Despite over two decades of successful sales experience, I am not a fan of telephone cold calling (my reasons are shown below if you are interested). However, whenever I provide a marketing, sales or business development training course (as I was doing yesterday morning), people ask me how to be more effective at making cold calls.

So if you INSIST on cold calling rather than finding other ways to initiate a relationship as part of an integrated marketing and sales campaign, here are some quick tips:

There are three stages of making a call:


1. What is the purpose of your call?

a. Ideally, it should be to gain an appointment. A call is the first step in a sales process which may take several months. Too often, inexperienced people get drawn into trying to sell on the telephone which – especially in a complex B2B professional services selling environment – is likely to fail

b. Secondary aims might be to generate rapport with the person you are calling so that you can obtain other information for example, who else in his or her organisation you should be speaking to

c. Be careful if you are telephoning to confirm that they have received something – what happens if they didn’t? And what happens if they simple reply that they did?

2. Who are you trying to call?

a. You should have been through a comprehensive marketing and sales planning exercise so that you are clear on your target market – and what their specific needs might be

b. Having the name and job title of the individual is rarely enough information. You need to know their role in the decision making unit

c. You should do research not only on the organisation and the topic about which you are calling but you should also try to obtain some insight into the person – there are traditional methods (e.g. speaking to one of their professional advisers or other contacts) or digital methods such as social media

3. Why are you calling?

a. If you are to avoid sounding like every other professional promoting their “vanilla” services you will need a compelling value proposition

b. Why should they be interested? You need to show that you have done your homework and have really thought about what might be of value to them – are you offering an “intellectual gift”, free benchmarking information, some best practice, insight into an issue they may have or an idea that will save them time or make them money? To do this effectively requires a significant investment of your time in research and creative thinking.

c. If they decline to take the call or to make an appointment, what alternatives might you offer to them to progress the situation?

 4. Have you rehearsed?

a. Using a script is not recommended. However, make a list of bullet points of what you want to say will help you.

b. if you practice what you plan to say it will give you confidence and it will sound more natural

c. Also practice your responses to different reactions from the person you are calling – What if they are out? What if they have voicemail? What if they ask if they can call you back? What if they ask you to send further information? What if they have never heard of your firm? What if they say “No thanks”? What if they say they are perfectly satisfied with their existing advisers?

Making contact

5. Are you in the right frame of mind?

a. Schedule time when you will make the call – and adopt a positive mental attitude. Perhaps pick a time after doing something else that makes you feel confident

b. Make sure you are relaxed and mentally prepared to make the call(s). Irritation and anxiety will be communicated by your voice. NLP can help here

 6. Are you in the right place at the right time?

a. Find a room where you will not be distracted by ambient noise or others talking

b. Consider when might be the best time to catch the person at their desk (or in their car) – early in the morning or at the end of the day? Which days of the week might be best? (Many people avoid Mondays and Fridays)

c. Verify that you are speaking to the right person – and also whether they have a few minutes to speak (or offer to call back at a better time – provide some alternatives)

7. How will you connect with the person?

a. People buy people. You first need to connect with the person and create rapport, so you may need to adapt your personal style to make them feel more comfortable

b. Don’t launch immediately into your points – listen to see if they sound like they are busy or receptive

c. Demonstrate empathy  .

d. Listen to what they say and show interest in the things that they mention

 8. Explain the purpose of your call?

a. Be clear and concise on the benefits to them of what you are requesting or offering (see the value proposition piece above)

b. You might use a structure for what you have to say: for example:

i.    AIDA – Attention. Interest. Desire. Action

ii.    Catch factors – Urgency. Impact. Effort. Reputation. Intent.

c. But remember that it is a two way dialogue and listen carefully to what they say and change tack if necessary

9. Confirm the next steps?

a. Check that you have understood what they have said (summarise etc)

b. Check to see if they require any other information

c. Agree the next steps

d. At this stage you may need to think about how you deal with objections and closing (there are FAQs and blog posts about these subjects on this site)

Following up

10. Immediate follow up?

a. Make a note (preferably in your CRM or contact management system) of the call and what was agreed

b. Send a short confirmation email – remember to thank them for their time and outline the next steps

c. Schedule the other follow up actions that you need to take

11. Sales pipeline and opportunity management?

a. Ensure that you record your activity, plans and progress in a system so that you keep track of all your cold calls and sales activities. And don’t forget that you should have a plan for how you will be developing existing client and referrer relationships as well as new business development

b. Reflect on the call – what went well and what will you do differently next time?


Some of the reasons I am not a fan of cold calling:

  1. To make an effective cold call, you really need to be confident with the entire consultative selling approach and a wide variety of communications and sales techniques – it is not for amateurs
  2. I believe that there are more impressive and effective ways to make first contact with people – especially in these days of social media
  3. Cold calling is usually indicative of a “push” approach – the person making the call knows who they want to reach and what they want to sell but rarely understands the perspective and needs of the person they are calling
  4. On the telephone you are missing the majority of the meaning of an interaction – namely the non-verbal communication aspects of facial expressions, hand gestures, body postures, interest signals etc
  5. Cold telephone calls are incredibly intrusive – and it is often difficult to get through people’s busy schedules and leave appropriate messages on voicemail or with assistants
  6. Cold calls are hard to make – especially if you are inexperienced and/or are sensitive to rejection
  7. I don’t believe they make the best impression of a professional organisation