September 2, 2021

10 Cold Calling Tips for Sales Professionals

Written by The Apollo Team

Most salespeople don’t like cold calling. For some organizations, cold calling is completely dead, as sales automation tools have made it easy to reach out to more people with less effort.

While this may work fine for a sales development representative to hit their quota, cold calling is extremely important for a few reasons:

Career Progression: As an account executive or sales development manager, a large portion of your job is to verbally articulate the value of your offering to prospects or reps. The interview process itself is unlikely to be conducted over email. Cold calling will set you ahead of the pack by practicing being quick on your feet and having dynamic conversations with potential buyers.

Greater Reach: By opening yourself up to more channels, you can reach people that never would have opened your emails and start grabbing more of the market.

Differentiation: If your entire team is sending the same emails, then it can be hard to stand out. The best reps will be good at using multiple tools in their toolbox. Calls, networking, social selling and emails all have their unique value in reaching a greater share of the market.

If you want to get better at cold calling, we’ve got you covered. Here we will go over some cold calling basics and frequently asked questions,  and then give you 15 tips you can start applying right away.

Use the table of contents below to jump ahead to the tips or whatever section you like. Enjoy!


What is Cold Calling?

Cold calling or outbound calling is simply reaching out to someone with no previous relationship with the company or seller. As a sales person, you are picking up the phone and calling a stranger to pitch your solution expecting to secure a meeting, demo, or even close a sale.

This is not to say that you are randomly dialing numbers and spilling out your pitch to whoever picks up the phone. There is a sales prospecting process that comes before the cold call and which narrows your calls to the people most likely to do business with you.

The caveat is that the potential customer has not reached out to you or perhaps doesn’t even know you exist. 

What is the difference between a warm or hot call and a cold call?

When a sales rep calls a person who has shown previous interest in their solution, maybe filling out a form, downloading an ebook, or just visiting the pricing page of the website, it’s no longer a cold call, but a warm call.

In this case, the prospect already knows about the company or product, even if she hasn’t spoken to a sales person. That previous touch point plays in your favor because you have “a reason” to call.

As a salesperson, you can also “warm-up” your prospects before cold calling through social selling. That means finding, engaging, and connecting with prospects on social media in a non-salesly way–making insightful comments on their posts, sharing relevant information with them, and providing value. 

Is Cold Calling Dead?

Conversion rates for cold calling are around 2%, so no wonder people say cold calling is dead.

However, according to research from the RAIN Group, 69% of buyers have accepted calls from new providers in the previous year and 27% of sellers said phone calls to new contacts were extremely effective.

We’ve all received cold calls and it’s usually not the most exhilarating experience. Why? Because they are interruptions. We are in the middle of something and the phone rings and it’s another sales call. You listen for a few seconds and then you regret having answered. 

Unless… the sales rep on the other side somehow says something that resonates with you. Then you start to pay attention. 

So, if you want to increase your chances of cold calling success, pay attention to the following 10 tips.

10 Cold Calling Tips

Whether you’re new to sales or a seasoned cold caller, you can always improve by learning and experimenting with new strategies.

Here are our top 10 cold calling tips.

1. Alter Your Tone 

Compared to other channels, selling over the phone gives your prospect fewer cues to form an impression with. 

Tone is one of those cues that you have control over. You choose whether to sound like someone who is genuinely there to help or someone who is just calling down a list of prospects. 

Try testing out different tones of voice on the phone (confident, humble, excited, passionate, genuine) and matching them with the perceived personality of your prospect.

2. Save Your Sales Pitch 

A common problem with cold calls is pitching too early. By going straight into a sales pitch, you give your prospect an easy way out of the call. 

When people ask what you do, give a one-sentence summary and ask an open-ended question. 

Naturally, the prospect will attempt to answer that question in a way that rejects you, but if you know your space then you can continue to ask follow-up questions. Once you gather enough information, use their own words to pitch them.

3. Know Your Space 

If you expect prospects to volunteer their time for you, then make sure that you have value to provide in the first place. 

It’s important to understand the industry and role of the prospects that you’re selling into, as well as how your own company can provide value to them in comparison with your competitors. 

Once you understand this, you can offer insight no matter what objections people throw your way.

4. Leverage Bad Calls 

Just because somebody mentions that they aren’t interested in your offering, it doesn’t always mean that they’re a bad fit as a company. 

If a call is going downhill, try to get any bit of useful information that you can to better prepare yourself for your next call with somebody else within the company. Always ask for a referral.

5. Be Authentic

When you’re making 40-120 cold calls each day, it can be dehumanizing to continue spewing out words on a script while people reject you over and over again. 

Keep a strong mindset by staying true to yourself on calls. Be upfront with your prospects about the fact that you’d sent them a sales email (using a humble tone). 

By presenting yourself as a genuine human being that just wants to help, prospects will grant you more time to engage in conversations.

6. Do Your Research

Are they hiring for certain roles, did they just announce funding, is there an important piece of news that is relevant to this prospect right now? 

If so, then talk about it! Showing that you’ve done your research lends you extra credibility in being someone who might actually be able to help.

7. Follow-Up

Not everyone will be at their desk when you call them. If you have sales automation tools such as Outreach or Apollo, leverage them to have automatic emails go out letting prospects know that you called. 

You increase your chance of gaining their attention by hitting them through multiple channels in a short time span.

8. Dial Strategically 

With intent, you can increase your connect rate and the number of dials you’re able to make. 

When a prospect doesn’t pick up, try again right away to show urgency. If that doesn’t work, try them at a different time the next day. For phone directories, write down the numbers that you pressed on your phone to make your subsequent calls more quickly.

Some platforms can even show you the best times/days to call people from different roles/industries.

What is the best time to call if you want the prospect to pick up the call? We did a survey on that topic on LinkedIn and many others have conducted research as well. According to RingDNA, the best time to call a prospect is late morning in their time zone.

Your sales team should experiment with different days of the week and different times until you find the best cold calling technique for your target prospects.

9. Navigate Gatekeepers

Part of a gatekeeper’s job is to keep you away. Increase your chance of getting past them by building a connection with them. Ask what their name is, how their day is going, mention something interesting about your day, take notes on little details that they tell you to bring up in future conversations. 

If a gatekeeper likes you, they can give you better insight on getting a hold of your prospect. 

If a gatekeeper doesn’t like you, make sure to call at different hours or before/after the typical work day.

10. Use intelligence and engagement tools

There are dozens of tools out there that can improve your productivity and effectiveness when cold calling. Sales intelligence tools like, for example, let you access insights on your team’s calls to let you know what works and what doesn’t, so you can take action and improve.

Other tools, like Apollo, allow you to be more productive, so you don’t have to spend time with tasks that can be eliminated or automated.

Cold Calling Scripts

Although you may be using a cold calling script, you should not sound like a robot or like someone who is reading. 

  • Memorize the intro (5 seconds). Just state your name and company and reason you’re calling.
  • Make it about them and not you – the first few mins are about keeping them interested. 
  • Get the prospect talking quickly (let them interact after the intro)
  • Continue with the value proposition (20 to 30 seconds). Explain what you do and why they should care.. Make it relatable.
  • Have a list of open-ended questions to ask and prepared responses for common objections. Don’t make it easy to just say no.
  • Practice, saying the words often and confidently.
  • Get in the zone, be prepared with your script but ready to improvise.
  • Speak about things that the prospect actually cares about and adds value to them. 
  • End the call laying down the next steps clearly (invite to a meeting, link to download, send info materials, etc.) 

The goal of the cold call is the next meeting, so focus on that, saying something like, “I’d suggest a quick 15 minute meeting you so you can judge for yourself.” 

If they’re interested : “Great! Do you have your calendar handy? What time are you available?”

If someone says yes to a meeting, set next steps quickly and don’t linger. They already said yes. Thank them and sign off. 

After analyzing 90,380 outbound, connected cold calls with AI, Gong found that some phrases work better than others. For example:

  • Cold calls that opened with the question “How have you been?” boasted a 10.01% success rate compared to the 1.5% baseline.
  • Beginning with a proactive reason for the call such as “The reason for my call is…” increases your success rate by 2.1X.

So, a simple cold calling script would look like this:

Hi [PROSPECT’S NAME] this is [YOUR NAME] from [YOUR COMPANY]. How have you been?

I’m calling because [REASON FOR CALLING].

[YOUR COMPANY] can provide [VALUE PROPOSITION]. Do you have a couple of quick mins to chat and see if we might be a fit for you?

About 60% of cold calls go to voicemail. So, what do you do? What do you say?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Keep it short (30 seconds) and energetic
  • Don’t be salesy
  • Use a cheerful, brisk tone
  • Use their name
  • Use a follow up template(for instance, send an email soon after your voicemail)
  • Refer to a previous email / connection you had with them

Where do you get the right phone numbers for Cold Calling?

Even if your cold-calling process is perfect, absolutely foolproof… it’s likely that at least 20% of your data is inaccurate or outdated. 

It can go without saying that to make successful cold calls, you need the right phone numbers.

But where can you go to acquire those numbers? Well let’s look at your options.

Most people’s first instinct would probably be to perform a Google search. You’d type in “X Contact’s Name” or “X Contact’s Name Phone Number”, maybe you’d even include their location or workplace. This strategy might reveal a few phone directories, but if your contact is in even a minorly-important position at a company, it’s safe to assume you won’t find much. Ultimately, searching for phone numbers on Google is time-consuming and has a low-success rate. You need something more reliable.

Another strategy many sales reps use for finding contact numbers is scanning LinkedIn profiles. LinkedIn is a helpful tool for many stages of the prospecting process, but it doesn’t make finding the right numbers easy. Important contacts won’t have their numbers displayed on their profiles in bright lights. Oftentimes, sales reps have to opt for contacting a mutual connection or a prospect’s co-worker, hoping for a direct line. There’s a chance you find success using LinkedIn, but you should be prepared to spend more time and resources than you would like.

Your best option is to use data and intelligence tools. Integrating a database into your prospecting process cuts down on manual research and allows you to prioritize efficiency and reliability. With an all-encompassing database, you can have all the right numbers at the click of a button.

But not all data tools are created equal.

Why Use Apollo for Cold Calling?

You shouldn’t settle for anything less than the best. 

With over 110 million mobile numbers across 28 million companies, you’ll never struggle finding the right phone numbers again. Mobile numbers are crucial because you will bypass the gatekeepers, and reach people who are working remotely.

Using filters such as geography, company, industry, title, etc., Apollo’s Prospect Searcher can connect you with prospective customers at companies around the globe. These contacts can also sync with your CRM, providing you with job change alerts and contact enrichment so your contacts are never stale!

You can count on Apollo for more than phone numbers and contact information. Apollo gives you the tools you need across all stages of the cold calling process.

Apollo’s Dialer

Now, what’s more important to cold calling than a state-of-the-art dialer?

With Apollo’s Dialer, wherever you see a phone number, you click-it to call-it. We’ll record your calls, along with the call transcription so sales managers can search through sales calls to ensure they’re executing at key moments and provide coaching. 

Data shows that prospects are more likely to answer phone calls if it’s from an area code they recognize. Especially with cold calls, you need to have access to local numbers. Apollo’s Dialer lets you create and call from the same area code as your prospects, even internationally!

Suffice it to say, Apollo’s Dialer is a cold caller’s dream.

Apollo’s Sequences and Task Management

Transparency within your team is key. Apollo makes it easy for you to keep your sales reps on the same page during prospecting.

With Sequences, you can build your engagement strategy from the ground up, highlighting exactly where and when you want cold calling to occur with a contact. In addition, Task Management allows you to delegate engagement steps and gives your sales reps all the tools they need to increase conversion rates and put their best foot forward with every prospect.

With Apollo, cold calling doesn’t mean shooting in the dark. It’s purposeful, precise, and organized. 

Apollo’s Automation Abilities

Send the right message at the right time, every time! 

Apollo can automate the tedious processes that your sales reps are currently doing manually. From automated direct dials to instant call tasks, your business can cut down on unnecessary manual logging and focus on streamlining more productive, human-to-human engagements.

Does your sales team have a cold calling strategy? Are you using a cold calling software to help you with both lead generation and prospect engagement?

Use the tips above (along with the great features in Apollo) and you’ll see great sales success.

Get started with Apollo

The Apollo Team