Many sales reps find cold calling frustrating. True, it’s a practice that’s filled with rejection and difficult conversations. However, cold calling is also the best way to forge relationships with decision-makers, build trust, and demonstrate the value your company can offer to clients.
Most of the stresses in your B2B cold calling efforts likely stem from making some common mistakes. The good news is that this means your headaches are easily fixable.
Let’s take a look at the top six mistakes I see sales reps making in their B2B cold calls—and how to fix them.
B2B Cold Calling Trends
Before we talk about cold calling trends, let’s take a look at how B2B sales have changed in recent years.
Many things have changed over the last two decades, all of them making selling more challenging for salespeople. Many companies are now selling the same thing and competing for a finite number of prospective customers.
The internet has created information parity when it comes to the basic information about the salesperson’s company, removing any value of starting a conversation by talking about your company and your products. The larger the deal, the more certain you will find a group of stakeholders trying to reach a consensus. If the last two decades could be summed up in a word, that would be ‘uncertainty.’
Over this period, we have also moved from disqualifying prospects to enabling their buyer’s journey. When it comes to discovery, we have gone from learning to teaching and learning together with our contacts, collaborating on the initiative to improve the client’s desired outcomes. Our clients are less interested in solutions and more interested in outcomes.
Another B2B cold calling shift has occurred due to the COVID-19 lockdowns. Two things happened when the pandemic started and decision-makers and salespeople worked from home. First, the salesperson’s CRM with office phone numbers was no longer helpful in cold calling. Every salesperson was scrolling through their emails hoping to find the contacts’ cellular numbers.
Second, and more interesting, those contacts had more time to spend with salespeople. The outcome of the pandemic is that salespeople are much more comfortable calling and texting their contact’s cell phones.
To sum up, there are some new qualifications for B2B sales:
- Delivery Model Fit: It is poor form to disqualify a client with the direct questions you might find in the strategy known as BANT (budget, authority, need, and time-based). Much of the time, some accounts are so far from being a fit that you can disqualify them at first glance. If you have the highest price in your category, you can eliminate companies that will be unable to pay more for what you sell because their model won’t allow that investment.
- Client Effort: One of the ways you can gauge whether a client is going to buy is the effort they make to get things done inside their own company. The more it feels like your contact is working for you, the better your chances of winning.
- Buyer’s Journey: The more you can lead the client in their buyer’s journey, the better your chances of winning. When a client makes commitments to the many conversations they need to have, you have evidence that you are progressing.
- Access to Leadership: Even though it is certain your client is going to need consensus, there is still a leader who is going to sign a contract, provide the money, and green-light your deal.
- Willingness to Engage: The more willing your contacts are to engage with you, the more you have a prospective client. When these factors are missing, you may need to move on to another potential client.
1. Neglecting to Use a Script
Why are scripts so important for B2B cold calling? You might worry about using a script, even though strong language is better than winging it. The trick here is to use a script without sounding like you are reading a script. Unless you say something different on every call, you are already using a script. You should use a script that gives you confidence and competence.
A proven script provides you with both confidence and competence while speeding up the acquisition of the meetings you need. Testing several approaches to discover what works best for you is okay. When you find something that is effective, make it your own.
What elements should you include in your B2B cold call script?
- Hook (transparent introduction): Because your client doesn’t know you, tell them who you are and why you are calling them. This is just being polite.
- Highlight value early (propose an agenda for the meeting to show how it’s valuable): You also need to pitch a meeting by trading value for time. You have to describe the outcome of the meeting and how it will benefit the client.
- Pitch (usually a meeting in B2B sales): Ask directly for the time you need to create value for your contacts in the first meeting. I like asking for 25 minutes because it lowers the barrier. When you say meeting, your contacts imagine losing an hour.
- Objections (prepare to overcome common objections): The objections you hear when you make cold calls are just one giant concern: I believe this is a waste of time. You address that concern by restating the value of the meeting to the client and promising you won’t waste their time.
We trade in language. It’s important to develop powerful language that allows you to communicate the value you can create for your prospect.
Weak language that doesn’t hit the mark for the contact will require you to make more calls to schedule the meetings you need. Sales are comprised of a series of conversations. Study those conversations.
2. Falling Prey to a Negative Mindset
Constant rejection can be demoralizing. When you are new to sales, you might feel like you are being personally rejected. This is not true. The only thing being rejected is the value proposition you offer your client when you ask for a meeting.
Like the Godfather, “It’s not personal, it’s just business.”
Never take a no as a rejection. Instead, strengthen your value proposition for a meeting and try again. The best way to get over hearing a “no” is by making the next call.
It’s important to note that you need to avoid the "I'm sorry to bother you" mindset, where you've experienced so much rejection that you automatically assume that you're bothering the person you're calling instead of confidently bringing them something of value.
Related Read: The One-Up Mindset
How can you avoid falling prey to these struggles? Harden your mindset and learn to take rejections in stride by counting the number of times you hear “No.” Read Andrea Walz’s book, Go For No.
3. Preparing Too Little
Your job on a cold call is to show the prospect that you can give them enough value to earn a meeting. Going in completely blind is a great way to make sure you don’t get a meeting.
Every business has unique needs—and needs a unique pitch. You should never call a contact without knowing what their company does and a theory about the better results they will likely need and that you can deliver.
You want to tailor your talk track by making your contact aware you have experience helping people in their industry–without telling them you are working with their competitors.
Block schedule time to research and prepare for calls. It’s a good practice to separate your research and your calls. If you have to stop between every call, you will make too few calls. One way you might make this easy is by doing the research at the end of the day, so you can start your call block early in the morning.
Related Resource: The Prospecting Playbook
4. Preparing Too Much
We’ve talked about under-preparing, but, on the flip side, you don’t want to over-research.
There is a point where preparation turns into procrastination. If you find yourself researching as though you work for the FBI, you have call reluctance. The more you tie your value proposition to the client’s industry, the better your results.
You want to do minimum viable research. You don’t get paid for researching; you get paid for winning deals. You can make a call when you know the client’s role, their industry, and how the challenges you can help overcome show up in their world.
You might be tempted to stalk your client’s company's social media pages. Social media is a time suck. The less time you spend scrolling, the better your results. No matter what you learn about your contact, you still have to call and offer your contact a conversation they will find valuable.
You can avoid falling prey to call reluctance by focusing on research related to the value you can provide rather than gathering useless data.
5. Forgetting About Voicemail
We can’t talk about cold calling without talking about voicemail. 80 percent of cold calls go to voicemail. If you aren’t leaving a voicemail, you’re missing out on over three-quarters of your potential cold-call customers.
However, leaving a lazy voicemail won’t help you more than neglecting to leave one at all. What qualifies as a lazy voicemail in sales? Asking them to call you back. It’s your responsibility to call them again—they don’t want to do the legwork to buy from you.
What’s the best way to leave a voicemail in sales?
- Identify yourself as a value creator.
- Offer value, then tell them you’ll follow up by calling them back.
If you do it right, they’re more likely to pick up for you the next time.
Pro-Tip: Be prepared to persist over time. Your contact may not be ready for a conversation. You are always better off playing the long game.
6. Talking Too Much (About Your Company)
Another common mistake is focusing your cold call around your company.
You don’t want to talk about your company, and anything else you might believe is helpful because it makes it easier for your contact to say no to your request for a meeting. You are better off sharpening the value proposition and trading the value of the conversation for the contact’s time. This is the secret to acquiring more meetings from cold calls.
Remember that your potential customer doesn’t care about your company: They care about the problem they have and the possibility of resolving it. Focus on value instead of your company or product on the call.
Bottom line: You want to acquire the meeting. Once you have that booked, stop talking.
7. Not Specifically Dedicating Time to Cold Calling
The last—and arguably most common—mistake you might make in B2B cold calling is failing to prioritize cold calling in your schedule. Those who block ninety minutes every morning for prospecting tend to outperform salespeople who can’t will themselves to pick up the phone. Do it first thing in the morning, and get it done.
If you don’t set aside time for cold calling, it may fall to the bottom of your to-do list time and time again. By 3:00 PM, you have very little psychic RAM, making it difficult to pick up the phone and bang out forty dials.
How can you fix this mistake? Simple: Block time on your calendar for cold calling and stick to it. You will do well to do your call block at the same time every day. Make it a routine. Don’t try to multi-task during those time blocks. Give yourself over to your calls. That means no internet browsers open. No email open. No scrolling Instagram. Just focus on the call at hand.
Step Up Your B2B Cold Calling Game
The first step to improving your B2B cold calling game is to identify the mistakes you’re making and take the steps I outlined above to counter them. Still, that’s only the beginning of your journey to cold calling success.
To truly master B2B cold calling, you need to take advantage of resources like sales training, coaching, books, and more. You can check out my Sales Accelerator program if you’re ready to truly take your close rates, skills, and mindset to the next level.
If you are looking for more information on how to crush your cold calls, you can use my free eBook, Master Cold Calling.