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The ultimate guide to making sales calls

Vy Dang
4/7/21 12:00 AM

Cold calling has always been (and will always be) one of the most important skills in sales. And yes, cold calling ain't dead! Don't believe us? Check out these 21 statistics that will surely change your perception about cold calling.

If you want to learn how to cold call from scratch (hello there, sales beginners, enthusiastic learners, welcome y’all) — or just looking to improve your cold calling skills, you're in the right place!

That's right, we gather here an ultimate guide with many fresh tips and techniques on how to make sales calls fun, more effective, and also, more enjoyable.

Let's dive right in, shall we?

Before the call
1. Plan your sales call: Prepare the structure and purpose of it
2. Prospecting - get to know who you're calling
3. Prepare for it, physically and mentally
4. How many calls?

5. Know when is the best time to call
6. Practice! Practice! Practice!

During the call
7. Know how to start the sales conversation smoothly
8. Learn how to KISS - keep it simple and short
9. Ask more questions and listen carefully
10. Take note during your sales call
11. Get that closure

After the call
12. Track your calls
13. Call analytics
14. Listen to your previous call recordings
15. Improve and coaching

Understanding cold calling

What is cold calling?

Cold calling is an activity in sales when reps reach out to potential customers who haven’t expressed any interest in the offered products or services. When cold calling somebody, you know very little about them and vice versa.
Thus, it’s a massive challenge to successfully deliver a sales pitch to someone who has never heard about you or your offerings.

Does cold calling still work?

Yes, Yes, and Yes!

In fact, cold calling remains one of the most effective techniques in generating sales. 57% of C-level buyers prefer that salespeople call them and 75% of prospects are willing to make an appointment or attend an event based on a cold call alone

Outbound sales calls are extremely effective whether you want to find new customers, build trust and rapport, or expand your customer acquisition pipeline. They surely work but…. (yes, there's a big but) only when you have the right strategy to do it.

Here's how to make sales calls - a step by step guide

Before the call

1. Plan your sales call: Prepare the structure and purpose of it

The purpose of cold calling is to convert a cold prospect into a warm lead and a lead to a customer. You need a structure, preparation, and a plan for what you want to achieve from the call. 

Making a sales call isn’t the same as calling your friend for a catch-up. It's different in the way that you have only a few seconds to get your prospect hooked and engaged in the conversation with you. The first impression is very important

Try asking yourself these seven golden pre-call questions 

  • Do I understand my customers' interests?
  • What is my objective/desired outcome for this call?
  • What are my top 10 questions/information pieces?
  • What are the competitive advantages of my product?
  • What are the possible objections?
  • Do I know the best times to call?
  • Am I mentally prepared to make the call?

Pro Tip: Create an informal structure for the conversation. It’ll help you stay still in your driver's seat, no matter how the conversation may drift.

Practice how you’ll open the call, introduce/recap. Then, map out how you’d transition from topic to topic towards your pre-defined goals.

In this article, our CEO - Maria Sundström - shows you how to design questions and talking points for effective sale call planning. 

2. Prospecting - get to know who you're calling

42% of sales reps feel they don't have enough information before making a call. And talking to a prospect whom you know nothing about can really kill your conversation and of course, followed by resounding rejections. Make sure that you research your prospects well before calling them. 

For each prospect, start by Googling the company to get some key details such as its product niche, team's size and structure, problems they are facing, and how your solution can fix that.

Then research the person you’ll be talking to to find out their background. LinkedIn has an excellent search feature and you can also gauge people’s interests.

From their profile, observe their achievements, activities, and groups they participate in, find out a way that you can relate or connect with them on a personal level. It can be a new award, a new position, or an achievement of their company

Finish up your research by using a contact management tool to put all of the info in one place so you have a well-rounded picture of the person you will be talking to.

3. Prepare for it, physically and mentally

Sweaty palms? A racing heart? The anxiety and struggle over cold calling are real!

If your sales anxiety feels like a “fight-or-flight” situation, there’s a very scientific explanation behind it and but the good news is it can totally be overcome and conquered.

Mentally

Knowing your metrics in mind when approaching cold calls helps a lot. Going in a cold call understanding that you need to make 100 calls to get 3 people interested, will make you feel that any rejection you get is now just simply a step closer to reach your daily goal. 

 

There are a hundred million reasons for people to say no 🎶. It is not personal, it is just part of the process of qualifying and nurturing the right clients.

 

Make sure that you check out our 3-part series on how to overcome sales calling anxiety. This series has helped so many sales professionals to switch from "survive" to "thrive" mode

Physically

Your physiology is more important than anything to stay ultra-focused and sail through the exhausting, mundane tasks of sales calls, especially in this era of working from home. 

Sleep well, stay hydrated (with water, not caffeine duh), exercise, meditate, avoid heavy food, stretch, stand up, walk around, take the stairs, breathe, sitting with an up-straight posture, etc. These activities will elevate more endorphins that keep you confident, relaxed, composed, and focused while reducing the cortisol associated with stress. 

The anxious feeling before a sales call is completely normal. It is a sign of self-awareness and a reminder that you’re doing something that matters. It’s a reminder that you need to show up and do your job well.

4. How many calls? 

Keeping track of the number of calls benefits you in many ways.

  • How many calls you need per day helps you a lot in planning both your workload, workflow and thus, reach your goals more effectively. 
  • How many calls you need to make per prospect/lead tells you whether your effort is going to the right place. Say you have been calling lead A more than 6 times and still haven't got a purchase, you better prioritize your time lead B, whom you just only called 2 times and is more likely to convert.

But how many calls is enough? Well, we're here to tell you that, there ain't no one-size-fits-all answer to this. Here we explain better why and how to calculate the number of sales calls you need to make a day

But in brief, the number of calls depends on certain goals, and goals may vary between different roles, teams, and companies. Therefore, the best way to figure this out is to track call performance yourself. Check out how Salestrail has helped thousands of sales professionals worldwide keep track of their performance through automatic call logging.

5. Know when is the best time to call 

Friday is not (was never) a good day to call a prospect (not even for a warm lead) because the human's headspace has already drifted into the weekend which has been waiting for all week long. Does that sound like a nice time to talk shop with a stranger on the phone? No, right?

Mondays are no good either. In fact, they are the second-worst day of the week, due to the heavy-clogging tasks that occur during the weekend.

With that being said, the middle days of the week are your spots. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, Wednesdays tend to get you the best results. And many surveys show that 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. (when your lead is winding down for the day) is the best hour to catch them. Or, the next best slot is between 10 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., when they’re wrapping up tasks before taking a lunch break.

But what is the difference between calling on the best and worst day/time of the week? Well, just a massive drop of almost 54% in conversion rates! 

Wanna know more cool facts like the number of call attempts needed to be successful, best response time to get conversions, etc.? Check out this article where we spill all the beans on the best time for a sales call.

But please, at the end of the day, don’t take our words for it, find it out for yourself. 

Log all your sales call into the Salestrail dashboard and you'll find the rightest day and time to make a call to your client! 

Also, don't forget to check out this detailed review and comparison on 8 Best Call Recording Software for Sales Peeps. We're sure you'll find something useful for your purpose

6. Practice! Practice! Practice!

Well, with cold calling, like any other skill in life, practice makes perfect! Speak in front of the mirror, in the shower, in the kitchen. Try calling a friend, and make a sales pitch to them to see if it's persuasive.

Print your prospect’s photo (use their social media profile pic) and pin it up the wall. Run through what you want to say on the call as if you’re in the same room.
Even better, record the run-through so you can hear exactly how you sound. Listen to your recording, try again as many times you need until you're extremely happy and comfortable with it 

During the call

7. Know how to start the conversation smoothly

The sales pros also know exactly that nothing is as important as the smooth start of your sales call. Cold call opening lines can make or break your chance of converting a lead.

 

🛑 Do not start the calls with

  • “Do you have a moment? / Do you have a minute?”
  • “You don’t know me, but I am…”
  • “Am I interrupting something?”

These lines kill the two-way discussion with your clients, throw you off the leading position in the convo, and sound uncertain and unconfident.

Try these

  • “How have you been?”
  • “I must have caught you in the middle of something, but the reason for my call is…”
  • “I didn’t catch you at a bad time, did I?”

Here we explain very clearly why these lines actually better for opening a sales conversation 

So, pick yourself several great sales call opening lines that can set you off a great start for different situations. You'll see it works wonders for your call performance.

8. Learn how to KISS - keep it simple and short

Knowing how to talk with fewer, simpler words can really show your confidence and knowledge of your product. Concision in words isn’t just powerful, it also shows respect to your client’s time, and of yours too. It frames you as a capable and efficient professional who makes things happen. It places you in demand.

Also, you should define a clear time limit for the call at the beginning of the conversation. This demonstrates that you're busy. But why does being busy matter? 

The truth is people equate being busy with being important and successful. So saying that you have a limited time gives the whole conversation a focused energy and clear direction. It creates urgency in the conversation to move things forward.

9. Ask more questions. And Listen carefully 

When sharing about dealing with anxiety during cold calling, we, the sales lovers here at Salestrail, always suggest salespeople ask more questions and listen carefully to the prospects.

Instead of running that endless sales pitch to eventually get hung up on, shift the attention to your prospect and ask them plenty of questions. From there, you can really understand them better and speak to them from curiosity, not from your agenda.

Find out if they’re problem-aware, solution-aware, product-aware, or just unaware so that your sales process can meet them where they are. Ask open-ended questions like these to encourage them to share more:

  • "Who else do we need to discuss this with?"
  • "Who else needs to approve the purchase?"
  • "Can you please elaborate more on that issue?"
  • "Is this whole team's problem or just yours?
  • "How long have you been looking for a solution? And how did you find out about us?"

Listen to the language, the tone of voice they use. Do they describe their situation as a catastrophe or just mere tiresome? In that way, you will figure out how to sell your solution as a painkiller or a vitamin.

Do they have internal jargon or acronyms you should understand? Incorporate this language into your sales pitch. Speak the language they speak when responding to them.

10. Take note during your sales call

During the conversation, try jotting down all the important information such as basic details about your deal or contact like contact details (including name and title), pain points, key discussion topics, readiness to buy, purpose, the result of the meeting, etc.

 

You will thank these notes later! When you are starting to get overflowed by information and mix things up, scribbling through these sales notes can save you from misinformation, miscommunication and ultimately, know what to say to clients on the next call. 

 

If you're still struggling with taking helpful sales notes, download this Free Sales Call Notes Template. It'll help you know what to jot down during a heavy-info conversation.

11. Get that closure

Closing phrases in sales calls are extremely important. You might not get the immediate buying decision from the first few calls but remember to always ask for business while you’re on the call. For example, 

  • "assuming [special technical request] is possible, will you be able to buy?" 
  • "assuming the price is within your price limit, will you buy or do you have any other concerns?”

Avoid using “inadequate closing phrases” which means any closing phrase that leaves too much room for the prospect to:

  • Dilly-dally in making the decision
  • Provide time for doubt to set in
  • Let the effectiveness of your pitch wear off.

Here we show you how to avoid those and introduce the top 20 sales closing phrases and examples that sales pros use to close big deals in different situations. Make sure to check them out!

Or download this top closing phrases playbook and save it in your vault for further use.

After the call

12. Track your calls

In the words of the great Peter Trucker “What gets measured gets managed.”

As salespeople, we all know very clearly the benefits of sales activity tracking. (Well, just in case you're uncertain of what they are, read here)

In brief, the whole point of tracking sales calls is that you can use them to maximize calling efficiency, optimize your sales processes, monitor your sales reps, giving coaches and supports, and eventually - sell more. That's why in this article, we want to introduce you to these 5 simple steps to track sales calls and measure your team successes.

Here are some key sales activities metrics to keep an eye on: 

  • The volume of inbound and outbound calls
  • Call date and time
  • Call duration
  • Win rate/Hit rate/Conversion rate
  • Time spent on after-sales work

In case you didn't know, we have this sales call tracker excel file that has helped salespeople manage their activities more effectively. Get it yourself, too! 

But, at the end of the day, you shouldn't waste your time tracking all that sales data manually, This mundane task consumes so much time and creates inevitable errors along the way, too. Choose an automatic call logging software like Salestrail that automatically logs all your calls, both incoming and outgoing with only 2$ per month, so you can spend more time with clients

13. Call analytics

Once you have your data logged into the system, keep your eyes closely on them and see what stories they are trying to tell. If you log your calls with Salestrail, all your data will flow automatically into a chic analytics dashboard, give you actionable insights in just a knick of a second.

  • The volume of inbound and outbound calls can tell you how active reps are with client outreach. From this you can also see which reps are performing well and which are struggling, to take immediate support.
  • Average call duration or Average call handling time: indicates the quality of sales calls. If calls are too short, maybe your reps have a problem with attracting the client’s attention? If it's too long your sales reps do not know the product well or lack closing skills or… just talk too much and are not focusing on delivering specific information about the product. Either way, these are great signs to revise your sales pitch.
  • Call date and time: We know for a fact that when to call definitely improves your win rate. Looking at this data, you will make a call more strategically and catch your clients in the best moment. 
  • Time spent by reps on after-call work: This includes everything the sales representative does in the minutes following each sales call. Including logging summaries and notes, updating CRM information, and analyzing feedback from the customer.
  • Win rate/ Hit rate / Conversion rate: Most often your hit rate is influenced by how good you are at booking the ideal customers and skilled in converting. Improve your conversion rate with these questions: 
    1. How qualified are your leads?
    2. What are the most common reasons for deal lost?
    3. What do your meeting metrics look like?
  • Number of proposals sent/Number of booked demos/trials/Number of deals won: If reps already having quite an amount of demos booked, you should encourage them on closing the deals with these customers. If reps don't have so many opportunities down the pipeline, focus on cold calling to generate more leads
14. Listen to your previous call recordings 

Have you ever hung up the phone after a sales call knowing that you did really well, but also sometimes, you thought "I could have done better!"

In either scenario, having a call recording to listen to might help you to repeat the good ones again

Listen to your call recording after every sales call and note down where you did great or where you could have improved.

Michael B Jordan rewatched every game he had played. Imagine what would happen if you did too; listened to every sale call you made?

That's why you should have a system like Salestrail, that automatically records all your conversations and saves them in your CRM for you and your team to review. 

15. Improve and coaching

Now that automated data entry is enabled, it’s easy to have accurate and fact-based coaching for you staff. This way, sales managers would be able to instruct and guide sales reps based on objective data

Provide your staff with individual call reports so that they can self-monitor their own performance. Make sure that salespeople follow sales guidelines and use recommended selling techniques recommended by using call recordings. Listening to call recordings allows you to refine your pitch and make every call better than the last one, focus more on what works and fix what doesn't. 

Along with the automatic call logging, analytics dashboard introduced above, Salestrail also has an automatic call recording feature for Android. Make sure to check it out!

To sum up

The last piece of advice we have for you is, do enjoy yourself, and relax. 

Sales calling, just like any other skills, take time to learn and be good at. Boost your morale often, and constantly learn and encourage yourself. Try and find a mentor/coach who understands how to work in a way that makes you excited about your next customer, not nervous 🙂

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