Warming Up to Cold Calls: How to Boost Your ROI and Efficiency

We’ve all been hung up on. Some of us might have even been yelled at or berated for calling at an inconvenient time. Most people would rather have their teeth pulled than make a cold call.

However, cold calls are necessary. Many companies don’t have enough warm leads to fill sales reps’ quota demands. Cold calling also puts you in contact with potential customers you wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise.

If you want a seat at the table in your industry, you and your sales team will have to warm up to going in cold. By incorporating effective strategies, you can thaw that frigid first interaction enough to lay the groundwork for a valuable customer relationship.

4 Steps to Easier Cold Calls

Time is short. You have to quickly convince potential customers that you can offer them something of value. Your team can benefit from the following tactics:


  1. Make the call. It seems obvious, but the initial act of punching in the numbers is often the biggest obstacle. Stop stalling, and start dialing.
  2. Refine your message. If you can’t hit your selling points within 30 seconds, you won’t make it to the 31st. You must be dynamic and enticing within that window. Pull that off, and you’ll earn three minutes of the prospect’s time.
  3. Set a meeting. Use this time to prompt prospects about how they can use your product or service. Schedule a 30-minute demo in the near future. You can delve deeper when you’ve scheduled a face-to-face meeting. Your goal at this stage is to help them envision your potential value within three minutes.
  4. Prepare for the next contact. Once prospects have agreed to a demo, you’ve moved beyond cold-call territory. You now have a warm lead to pursue. Formulate your plan, and direct your energy toward any specifics you learned during the initial call.
  5. Ease back — for now, at least. Turning up the heat on a potential sale or contract does not mean dialing up the aggression. Once you’ve successfully navigated the call and developed rapport, nurture the relationship carefully. Being too brazen can extinguish the flames, rather than stoke the fire.


Interested or Just Polite?

One of the biggest challenges to productively pursuing cold-call prospects is distinguishing between prospects who are interested and people who are merely polite. Sometimes, prospects will express enthusiasm and willingness to hear your pitch — even if they have no serious intention to buy. They won’t say no to spending time, but they will say no to spending money. The more cold calls you make, the clearer the distinction between truly curious customers and the amiable (but uninterested) ones becomes.

Conversely, some prospects may seem reluctant at the beginning, but will ultimately follow through after considering the opportunity. I’ve had calls I thought were going nowhere fast. Surprisingly, some of those customers ended up asking me leading questions that indicated they could envision the benefits of our services when we met.

The moral of the story: Don’t be too quick to judge; you’ll often be wrong. However, don’t be too slow to judge because you will often waste time.

Buckets of Success

So, how do you avoid spending too much time on prospects who aren’t very promising? I use the bucket system to organize prospects. You can use whatever labels you want for the buckets — numbers, colors, favorite sports teams, etc. — as long as the labels are consistent among your staff. Let’s use temperature-based buckets as an example:


  • Cold Buckets: During your first interaction with prospects, everyone’s in the cold bucket. You’ve had no previous contact with them, so you must depend on your skills.
  • Warm Buckets: These consist of your appropriate contacts within an organization. Who are you trying to reach? Who would have the pain your solution was built to fix? Warm buckets are your intended audience. Once you connect to “warm” individuals, gauge their level of interest and build a timeframe for taking action. If they want collateral, send them collateral and schedule a follow-up for the next week. At this point, everyone in that organization not involved in your meeting may be considered “frozen.”
  • Hot Buckets: If your contacts are legitimately swamped and ask for a follow-up next quarter, set a date and time to touch base and mark them as “hot.” Your contact people are, most likely, just as busy as you are. They’re still high on your priority list, but they’re not necessarily demanding your immediate attention like the next level.
  • Boiling Buckets: Once you have a meeting scheduled, you’ve entered boiling temperatures. These are your top-priority prospects. They’re interested enough to hear your ideas and numbers. It’s your job to form a lasting relationship. Seize these opportunities!


Cold calling is unlikely to top anyone’s list of favorite tasks. It can be nerve-wracking. Many prospects will not be interested in what you have to offer. However, by refining your message, securing that all-important first meeting, and categorizing your priorities, you could be looking at the beginning of a beautiful partnership.


John McLellan

John McLellan is the Chief Revenue Officer ofEBQuickstart, the ultimate source for outsourced sales solutions. EBQ is a sales and marketing firm that helps companies outsource lead generation, sales, marketing, data, and customer service. John can be reached onTwitter or directly at john.mclellan@ebquickstart.com.

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