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Posted: August 02, 2011

Three hot tips for cold-call success

It's business development in disguise

Liz Wendling

Let's face it, nobody really enjoys making cold calls, and nobody likes getting them. But they're a part of doing business, and they're not going away anytime soon.

Making a connection remains a crucial skill to possess, whether you're a salesperson, business owner, job seeker or fund raiser. Unfortunately, most people find cold calling or business development the most intimidating and dreaded aspect of selling.

Cold calling the "traditional" way instantly puts you in a negative light because customers find cold calls to be intrusive, annoying, disrespectful of their time and downright bothersome. "Traditional" selling is a shotgun approach where salespeople attempt to sell their products to every prospect, regardless of need. It creates tension and could be construed as confrontational. But when you approach the call in the new "non-traditional" way, you no longer sound or behave like the traditional, stereotypical salesperson.

A cold calling script is not a conversation! Many salespeople use scripts that don't feel authentic, genuine or natural, and, unsurprisingly, produce dismal results. Scripts don't facilitate building rapport, promote natural conversation or warm up that icy cold call.

A sales conversation is between two people, talking normally and acting naturally. When you're being yourself, your potential customers' walls come down, which leads to longer calls and better results. I'm not suggesting you wing it and say whatever comes to mind. I'm suggesting you have a plan, execute it with precision, and focus on the customer and the important points you want to make. Make sure what you say is about the person you've called, not about you.

Done well, cold calling can work. Done poorly with the wrong approach, it can be a waste of time, money and energy. Most salespeople start their cold calls with "Hi, my name is....I'm with.... we specialize in..."! If you only have about 5-7 seconds to grab a person's attention and make an impression, why would you waste that time with such a weak opening? The call is over before it even starts. They're many other approaches to begin a cold call that produce results and warm up the call.

I have seen sales trainers teach salespeople to go into an immediate sales pitch, give a commercial on their company and talk about all the great benefits their company offers. Wrong! Customers only connect and engage when they feel that you understand their issues before you start to talk about your solutions.

Make no mistake, all the tips in the world will never work if you still choose to start a call making it about you, your company and all the great things you can do.

Being able to cold call confidently, professionally and effectively will not only open up more potential business, it will also allow you to feel more in control of your own sales success.

Here are my top three tips for cold calling success:

1) Focus on the goal not the sale. Every cold call is not about the sale! The goal should be starting a conversation and getting the chance to go to the next step. Let them know who you are and find out if you're compatible or if you have something they even want or need. Establish a relationship and gain trust with the contact first. There is plenty of time for the sale if there's a fit and as the relationship moves forward.

2) Organize your thoughts before the call. When you do, you avoid common mistakes that give the person you are calling the chance to try to end the call or hang up. For instance, you should never ask, "Is this a good time to talk?" "Do you have a second?" or "How are you today?" When you ask those questions it creates instant resistance, the walls go up and the opportunity goes down. You're attempting to engage them, not bore them with the same questions the last cold caller asked.

3) Prepare and practice. Prepare the same way you would if you were making a presentation or delivering a speech. Know what you want to say, how you want to say it and how you want to represent yourself, your company and your product or service. Then practice it out loud and practice various sales scenarios. Then there will be less anxiety and you can focus on the goal and the customer. Make it about them, always.

Your potential customers are waiting to be engaged with genuine communication, a fresh approach and a cold call that is different from everyone else! If you're being met with "thanks anyway, we're already using someone" or "no thanks, we're not interested" your cold calls are in dire need of a tune-up. Don't stay a victim of the traditional cold calling methods - learn to market yourself successfully and join the elite club of top sales producers.

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Liz Wendling is the president of Insight Business Consultants, a nationally recognized business consultant, sales strategist and emotional intelligence coach. Liz is driven by her passion for business and generating results for her clients. Liz understands the challenges that business owners are facing building a business and selling their professional services in today's market.

Liz shows clients how to tap into and use their innate strength, power and confidence to develop highly successful businesses. She teaches them to create effective, dynamic and fluid client conversations that turn interested prospects into invested clients who keep coming back.

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Readers Respond

Liz, You just wrote and entire article on the least successful sales method. Cold calls might have some value for sales training and it appears your article is really about just that, training. I have a hot tip for those forced to do cold calls, find another job. By Ryan on 2011 08 16
As Liz mentioned in the article, cold calling doesn't have to be about annoying pressure and closing a sale. It is a great vehicle for introducing yourself and setting up a short meeting for coffee. Also cold calling is not synonomous with a boiler room full of part-time people dialing from a phone book and reading a script. It can be from an adept and friendly senior salesperson with a valuable message to a well-thought-out list of prospects. I get that a lot of people are hassled by unwanted amateur telephone solicitors, but I'd like to believe that if you got a call from a savvy pro with a product or service that fit your needs, you might just get interested in beginning a relationship. By Stephen Koenigsberg on 2011 08 15
Sorry Liz, I just feel cold calling is still just an unwanted phone call. No matter how you "prepare". It is always easily identifiable as a cold call. I always ask a caller two questions, "have I met you before?" "Where did you get my number?" If I haven't met you you or you are not e referral from someone I know, the call is over. I never buy from anyone who's sales strategy is to sit in a chair and call people looking for a sale or trying to help "develop my business". Most of the other business operators I know feel the same way. I don't allow my sales people to sit around dialing for dollars, no matter how good they are or well prepared. I make them go out into the community and network, meet people, and connect. You also have a much higher customer retention rate and have less turn over (not mention sales person turnover) How often do you get a positive response when you finally meet a prospective client and say "Hi I'm the person that's been calling you". You start your article talking about how nobody enjoys cold calling. Your title refers to it as a "disguise" Nobody looks forward to receiving the call. Writing article like this is a great way to get new customers, just the wrong subject. Please don't call me. By Phil on 2011 08 15
Great stuff. Often I say who I am and immediately let folks know that I can tell them what it's about in a few sentences. Then I ask permission and say "OK?" Almost no one says no to a few sentences. After that they either say "no thanks", or turn a corner and we've arrived at a whole new relationship platform. By Stephen Koenigsberg on 2011 08 02

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