7 Steps to Heat Up Cold Calling

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The phone rings; the recipient instinctively looks at caller ID; the number is not familiar; the recipient ignores it; and after three or four rings the call goes to voicemail. This pattern plays out all too often for salespeople whose only strategy is the cold call—almost mindlessly dialing, dialing, dialing, often for naught.

It’s easy to blame this on the scourge of illegal robocalls, which are becoming not only more frequent but also more sinister. Americans in January alone received more than 4.7 billion robocalls, a 4 percent increase from December’s total, according to data from YouMail. The January total amounts to an average of 150 million robocalls placed per day, or 1,771 robocalls per second.

Through the full year of 2019, YouMail estimates that telemarketers placed between 60 billion and 75 billion robocalls, up from 47 billion in 2018 and 30 billion in 2017.

And increasingly, scams account for more and more robocalls—45.7 percent in 2019, compared to just 17.6 percent in 2016, according to Let’s Talk, which culled through robocall frequency data and thousands of Do Not Call Registry complaints to the Federal Trade Commission.

It’s not surprising, then, that caller ID is used primarily as a screening tool today, and 97 percent of consumers reject or ignore phone calls from businesses or unknown numbers, according to a study by Zipwhip, a business text messaging services and solutions provider.

“The percentage of respondents we found ignoring calls—97 percent—was astounding,” says Scott Heimes, chief marketing officer at Zipwhip. “Individuals receive 10 or so robocalls a day, so they are not willing to pick up and answer a call if they do not know who it is.”

Some companies, especially the unscrupulous and illegal robocalling scammers—have turned to number spoofing as a way to potentially get around this obstacle. But that practice, while limited in effectiveness, is facing an even greater regulatory hurdle as some jurisdictions look to make it illegal.

Additionally, other channels, like email and social media, are gaining more attention from marketers and sales representatives, prompting some observers to question the viability of the cold call—and, by extension, the telephone in general—as a business outreach tool in the future. Yet while cold calling can be challenging, it still is a key to success for many sales organizations.

“The phone is still a favorite for most sales professionals because of how well it works,” says Matt Heinz, president of Heinz Marketing, a B2B marketing and sales consulting firm. “Companies are growing their inside sales teams and shrinking their field sales teams.”

A few years ago, sales training solutions provider Allego focused on its account development team, charging junior sales team members with the task of setting up appointments for senior sales execs. The program was so successful that it increased from a few employees then to about a dozen now.

Given that cold calling still has legs, what steps do companies need to take to maximize its impact? How can companies ensure that customers respond to sales and marketing calls when so much is working against them? Here are seven key strategies to keep in mind:


Given that so many business calls wind up in voicemail, make sure that you leave a message.

While individuals will not pick up the phone when the number is not recognized, they do not totally ignore the exchange. Typically, they listen to at least the first part of the message later.

“We found that salespeople who leave a message are 35 percent more likely to eventually get a response from the prospect than those who do not,” Heinz says.


In many cases, ultimate success or failure of prospecting is gleaned in a short, initial exchange. Most prospects have a very limited amount of time to talk on the phone, so be mindful of that. “Everyone says, ‘I will only take 15 minutes of your time’,” Heinz argues. “Well, nowadays, executives are so busy that they do not have 15 minutes, especially with so many salespeople trying to get their attention.” They may have only a minute or two, so the agent needs to get in and make an impression ASAP.

Aggressive sales reps often start out with information that helps themselves, like three reasons why their product is better than their competitors’. Instead of launching right into an in-your-face pitch, salespeople need to focus on the prospects and their pain points. “We apologize for taking up the person’s time and then ask for 90 seconds to explain why they should be interested in us,” says Mark Kosoglow. vice president of sales at Outreach, a sales engagement platform provider.

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