Successful Cold Calling Tips & Examples

Written by Sean McPheat | Linkedin thumb

man on phone
If you know anything about me and the Sales Training we provide, then you know that I do not subscribe to the theory of a canned cold calling sales script as such. A framework, yes. But not a word for word, robotic script that makes you sound like a robot and not a human being!

In fact, I constantly talk about and train that you must have a telephone sales approach that is well planned but certainly not canned.

It is not so much about the exact words you use, rather as the method, approach, and the understanding you possess of what you are doing. It’s all about having a framework in place.

However, with that disclaimer firmly in place, I must say that there are some specific words that, when added to a business-to-business call, and even some consumer calls, will radically and instantly increase your effectiveness on the telephone.

It’s something that most Telesales Training courses do not cover!

How To Cold Call For Sales

Before we go into specifics let me explain why they work, because it is this understanding and this empathy for the customer that is ultimately, they will help you be more successful when cold calling and in telesales.

First, understand that customers want to know that they are important.

They want to be important to you and your company and they want VIP treatment.

Every customer and potential customer have an inner desire, perhaps need, to know that you and your company deeply values them and their business.

The second thing to understand is that the best way to help the customer feel important is for you to be someone important. The more of an important person you are, and you are in your company, the more important the customer will feel.

Imagine calling a software vendor to possibly purchase an iPhone and the sales assistant handling your call passes it over to someone else, they say, “Hold on a moment…” Then a voice comes on the line and says, “This is Tim Cook, and I thought it best that I handle your call myself.”

You would have to be impressed!

The main problem that occurs when you come across as a run of the mill, every day, telesales rep, is that it makes the customer feel like they are not very important. Also, the poor telesales reps out there give us good ones a bad name so please bear that in mind.

So, just like in Tim Cook’s case, you must project the image as a very important person in your company and in your industry. Now, as sales professional, we know that the salesperson indeed IS the most important person in the company, but the customer dose not usually feel that way.

So, the question is how can you present an image as being the “BIG DOG” without misrepresenting your position or true occupation?

If you can project the image of “Tim Cook” within the first few seconds of the cold call, your customer will feel important, and the more important the customer feels, the more it will dramatically and instantly increase the likelihood that they do business with you.

A Killer Cold Calling Opening Phrase

With that explanation out of the way let me give you a phrase that will make you sound important and gain attention.

“I thought I’d call you personally.”

That’s it.

Just add this line to your introduction.

“I thought I’d call you personally,” with a little bit of emphasis on the word personally.

It might look like this:

“Yes, Sarah? Steven Mills with ABC Software. Sarah, I thought I’d call you personally. You see, with the latest computer virus attack, many mid-sized businesses….”

You will be shocked and amazed at what this does.

First, it gives the immediate impression that you may have a slew of people or who usually make these calls for you. And if you think about it, that is the case all around the world today.

Businesses have largely taken to outsourcing their cold calling or more aptly put, they have taken to “down sourcing” their cold calling; assigning the duty to low level telemarketers or telemarketing firms, many in countries where English is a second or third language.

It is very likely that the customer gets calls from someone other than the principal.

But not this time! No!

This customer is too important for you and your company to allow anyone other than the main head honcho themself to make the call —– you called personally!

“Hi James, yes, it’s Lisa Johnson with ABC Widgets, and I thought I would give you a call personally James — do you have a quick minute?”

Call personally and watch your appointments and sales rise!


Cold Calling Examples That Will Stand Out

When everyone is going one way, go another. Earlier I said that you don’t want to sound robotic and like everyone else right?

Well, if you want to stand out and stop people in their tracks then use this.

“Hi Lisa, it’s John Smith from ABC Industries and yes, this is a sales call! Can you spare a minute to see if it’s of interest?”

The response?

Some will laugh. Some will thank you for being honest. Some will still tell you to get lost.

But some will reply with “Oh, gone then. Let’s hear it” just because you have been innovative and different.

Should You Open Your Cold Call With Small Talk?

Small talk: That warm up is always a good thing in a face-to-face sales interaction.

It’s that short period of time you have to create some rapport and chitchat a bit to ease into the sales interaction.

However, should you ever attempt to initiate such a warm-up in a telesales call?

While there are some very different, if not, vastly opposing views on this among salespeople, I don’t think there really is a controversy.

In fact, on this subject, I believe that everyone is right.

Here is why…

Camp 1: No Chit-Chat.

Some sales professionals believe that you should never attempt to make the slightest bit of small talk when cold calling.

They feel that even to say something as natural as, “How are you?” is a terrible thing and that it sounds cheesy. Most likely because the vast majority of poorly trained telesales reps open with it in an overly enthused manner.

This camp states that to extend any type of pleasantry at the onset of a cold call is artificial and even phony.

Get right onto business, no matter what the situation.

Camp 2: Let’s Chat!

On the other hand, some feel strongly that you must make some connection with the prospect before getting into business.

They feel that it is only natural and human to extend rudimentary pleasantries that you would offer in a normal telephone call.

They feel it makes the call more natural and real.

Which approach is best?

This is what I mean when I say everyone is right: What we all need to understand is that a cold call, a warm call, indeed, any type of sales call, should be an individual and customised inter-relational experience; hence, an interaction.

While you should have a planned talk, you should not have a canned pitch.

First, you should never say anything that is uncomfortable for you to say.

If it makes you uncomfortable to ask, “How are you?” then you should not ask.

If you do not honestly have an interest in how the person is, then it IS phoney.

In that case, you’re right; don’t do it.

Alternatively, if you feel natural and comfortable asking such a question; then do so.

Many salespeople have a genuine interest in how the person who answers the phone is doing at the time of the call.

Some would really like to know if the prospect is in the right state of mind to listen, or is having such a bad day, that any conversation would be a disaster.

So, the first thing to think about is how are you — the salesperson, is doing?

Do what comes natural to you and makes you comfortable.

At the end of the day what you are doing will show in your results. That’s the ultimate judge and jury when it comes to your approach and how successful you are.

Every sales call is different

Finally, you should be able to adapt slightly to the mood and personality of the prospect.

You should not have a word-for-word script that you say the exact same thing to everyone.

You may feel that you should never get into the small talk, but what do you do when you get that prospect on the telephone, who obviously likes the small talk?

Alternately, you may be the salesperson who likes to chitchat a bit, then meets the prospect who is strictly business and will get thoroughly insulted by your asking, “How are you?”

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Cold Calling Example

In addition to being yourself and not doing what is too uncomfortable for you to do; let the prospect tell you which way you should go.

Example 1

Instead of….
“Hi Steve, this is Sarah Smyth with ABC Technologies. The reason I’m calling is that we help independent business owners with…”


“Hi Steve? (Pause) Sarah Smyth, ABC Technologies?” (Pause)

Make your introduction a question or questions and pause – shut up!

Don’t be afraid to let the prospect respond.

Let the prospect tell you what will work with their current mental disposition and personality.

Salesperson with Prospect #1

“Hi Steve?”


“Sarah Smyth, ABC Technologies?” (Pause)

Prospect 1

“Steve, the reason I’m calling is recently we helped an independent business just like yours with…”

The prospect made it clear to progress.

Salesperson with Prospect #2

“Hi Steve?”

Prospect 2
“You got him!”

“Sarah Smyth, ABC Technologies…how are you?” (Pause)

Prospect 2
“Doing pretty well. How about yourself?”

This is simple.

Just remember that every prospect you call, is an individual, a real person.

In addition, keep in mind that you’re an individual as well.

Treat both prospect and salesperson like unique individuals, and you can’t go wrong.

phone discussion illustration

3 Killer Cold Calling Tips

Cold calling and telesales have always presented a ton of challenges for salespeople, and with today’s modern and more enlightened buyer, those challenges have multiplied. Along with those obstacles, the amount of cold calling advice that floods the industry has grown has well.

Within this section I want to cover some tips that are different to the rest.

Now these tips are not going to cover any tricks or what to say, instead it’s how you say it.

Cold Calling Tip #1 – Do Not Smile

I know this sounds simple and you’ve been told to smile when calling but you must get rid of the big phoney smile at the beginning of the call. However, it seems easier said than done. Many salespeople are so conditioned to the habits of the Smile & Dial era that it is difficult to change. Some even have mirror as part of their cold calling preparation to practice smiling!

That big smile projects the image of the stereotypical telesales rep and puts the prospect on the immediate defence. You need to project the image of a seasoned, trustworthy professional who is pleasant and personable, but not overjoyed. Why should you lose the smile? Well, that’s because the other 10 cold callers they had earlier in the day did the same and they all sounded the same and you’ll be all treated in the same way irrespective of whether your offer is good or not.

Cold Calling Tip #2 – Tone Down The Enthusiasm

The lack of that big smile will help tone down the enthusiasm, but quench it even more, at least at the very start of the phone call. Your enthusiasm is NOT going to force the prospect to get excited about your call; in fact, it does the opposite. Calm down! Allow your calls to take on a more business call atmosphere, rather than the tone of an exciting event. There is a time to pep it up a little but it’s not at “hello” because you will be stereotyped again. Just sound normal!

Cold Calling Tip #3 – Don’t Sound Too Perfect

Ok, you’re a real pro: you know your pitch, and you know exactly what you are going to say. You even know what the prospect will say and how you will respond. You have become flawless…and that is the problem.

Normal, real-life telephone conversations contain many small mistakes, stutters, and broken chains of thought. When you are too perfect, the call takes on an unnatural tone, especially in the beginning. You may want to use a small fumble or miscue in the first few seconds of the call, deliberately. A small hesitation or stutter in the very beginning of the call makes you sound normal. It will also help to dispel negative preconceived images in the mind of the prospect.

If you listen to natural calls around the office, they go something like this:

“Oh, hello there, I wonder if you can help me?”

“Oh, er, yes, hello, could I speak with Lisa please?

The key is that you do not want to sound like the salesperson who sits there all day and makes 100 outgoing calls from a proverbial “list.” You want to sound like the executive that makes a select, chosen few calls to important people.

Even though you cannot see the prospect and they cannot see you; on the telephone, image is everything!

cold calling illustration

Why Prospects Fear Cold Calling

We have heard for years about how much today’s buyers detest receiving the dreaded cold call from telesales and business development managers. We all know that cold calling has become increasingly difficult, and the modern-day buyer has become more evasive, defensive, suspicious, and even hostile towards getting a telephone solicitation call.

As a result, there are a lot of training and tips on how to handle such obstacles as well as many alternative prospecting avenues. However, my take is that to develop any solution, you must first truly understand the problem. So, in closing, allow me to share some insight into WHY buyers have come to feel the way they do about receiving a cold call.

If you can genuinely understand and honestly empathise with the person on the other end of that telephone call, then you can begin to learn how to handle the situation from the inside– out!

#1 Privacy Violation

Of course, you have heard buyers complain that a cold call is an invasion of their privacy.

However, think of this analogy:

You are sitting at home with your family, relaxing or eating dinner or you’re in the middle of writing an important document at work. Suddenly a stranger bursts through the door and begins to walk right up to you.

What would you do?

Better yet, what would you say?

Your first response might be questions like:

• “Who are you?”
• “What do you want?”
• “Why are you here?”
• “How did you get in here?”

You are doing nothing more than protecting yourself/family/business from a possible harmful source. It is a natural defensive reaction.

Now, if the answers to those first questions were inadequate, your next responses would turn more aggressive:

• “We don’t have any valuables/money”
• “Get out of here”

You must realise that when you make a cold call, essentially you just “materialised” in that person’s dining room or working environment. When the prospect picks up the telephone, you are instantly in their living room, their office or perhaps their bedroom! Just like the above example, you just burst in the door, unannounced, and charged up to the person.

Can you see why they react as they do?

Responses to a cold call:

• “Who are you?” – Is this a sales call?
• “What do you want?” – What are you selling?
• “Why are you here?” – What are you selling?
• “How did you get in here?” – How’d you get my number/information/pass gatekeeper?

These are not objections.

They are normal and natural defences erected for protection from an unknown potential threat. If inadequate answers ensue, then real fear sets in:

Responses to a cold call:

• “We don’t have any valuables/money!” – I’m not interested
• “Get out!” – Click – They hang up.

Can you understand why some tell you, “I’m not interested” before they have any idea of what you sell?

#2 Personal Space

In addition to the intrusion, a cold call violates personal space. Think about it; when someone is talking on the telephone, where is the phone? It is right up against their face. You are a total stranger and suddenly you are right there, virtually nose-to-nose with the prospect. You are literally in their face!

#3 Lack of Knowledge

When you call someone, you immediately prove that you have more knowledge of them than they have of you. First, you called them, which means you have their telephone number, and, in many cases, it is a private number. You also knew the exact whereabouts of the person: you caught him at the office or their home.

You know their name. You know their address. You know their job title. In fact, with very limited prospecting information, you could know what they do, where they work, how much money they earn and what kind of dishwashing detergent they use. However, at the time of the call, the prospect knows almost nothing about you.

People can feel this imbalance of power and it makes them uncomfortable.

#4 Lack of Control

Finally, with all the above, the prospect was powerless in preventing any of it. They hired a sharp gatekeeper, set up voice mails, evaded calls, and still you caught them. The prospect simply had no control over your entrance.

This lack of control is what sends real fear into the hearts of today’s buyer and is why you have heard buyer’s use the term, “violated.” It is this severe, often hopeless feeling of a lack of control that is at the heart of the problems with cold calling.

Happy Selling


Sean McPheat

Sean McPheat
Managing Director

MTD Sales Training

Sales DNA

Originally published: 4 November, 2021

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