How to Cold-Call

Jul 8, 2012   //   by John Tabita   //   Business, Marketing, Sales  //  2 Comments

If you’re a freelancer, independent contractor, or own a service business, sooner or later you may find it necessary to make cold calls.

The debate over whether or not cold-calling is an effective way to obtain new customers continues to be debated online. Many of those proclaiming its demise seem to have an agenda—to sell you their particular marketing program.

With no such agenda in mind, here’s my expert advice on cold-calling: it works. The company I’m employed with has thousands of B2B clients, all of whom we’ve obtained through cold-calling and cold-canvassing. For the past five years, I’ve trained hundreds of sales reps and dozens of lead generators to do both.

Cold-Calling Done Right

Like any type of marketing, cold-calling can be done badly and cause untold damage to your reputation. So here are the basics for doing it right.

Use a Script

You heard right. Prepare in advance what you’re going to say. Just be sure to not to sound scripted. That means you need to practice until you sound completely natural and conversational.

Not possible, you say? Tell that to Sean Penn, Brad Pitt, Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, and hundreds of others who’ve won Academy Awards doing exactly that.

Be Interesting

What’s most interesting to the other person is their own self-interest. How can you make his life easier, alleviate his pain, save him money, or make him sexier, healthier, or wealthier? Talking about what you do or how you do it is the fastest route to the all-too-common “I’m not interested” response.

Get to the Point

While asking “How are you?” may seem like the polite thing to do, the truth is, you’ve wasted precious seconds asking a complete stranger a question to which he or she will feel obligated to respond in kind … when they really don’t care. The politest thing you can do is get directly to the point.

You have a brief window of 30 to 40 seconds to be interesting enough to either engage the other person or get hung up on. Don’t squander that with time-wasters like “How are you?” or “Is this a good time to talk?”

Buy a List

While it might seem more cost-effective to use the Yellow Pages or an online directory, buying a list allows you to target the right type of client or customer. The list you buy should mirror some of your best clients. Proper targeting means you can clone your best client. Who doesn’t want that?

If you’re calling business-to-consumer (B2C), never, ever use the White Pages as a call list, for the reason below.

Respect Do Not Call Requests

When calling business-to-consumer, it’s imperative that you register with the National Do Not Call Registry and scrub your records. Otherwise, you’ll face stiff penalties for calling anyone on the DNC list.

While that doesn’t apply to B2B calls, the respectful thing to do is remove anyone who asks you not to call again.

Be Thick-Skinned

Don’t take it personally if people are annoyed or bothered. It’s not uncommon for someone who’s initially put off by your call to do a complete turn-around and agree to an appointment … but only after you’ve said something interesting.

Call More Than Once

Only a small percentage of your calls will result in reaching the actual decision-maker. Most of the time you’ll get voice mail, a gatekeeper or receptionist, or the right person will simply not be available.

Unless you call back every few days or so, you won’t reach enough decision-makers to make your efforts worthwhile. If you were to make 1,000 calls in a month, you’re better off calling 200 people five times rather than a thousand people one time each.

Want to know more? Come back next week for How to Write an Effective Cold-Call Script.

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John Tabita

Marketing Evangelist and Blogger at SitePoint.com. Digital Strategy Director at HainesLocalSearch.com. Passionate about helping people and businesses reach their fullest potential and become wildly successful.

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2 Comments

  • How would one dive right into someone’s self interests effectively, without sounding too salesman like, i.e. “Hi John, do you have the desire to become wealthy and break the 9 to 5?” sort of thing sounds too scripted/salesman-ish.

    Thanks John!

    • Nathaniel,

      I realize it can seem rather abrupt to dive right in after “Hello.” Some of my telemarketers will say “the reason I’m calling …” but I’m not too fond of that. If you feel you need a transitioning statement, try “We’ve never spoken before, but …” then launch into your script.

      I like that better because, unlike “the reason I’m calling …” it serves a purpose — you’re acknowledging that the other person doesn’t know you and that this is an interruption.

      Take a look at my follow-up article, How to Write an Effective Cold-Call Script. I think you’ll find some help there.

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