Cold calling still works. In fact, cold calling is a vital part of any successful sales team. Even if you pursue an inbound lead strategy, you still need cold calling skills to make the most of your leads. So let’s explore what cold calling means in today’s sales environment and how you can train your team on cold calling skills.

Table of Contents

1. What is Cold Calling?

An actionable cold calling definition: an unsolicited call made by a salesperson to a prospect that hasn’t expressed interest in the product or service being offered. Cold calling is an important component of an established sales process – and something that can be mutually beneficial for both salesperson and prospect. Now you’re asking, what is cold calling going to help my prospect with? If it’s done right, you’re offering knowledgeable insight that can drive real change.

When cold calling is executed properly, the sales rep will know the industry shifts and changes that are impacting their prospect’s business. A successful sales development rep will understand the macro environment their prospects are trying to do business in. Sales reps that place cold calls talk to more business leaders in similar circumstances than the typical prospect they are calling so there are a lot of insights to be offered. With this information and research at the ready, a cold call can be a good opportunity to:

    • Align with prospects on their turf.
    • Introduce a product or service within the context of their macro environment.
    • Offer insights into what challenges their peers are facing currently and how they solved them.
    • Start building meaningful rapport with a potential client.

2. Cold Calling Training Tips

The outcomes described above are not always guaranteed when making a cold call. In fact, most sales teams we work with claim that cold calling can be the most frustrating part of their sales process because they rarely see results. It can be infuriating when a sales rep keeps trying but gets no one to have a conversation with them or even pick up the phone.

isometric illustration of people attending a business sales training

When done right however, cold calling can yield tremendous results and motivate sales reps to add new opportunities to the funnel. Sales reps and new sales hires need to be trained on properly making cold calls. The skills are not very complex but it’s also not intuitive. After all, you can’t tell someone to jump higher and expect them to just do it. You need to have a regimented plan and training to get there and cold calling is no different. Here are a few cold calling training tips:

a. Leverage Call Recordings

If your team is not already leveraging call recordings, you need to start right away. Not just for cold calls, but all sales calls throughout the customer lifecycle. Sales call recordings hold a wealth of context and information that sales reps can learn from.

This is especially true for cold calls. Things can happen fast on a cold call. During a training, you can describe what to do in the first 10 seconds of a prospect picking up a call but just like how a picture paints a thousand words, a recorded cold call can transfer intangible and invaluable information to a new sales hire.

Find your best cold callers and make sure their calls are being recorded. These recordings will help you decrease ramp time for new hires and help make everyone in your organization get better by providing them a sample of what a good cold call sounds like.

b. Conduct Sales Call Role Plays

Making a cold call can be nerve wracking. Even if you are a seasoned sales rep, it can be tough to start cold calling if you haven’t done much of it before. A great way to get over this is by doing cold call role plays.

While cold call role plays are a great way for new sales reps to test their skills, it is also a great way for any sales rep to hone their skills. Be sure to use a real phone when practicing. Go in separate rooms as well. Trying to recreate an environment that feels like a real cold call will help make the most of this exercise.

Illustration of a red coach's whistlec. Hold Coaching Sessions

No matter what skill level a sales rep has, they can always benefit from coaching. Sales managers need to set aside time each week or every other week to have a one-on-one session with their reps.

When coaching cold calling skills, it is vital to have a call recording in front of you. This way you can pinpoint exactly what a caller did correctly and what they could have done better. Without this point of reference, it becomes very hard to coach cold calling skills.

If it is impossible for you to have access to call recordings, then managers should sit down with team members when they are making cold calls. Get a headset splitter so you can listen in to the conversation that your team member is having. That way, the manager has real-time knowledge of how their reps are handling cold calls and is the next best thing to reviewing call recordings for coaching purposes.

3. Cold Calling Techniques

Now that you have some idea on how to train your team on cold calling, lets discuss some cold calling techniques. It won’t be possible to provide a comprehensive course on cold calling in this blog but here are some techniques that all cold callers should be leveraging:

a. Do your Homework

Do not cold call blindly. Prospects are busy and if you dial someone without knowing their role and what is important to them, you are wasting your own time and your prospect’s time. Cold calls that are made without any sort of pre-call research give cold calls a bad rep.

Understand your prospects’ role and their company’s challenges before calling. Go beyond this and also learn something about your prospect. Maybe you both went to the same college or belong to same industry groups. This sort of information will help break the ice and get your prospect curious about what you have to say.

b. Prepare Insights you can Share

Getting a prospect to be curious however, is not enough to have a successful cold call. The most common mistake that sales people make during a sales call is that they start talking about their own solution and all the big names that they have worked with within the prospect’s industry.

This is the surest way to get a prospect disinterested in a cold call. The cold caller has to keep the focus on the prospect. To do this, be prepared with some insights regarding the industry or your prospect’s challenges. Follow up your insight with a question that has to do with the prospect’s own challenges. This keeps the focus on them and how a cold caller can help the prospect.

This sort of messaging and technique helps build trust and rapport. It demonstrates to the prospect that the cold caller is concerned with challenges and solving those challenges instead of just “pitching” their product.

c. Understand the Biggest Cold Calling Objections

Over 100,000 sales calls demonstrated that prospects object on a cold call for one of the following three reasons.

I. Not Listening: The prospect simply was not listening and not engaged during the cold call. They were distracted the entire time you were speaking to them and gave an objection to make it seem like they were actually listening to you.

II. Don’t Understand: They are listening to the cold caller and perhaps asked some questions; however, they do not fully understand what the sales rep is trying to convey to them, and as a result, give an objection.

III. Genuinely Not Interested: The prospect paid attention during the cold call, fully understands the product/service and for a legitimate reason (such as recently signing a deal with a competitor), they object.

Sellers who are able to quickly identify which category a prospect's objection falls into on a cold call and react appropriately have a higher chance of success.

d. Leverage Switchboards and Admins

You may be surprised to learn that successful cold calling often begins with speaking to switchboards and admins. The best prospectors don’t view people in these positions as an impediment or a gatekeeper to their prospects, instead, they leverage them to the fullest.

Switchboards and admins have a wealth of information, such as direct lines, correct email addresses, org charts, current initiatives, who holds the responsibility for purchasing their products/services, etc.

(Side note: It’s important to note that switchboards and admins hold different areas of responsibility, and thus require a different approach.)

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4. How to Choose a Cold Calling Course?

If you’ve decided that your team needs comprehensive cold calling training, then it is time to pick a cold calling course. Here are a few things you should pay attention to when selecting the right cold calling training course for your team:

a. Make Sure the Course is Backed by Research

Unfortunately there are a lot of cold calling courses out there that are based on opinions rather than science. Many courses will claim that their techniques work but you should probe to find out whether the best practices are derived from someone’s opinion of what worked for them or if the cold calling best practices emerged from real field research.

The difference can mean success or failure for your team. If the best practices are backed by actual field research, you can be confident that the training will be successful as long as the participants follow through on what is taught. When best practices are based on what worked for just one or two people, there is no guarantee that the course will provide skills that are suitable and successful for everyone.

b. Ensure there are Real Examples in the Course

It’s one thing to hear what you should do. It is entirely another to also have an example of what execution sounds and looks like. It is notoriously difficult for adults to learn new things and adopt new habits. 

For adults to adopt new skills, they have to learn those skills in context. Therefore, whenever a training course teaches a new concept, it must be followed by an example of what execution sounds like. Make sure the training course you pick comes with plenty of real examples for sales reps to emulate.

c. Ask about the Reinforcement Plan

As mentioned above, it is difficult to get adults to adopt new habits. It’s not enough to just teach them something new and expect them to turn it into a new habit. That requires consistent and well planned reinforcement after the initial learning period is over.

Reinforcement is perhaps the most important part of any cold calling training course. This is where ROI is realized because if skills don’t turn into habits, then the course was a waste of time. Whoever you decide to work with, make sure they have a reinforcement plan that can turn new learning into habits.

d. Make Sure Cold Calling Training is Scalable

Chances are that people hired for cold calling will move up within the company or find another job. The average tenure of an SDR is about 18 months. To develop a strong team culture around cold calling, everyone should be trained in the same manner and use the same terminology.

The cold calling training course provider you pick should be able to easily onboard your new hires as they enter your company. If you have to train new hires on something different each time someone comes on-board, it will create confusion and prevent sales reps from helping each other since they will be used to different processes and terminology.

5. Cold Calling Metrics Benchmark

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The benchmarks discussed here are for SDRs who are pursuing a fully outbound strategy. The top 5% of SDRs/BDAs secure 6.7 scheduled meetings per week on average. However, they don’t agonize over their results. The key to achieving those results is by focusing on activities that you can control. Here is a list of activities and benchmarks to shoot for:

    • An average of 603.9 dials (calls placed) per week (120.8 per day)
    • An average of 57 new contacts added to the prospecting list per week (11.4 per day)
    • At least 81.6% of active contacts* have direct lines in the contact record
    • At least 95.4% of active contacts* have pre-call research in the contact record

*Active contacts refers to prospects that the seller is currently pursuing at a given time

Cold calling can provide tremendous results for your team but it has to be done right. If you let your sales reps dial blindly, they’ll stop trying because they will seldom find success. This could lead to inconsistent performance, lack of new opportunities at the top of the funnel and inaccurate forecasts (to name a few). We can help you prevent these unfortunate results and make sure your team has the tools and skills they need to cold call successfully; schedule a free 30-minute consultation with Funnel Clarity today!