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Sales - 10 min READ

How to Improve Your Cold Calling Success Rates in 2019

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Author photo: Kimberlee Meier

Kimberlee Meier


Cold calling isn't dead. But some salespeople have more success with cold calling than others.

Why is that?

A successful cold call isn't an accident. It's made up of the right dialogue, the right questions, and it lasts for the right amount of time.

A successful cold call also requires a mastery of the finer details. What time of day you contact a prospect and how much you've practiced your pitch can make the difference between booking an appointment, and getting hung up on.

Let's dive into how you can improve your cold calling success rates this year.

1. Make sure you’re calling at the best time

When it comes to closing a prospect, timing is everything.

Cold calling your prospects at the right time can make the difference between it being successful—and bombing.

A study by Phone Burner found cold calls were most successful when they were made either mid-morning or mid-afternoon.

The cold calling times to avoid? Anything too early.

Avoid calling your prospect before 8 am. They don't want to talk on the phone right after they wake up and they're trying to get ready for their day ahead. If you call at this time, there's a massive chance they will ignore your call (answer rates are under 5% before 8 am).

If you need to reach a prospect outside of normal business hours, you should call them in the evening rather than the early morning.

Oh, and try to avoid calls between 12pm and 2pm as well. Your prospect will probably be focusing on their lunch and don't want to be interrupted by your sales call.

Each industry and geographical area is different though, so to really be successful, go beyond benchmarks like these; keep track of the times when calls tend to be successful (or unsuccessful) in your CRM, and you’ll eventually gather enough data that’s specific to your prospects.

2. Begin your call on a positive note

Starting a cold call on an upbeat and exciting note can set the foundations for how the call will play out.

Before you cold call a prospect, do a bit of homework. Using sales prospecting tools, you can easily find out if the prospect's company has recently been in the media, released a new product, or achieved a recent milestone. These are all good ways to open up a cold call on a positive note.

If you can't find any of these conversation starters, ask them something that will get the conversation flowing casually. Ask about their weekend or if their local sports team has won a big competition. Anything giving off a positive vibe is the aim here.

Another way to kick off a sales call positively is to check in with the prospect in a casual way. A study by Gong found asking a prospect "How have you been?" at the start of a sales call improved the chances of getting a meeting book by over six times.

What's interesting is that changing up that greeting to "Did I catch you at a bad time?" can quickly cut the possibility of booking a sales meeting—by 40%:

The lesson here: using positive language at the start of your call can dramatically increase the chances of turning your cold call into a sales meeting.

3. Highlight your product’s value and start a monologue

Okay, you should never make a cold call all about your product, but you should highlight the value it can bring to your prospect.

The best way to do this? Explain how your product could benefit the prospect through emotion-based selling. You might be surprised to find out that purchasing is, more often than not, influenced on personal value rather than what value the product can add to the business:

Let's look at an example.

You're selling a product that increases productivity. You need to show your prospect how it could personally benefit them. If you can show the prospect that your product can improve their team's productivity by 30% (and make them look good in front of their boss at their monthly meeting), they're more likely to listen to what you've got to say on your cold call.

To help you push this point home, have an ROI calculator or formula handy so that you can tell the prospect the benefits on their bottom line. Not only will giving your prospect numbers help to get a sales meeting booked, but it can also demonstrate the value they’ll get from the price.

To get your point across, don't be afraid to speak up—and speak for longer. It’s a bit counterintuitive, but a study by Gong found that sales reps who had monologues for 37 seconds were 50% more successful on their calls over those who only talked for 25 seconds:

By owning the conversation and talking for longer, you give yourself a better chance of steering the chat the direction you want—and that's booking a meeting. Don’t do all the talking, though. You still need to listen to their pain points and their concerns. Just make sure you’re talking enough to be able to steer the conversation in a certain direction.

To get them to agree to a meeting, you have to make them see it'll be worth their while. Upping the emotional benefits of your product and increasing the length of your monologue are two surprising ways to make a prospect see value in your product.

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4. Overcome objections like a boss

Sales objections are the bane of every rep’s existence.

But if you want to increase your cold calling success rate, you need to be able to overcome objections like a boss. Instead of taking a prospect's objection as a sign of a defeat on a cold call, try and understand the real reasons behind the objection.

Step 1 of overcoming objections is realizing they're going to happen (no matter how good you are) and facing the fear. Start by:

  • Analyzing the reasons for objections
  • Chatting about rejections with your team at your regular meetings. Have they faced the same sales objections on cold calls? Talk about them and try and come up with solutions—together.
  • If you're using cold call scripts, make sure your pitch is tight and that you're confident on the phone. If you don't believe in your pitch, how can you expect your prospect to?

Objections are going to happen. Being able to predict them is the game changer. Some of the most common objections (pricing, competitors, skepticism) can actually be overcome relatively easily if you have to tools to diffuse them.

5. When you’re cold calling, make sure the call is your only focus

Seems like a no-brainer, but getting distracted on a cold call can kill your chances of success.

A cold call needs your undivided attention. You're contacting a prospect for the very first time, so every impression and second counts. If you're distracted, it could disturb the flow of the conversation, make you miss crucial pieces of information from your prospect or, at worst, disconnect you from the call altogether.

A prospect's time is important—remember that when dialing and ignore distractions when you're pitching.

Here's a distraction checklist you should check off when you're about to make a set of cold calls:

  • Place your phone out of arm's reach (preferably on the other side of the room or cubicle)
  • Put your phone on silent or turn it off
  • Close down any messaging and email tabs (Slack, Gmail, etc.) on your screen (including social media sites) during the call
  • Use a set of Bluetooth headphones so you can pace in the corridor or cubicle to help you relieve your nerves

If you're having trouble concentrating on a cold call, try clearing your mind before jumping into your calls. Meditate or do something to minimize distracting thoughts before a call—it’s better than having them interrupt you in the middle of a pitch.

6. Keep asking questions on the call

When you're cold calling, don't aim to close a deal right away. Instead, your main aim should be to ask questions, get to know your prospect a little better, and give them some insight on how your product can benefit them.

Building a relationship with your contact is key, so you need to ask as many questions as you can to understand their pain points.

Are they struggling with marketing? Are their reps underperforming? What issues in their industry are affecting them most right now?

Some of the questions you need to ask on your first call are:

  • Are there any areas you're looking to improve in the business just now?
  • I've seen that X, X, and X have caused some concern in your industry. Has your company been impacted at all?
  • We have a lot of clients in your industry who are struggling with X right now. How are you dealing with it?
  • Can you give me a rundown of your business?
  • Hmm, so you say that X is causing you some issues. Are you currently using any solution?
  • Before our call, I looked through your company's annual report, and it had X priorities listed that you want to achieve. Are you reaching them, or are you facing issues?

Be attentive when you're asking these questions and record everything (if you're using a CRM, this should be easy). Their answers contain crucial insights into what they're struggling with as a company, and what they may be willing to spend money on to solve them.

It’s easy to add notes from your sales calls in Copper!

Focus on your prospect's issues and pain points. (More on how to take sales notes here.) Once you've heard them out, push to set up up a meeting so you can demo your product.

7. Try and make the phone call last

Cold calls lasting more than five minutes are more successful for sales reps than shorter ones.

A cold call study by Gong found that the longer a rep’s cold call lasts, the better their chances were of getting a meeting booked.

That means you need to buy time and keep your prospect’s attention. But buying time is incredibly hard to do—without the right prospecting toolkit.

A prospecting tool like Crystal can give you unique insight into a prospect’s behavior, and how you can get them to respond better on a cold call.

Chances are, you've never talked to the prospect you're cold calling before. The good news is there are different tools out there (like Crystal) that can give you insights that will help keep the conversation flowing (and the call lasting longer).

If you're making cold calls and you don't have any prospecting tools, Sales Training Expert John Barrows says you should hook your prospect into a call with the line "… The reason for my call is…"

Barrows’ recommendation? Use the opening line for every cold call you make. He says it will make your cold calls more direct, and get your prospect’s attention.

But only if you have a good enough reason.

So before you pick up the phone, ask yourself:

  • Will my reason for calling give me a shot at keeping the prospect on the phone? Am I adding value by offering up a solution, or am I just planning on ringing and telling them what company I work for?
  • Will my reason lay the foundations for the conversation to progress?

Failing to plan is, after all, planning to fail.

8. Practice, practice, practice

Cold calling mistakes are going to happen. But the more you practice, the less likely they will.

No matter how long you've been in the sales game, you'll still get thrown curveballs from prospects on cold calls. And you'll still stumble when you're trying to answer them. The easiest way to avoid these scenarios is to round up the reps in the office and practice cold calling—with each other.

The best way to practice cold calling is to:

  • Rally the sales reps in the office together and make mock cold calls to each other. Think of any curveballs you've been thrown in a recent sales call and see how your colleague handles it.
  • Make the mock cold calls as difficult as you possibly can by asking tough questions. After all, it's better for you to stumble when practicing with a colleague than on a real-life sales call.
  • Make a list of common problems and objections you and other reps in the office face, so you can practice overcoming them.
  • Keep practicing to build up each other's confidence.

Better yet, pick a top-performing sales rep who's consistently booking meetings from cold calls and have them give some tips.

Some reps struggle more than others when it comes to cold calling, so having a rep who’s actually succeeding in booking meetings from cold calls will help everyone see how to get it right.

Improving your cold calling success rate is all down to strategy

Successful cold calling doesn’t happen because of luck.

It comes down to strategy, planning, and execution. The time of the day you call a prospect, combined with the length of the call and even the opening phrase you use can be the difference between a success and a hang-up.

But as much as all of these factors can influence a cold call's success, nothing beats practice. The reason a lot of cold calls fail is that reps aren't confident in making them, and they can't handle prospect objections. Working on these by practicing and polishing your cold calling game will improve your success rates with prospects this year.

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