Does cold calling work?

"Cold calling is ineffective."

"Cold calling annoys prospects."

"Cold calling is dead."

In sales, when you say “cold calling”, these are the common phrases you hear along with it. The term “cold calling” has so much deprecation around it that it instills fear in anxious salespeople and skepticism in hot leads.

And because of this, every step of the process has challenges that are discouraging. Starting from finding the right decision-maker and getting past the gatekeeper, all the way to keeping the prospects on the sales call by handling their objections


Why cold calls don't work

The reason cold calling is so unwelcome is that it is confused with “bad calling” where you pick up the phone, dial random numbers, and deliver an ineffective sales pitch. But “bad calling”  is very different from “cold calling”. 

Cold calling, when done right, is the most effective way to improve your sales. In fact, 57% of C-level executives prefer to be contacted via phone.

But, to make a cold call successfully, we need to cover the bases. So let’s get started with the actual reason to make a cold call.

What is the purpose of cold calling? 


Cold calling has a long-term goal and a short-term goal. The long-term goal, of course, is to make a sale. But to get there, you need to achieve the short-team goal. 

And no, it is not merely about “getting an appointment”. Instead, in your very first cold call, you need to intrigue the prospect and help them open up to you. And to do that, you need to focus on

  • Finding a common interest and building a good rapport with them
  • Establishing yourself as an industry expert
  • Acknowledging their business challenges and empathizing with them
  • Educating them about your solution and explaining its benefits

The goal here is to establish a relationship by showing them that you really care about solving their challenges.

“When people know that you care about and anticipate their needs, they’ll reward you with their wallets.” - Neil Patel

Here are some cold calling tips to help you establish and sustain a positive relationship before, during, and after the cold call.

Purpose of Cold calling

Cold calling - Tips & Techniques

Before Cold Calling

1. Match features to benefits

“Buyers don’t buy products. They buy solutions to their problem.”

Your prospects are not going to be interested in your product’s features unless they know how they benefit from it. When you list out the features you want to highlight, word it around what your prospects gain from it.


Instead of saying

“Our product, XYZ can automate all your mundane activities. It has an advanced reporting feature that gives you insights for all sales activities of your SDRs.”

You could try something like 

“We have worked with many companies like XYZ in the past, and they have had a 70% increase in team productivity and 4x faster sales cycles. This has ultimately improved their ROI.”

cold calling - match features to benefits

2. Find the right person

If the prospect you identified isn’t the decision-maker, then you are bound to get a lot of ‘will pass on the message’ promises that are never fulfilled. You are effectively wasting your time and theirs. And this will eventually take a hit on your targets. 

This is why it is crucial for you to be smart about finding the right person. Here are a few tips that’ll help -

  • For SMEs, the decision-maker is fairly easy to identify. It is usually the CEO or founder.
  • For publicly listed companies, take a look at their annual report to identify the decision-makers relevant for your purpose.
  • For privately held companies and enterprises, you may try the bottom-up approach - Connect with an employee of the company, find out the next best person to connect with at a senior level, and work your way up.
  • Leverage common connections or referrers who would be willing to give you an introduction.

3. Research, understand, implement

Before you get in touch with a prospect, dig deep and understand their challenges, background, and if you can actually help them. If not, you are bound to get rejected. Here’s a cheat sheet that’ll help you with that-

What to look for?

Where to look?

Tools that will help

cold calling - prepare, understand, implement

4. Warm-up your prospect 

Before you pick up the phone to cold call, reach out to the prospects via email, InMail, or social media to set the context. This will create a sense of awareness about you and your company. So, when you dial them up, they know you’ve done your research and will be familiar with your details already. When you finally get them on the call, you could say something like


"Hey Jane, this is Rebecca. I am calling you to follow up on an <email/InMail> I sent you a few days back."


"Hey Jane, this is Rebecca. We connected on LinkedIn a couple of days back."


5. Prepare a checklist

In the checklist, you should define the critical set of information to be captured and to be conveyed during the conversation with the prospect. With this in hand, you will not miss out on asking the important details you require from them.

This checklist could include

  • How they are currently addressing their challenges
  • What tools are they using
  • What they expect to solve with the new tool
Cold calling - prepare a checklist


6. Prepare, Practice, Repeat 

Prepare cold calling scripts for your target industry and person. This will handhold you through cold calls when you are nervous and make sure you are saying the right things. 

But remember, the tone, personalization, and modulation can make a huge impact on calling.

"Over the phone, our ability to influence is 91% tone, with the remaining 9% being the words that you use. So, yes words are important, but the tone is everything. "

-Ryan Tuckwood, Co-Founder & CEO, ISR Training

In fact, 93% of the potential success of your cold call depends on the tone of your voice. So, although you have a script, you have to sound natural. Use the cold calling script as a reference and practice repeatedly until you sound confident.


5. Find the right time to call

Making a cold call is less about you and more about who your prospects are and where they are from. 

So, it is vital that you find the right time to cold call. 

If your prospects are high–level managers, they are usually available during the start of the day before they plunge into back-to-back meetings. But if your prospects are at the mid-level, they are most likely to be available post-lunch and during the latter part of the day.

Our sales development team at Freshworks has put together a list of best timings to cold call prospects based on regions.

Cold calling - Best time to call

8. Make gatekeepers your allies

It is the gatekeeper’s job to filter out the 'bad calls' and allow only those they believe are important for the decision-maker. So, similar to calls with the decision-maker, your first impression should be good, and shouldn’t sound like a sales call.



A script like 

"Hi Jenna, my name is Rebecca. I’m calling from ABC Pvt limited."  makes it obvious that you don't know them and you are calling for the first time. It would not just scream out "SALES CALL", but also raise sales defenses. 

Instead of introducing yourself formally, try to sound familiar by saying

"Hi Jenna, it’s Rebecca from ABC Pvt limited."

Most salespeople want to slip past gatekeepers  and approach them with a sneaky attitude. But such an approach is unwarranted and will definitely blow off your chance with the prospect. 

A more effective strategy would be to treat the gatekeeper as an extension of the decision maker. Treat the gatekeeper with respect, greet them first when you start the conversation, ask and use their name during the entire conversation. When they feel respected, they will definitely help you out.


9. Use a CRM

It is no secret that salespeople hate a traditional, clunky CRM. But, a simple and easy-to-use CRM will get you the much-needed insights about your prospects. '

It can tell you 

During the cold call

10. Opening the cold call

This is the most crucial step of a cold call. It is the first few seconds of the call that set an impression about you on the prospect. So, you need to create a killer first impression. And by killer, we mean the ‘BEST’.

Acknowledge the fact that you are interrupting their day and ask permission to have a quick conversation. 



Sales rep: “Hello Mr. Smith, thank you for taking my call. I was wondering if you could help me out for a moment?”

When you say this with confidence, 90% of the prospects will hint a ‘yes,' and you have their permission to talk further. In case the prospect is busy, don’t hang up before getting a suggested time to call again.


Example - 

Prospect: “I am busy at the moment”

Sales rep: “I understand. "When is a good time? Later today or tomorrow morning?"

Prospect: “Tomorrow morning"

Sales rep: "Can I give a call back at around 8:30 then?"

Prospect: "Sure"

Sales rep: I'll call at 8:30 tomorrow morning. Thank you, Mr. Smith"

11. Have a strong introduction

Having a weak introduction is a common mistake most salespeople make. A strong introduction is vital as the prospect would be influenced by it to decide if they want to continue talking to you or not. They need to instantly know who you are and why you are calling. So, once you have them on call, start off with something like 



“I really appreciate your time, John. I’m a Business Development Executive at <company name> assisting businesses to solve challenges related to <a major industry challenge>.”

12. Leading the call

Talk about their pain points or interesting industry-specific challenges, trends, or insights. But make sure you have done your research well and state facts.


“I have worked with business leaders like you and helped <competitors’> to improve their <industry metric (eg: sales processes)>. 

Most businesses are finding it incredibly challenging to <industry specific challenges>. Does that sound like you?”

13. Showcase your company’s credibility

Leverage your current customers, and share results achieved with them to peak the prospect’s interest and add to your credibility. 



“Companies like <businesses in the industry> have relied on us for <value props of your product>, and what they tell is <outcomes of using your product>.”

14. “Try me, don’t have to buy me” approach 

The objective of your first cold call is not to sell the product. You need to educate them about your solution. So, don’t push them to buy your product. Rather, focus on maintaining a relationship and suggest trying your product before making a purchase decision.



“I understand you are currently using <current tool>. But before you close your doors to <your product name>, maybe you could try it out for a couple of days and see how you like it.”

15. Ask the right open-ended questions 

The call is the perfect opportunity for you to learn about the prospect and get first-hand information that you won’t find on the internet. So ask open-ended questions and listen to the prospect talk.



Rather than asking

“Would you consider trying out a new product that will boost your sales reps’ productivity?”


“Are you happy with your current solution?”

You could try asking

“How do you feel about trying a product that will boost your sales reps’ productivity?”


“What do you think could be better about your current solution?”


16. Handle objections

Change is difficult to embrace, or accept. 

So when you tell your prospects they could be solving their challenges differently, there will be resistance at each stage. And it is your job to gratify their concerns with the right answers. 

While it is impossible to anticipate and prepare for all the objections that you may face, there are also a set of common objections for each industry and persona.

Record the sales calls of the entire team, and try to identify those frequent objections that prospects pose.

With this information, you can come up with ways to handle each objection and experiment on the answer that works best.

cold calling - handle objections


17. Show empathy

"Empathy is everything is sales. Show the prospect that you really care for and want to solve their problem."

-Rekha Rajendra Prasad, Ex-Sales Development Specialist, Freshworks

Unless they know that you really care for their relationship, they would not want to work with you. If your tonality suggests sales calls and if you are posed with that question, you could say something like


Prospect: Is this a sales call?

Sales rep: No John, I did not call to sell. I wanted to understand in what way I could add value to your business and help improve your <industry specific metric>

18. Align with their priorities

"Seek first to understand, then be understood."

Understand their priorities and goals. And then, explain how your product will help them achieve that.

After the cold call

19. The next step

If the cold call went well -

  • Send an email summarizing your conversation
  • Schedule a follow-up meeting if they had agreed to one
  • Create a sales cadence to share important resources and keep in touch.

If the cold call went south -

Record and analyze your sales calls. Listen to it carefully to figure out where the call went south. Ask help from your team, mentor, or manager and find a way to handle such situations in future calls.


20. Share your learnings with your team

As you try out various strategies to nail cold calls, so are your peers. It's a good idea to get together and brainstorm on ideas, share your learnings, and grow as a team. Repeat the process until most of your cold calls are successful.

"Learn from your mistakes. Correct it in your next cold call and derive inferences. Once you see a positive outcome, share the learnings and the results with your team."

- Koushik Pillalamarri, Director, Sales productivity, Freshworks.


cold calling - share your learnings

New to cold calling? Here are a few tips that’ll help


21. Know your product inside out

Only you can be the best advocate for the value of your products. So, be familiar with its Unique Selling Points and how it stands out from the other competitors in the industry. 

  • Explore your product/solution hands-on and learn its features and the pricing.
  • Understand the different use cases for it by listening to discovery calls and talking to the top performing sales reps in your team.
  • Catch up with the product and development team often and get visibility into the product roadmap to understand what’s in the pipeline.
  • Reach out to your manager or other salespeople and collect a list of resources that you can share with the prospects.

Apart from your product, deep dive into understanding 

  • The competitors’ products
  • How they position themselves, and
  • How you are better in those aspects.

This will help you understand the domain and your competitors, learn how you can better pitch your product to your prospects, and handle objections from prospects who are using a competitor’s product.

Cold calling - know your product

22. Shadowing

If you are new to sales, sit with the best sales reps in your team, and learn how they present the value proposition and handle objections raised by prospects. When they cold call, observe how they speak, their tone, the words they use, and the questions they ask, and try to implement the same.


23. Prepare an elevator pitch

An elevator pitch is a short description of you, your product and your company. The goal is to ‘earn the prospect’s time’ and not ‘convince them to buy’.  It should ideally cover

It is a good idea to prepare more than one elevator pitch of different styles and lengths, and be prepared to answer questions that may arise from each. As with the calling script, practice your delivery of each pitch. Although words are important, tonality is everything.


24. Understand your target audience

Think of your ideal client, their pain points, and how you can address the prospect’s pain points. This would vary for clients with each industry and their hierarchy. 

Referring to your company’s buyer persona and ideal client profile will help you understand this. You could check with your manager or top-performing salespeople in your team for these documents. These documents can give you a glimpse into the lives of your audience and help you understand and establish a better rapport with them. Here is an example of a buyer persona

25. Final tip

If you feel discouraged by a cold call that went bad, you aren’t the only one. Rejection can dampen anyone’s spirit and reduce morale. Or worse, you might avoid picking up that phone ever.

But, the trick to stay positive is to persist with your efforts: the more cold calls you make, the more confident you will become in making calls. To grow in sales and close more deals, you have to constantly pull yourself up with a positive attitude, and continue selling. Embrace failure as you would embrace success--but don’t dwell on it and, instead, learn to turn it into success.


Happy selling!