20 cold calling tips for small business sales growth

Are you ready to start boosting sales for your small business? Here are 20 tried-and-true strategies for achieving success with cold calling.

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As a small business owner, every opportunity to connect with potential customers is a chance to grow your venture. 

In a world filled with digital marketing and online outreach, there's one age-old technique that still holds its ground – cold calling. While it may seem daunting, it's your direct line to prospects, a way to present your product or service, and a chance to make a memorable impression.

In this article, we're going to delve into the world of cold calling: sharing 21 invaluable tips to put your small business telephone system to good use and supercharge your sales growth. Whether you're already a pro or just starting out, these strategies will equip you with the telephone manner to take your small business to the next level.

What is cold calling?

Cold calling, as seen in movies like “The Wolf of Wall Street,” is all about diving into conversations with potential customers who haven’t heard of you yet. 

Think of it as making those unexpected connections that could spark interest in what you offer. Sure, it might feel a tad nerve-wracking at first, but when done right, it's like opening a door to a whole new bunch of potential customers. Cold calling is like a friendly knock on the door—sometimes, it leads to exciting opportunities!

Cold calling is used as a means to expand a customer base and promote products or services directly to new potential buyers. 

The goal is typically to generate interest, set up a sales appointment, or close a deal with someone brand new to your company, due to your excellent deduction and research skills in pairing your product or service with its perfect target market. So while the call is unsolicited, hopefully, your audience will welcome it as a handy solution they've been praying for.

What are cold calling scripts?

Cold calling scripts act as your professional playbook, providing you with a structured approach at all times so you are never caught lost for words, or simply winging it.

While they are not meant to be recited word-for-word, scripts help you steer conversations in a potentially beneficial direction or elicit useful information to make a sale or conversion. More than just avoiding awkward moments, too, these playbooks equip you with options for different responses, ensuring you’re making a strong impression from the first question or objection the potential customer throws your way.

Lastly, they also serve as a valuable data-gathering tool – because the more you use, refine and tweak your script from practising calls, the more your script will improve and reveal which approaches and words are resonating best with your audience.

20 cold calling tips

Without further ado, let’s dive into the heart of the matter with our 20 cold calling tips designed to help your business connect with new customers, foster valuable relationships, and boost sales. 

1. Know your audience

Being caught in a sales call that's completely off the mark is no one's idea of a good time. 

No salesperson wants to spend precious hours convincing someone to buy something that's not even in a position to buy right now, like a gym membership to someone in a leg cast…or even worse, pitching something that will never be relevant to them – like a steakhouse platter for a vegan. 

546 hours a year per full-time sales rep is wasted on customers that were the wrong fit based on incorrect or inaccurate information, according to Red Base Interactive.

When it’s right however, it's right. Cold calling typically sees an average conversion rate of 2% according to Klenty, which, admittedly, isn't too impressive. However, when you focus on highly-qualified prospects, the conversion rate skyrockets to 18%.

So avoiding these frustrating scenarios is all about being in the know. Before hitting that dial button, take a deep dive into your prospects' world. Research becomes your secret weapon, helping you understand their needs and interests – and for this, you could use things like Linkedin or industry press releases for example, which are treasure troves of business information people are most proud of and happy to chat about. Tailoring your pitch becomes an art, keeping them engaged and ensuring you don't waste time on leads that won't pan out. So, when you make that call, arm yourself with insight. It's how you avoid those cringeworthy moments!

Success in the cold calling landscape also requires an understanding of the varied reception you may have across generations – in the same way different generations prefer different payment methods, they also prefer specific methods of communication in general, so that’s definitely worth taking into consideration when trying to solicit sales. 

Boomers and Gen X for example tend to appreciate a good natter, and are far more likely than some other generations to appreciate the personal touch of a cold call. 

However, the challenge heightens when connecting with millennials or Gen Z, who often exhibit a general aversion to phone calls. For these digital natives, crafting a compelling pitch that resonates with their preferred modes of communication, such as text or email, becomes key. 

Adapting your approach to suit the diverse preferences of each generation is the secret sauce to conquering the cold calling game.

2. Set realistic goals

Entering a call without a clear purpose might ultimately have you going in circles. It's crucial to have a solid understanding of what you aim to achieve and what value you want to provide to your potential customer.

Your call script should help with this, but be sure to define these clear, achievable goals. For instance, consider whether your goal is an immediate purchase, or if it's part of a more extended strategy involving follow-up calls. Whether it's sealing the deal on the spot or paving the way for future interactions, having a defined purpose ensures that every moment of the call contributes meaningfully to your objectives.

3. Find the right time to call

Cold calling isn't just about making any old call; it's about making the right call at the right moment – syncing with your audience's rhythm and catching them when they're most receptive. 

For example, for stay-at-home parents, mid-afternoon might be an opportune moment for a conversation, it's essential to be mindful of school pickup times. During these periods, carers are often immersed in the busyness of managing household and family responsibilities. Understanding and respecting their daily routines ensures a higher likelihood of engagement and receptiveness to your call.

For professionals, that late afternoon or early evening slot can be a game-changer. It's when they're winding down, ready to entertain ideas that align with their professional goals. Calling during the end of the financial year however, when they're immersed in closing accounts or during industry-specific peak periods or major conferences, might not be ideal. Their attention will typically be devoted to other critical matters, making it less favourable for outreach.

And small business owners? Early mornings or late evenings could be your golden ticket. That's their prime time for sorting out tasks, and your chance to introduce solutions that could make their operations slicker. Avoid reaching out during peak holiday seasons like Christmas or New Year, when they're swamped with seasonal demands and planning. Also, tax season, when they're preoccupied with financial documentation and filings, might not be the best time for a call as their focus is on compliance rather than exploring new solutions.

You also mustn’t forget time zones. When you're calling across different regions, being mindful of time zones can make or break your conversation. A morning call for you might be an inconvenient evening interruption for them. So, being savvy about time zones ensures you don't catch someone mid-sleep or during their family dinner. It's all about making that connection without intruding on their rhythm.

Mastering the art of timing in cold calling isn't just about the clock—it's about making a connection in sync with their day, wherever they may be.

4. Introduce yourself

A well-crafted script starts with a confident and friendly introduction. It should include the name of the caller, the name of the company they represent, and a polite greeting.

5. Use a hook

Your prospects aren't just seeking features; they crave an understanding of how those features directly impact their lives or businesses. Rather than listing features, focus on articulating the benefits your prospects might gain.

Instead of simply stating, “Our software has advanced analytics capabilities,” consider framing it to address their needs, for example: “Our software provides insights that streamline decision-making, helping you maximise profits and efficiency.” 

This shift highlights the practical value, making it more appealing and relatable to your prospects' needs.

6. Record your calls for training purposes (if possible)

Record your calls for self-assessment and training purposes to refine your cold calling technique. Be aware that you may have to gain customer permission to do this, if it’s not an already established training call.

7. Explain your product or service

Here’s where you go a bit deeper into the initial hook. When explaining your product or service, it's crucial to go beyond just listing features and delve into the unique value and benefits it brings to the table. Start by articulating how your offering directly addresses and solves the specific problems or fulfils the needs of your prospect.

For instance, instead of merely stating the technical specifications, focus on outcomes. If you offer a project management tool, emphasise how it streamlines collaboration, increases efficiency, and ensures deadlines are met. Use concrete examples or case studies that illustrate real-world applications, providing a clear picture of the positive impact your product or service can have on the prospect's challenges or objectives. Crafting a narrative around the solution your offering provides will make it more compelling and relevant to the prospect's unique situation.

8. Use the potential customer's name

Personalise your cold calls by asking the potential customer’s name, then addressing them by it: creating a more engaging and individualised interaction. 

According to studies from multiple researchers on the reaction in the brain when participants heard their own name, they found that there is unique brain activation when a subject hears it that may work in your favour. 

9. Use an agreeable tone of voice

A warm and approachable voice conveys authenticity, building trust and creating a connection from the very first “hello.” 

According to Finances Online, a whopping 93% of how successful your cold call might be hinges on the tone of your voice. It's not just what you say, but how you say it that really makes the difference.

So try to strike the right balance, and let your tone be the secret weapon that transforms cold calls into engaging conversations.

10. Ask open-ended questions

Asking open-ended questions is a highly effective strategy in cold calling because it transforms the interaction into a dynamic, two-way communication. 

Unlike closed-ended questions that elicit brief, often yes or no responses, open-ended questions invite prospects to express their thoughts, needs, and concerns in a more expansive manner.

This approach fosters engagement by giving the prospect the opportunity to share their unique perspective and articulate their challenges or desires, allowing you to tailor your pitch more precisely. For example, a question like “In what ways do you wish you could save more time in your business?” opens up more possibilities for conversation than, “Don’t you wish you had more time?”

11. Build rapport

Building rapport in a conversation, especially before diving into a sales pitch, is about establishing that critical human connection.

You don’t want to go off-topic too much, but rather than jumping straight into your sales pitch, take a moment to engage on a personal level. This can involve asking a genuine question about their day, their interests, or even a shared experience. This works even better if, when you did your research on the prospective customer, you found something you could relate to or had a similarity with them about. 

For example, LinkedIn has found that opening a sales call with “I understand we share a common LinkedIn group,” can increase your chances of securing a deal by 70%.

12. Practice active listening

Acknowledging something they've mentioned or bringing a topic back later in the conversation demonstrates that you're genuinely interested and not just focused on the sale. These small moments of connection lay the groundwork for more meaningful interaction, fostering trust and making your subsequent pitch more welcomed and better received.

The late sales genius Zig Ziglar once said, “People buy on emotion and justify with logic” – and this step is a huge part of that. Once people feel heard and listened to, and grow to like you, they will have a much easier time parting with their well-earned pounds.

13. Handle your prospect’s objections

Handling objections during a sales pitch involves a balance of understanding, guidance, and empathy. While you can't foresee every objection, recognising common ones within your industry and target audience can better prepare you for these moments. 

Understanding the power of empathy is vital; facing change can be intimidating. It's essential to acknowledge and address concerns rather than brushing them aside. Often, objections such as “I can't afford it” or “I don't have time right now” are automatic responses, and delicately challenging these perceptions can help dismantle these initial, emotional barriers.

Paint a picture of the potential transformation they could experience by embracing your offering, guiding them to see the value it could add to their lives. 

But also (perhaps most importantly), do respect valid objections. Pushing too hard can jeopardise trust and rapport, so discernment is vital in recognising genuine concerns from surface-level hesitations.

14. Provide a call to action

End the call with a clear and compelling call to action, such as scheduling a meeting, an invitation to a product demo, or offering a valuable resource. This guides the prospect towards the next step in the sales process.

15. Close the call

To effectively wrap up the conversation, consider these key steps:

Begin by summarising: recap the essential points discussed throughout the call, ensuring both parties are on the same page. This summary serves to cement the conversation's content and guarantee alignment on crucial details.

Next, propose the following steps: tailor the proposed actions based on the conversation's direction. Whether suggesting a follow-up call, sharing additional information, or arranging a product demonstration, offer a clear roadmap for future engagement.

Once the prospect shows interest in these steps, aim to confirm their agreement. This could involve agreeing on a meeting time, expressing interest in receiving further details, or consenting to any mutually agreed-upon action items.

16. Follow up

If a prospect isn't interested initially, create a follow-up plan to reconnect later when their circumstances might change. 

Here’s when a customer relationship management (CRM) system is invaluable – to efficiently manage and track your interactions with prospects. A CRM can help you schedule follow-up calls, send automated follow-up emails, and keep detailed records of your interactions, making it easier to maintain relationships and close deals.

17. Customise your scripts

Now that you've completed the call, you may have new information about behavioural or customer psychology or simply the flow in which conversations go in order to tailor your scripts to address specific industries or customer segments for a more personalised approach.

For instance, you might notice particular pain points or preferences that consistently arise among a certain customer segment. Integrating solutions or addressing these pain points in your script can make your offering more appealing and relevant to that group. Moreover, understanding the conversational flow that works best—whether it's diving into certain topics early on or gradually building rapport—helps tailor your scripts for a smoother, more natural interaction.

18. Test your scripts

Testing your scripts is an essential part of refining your approach and ensuring its effectiveness. It involves an ongoing process of evaluation and adjustment based on both measurable outcomes and direct feedback from prospects.

One way to test scripts is through A/B testing, where you present different versions of your script to different groups of prospects and analyse which one generates better results. This could involve variations in language, tone, or the order of information presented. Analyse metrics such as conversion rates, engagement levels, or sales outcomes to determine which script resonates more effectively.

Additionally, gather direct feedback from prospects. Ask open-ended questions about their experience with the call, what resonated most, and what could be improved. Their insights provide invaluable guidance on areas where your script might need adjustment to better address their needs or concerns.

Continuously refining your scripts based on both quantitative data and qualitative feedback ensures that they remain relevant, engaging, and aligned with the evolving needs and preferences of your prospects. 

19. Create a feedback loop

A collaborative feedback loop cultivates a culture of continuous learning and improvement within your team. It empowers individuals to adapt their approaches based on collective wisdom, ultimately leading to more refined and effective cold calling strategies that benefit the entire team.

So consider implementing a system for documenting and sharing best practices. This could involve creating a central repository or knowledge base where team members can access and contribute tips, scripts, or techniques that have yielded positive results. By pooling together these resources, you create a valuable resource hub that continuously evolves as new strategies are tested and validated.

20. Voicemail strategy

Crafting an impactful voicemail strategy is key when connecting with prospects. Whether leaving a voicemail after an unanswered call or preparing a message for when a prospect returns your call and you're unavailable, it's essential to create scripts that leave a lasting impression.

For unanswered calls, aim for concise yet engaging voicemail scripts that convey value and prompt curiosity. Start with a brief introduction, mention your reason for calling, and highlight a compelling benefit or solution your product or service offers. Encourage a callback by leaving clear contact details and expressing your eagerness to assist.

There will also be times where unfortunately, you’ll be unavailable when the prospect calls back. In that case, ensure your own personal voicemail message maintains professionalism, and reassures the prospect of your interest. Acknowledge their call and express regret for missing it, then offer alternative contact times detailing when they can call back and have their needs addressed effectively.

Cold calling benefits for small businesses

Cold calling offers several notable benefits for small businesses seeking to grow their sales and expand their customer base. Here are some of the advantages:

  • It’s cost-effective: cold calling is a cost-effective way to reach potential customers: all it takes is literally just the cost of a VOIP phone system. Since it doesn't require a substantial marketing budget, this makes it accessible to small businesses with limited resources.
  • You can target your outreach: small businesses can use cold calling to reach specific demographics or industries that align with their products or services. This targeted approach helps maximise the chances of connecting with genuinely interested prospects.
  • You get immediate feedback: cold calling provides immediate feedback on the effectiveness of your sales pitch and product offering. You can adjust your approach in real-time based on the prospect's responses.
  • It can be effective relationship building: successful cold calls can lead to the establishment of valuable business relationships. By engaging with potential clients directly, small businesses can build trust and rapport, which is crucial for long-term success.
  • It can be effective for lead generation: Cold calling remains a potent tool for lead generation. While many companies invest in purchasing leads from providers, cold calling offers a unique advantage – it's essentially a ‘free' method in the sense that it doesn't require direct payment for each lead. The conversion rate from cold calling might not match that of qualified leads, as it involves engaging with prospects who might not be actively seeking your product or service at that precise moment – however, it's still a valuable avenue for identifying potential clients and gradually nurturing them into valuable, long-term customers.
  • It can give your company a competitive edge: small businesses can use cold calling to compete with larger competitors in the market. It's a way to gain a foothold and increase market share.
  • You have flexibility: cold calling campaigns can be easily tailored to the business's specific goals, and adjusted as needed to accommodate changes in the market or customer preferences.

Conclusion

Cold calling remains a powerful tool for small businesses aiming to scale their growth

This proactive outreach method allows businesses to directly connect with potential customers, fostering personal relationships and generating valuable leads. Its iterative nature allows for continuous improvement through feedback, ensuring strategies evolve with changing market dynamics. And ultimately, the benefits of cold calling extend beyond immediate sales; it serves as a gateway to expanding networks, building brand recognition, and relatively inexpensive business growth.

Cold calling is not just about making sales; it's about building relationships that fuel sustained growth. So embrace the phone, dial those numbers, and discover the untapped potential that lies in every conversation. Your small business’s next big opportunity could be just one call away.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What are the 3 C’s of cold calling?
    The 3 C's—clarity, conciseness, and compelling communication—are the pillars of successful cold calling. Clarity ensures a clear message, conciseness keeps it brief yet impactful, and compelling communication engages the prospect effectively.
  • How do you introduce yourself in a cold call?
    When introducing yourself in a cold call, keep it succinct yet informative. Begin by stating your name, followed by your company, and then swiftly move on to the purpose of your call – this way the prospect is not stressed about what the conversation is all about and distracted by that uncertainty.
  • How do you structure a cold call?
    Structuring a cold call involves a strategic sequence of steps. Start with a concise introduction, setting the tone for the conversation. Transition by addressing the prospect's needs or pain points, demonstrating an understanding of their situation. Then, propose a solution that aligns with their needs, making sure to include a clear call to action, prompting the next steps in the engagement process. This structured approach ensures a focused and purposeful conversation, hopefully with the meaningful outcome you desire.
Written by:
Stephanie Lennox is the resident funding & finance expert at Startups: A successful startup founder in her own right, 2x bestselling author and business strategist, she covers everything from business grants and loans to venture capital and angel investing. With over 14 years of hands-on experience in the startup industry, Stephanie is passionate about how business owners can not only survive but thrive in the face of turbulent financial times and economic crises. With a background in media, publishing, finance and sales psychology, and an education at Oxford University, Stephanie has been featured on all things 'entrepreneur' in such prominent media outlets as The Bookseller, The Guardian, TimeOut, The Southbank Centre and ITV News, as well as several other national publications.

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