Cold calling: Nine effective steps

Nine steps to effective cold calling:

1. Put together a list of potential customers to call. The list can be purchased from a third-party list provider and may contain all or just some of the details you want in order to conduct your call.

2. Evaluate the list and target the “low-hanging fruit.” How do you recognize a company as “low-hanging fruit”? The starting point is your definition of a target customer. If you have a list of potential customers to call, prioritize the list based on how well they fit this definition. By using this rating system, you increase your chances of success dramatically—and it spares you the time of calling on customers who are a bad fit.

3. For each target on your list, make sure you know the name of the individual to call. Most decision-makers, especially those in large corporations, have multiple gatekeepers whose job it is to protect their boss’ time. They will employ various ways of filtering out low-priority calls, so you need to know how to get past the gatekeepers. It can make a major difference whether you ask “to talk to the Chief Financial Officer” or whether you ask “to speak with Adam Smith.” In many cases, a quick search on the Internet will help you find the name of the person you need.

4. Even if you know that the CFO might not be the person who would make the buying decision, and that the buyer would be someone who reports to him or her, starting with the CFO is still the better way to begin the sales process. In doing so, you will either get a referral from the CFO directly to the appropriate person, or one of the CFO’s gatekeepers will guide you in the right direction.

5. Make sure you have your elevator pitch ready before you call and a clear understanding of why you are calling. Before launching into your pitch, ensure that you are speaking to the right person and that they have a couple of minutes to spend with you. If they do not, be understanding, and ask them when a better time would be. If this person is not the correct contact for you, see if they can recommend which colleague you should speak with.


6. Know your objective and what you need to say to get there. If you are calling to book a meeting, make that clear to the buyer. You also need to ensure that you offer the target buyer a good reason for spending some of their valuable time with you. (What’s in it for them?) Move as quickly as possible to define the customer problem you can address. This will earn you the right to ask for a meeting. Be prepared to face both resistance and rejection—this is part of the process and should not be taken personally.

7. When launching into your pitch, it helps to have a script listing your talking points as well as a few questions designed to engage the customer in a two-way conversation. While it is advisable to practice your pitch, keep in mind that you do not want to sound too scripted. Having questions related to the customer will allow the conversation to flow more naturally.

8. If you reach your customer’s voicemail, provide some brief and relevant information, remembering to include your phone number. Avoid leaving a long, scripted message on someone’s voicemail.

9. Set aside time on a regular basis to conduct cold calls, and stick to it. Find uninterrupted time to make the calls so you can build up momentum and get into the spirit of talking to customers. As you do your call, remember how much you care about your business and how passionate you are about your product. That will both energize you and help you approach each call with a positive attitude, something the customer will notice.