Start Cold Calling Prospects

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Customize a script for each prospect.
  • Use objections for information gathering.
  • Move prospects to account executives for follow-up calls.

Lights, Camera, Call

Now that you have a cold call script so you don’t forget to ask key questions or share important information, you're ready to put it into action. However, you don’t want to read it verbatim—if you do that, you risk sounding like a robot.

Think of your script the way an actor would. Rehearse it beforehand so you'll sound authentic and natural. Consider who your prospect is based on details you’ve gathered during research. What is their job title, and what business problem can you solve for them? You're about to interrupt them, so how can you make the call worth their while?

Here are a few quick tips to make this easier:

  1. Explain your value proposition. Have a clear value proposition and be ready to articulate it fast. Offer a concise statement of what value you are bringing to the prospect.
  2. Draft your questions. You can’t predict where the conversation will go, but you do know what information you need to qualify the prospect as a likely buyer. Craft a series of 3–5 open-ended questions that will help you get this information. Make sure at least one is tailored specifically to the prospect—this shows that you took the time to learn about them, which can make a favorable impression. Lastly, when you ask your open-ended questions, be prepared to listen. Remember: Cold calls are designed for information gathering, not hard sales pitches.
  3. Approach your prospect as a person, not a sales target. It’s easy to focus on the potential sale, but nobody wants to be the target of product pushes. Remember that your prospect is a person dealing with the struggles and successes of business life. Listen for these cues during the call and address them (if appropriate). Treating the prospect like a real person goes a long way to building rapport. This rapport is key to building trust.

Practice! Practice! Perfect!

If you're new to cold calling, don't expect to nail it the first time. That said, you can increase the likelihood of success (and build confidence) by practicing before you pick up the phone.

Just like you'd rehearse for an upcoming job interview, team up with a co-worker and run through some scenarios. Have your coworker pretend to be delighted to get your call. This will give you a chance to run through your open-ended questions and get as much info as you can. Then, have them pretend to be less interested. How will you get a polite, but disinterested prospect to talk to you? Finally, ask your coworker to role-play a prospect who isn't interested at all.

Keep in mind that successful cold calling requires ongoing practice and improvement. If it’s legally allowed (and the prospect gives you permission), it’s a good idea to record your cold calls so you can analyze conversations. Identify what resonated and what didn’t, then note areas for potential improvement. What rapport-building techniques worked? What stories hit home? What open-ended questions gathered the most information? Which prospects were most receptive?

At Salesforce, we use Einstein Conversation Insights to gain insights from our cold calls, refine scripts, and share the best cold calls among teams as coaching material.

The more practice you get, the more information you can collect, and the better you’ll get at cold calling.

Two coworkers sit at a conference table. The woman on the right practices her cold call script while a man on the left listens.

Use Objections for Information Gathering

Objections—or when a prospect articulates concerns, doubt, or problems with your call or product—are a normal part of all sales activity, and they’re a big part of the cold calling process. They can be frustrating at first, but only if you think of a cold call as a hard sell. If you’re faced with pushback during the conversation, you can still use these moments as opportunities to gather valuable information about your prospect.

Here’s how to prepare for objections during cold calls and still collect valuable insights:

  • Write clear responses to common objections. When you’re first learning to cold call, you won’t be great at handling objections on the fly. Prepare yourself for the most common ones by talking to sales reps and other Business Development Representatives (BDRs) on your sales team about objections they hear frequently. Draft compelling counterpoints based on data and tie back into prospect needs.
  • Collect objections. When you hear an objection, write it down. After your call is over, draft responses to those objections and keep them in an easy-to-access location for reference during future calls. The more calls you make (and objections you address), the easier it will be to get past them and gather the information you need.
  • Turn objections into open-ended questions. Often, objections are clues to greater company needs or pain points. Common ones—like limited budget, lack of time, not enough staff—can paint a bigger picture of the state of business. Use these to inquire further and collect additional details. For example, if a contact claims they have no budget at the moment, ask them when their fiscal year begins and what budgetary priorities are. This can help you identify when you should call back with a sales pitch that fits within their budget and meets business needs.

Move Prospects to Account Executives (AEs) for Follow-up

After a successful cold call, it's time to hand over your warm prospect to an account executive (sales rep) who will follow up with a sales pitch and demo. While you likely gathered a smattering of information during your call, reps need three specific details to make the sales call successful.

Prospect decision-maker: Your initial contact may not be the person who makes purchase decisions. During your information gathering, you secured the name, phone number, and email of the primary decision-maker (read: the person authorized to make the final purchase). This will be the person the sales rep targets for the final pitch, so be sure to provide him/her with all contact details. 

Ideal follow-up day and time: As you closed the cold call, you asked about the prospect’s availability for a follow-up call. They may have given you several days and time slots—send all of these to the sales rep so they know when to reach out.

Key pain points, needs, and budget: Any pertinent details that can help with a sale should be shared with your AE. However, the best nuggets are those that can be easily leveraged in a sales call to push the prospect to close. This includes clear identification of need that aligns with your product/service, pain points that can be easily solved using your product/service, and available budget for making a purchase. 

Now that you have a toolbox of cold calling techniques, including writing and rehearsing a script, gathering key information, and handling objections, it's time to go forth and make those cold calls. May your leads be warm and your deals get closed!

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