9 answers

How do I get good at cold calling?

Asked San Jose, California

I am a student at San Jose State. I just recently started on the advertising staff of our newspaper the Spartan Daily. My job is to cold call local businesses and have them place ads in the paper. I am comfortable talking on the phone so that is not a problem. However, I would love to learn some methods on how to close some deals and make some sales. I have come close to closing some deals and other businesses show no interest at all. I think I need to re-evaluate my approach. I would love to improve and become better at cold calling. Any advice is appreciated! Thanks! #business #marketing #advertising #marketing-and-advertising #sales #cold-calling

9 answers

Lindsey’s Answer

Updated New York, New York

Hi, The best advice I can offer is to do a little research on the company you are soliciting. Who are their customers? Who are their competition? Then, most importantly start with the ROI (return on investment) they would get by advertising with you. For example:

A small company is releasing a new tech gadget for outdoor hiking. Their main demographic is young, single professionals. Based on your knowledge of your newspaper's customers, you know that approximately 1.5M impressions come from this demographic daily. So, when calling that customer, say "I've seen your new product advertised on television. However, young professionals are not home these days, they are out and about, travelling, commuting, etc. My newspaper gets 1.5M impressions/day in this demographic alone. That is 1.5M potential customers if you advertise with me."

Business are all about money. Their time is money, they want to make money and if they are on the phone they are losing money! If you start with the topic of money (ROI) you will have their attention for at least 30 seconds which is a HUGE amount of time to make your pitch. Also, I would make sure you have a good 30 second elevator speech prior to calling.

Good Luck!

Hi Lindsey. Thanks for your answer! It is super helpful. I wish my school's newspaper got 1.5M impressions/day that would make my job a lot more easier haha. But yes I will try to use your advice when contacting business. Thank you again!

Zach’s Answer


Cold calling is never easy, but the biggest hurdle you will face is picking up the phone and dialing it. There's two things I recommend that will help.

  1. Understand why you are calling someone, have your opening line be "The reason why I'm calling xyz." This way the person know's why your calling, and can quickly tell you if he's right to contact, is not interested, or want's to speak, but busy right now. The goal of your cold call, get another meeting with that person when you can have a long call to sell your product, but build a relationship with the person.

  2. Call at peak times, 8-9am and 3-5pm. This will give you a better chance to work on your opening line, because you're going to connect with more people. In long run, this will make you a better sales person. Tip: (Build a list, get rid of all distraction and make as many calls as you can in a hour. If you speak with someone, take quick notes and update your CRM system/info after peak times)

Hope that helps, more than happy to provide further context as well.

JoAnne’s Answer

Updated New York, New York

"Cold calling" sounds scary, but remember that you are simply talking to people. If you are totally prepared, which has certain parts to it, you won't be scared at all, since you are simply communicating what you already know to someone on the phone, with each call like its own little adventure. I used to think of it that way. I was only nervous if I didn't know what I was going to say, but once I knew the certain parts of a cold call that I needed to know, I was fine and actually enjoyed talking to these people.

First, you need to know what your goal is on the phone, whether it's to sign them up for something, set an appointment or send them something, close a sale, qualify a lead, or whatever your goal may be. Regardless, you have to be clear about what you want from the person you're talking to before you hang up the phone. Usually it's to qualify this person and then either send them info and then close the sale on the next call or qualify them (make sure they are your decision maker and ask one or two additional questions that assure you that this is a good lead) and then sell them whatever it is that you're selling. In order to sell them anything, you need to know WHY a person in their shoes would want to or need to buy what you're selling. These are your "selling points," which usually involve reasons why your product or service that you're selling is better than others. You should talk to your sales manager to ask this overall question and the pay close attention to their answer--take notes on these "selling points," since they are the reason your decision maker will give you a "yes" or a "no" to your phone pitch, which is the content of your cold call. Ask your sales manager to tell you how to close the call. This is important. This is why you're making the cold call in the first place: to reach that goal you have.

It really sounds more complex than it is. Think of a cold call this way: you see a man walking into a restaurant that you're just leaving, having had a great meal there. You aren't asked by him how your meal was, but you're so happy about your experience in that restaurant that you start talking to him, telling him that the food is great here, and the ambiance is so nice, they play wonderful music inside, and the service is so friendly and fast!! You tell this man that you totally recommend this restaurant, and that the Lasagna is really good, by the way, and then you say "Enjoy!" That's a sales pitch, and that is very much the way a cold call can be after you've introduced yourself with a first and last name (never just a first name) and then give the name of your company (I'm with ABC Company). Don't say "How are you today?" EVER! If you do, you are simply announcing the fact that you're a salesperson and that you are presumptuous to ask, since you've never met this person. You see? I wish I knew what you're selling so that I could be more specific to your particular needs, but after you know that you are talking to your decision maker by simply asking him or her "I understand that you handle XYZ. Am I correct?", just enjoy telling your now established decision maker what you have to offer and why it might very well improve his or her current situation. After all, doesn't everyone want to optimize their current situation in business?! WHen you understand that you are simply on the phone to offer decision makers the opportunity to perhaps improve their current situation, you will be a happy cold caller!! Know your selling points, be yourself and enjoy each conversation. Don't pressure yourself in any way. When you learn something from a call, write it down in a notebook that will have other learned ideas in it, too. This combination will bring you success and happy work days cold calling!! Best of luck to you--JoAnne

Hello JoAnne Leff. WOW! Thank you so much for this incredible answer. This was everything I wanted to learn plus more! To answer your statement "I wish I knew what you're selling so that I could be more specific to your particular needs." I am selling advertising space in my college's newspaper to local businesses ( I'm targeting restaurants, coffee shops, misc local businesses.) in the Downtown San Jose, CA area.
Also, I eventually want to target credit unions after I get better at pitching, because some have advertised with us in the past before I came. I would love to manage those accounts since they pay a lot (huge commission for me! :D) However, I want to get good at the little things before I do big things. If you have any specific advice for that, I would appreciate your knowledge. Again thank you for your advice it was SUPER helpful!

Olivia’s Answer

Updated Raleigh, North Carolina

Cold calling is a skill that takes time to develop. The best thing to do is to feel comfortable knowing you are new and admit to not knowing everything. People respond best when it is a human to human interaction.

Jessica’s Answer

One thing that I learned how to do was just talk to people. Not just over the phone but talk to people around you, at the grocery store, in lines at places. Getting yourself familiar with talking to strangers makes it that much easier to pick up the phone and have conversations. People buy from people they like and be confident with your pitch! I would also consistently practice your pitch and get familiar with objections you'll receive.

JoAnne’s Answer

Updated New York, New York

Hi Ben,

So happy to be of help to you! As to your interest in getting the higher commissions from credit union business, a cold call to a small restaurant is basically the SAME as a cold call to a Fortune !00 CEO or, more to your interest, to your decision maker at a credit union. What I would do, and have done when I wanted a particular type of business that promised a much higher payout, is to approach those people who have been successful at bringing in such accounts. I figured out early on that one cold call might as well pay off as much as possible, so I always looked for the possibilities that did pay more--just as you are doing!

It's important that you've indicated that "some (credit unions) have advertised with your company in the past," so I strongly suggest approaching the salespeople who made these sales and ask them what they said on their cold calls, and what was a key point(s) that, when they pointed out this idea or ideas on the phone, they pushed these decision makers over the edge to then buy the advertising. This is the key to your success with credit unions. You don't have to recreate the wheel, as they say. It has been done already! It brought the high commissions to others, so you can follow their lead and do the same! Ask me any follow up questions you wish, Ben, and I'm rooting for you! --JoAnne

Yvonne’s Answer

Updated Richmond, Virginia

73% of sellers do not know the prospect's business before they make contact and are unprepared for the conversation where you add value during the discussion when the time comes. Know your objective for the call but also engage Social media like Twitter.

Courtney’s Answer

Updated Los Alamitos, California

This is a great question and I think there are likely 100's of different approaches. I will say that I used to DREAD cold calling and today I could do it anywhere, at any time and in front of anyone. A few things that have helped me along the way:

  • Practice with someone you feel comfortable with. I think it is important to laugh through the discomfort and get yourself to a place that you don't feel awkward.
  • Record yourself. I hated this exercise at first but it was so largely helpful for me to be able to pick apart what I could do better the next time.
  • Do research on the company and employees. I used LinkedIn a lot, it helped me see a bit on the companies org chart, titles, competitors etc. If I knew who I was trying to get ahold of I would also do a lot of research on their page, past employers and try to find things that we may have in common.
  • Know that you are talking to people... the step before this was helpful in helping me humanize the voice on the other end of the phone.

Once you are ready to call...

  • Call the wrong person intentionally. I know this sounds strange but when I am really trying to navigate my way into a company I will start calling into their main line and ask for random names or departments. Once I get someone on the phone... Be kind, Play a bit ignorant, ASK FOR HELP!
  • If you can get someone talking, DON'T stop asking questions. You can ask how long have you been in this role, ask about something you recently read in current events about the company, how their department interacts with another department. Literally anything. Then ask to be connected to the correct person.
  • Don't be stale, have personality... Make a joke "I am sorry, I know you probably get so many random calls a day but this one is totally worth your time"

Courtney recommends the following next steps:

  • Read Miller Heiman Strategic Selling
  • Find a mentor
  • Record yourself practicing
  • Use Google alerts to track news on the companies you are interested in

Lennard’s Answer

Updated San Jose, California

Practice. You have 15-20 seconds to get their attention. Don't waste time and get to the reason you called. You also need to let them talk so ask open ended questions. More they talk, the more you learn. It is about conversations. More conversations you have, the more rhythm you get, the better you will be. Be comfortable about what you are offering but please do t be to scripted. go with the flow. Good luck.