The Complete Cold Calling Guide for B2B Sales

Is cold calling dead? For decades people just like you have been practicing different forms of cold calling as an effective way to increase conversions.  While the definition of cold calling and the techniques have evolved over the years, from door-to-door sales to outbound phone calls, cold calling is still a successful B2B sales development strategy if done with the proper tools and tactics. Let’s go over why cold calling is still a valuable part of sales development and how to implement a successful B2B cold calling strategy in 2021.

What is a cold call?

A cold call is the sales technique of reaching out to prospects that have not expressed a prior interest in a company’s products or services with the intent to add those prospects into the company’s sales funnel.

Does cold calling still work?

Nearly 50% of B2B sales reps dread making cold calls. Can you blame them?  With a success rate of about 2% and a whopping 80% of cold calls going to voicemail, it’s easy to get discouraged. But before you start praising technology for slaying the “outdated strategy” of cold calling, let’s look at the facts.  69% of decision-makers accepted at least one cold call over a 12-month timeframe according to a study by RAIN Group.Even more interesting, 57% of c-suite executives and VPs prefer to receive a cold call over other outbound marketing strategies.  So if this IS true, why are cold calling conversion rates so low? We have a theory. 44% of salespeople give up on a prospect after just one follow-up call, but 80% of the time it takes 5 follow-up calls to seal the deal (Investpcro). Therefore, the problem seems to be a lack of persistence rather than a lack of effectiveness in the strategy. So yes, cold calling still works well as a part of your business’s overall lead generation strategy, especially if you want to speed up your sales cycle. By presenting your value proposition and overcoming objections in a swift and decisive manner, a cold call can influence a prospect in a way that simply can’t be replicated by emails or lead magnets alone. But you can’t approach it as you did 20 years ago. Today, a B2B cold call is simply just another touchpoint, not the main form of contact. Even if you do get sent to voicemail jail look at it as an opportunity. A well-scripted message could lead to a prospect researching your company effectively sending them further down the pipeline.  The downside is that cold calling can get expensive while handling it in-house simply because of labor costs. This is why many companies partner with a B2B lead generation firm. By outsourcing the beginning stages of the sales cycle such as researching potential clients, creating lead lists, launching email campaigns, calling potential prospects, and qualifying interested decision-makers, your salespeople can focus on the more crucial steps of the process such as well … selling.  All these added expenses and time-intensive processes are the reason why outsourcing B2B lead generation is 43% more effective (NNC).

When is the best time to make a cold call?

Not surprisingly, the data determining when a salesperson should hit the phones hard is different depending on the source. However, the silver lining is that much of the data has overlapping times making it easier to split test.  Keep in mind that these recommended time frames are dependant on the prospects’ time zone.

Here are the best times to make cold calls:

8:00 am – 11:00 am – Out of millions of phone calls by sales reps, the most connected calls happened in the morning hours per a study conducted by ringDNA in 2019. The absolute peak time was at 9 am. 9:00 am – 4:00 pm – Well, that doesn’t seem very helpful! I know it’s pretty broad, but after analyzing data over 4 years spanning more than 11 million calls, PhoneBurnerhas one of the largest studies available. Between the hours of 9 am – 4 pm, response rates only differed by about 1-2% with the absolute best time being 10 am. 11:00 am – 12:00 pm – After analyzing the data of nearly 14,000 calls, CallHippo determined that right before lunch is the second-best time to cold call a prospective client. So what was the best time? 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm – Yep, right as everyone is wrapping up the workday was recognized as the absolute best time to reach a prospect on the phone, according to CallHippo. The varying “optimal” cold call times could be due to a large number of factors, but what it tells us is that the best time to call really depends on your prospects. Ask yourself if your ideal prospects:
  • Work at a desk where their phone is easily accessible?
  • Spend more time with employees or customers than in the office?
  • Travel to different locations on a regular basis?
  • Work from home and set their own hours?
All of these different work schedules can drastically affect your ability to connect with prospective clients through cold calling.

What about the best day to call a cold lead?

Tuesdays through Thursdays are the best days for salespeople to make cold calls with Wednesdays being the most productive day of the week (CallHippo). And this makes sense as Mondays are often used to catch up on work or nurse a hangover and Fridays are consumed with thoughts of weekend plans that definitely don’t involve researching your company’s solution.

How long should a cold call take?

This entirely depends on how well the call is going, but on average, a successful cold call will take nearly 6 minutes while an unsuccessful call will take just over 3 minutes with the first 5 seconds being the most detrimental (Gong).  Whether the call is going great or not so great, keep it under 10 minutes, cold calling should be all about prospecting not selling, and this is especially true for B2B sales.  In fact, the number one goal of a cold call is appointment setting. If you try to condense your sales cycle by merging the prospecting and selling process, you will be doomed to a poor conversion rate.  In addition, keeping conversations short ensures the number of calls can be maximized. 

What does a successful B2B cold calling script look like?

Getting the cold calling script right is one of the hardest parts of the process, but it’s also one of the most important. A well-written script will help combat some of the fears related to cold calling while providing a clear and convincing message to deliver to prospective clients.  The opening pitch for a cold call should be about 15 seconds.  Your sales script should serve as more of an outline than a word-for-word dictation. While you want to make sure you stay on topic, you also want to leave enough wiggle room to weave in a personalized message tailored to the prospect based on research conducted before the call. Let’s go over some of the do’s and don’ts of writing a cold-calling script as well as a general outline that will keep the conversation moving in the right direction. 

What not to say in a cold call to maximize cold calling success rates

There are some general rules that most salespeople come to understand very early in their career such as, “Don’t ask a lot of “yes” and “no” questions,” but some are a little less obvious.  Here are three things to avoid saying when on a cold call: “Did I catch you at a bad time?” “Yes, actually you did!” *click* Simply asking this question will decrease the chance of scheduling an appointment by 40% (Hubspot). “I’m sorry to bother you, but …” Starting off a cold call with a guilty or apologetic statement is a red flag for most prospects. “Our product/service has X,Y, and Z capabilities” This and similar statements don’t relate to the prospect until you know more about their pain points. On a cold call, it’s important to remember that the prospect on the other end of the line is in the awareness phase. This means that the prospect may or may not realize they have a problem. Until they make it to the consideration stage, the amazing features and benefits that your current customers love will not speak to the prospect’s current situation.  Keeping it simple and relatable is key to scheduling the appointment.

What to say in a cold call

Finding the right words is not easy, and it’s rare that you’ll have a script that resonates with everyone on your lead lists. Even if you say everything with the eloquence and articulation of a well-spoken politician you are going to encounter people that are not a good fit, uninterested, or just downright grumpy.  What you can do is use what works most of the time and make improvements to what doesn’t. However, there are a few phrases that seem to help make a good first impression.  Here are three things to include when on a cold call: “How have you been?” Similar phrases such as, “How are you doing?” have been long chastised as insincere time wasters, but a recent study has shown that sales reps using this question have a 6.6x cold calling success rate compared to those that didn’t.  “We …” and “Our …” It’s a seemingly small change of just a few letters, but when you switch “I” for “we” and “my” for “our,” you convey a sense of collaboration rather than self-serving ambition(Gong) “The reason I’m calling you is …” I know, we just said don’t use “I” but this is an exception. You’re obviously not calling just to chitchat with a stranger about their day so go ahead and tell them why you are calling in a way that is helpful and relevant. Those that give a reason for the call experience over twice as much success (Gong). “Can you help me?” Well, that’s kind of hard to say “no” to unless you’re just completely heartless. If you don’t like the previous opener, then this is a great alternative and can be especially helpful in disarming gatekeepers that have become immune to the common cold call pitch. The best cold call is not just made of words alone. Have you heard of Albert Mehrabian’s 7-38-55 rule? Basically, the 7-38-55 rule of communication means that all conversations are:
  • 7% words
  • 38% tone
  • 55% body language
In other words, your body language will set the tone for your words. Just because the prospect can’t see you doesn’t mean that they can’t tell the difference between excitement, fear, and apathy. So no matter how ridiculous it might feel sit up straight and dial with a smile.

How to Structure Your Cold Call Script (For The Best Cold Calling Conversion Rates)

There are tons of different cold call script templates available for you to use, but how do you know they will be successful?  The short answer is you don’t. So you have two choices, you can pick a few and split test them for effectiveness or you can build your own by following the basic flow of a successful cold call. We recommend the latter. A convincing cold call script should be structured with five sections including an introduction, the reason for calling, a strong value proposition, a thought-provoking pain question, and finally the call to action. Here are the five sections to include in your cold calling structure in more detail.

1. Make an Introduction

  • Use a clear voice and confident tone.
  • Let the prospect know your name and the company you work for.
  • Then feel free to ask, “How have you been?”.

2. Give a Reason

  • Tailor the reason for your call directly to the prospect’s company.
  • Immediately address what is in it for the prospect to peak interest.
  • Smoothly transition to the value proposition.

3. Present the value proposition

  • Highlight the positive outcomes that your products or services have to offer.
  • Differentiate your offer from that of your competitors.
  • Use a bit of social proof by name-dropping or providing specific results.

4. Ask a pain-related question

  • Relate the desired outcome to a painful problem that they are most likely facing. 
  • Allow the prospect some time to elaborate on their current situation.
  • Be prepared with an additional pain point for those that can’t relate.

5. Call Them to Action

  • Paraphrase and empathize with the pain the prospect has just conveyed.
  • Ask if it would make sense to schedule a meeting to see how you could help.
  • Immediately send out the calendar invite and any helpful information.
The above cold call script structure will guide you in developing your unique message.  It’s important to keep in mind that a cold call script is not some magic spell that if performed precisely will yield conversion rates of supernatural proportions.  What makes cold calling work is lead lists that are highly-targeted, a value proposition specifically designed to speak to your ideal prospects, and unwavering determination to push through rejection to the next opportunity For companies focused on B2B sales, cold calling can be especially challenging. Tracking down decision-makers, breaking through gatekeepers, and staying consistent with follow-up calls is demanding on a sales team and tasking to manage.  If you are looking to increase your conversion rates by accelerating your sales development strategy schedule a chat with Martal Group’s CEO, Vito, to learn more about how we can help.
Vito Vishnepolsky
Vito Vishnepolsky
CEO and Founder at Martal Group