Cold Calling On The Phone? Afraid?

Well don’t be – cold calling is just another sales skill, and like all the other sales techniques, telephone techniques are mostly about learning new ways of doing things and practising them so they become second nature.

Let’s get the fear factor out of the way up front. Afraid of picking up the phone and talking to strangers?

Guess what – So Is Everyone Else!

Susan Jeffers* is right when she says:

The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it.

Not only am I going to experience fear whenever I’m on unfamiliar territory, but so is everyone else.

And the real clincher for us salespeople:

Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from failure and the accompanying feelings of helplessness and worthlessness.

There’s no shame in being afraid just before you pick up that phone, just be aware that 90% of it is fear of the unknown.

So when you’ve done a few calls, the unknown becomes known, and guess what . . . The Fear Goes Away!

You might even start to enjoy it . . . yes, seriously.

And that’s the other side of the coin.

Successful cold calling stems from having the right attitude to the telephone – namely that it’s a highly effective sales tool IF HANDLED RIGHT.

As the saying goes, it’s your Attitude, not your Aptitude, which determines your Altitude.

So with the right Attitude, and the right Aptitude (I’m going to give you that now) telephone cold calling loses the fear factor and becomes just another one of those valuable sales techniques in your kitbag.

My own coldcalling experience has been mainly in B2C and B2B appointment making, but the principles apply to most telesales and telemarketing scenarios, whether inbound or outbound.

How To Prepare For A Successful Cold Calling Session

You need the right environment:

No interruptions – put a sign up if necessary ‘DO NOT DISTURB’

No distractions – no coffee, water, sweets, snacks


The phone/headset

Your list of names and numbers

Your cold calling script

Your diary

Your tally sheet

If all the above is handled by your CRM system then fine. The only issue with CRM systems is that they can s l o w  y o u  d o w n and distract from making that next call. Spending 5 minutes updating the data is 5 minutes not making the next call and is a good excuse to put it off.

Try making a batch of calls and then updating your CRM system.

Use the Pomodoro method to you keep fresh:

  • 25 minutes calling
  • 5 minutes break (away from the desk – walk around, get a drink)
  • 25 minutes calling
  • 5 minutes break
  • 25 minutes calling
  • 5 minute break
  • 25 minutes calling
  • 15 minute break

REPEAT as necessary.

For some people it helps to get in the role of cold calling – a hat often helps, a specific hat which you ONLY wear for cold calling. Or try taking your shoes off, you’re trying to put yourself in your prospect’s shoes after all – can’t do that if you’ree wearing your ownn ones!

Cold Calling Scripts

Start out with a cold calling script – Yes guaranteed it will change over time. But to begin with you really don’t want to be thinking about what you’re saying, but how you’re saying it. And of course what’s coming back at you from the other end. And if you’re making lots of calls your cold calling scripts become second nature and start to sound natural, not scripted. That’s how good actors do it.

Your Posture

At the very least sit up straight which puts you literally in position to be: positive alert attentive focused. Better still stand up, if not for the whole call then at least for the part when you’re talking to the decision maker. Standing up means:

  • Your voice will sound deeper, more resonant and hence more confident (that’s why singers and actors perform mostly standing up).
  • You will feel more in control, in charge – PLUS it’s guaranteed that your prospect will be sitting down, so you can picture that as you go through the call. You will literally be much better at ‘thinking on your feet’.

During a cold call you have to have your wits about you, and standing up will help you react resourcefully to whatever the conversation throws at you. This goes for inbound calls as well.

How To Use Your Voice

Match and pace – (see the section on Body Language In Sales).

Adapt your voice to the other person in terms of:

  • speed
  • volume
  • tone (up and down)

So if the person on the other end is talking quickly, speed up a bit – and vice versa. But don’t mimic them parrot-fashion. This way you’ll start to build rapport.

The End Of The Call – Why You Always Wait For The Other Person To Hang Up

If you hang up before them and they hear it you are giving an impression of not listening, of abrupt, undue haste as if you don’t care and are moving quickly on to the next call. They might still have something to say, or suddenly remember something, so if you cut them off you’ll lose all that rapport you’ve so painstakingly built up.

Handling the Gatekeepers

Telephone operators, receptionists, secretaries, personal assistants (PAs) are just people doing their job so don’t treat them like obstacles to be avoided, bullied, or tricked as recommended by the bad old school sales techniques.

Get them on your side by being polite, professional, friendly and EMPATHETIC – put yourself in their shoes. If you can make their day easier, more interesting, more fun, they will love you for it. If you’re pitching at board level, C-level or C-suite (so-called because they are CEOs, CIOs, COOs, CTOs etc), it’s unlikely you’ll get to speak to them first time round, that’s why they’ve got PAs who they trust 100% to filter out the rubbish BUT to put forward the interesting stuff.

So, ENGAGE WITH the PA, and remember the advantages to them, not just to their boss. Ask yourself: “How can I help them to help their boss?”

We worked on one campaign where we had a separate website JUST FOR PAs so they understood what was in it for their boss, AND FOR THEM.

How To Get Straight Through To The Decision-Maker

But, if you really want to get straight through to the CEO try this simple telephone sales technique:

Phone when the PA isn’t there!

VERY early morning (you read profiles of these high level execs and they’re at their desk at 0700 and earlier). And LATE evening (particularly if you know that there’s something big happening in the organisation). You can confirm beforehand with the telephone operator what normal working hours are, so phone outside them – well outside.

How To Handle Objections

Successful cold calling is just a part of the sales process, and the goal is usually to get a face to face meeting. You haven’t time to get in to long conversations on the phone, plus you’re at a disadvantage because you’re missing all the important non-verbal and body language signs. I

In general the way to handle objections on the phone is to AGREE WITH THEM, explain that you’re calling precisely because you need a meeting to cover the issues in full. Then go for the appointment using the Alternative Close.


The day before phone and confirm your meeting – it’s professional, it might save you a wasted journey, and you can ask for some commitment from the customer – maybe some data you might need from them to give the meeting a focus.

Cold calling works! You WILL get meetings with qualified prospects. These potential customers have already bought you before you meet them, so there is already a solid base of rapport to build on. In my experience your cold called customers are your most enduring and loyal.

Successful cold calling is all about using the right telephone techniques with the right attitude.

To Your Cold Calling Success! (So what are you waiting for, PICK UP THAT PHONE!)