B2B cold calling is one of the most frustrating but essential pillars of many a sales org's operations. It has a brutally low conversion rate, often involves some personal attacks, and can take the wind out of even the most resilient rep's sails.
Still, despite all of its flaws, it's one of the most ultimately effective ways to connect with new prospects — so anyone who's tasked with doing it should have a solid grip on how to nail it. To help you get there, we've compiled ten key tips to make the most of your B2B cold calling efforts.
What is B2B cold calling?
B2B cold calling is exactly what it sounds like — cold calling conducted by sales reps from a business in the interest of convincing other businesses to buy from them. It's a popular outreach method among sales orgs, but the practice often has a less-than-ideal reputation among salespeople.
According to research from LinkedIn, 63% of sellers say cold calling is the worst part of their job — and their gripes with it are generally reasonable. Cold calling has a conversion rate of about 2%, and it typically takes a rep 18 or more dials to reach a tech prospect with cold calling.
But as I mentioned, even with those figures in mind, several sales org's still leverage the method — and if your org fits that bill, you'll want to understand as much as you can about how to cold call effectively. Let's take a look at some B2B cold calling best practices.
B2B Cold Calling Tips
- Identify two or three verticals.
- Research your prospects.
- Use a positioning statement.
- Respect their time.
- Ask open-ended questions.
- Be ready for objections
- Always have a close in mind.
- Follow up after your call.
- Conduct call reviews every time.
- Use your CRM.
1. Identify two or three verticals.
Consistently successful B2B cold calls are guided by some degree of specificity and specialization. Like any other sales efforts, B2B cold calls are opportunities to demonstrate expertise and familiarity — to frame yourself as a knowledgeable resource who prospects can rely on.
Indiscriminately reaching out to any kind of business undermines your ability to get there. You can't be an expert on everything who somehow manages to understand the needs and interests of companies of every scale across every industry.
If you want to successfully conduct B2B cold calls, you need to familiarize yourself with a handful of verticals. Keep a pulse on what it takes for businesses with specific characteristics to thrive. That way, your calls can be more thoughtfully tailored and ultimately effective — and you can shed some of the impersonality that comes with your typical cold call.
2. Research your prospects.
In a similar vein to the point above, this one rests on the value of personalization. The prospects you call don't want to feel like another name on a list — you have to speak to their individual business needs. That starts with conducting thorough research.
Familiarize yourself with the business you're about to touch base with. Take some time to look over their website and other relevant materials to address certain questions. What does it do? What does its product suite like? What's the state of its industry? What's its place in its competitive landscape? If you've connected with similar businesses, what did their needs look like?
And if you know who you'll be speaking to, consider taking a look at their LinkedIn. What's their role? What does their day-to-day look like? Who are the gatekeepers you might have to connect with before you get to reach them?
One way or another, get a solid picture of who's going to be on the other side of the call — and talk to them like individuals as opposed to another nameless, faceless potential customer can go a long way when conducting B2B cold calls.
3. Use a positioning statement.
A well-crafted positioning statement — a brief description of your product or service that establishes its relevance to your prospect's needs — can help you quickly and effectively frame the benefits you can offer a potential customer over a cold call.
You're naturally pressed for time on a cold call. You don't have the luxury of rattling off every last awesome, game-changing feature that comes with your offering while holding a prospect's attention.
You need to convey value within the ever-shrinking window of a prospect's patience, and a position statement is one of the better ways to capitalize on that time-bound opportunity. Here's what one might look like:
"For consumers who want to purchase a wide range of products online with quick delivery, Amazon provides a one-stop online shopping site. Amazon sets itself apart from other online retailers with its customer obsession, passion for innovation, and commitment to operational excellence."
Keep it to the point but significant — brief without sacrificing too much detail. Make sure you have one ready when conducting your B2B cold calls.
4. Respect their time.
As I mentioned in the previous point, every sales rep conducting cold calls is naturally pressed for time. A prospect's professional responsibilities don't begin and end with fielding cold calls and listening to everything everyone has to say.
If you manage to connect with a potential customer, be mindful of the fact that they probably have much more to do than speak with you. Don't be long-winded, go on tangents, or overdo your monologue.
You don't want to end all of your calls as quickly as possible without getting your message across — but you also don't want to put your prospect off by commanding too much of their time. Strike an appropriate balance, and respect their professional life beyond your call.
5. Ask open-ended questions.
Effective cold calls aren't monologues where a rep touts every feature and benefit their product or service can offer until the prospect hangs up. Even though a cold call is more or less a means to an end, it still has to be a conversation.
You have to give your prospect the room to explain themselves, let you in on valuable context, and convince themselves to embrace next steps — all of that hinges on your ability to ask thoughtful open-ended questions.
Your lines of questioning should never end in "yes" or "no." They should always warrant some kind of explanation. Letting your prospect close a conversation with a single word often means hitting a dead end — and as you can probably assume, dead ends don't lend themselves to consistently successful cold calls.
6. Be ready for objections.
In most cases, your prospect won't pick up a cold call, hear you out for a while, and immediately say, "Well, I'm sold! Everything you just said sounds spectacular! I literally have zero questions or concerns about any of that! Well done!"
Objections are par for the course in virtually every kind of sales conversation, and B2B cold calls are no exception. Most of the time, you're going to face some pushback — so bracing for it is in your best interest.
Familiarize yourself with the objections your product or service tends to drum up, and have a solid feel for how to best address them. Beyond that, you need to apply any research you might have conducted in anticipation of your call.
What issues is your prospect facing that might warrant some additional back and forth? Also, if you've dealt with similar prospects, what were the issues they brought up? Understand the more company-specific concerns your offering raises just as well as the general ones you handle consistently.
7. Always have a close in mind.
Cold calls should always be goal-oriented in some way, shape, or form — you don't want to conduct one without any sort of intention behind it. That's why you always need to have a close in mind when cold calling prospects.
Now, a "close" doesn't necessarily have to be some monumental leap towards sealing a deal — it just needs to move things forward. That could be as simple as getting five more minutes of your prospect's time or setting up a follow-up call later in the week. Whatever it is, keep it in mind, and let it guide how your call progresses.
8. Follow up after your call.
Not every cold call is a self-contained, one-and-done slam dunk. There's a good chance you're not going to book a meeting or schedule a demo on your first pass. Sometimes, you need to follow up with a prospect if you're going to make something of your efforts.
If your prospect says they can't meet with you again until next week or beyond, follow up with them within a day after the initial call. And don't just hit them with the conventional "Thank you for your time."
If you can, try to offer some valuable information that could help them better understand where you're coming from in the period between your initial conversation and their ultimate decision. You'll lose a lot of business if you give up prematurely — it generally doesn't hurt to keep yourself top of mind with a follow-up.
9. Conduct call reviews every time.
Sales call reporting and reviews can be both invaluable to your individual cold calling efforts and benefit your broader sales org as a whole. You should always maintain records of who you call, what the calls were like, and what you learned from them.
Keep track of that information — along with some other key intel — in your call reports and reviews. That insight can help you improve your cold calling acumen, give management some perspective on how to train reps, and inform more effective sales messaging from your sales org, going forward.
10. Use your CRM.
Your CRM is an invaluable resource for your future efforts and your org's overarching strategy — so you're best off using it to your full advantage. You don't want to be "that" salesperson who's too lazy to input their data into your CRM.
When you log your information into your system, you're benefiting everyone around you — so always take the extra minute to record the information you accrue in your calls. If you consistently ignore this minor inconvenience, you're selling yourself and your team short.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, B2B cold calling can be every bit as frustrating as it is essential, so it's in your best interest to know how to do it effectively. Demoralizing as it might be from time to time, it's still a fact of life for several sales reps — and if you apply the tips listed here, it doesn't have to be too overwhelming.