Cold calling is a surprisingly polarizing sales technique, and one that your sales team will inevitably find itself reverting back to once their inbound and warm leads are exhausted. While critics say unsolicited calls to prospects just don’t work, plenty of others argue that they still have a vital role to play in sales, provided you do them right.

There’s ample research to back up both sides of the argument. According to Harvard Business Review, for example, cold calling doesn’t work over 90 percent of the time. Meanwhile, others have found that phone calls are second only to referrals in terms of techniques for reaching B2B prospects. No matter what your view is, given that 42 percent of salespeople agree that prospecting is the most difficult part of the sales process, the more tools you have in your toolbelt to do so successfully, the better.

Knowing how to conduct cold calls successfully is critical. In this post, we’ve adapted some of the techniques identified by our friends at Winning by Design. You can learn more about their approach to cold calling here

The 3 Ws

When you’re cold calling, if think you’re an unwelcome interruption in a prospect’s day, you’re probably right. But just because you’re calling someone out of the blue doesn’t mean you that you can’t offer them something valuable. To make inroads with someone you’re calling up cold, just remember to quickly cover the three Ws: 

  • Who you are. Calls from an unknown person trigger a classic fight or flight response. For that reason, it’s important to explain who you are and where you’re calling from right off the bat so that you can get them to relax and stay on the line. By immediately introducing yourself and stating the name of your company, you’re reassuring the prospect that you’re not a foe. If you’ve never spoken to the person before, you might also mention that fact since being upfront and honest is often the best icebreaker. 
  • Why you’re calling. When you tell prospects why you’re calling them, you want to make it clear that you’ve either done your research or that you’re providing them with something that’s relevant to them. Demonstrate your understanding of their company and role so that you don’t sound like a traditional salesperson pitching them something that has no connection to them or their business and isn’t aligned to particular their needs, wants, or pain points. Prospects want to know that you have a valid reason for calling them before you dive into any sort of sales pitch.
  • What’s in it for them. All that your prospects and potential customers really care about is if you’re going to solve a problem for them, and how. You need to answer their questions, show you are helpful, and give them a reason to stay on the phone with you. By quickly communicating your value proposition, you have a better chance of holding their interest and getting them to engage in a conversation with you. 

Cold calling do’s and don’ts 

Back in the old days, sales reps would often begin any cold call with the trusted phrase, “did I catch you at a good time?” Invariably, that question would elicit the response “no, actually you didn’t.” Looking for a better result, sales reps eventually began flipping the question on its head, and instead asking people if they caught them at a bad time. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out very well either. In fact, asking that question reduces a salesperson’s chance of booking a meeting by 40 percent. The takeaway? Never lead with questions about time.

Instead, you need to show you want to help maximize your prospect’s time and then prove it. After you tell them who you are, why you’re calling, and what they’re going to get out of a conversation with you, immediately pose a question that will launch you into a conversation. A question about their pain points or business objectives might be a good place to start.

Interestingly, according to Gong’s analysis of 519,000 discovery calls, there’s a very clear relationship between the number of questions a salesperson asks and their chances of success. Your prospect needs to know that you are interested in, and committed to, finding solutions that suit their business.

Here’s an example of how to open a call that demonstrates all of the points we’ve made so far:

“Hi there Rachel, it’s James, calling from (company name). I understand that as the founder of (prospect company), you’ve recently been looking into growing your sales. I work with a lot of other enterprise businesses like you that work that want to ramp up sales without adding headcount. Is that is a priority for you this financial year?”

Making cold calling work for your business

Cold calling doesn’t have to be unfruitful and painful. In reality, if you do it well, it can lead to plenty of conversions. By following the 3 Ws method and calling smarter, not harder, your sales team can convert cold prospects to warm customers. 

To learn more, watch this video on mastering the art of cold calling.