sales activities.

There’s a lot to be said for momentum. I was able to hit 1,000 calls in his first month during my first sales job using the principles of time blocking and momentum. I didn’t let me psych myself out. As soon as I was off one call, I was dialing the next number before I could make excuses or talk myself out of it.

Protect time with your life. Protect your time from everyone (including yourself).

Get Inside Info

If you go into a cold call blind with absolutely no background or information on a prospect, you’re stacking the deck against yourself. Surprisingly, many reps go in blind and think they can sell their way out of a paper bag.

Think again. It’s impossible in today’s environment where prospects are highly knowledgeable, extremely protective of their time and not afraid to say no. It’s no longer caveat emptor, it’s caveat venditor — seller beware. You risk coming across as conceited, insolent and/or ignorant. You must arm yourself with relevant and timely information not only on the first call, but subsequent calls too, making sure to provide value at every single touch in your prospecting sequence.

In previous PersistIQ blog posts, such as Weapons of Mass Personalization and Rethinking the R in SDR, we’ve talked about some of the best tools and tactics to gain competitive intelligence on prospects.

Once you have this information, you can take it a step further and warm up your cold calls.

Warm Up Your Cold Calls.

This tip comes straight from our friend and sales guru Andy Paul in his book Amp up Your Sales (you should also check out his other book Zero Time Selling for more ways to accelerate your sales). Warm up your calls with a cold email.

Take your list of prospects and send them an introductory email with an insight about their business before you call. The insight should be brief and powerful enough to pique his/her interest. It could be anything from a relevant value proposition to a case study, or even a compelling testimonial.

It could look something like this:

Hi {{first name}},

Are you aware that independent research proves that companies like {{prospect’s company}} that use an outbound sales platform like PersistIQ are able to generate 57% more pipeline?

I’m going to give you a quick call tomorrow morning to give you more details see if this could be a good fit for you.


Segment and Conquer

John Barrows, sales trainer to leading tech companies like Facebook, Linkedin, and Box, advises, “The best way to get the volume of calling up while still being targeted and relevant with your message starts with segmenting your target list.”

Of course, the more you know about your target prospect, the better you can connect with them and talk directly to their pain points. Since you may not have time to do 10 minutes of research on every prospect before calling (unless you’re doing account based sales development), the best and most effective thing you can do to move the needle is segment.

For higher cold calling volume (which means less preparation) you must fully develop buyer personas, then match the segment to the correct buyer persona and use the powerful messaging you and your team created.

I know that was a lot to take in, so I want to give you some time to digest. Begin to weave these tips and tactics into your daily routine and you’ll start to see results immediately.

Next week, we’re going to cover the content that I know you really want. From scripts and magic phrases to tools and resources, that’s all next week in The Ultimate Guide to Cold Calling Part II.

Update: The Ultimate Guide to Cold Calling Part II is live!

A special thanks to Mike Weinberg, Andy Paul, and Jeb Blount, who’s ideas have influence mine and made me drastically better at sales. I highly recommend checking out their books New Sales. Simplified., Amp Up Your Sales, and Fanatical Prospecting respectively. 


Stay tuned for more of the latest in outbound sales best practices and methods.

This post was brought to you by PersistIQ.  Our software empowers salespeople to easily convert prospects into a qualified pipeline and create personalized outbound campaigns at scale.  See how PersistIQ can help you make your own sales efforts more effective today.

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