19 Best Practices for Cold Calling Sales Prospects

April 24, 2024 by
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Cold calling is one of the most basic and fundamental sales tactics. It has been around for decades, and while other forms of marketing have since become extremely popular in recent years, cold calling is still a tried and true way to turn potential leads into new customers.

That said, you shouldn’t simply pick up the phone and start calling leads without a proper plan. In this blog, we will discuss 19 of the best practices for making successful cold calls. Ready to start converting prospects like never before? Let’s get straight to it!

Main Takeaways

  • Before you start calling prospects, make a list of promising leads and do some digging into their background to ensure you are prepared for the call.
  • Your opening line and the tone and language you use in your call can have a massive impact on your outcome.
  • One of our top recommendations is to ask open ended questions to keep the conversation naturally flowing during the call.
  • Providing a “try it before you buy it” option or using risk reversal techniques helps take the focus away from the initial investment of the product.

Top Cold Calling Practices That Will Help You Win Sales

Cold calling can be seriously daunting, especially when starting a new sales campaign. We can’t help you get rid of the cold call butterflies, but we can arm you with some tips and tricks that will ensure you are well-prepared and give you a better chance of making a good impression.

1. Create a Targeted Prospect List

Before you start making calls, create a targeted prospect list to make your cold calling efforts more efficient and effective. 

Identify and organize a list of potential customers who are most likely to be interested in your products or services based on specific criteria such as industry, job title, company size, and other relevant factors.

Having a targeted prospect list helps you concentrate your time and resources on the most promising leads, which can significantly increase your success rate and save you precious minutes!

Additionally, using a targeted list can improve your overall return on investment (ROI) by focusing on leads that are more likely to convert into sales​.

2. Understand Your Prospect’s Background

The second best practice in cold calling is to gather information. Don’t pick up the phone before you spend time learning about your prospect. You should learn who they are, what their company does, what their role is in the company, and any recent news about the business. 

The more you know about them, the better you can customize your conversation to meet their needs.

Research shows that personalized conversations are more effective because they address specific pain points the prospect might face. Early preparation helps make your cold calls more personal and less generic. Remember, some prospects may get several cold calls per day, so you should do everything you can to stand out from the bunch.

3. Pick the Best Time To Call

It may seem pretty obvious that you shouldn’t make cold calls in the middle of the night. But did you know you can significantly increase your chances of having a productive conversation by making your calls at specific times?

According to research, cold calls are most effective in the late mornings between 10 AM and 12 PM and late afternoons between 4 PM and 5 PM.

Studies have shown that response rates are higher during these windows because people are less likely to be wrapping up or starting their day and, thus, more open to discussing business.

Interestingly, Wednesday is also the best day of the week to make cold calls, potentially increasing the chances of reaching your prospect on the first try by 50% compared to Mondays or Fridays​.

4. Craft Your Opening Line Carefully

The first words you say on a cold call can set the tone for the entire conversation. It’s important to begin with a clear and engaging opening line that addresses the reason for your call. 

A well-crafted opening line cuts through the noise and directly engages the prospect. Mentioning a specific reason for your call, such as a recent event related to the prospect’s business or a common challenge their industry faces, can make the conversation relevant and timely. 

Our research indicates that opening with a specific reason can make your call nearly twice as likely to succeed compared to starting a call without one​.

Moreover, using an opener that shows you have done your homework about the prospect and their company builds credibility. 

5. Set the Agenda and Stay in Control

Set the agenda early in the conversation. This will allow you to maintain control and steer the conversation towards the finish line.

Start your call with a clear purpose, outline expectations, and set a respectful and professional tone. We also recommend clearly stating the reason for your call and what you hope to achieve. This prepares the prospect for what’s to come, making them more likely to stay engaged.

When prospects understand the purpose of the call right from the beginning, they are more likely to listen and participate in the conversation.

6. Ask Open-Ended Questions

Another great practice to incorporate into your sales call is to ask open-ended questions. This can quickly turn a one-sided pitch into a two-way conversation, which can lead to better engagement with the prospect. These questions are asked to obtain more than a simple “yes” or “no” answer. It allows the conversation to open up and flow more naturally. This is a very effective sales practice as the prospect isn’t just listening to your pitch but instead actively engaging with you.

Here are some examples of open-ended questions you could ask in a cold call:

  • “What are some challenges you are currently facing in your industry?”
  • “If you could wave a magic wand and improve one aspect of your business right now, what would it be?”

7. Listen and Respond to the Conversation

One of the most effective practices in cold calling is to truly listen to what your prospects are saying. This means hearing their words, understanding their meaning, and responding thoughtfully.

We cannot stress enough the importance of letting the conversation flow naturally rather than rigidly sticking to a sales script. 

Active listening lets you pick up on the prospect’s specific concerns, which you can address directly during the call. It shows that you are paying attention and care about the problems they are trying to solve. 

Remember, it’s not just about selling a product but about creating a relationship that could lead to future sales and referrals down the line​.

8. Buy as Much Time as Possible

In cold calling, you should try to keep the prospect on the phone for as long as possible. That said, don’t confuse this with dragging out the conversation with irrelevant chatter; instead, strategically engage the prospect to keep the dialogue flowing and meaningful. 

The longer you keep a prospect engaged on the phone, the better your chances of building a relationship and eventually closing a sale. 

It may seem like a shocking statistic, but successful cold calls often correlate with a longer duration. 

9. Choose Your Words Wisely

The words you use in a sales cold call hold more weight than you may think.

Using precise, positive, and engaging words helps open doors to more fruitful conversations. Additionally, selecting the right words during a cold call can also prevent misunderstandings and build trust. 

For example, words like “exclusive”, “innovative”, “proven”, and “game-changing” all spark curiosity and interest and may lead to longer and more productive conversations. Sales calls customized in language to the prospect’s needs are more likely to result in a positive outcome. 

Avoid jargon and technical terms that might confuse the prospect. Instead, opt for words that are relevant and resonate with their industry and personal business challenges. 

10. Use the “Try, Before You Buy” Approach

Using a “Try, Before You Buy” approach during cold calls is another practice we recommend using in your sales strategy. This strategy involves offering potential customers a free trial or a sample of your product or service. 

This immediately lowers the barriers of resistance most prospects have against a sales pitch. It shifts the conversation from a potential financial commitment to an opportunity for the prospect to evaluate the product without any risks. 

Example: Imagine a company selling a new cologne approaches you. You really like the scent, but you aren’t completely sold on it as it is a bit expensive. The company then offers you a free sample of the cologne so that you can try it at home. 

This strategy lets prospects try your product and see the true value of it for themselves. Then, as long as they like your product, they will be much more likely to make a purchase.

11. Make It Simple for Potential Clients

Avoid offering too many choices or next steps to prospects in cold calls, as it may overwhelm buyers, making it harder for them to make a decision. 

The goal is to present just enough about your product or service to solve the prospect’s problems. Then, give them a clear path forward, doing all the “heavy lifting” for them. Simplifying the choices available to potential clients helps them make faster and more confident decisions. 

While it can definitely be tempting to showcase every possible feature or configuration, it is much better to guide the conversation around the prospect’s main issues and demonstrate how your product or service is a clear solution. 

12. Use Risk Reversal Language

This strategy involves using terms that reduce the buyer’s risk, such as offering easy cancellations, no long-term contracts, or money-back guarantees. Even if you have the best product in the world, you still should offer prospects a risk-free entry point before they make a commitment.

Doing so directly addresses and eliminates the fears that a potential buyer might have about making a wrong decision.

Studies have shown that incorporating risk reversal phrases like “cancel at any time” or “no long-term commitment” can increase win rates by as much as 32%. However, it’s essential to use these phrases wisely. Overusing this strategy can actually decrease your sale close rates because it shifts the focus to the potential risks rather than the benefits of the product or service​.

13. Handle Objections Gracefully

One of the key skills in cold calling is effectively overcoming objections. You must understand common concerns or hesitations that prospects may have and prepare to address them confidently and constructively during the call. 

Be ready to respond to these objections to keep the conversation moving forward and maintain control of the call.

Overcoming objections is critical because it shows your prospects that you are attentive to their needs and capable of providing solutions. It also demonstrates your expertise and builds trust. 

14. Keep It Positive with the Right Tone of Voice

The tone of your voice accounts for a large portion of the success in your calls, with a convincing tone increasing your cold-calling success by up to 90%​!

A positive tone helps to make your conversation more inviting and can greatly reduce the natural resistance people may feel toward cold calls. 

To effectively use a positive tone, focus on speaking clearly and at a moderate volume to convey confidence. Adjust your pacing to be brisk but not rushed, allowing the prospect to absorb the information.

It may sound silly, but practice smiling while talking. This can positively affect your tone and make the interaction more pleasant and personal.

15. Avoid Making False Claims and Bad Mouthing Competitors

Practicing integrity and honesty is crucial when cold calling. You should never make false claims about your products and services or speak negatively about competitors. 

False claims can lead to serious consequences, including legal actions and a damaged reputation, which can ultimately harm your business’s long-term success. Deceptive advertising can damage a brand’s image and lead to lost customer trust, which is often difficult to regain​.

Speaking poorly of competitors can backfire by making you appear unprofessional or desperate. Focusing on your strengths and how your product or service uniquely addresses prospects’ needs is generally more effective. 

16. Make It Easy to Say Yes

Another tip for successfully cold calling is to make it as easy as possible for prospects to say “yes” to the next step. Remember, it is about focusing not on closing a sale immediately but on advancing the conversation. 

Your primary goal should be to engage the prospect in a meaningful dialogue about how your solution can address their needs. This is an effective method because it reduces the pressure on the prospect, allowing them to commit to smaller, less daunting actions, such as agreeing to receive more information or scheduling a follow-up call instead of committing to a purchase.

It is important to simplify the decision process because it lowers the mental and emotional barriers associated with making a commitment​, which, in the end, can lead to higher conversion rates 

17. Accept the Rejection Gracefully

Cold calling success rates are around 2%, so you should expect to be turned down often. In this industry, rejection is inevitable. However, how you handle these rejections can impact your long-term success and reputation in sales. 

Accepting rejection gracefully is professional and can leave a positive impression on the prospect. This could lead to potential future opportunities with the prospect, even if they turn you down the first time.

When a prospect declines, acknowledge their decision respectfully and thank them for their time. Ask if you can keep in touch, perhaps by sending occasional updates or information that could be of interest to them. It keeps the relationship cordial and the communication lines open.

18. Avoid Traditional Methods When Ending the Call

How you end a cold call can dramatically influence the outcome of the conversation. Traditional closings like “Hope we can talk soon” or “I’ll call back later” are not only generic but often fail to prompt any definitive action from the prospect. 

Instead, ending the call with a specific question or proposed action for the next interaction creates a natural opening for follow up. 

For example, it is better to say, “Next time we talk, I want to show you [X]. How about next Wednesday?”. This suggests a clear next step and anchors the prospect’s commitment to a specific time and date. 

To apply this effectively, always plan your closing remarks to include a call to action. According to sales studies, specifying the next step can increase follow-up engagement rates by up to 40% compared to vague or generic call endings.

19. Do Not Forget to Follow Up

While making the initial call is important, it’s the follow up that often seals the deal. 

Surprisingly, around 48% of sales reps never follow up with a prospect after the first call. So, this presents a unique opportunity for those who make the effort to follow up.

Following up can set you apart from nearly half of your competitors, who might give up after the first attempt. It also shows your prospects that you are serious about helping them solve their problems and are committed to providing value. 

To implement effective follow ups, schedule a specific time and method for your next contact during the initial call. It could be a phone call, email, or even a social media message, depending on what suits the prospect best.

Always personalize your follow up messages based on the information gathered during the initial call, and remind the prospect of how your product or service can solve their specific problem.

Implement These Practices to Make Your Cold Calls More Effective!

Cold calling may not seem like an approachable sales tactic, but with the right skills and strategies, it can be one of the best ways to make new sales and convert leads. Using our tips will give you a leg up over your competitors and allow you to approach your prospects with confidence!



About The Author

Mike Yon

Mike is the Co-Owner of Growth List.

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