Cold Calling Best Practices

Article author
Dustin Nathaniel Keys
Updated

Overview

Cold calling works. A call to a prospect gets their attention, humanizes you, and distinguishes you from a mass of emails in an inbox. Cold calling also presents an opportunity — not necessarily to close a sale, but to move a prospect forward in the sales process. Apollo research shows that just making a call, in addition to an auto-email, results in a 6% increase in meetings booked.

Yet picking up the phone is a mental game that can be daunting even to seasoned professionals.

Who should I call? How should the call start? How often should I call?

Cold calling is an art that can be practiced and honed. We’ve assembled template call scripts, answers to common questions, and best practices to help you get started.

Check out the following sections to dial in to what works best on the phone.

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Practice Your Pitch

The more accustomed you are to dialing, the more confident you’ll sound, and the stronger your calls will be over time.

In the Perfecting the Cold Call Academy course, sales leader Josh Garrison recommends a 7-day sprint to practice calls:

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7

Record your pitch

Practice 25x and record your last pitch Practice 25x and record your last pitch Practice 25x and record your last pitch Practice 25x and record your last pitch Practice 25x and record your last pitch Practice 25x and record your last pitch

You need to dedicate time to practice this framework, but over time, your confidence will grow and your pitch will improve.

Consistent time blocking, and acknowledging your progress goes a long way towards perfecting your pitch.

Ready to make some calls? Get started in Apollo.

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Refine Your Script

Cold calls typically last less than a few minutes. All of the pre-call anxiety boils down to a few seconds of talk time. But unscripted conversations can make a prospect feel like you weren't prepared to talk with them, and they can make you feel even more anxious. To ensure your calls are effective, prepare some general dialogue in personalized call scripts:

  • Try to use your own voice and make the dialogue sound natural.
  • Don't make your script too complicated. The goal of a cold call is to connect briefly with a prospect and move them to a more formal meeting.

Apollo has identified a framework to practice your cold calls. Feel free to use these scripts, but also try to make up your own following this framework. Then, use it in live calls and voicemail drops.

The Opener

Use the first 10 seconds to ask for your prospect's attention so you can let them know the reason you're calling.

Hi {PROSPECT}, this is {YOUR NAME} from {COMPANY}. How have you been? I know we didn't plan this call. Do you mind if quickly walk you through why I called, and you can let me know if you think it's worth a follow-up call?

The Hook

If they agree to continue the conversation, use the next minute to introduce the topic and engage in a short exchange to uncover their pain points. Draw attention to the prospect's role and company so they know you’re specifically targeting them and not just pitching to anyone. Get to a question as soon as possible.

When I speak to VPs of marketing like you, they're overpaying by up to 31% for their outsourced lead gen. Curious - what is your take on outsourcing versus doing in-house?

People are conditioned to respond to questions, and this approach shows you’ve done your research on them and their painpoints. It moves the conversation forward with an open-ended question and makes the prospect reflect on their current solution.

The Close

End the call with an accepted next step. Ideally, the next step will be a scheduled 15-30 minute meeting to more thoroughly discuss the pain points that you uncovered.

Great! Let's put down 30 minutes on your calendar for a walkthrough. How does your calendar look over the next week?

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Anticipate Objections

Objections are inevitable. Prospects may have reservations about price, value, relevance, or purchasing ability, among other factors. These signals can influence the course of your conversation, but they don’t have to lead to a dead end.

To improve your objection handling skills:

  • Practice your response to the most common objections you hear. The three R’s can help: Recognize their objection, restate their objection, then resolve the objection by proposing an alternative solution.
  • Research the strengths and weaknesses of your competitor’s products so you can better differentiate them from your products.
  • Conduct informal A/B testing to determine which responses are most successful, then iterate on them to improve.

Apollo has collected some example responses to common objections:

Not interested

I'm not interested. Thanks.

I expected that might be the case. You get tons of these calls, but every now and then, it makes sense to listen to the right call. I’m hoping this is that call.

Timing

You can contact us in {X} months.

That makes sense. It's rare when my timing is perfect. {MOVE TO YOUR CALL SCRIPT}

Working with competitor

We have {YOUR COMPETITOR'S PRODUCT} already

Hey, I know it sounds like you're happy, but would it be a horrible idea for you to review your options, if your current vendor is unable to help you {MENTION IMPROVEMENT DUE TO YOUR PRODUCT}?

No budget

We’re not making any purchases right now

Would you be open to exploring options beyond what you have now, just so you can have this in your back pocket for the future?

Email me instead

Can you send me an email with the details? I’ll take a look.

Hey, just so I don't do you a disservice and flood your inbox with a bunch of irrelevant information, or send you an encyclopedia of info, would it be okay if I asked you a couple of questions?

Not a priority

Sorry, this is not a priority for us right now.

That's okay. Most of the time when I call, this isn't a priority. It seems like you have a lot on your plate?

Demoed your product

We tried your product. It didn’t work out

Hey, I know you may not want to try us again, but would you be open to seeing how we've addressed these issues?

Cost

How much does your product cost?

It depends, but it can be anywhere from {PROVIDE A PRICING RANGE}, depending on licenses and other factors. Can you see yourself falling in that range?

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Know Who to Call and When

Before you dial, ensure your contact list is truly ready and that you are keyed in on the best moment to dial. Use feature like buying intent and website visitors to anticipate when to reach out.

To help determine who to call, make sure you know your Ideal Customer Profile and then use Apollo to find new customers. Thoroughly filtering contacts before cold calling increases the likelihood that you’re dialing qualified prospects.

There are several ways to narrow your list of cold call prospects in Apollo:

  • Target recommended contacts. Apollo provides recommended contacts based on the personas you create, which means they likely match the criteria you seek.
  • Use demographic and firmographic filters. You can apply multiple search filters to narrow your contact list, including job title, location, company size, and revenue filters.
  • Use the phone status filter. With this filter, you can search your saved contacts to find those with valid phone numbers. This is particularly useful if you’ve added contacts to a sequence.
  • Use buying intent topics. Buying intent helps you understand which companies are actively researching topics related to your product.
  • Identify website visitors. Track companies that visit your websites, then filter prospects based on whether they have visited.

Ready to make some calls? Get started in Apollo.

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Avoid High-Risk Numbers

High-risk numbers are phone numbers with a higher probability of low engagement, resulting in spam traps that affect your caller reputation. Avoid dialing high-risk numbers.

High-risk numbers typically include the following:

  • Toll fraud risk numbers: These numbers encourage spam calls and are often part of fraud schemes where the owners receive revenue for every minute of the call.
  • Special service numbers: These numbers include premium, shared-cost, and other special service numbers. Owners often charge higher rates when the call connects.

If you dial these types of numbers, you put the health and credibility of your caller reputation at risk.

Most regions have at least some high-risk numbers, but the level of risk in each location can vary. Through a sophisticated analysis that leverages anti-fraud databases and communication data points, Twilio, our third-party service provider, identifies and updates a list of high-risk number ranges. Apollo deactivates risky regions based on this list to help protect your account.

Additionally, when Apollo identifies high-risk numbers, Apollo warns you before you purchase the contact's number and before attempting to call the number from the dialer.

Consider reaching out via alternative channels, such as email or LinkedIn instead.

Apollo identifies 3 types of high-risk numbers:

  • Unsupported country: Apollo deactivates any country prone to security issues, with a track record of high-risk numbers, or with very high calling costs. You can’t dial any contact from an unsupported country in Apollo. You can still view the number if you choose to spend 1 credit. However, Apollo doesn’t recommend you reach out to unsupported countries by phone.
  • Block: High risk of fraud: If Apollo identifies a number as particularly high-risk, you can’t dial them in Apollo. You can still view the number if you choose to spend 1 credit. However, Apollo doesn’t recommend you reach out to unsupported countries by phone.
  • High risk of fraud: If Apollo suspects a number is high-risk, it notifies you but doesn’t deactivate calling. You can still view and call these numbers from the dialer if you purchase them. However, Apollo strongly recommends that you proceed with caution and only call the number if it’s necessary.

Many varying factors influence the risk level of a number. Make sure you closely monitor your call performance and keep an eye on low engagement rates. If you notice any negative trends within specific regions, consider excluding said locations from your outreach entirely.

If your total addressable market is exclusive to a very narrow set of locations and excluding regions from your outreach is not an option, consider using a third-party validation tool to cross-check any numbers within locations where you've seen a low engagement rate.

Keep an eye on your recent call activity, create custom dashboards and reports to monitor call performance, and tailor the data you gather according to your priorities. If you don't want to create a dashboard from scratch, you can also leverage the Call Engagement Performance template to view and analyze call engagement in your team. If you spot anomalies, take action to adapt your strategy, increase engagement rates, and protect your caller reputation.

The more you analyze your call data, take precautions, and adapt your strategy based on what is and isn't working for your team, the higher your engagement will be, and the less likely your numbers will fall victim to fraudulent spam traps.

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Stay Compliant

You should take steps to avoid your calls being marked as spam, including following Twilio's recommendations for maintaining caller reputation. Caller reputation is effectively a scoring system that determines whether your calls are at risk of being screened or blocked as spam and helps you maintain a positive caller reputation. The calls made by a phone number determine the caller reputation. Caller reputation impacts whether your calls are screened or marked as spam. To protect your caller reputation, there are some basic rules that all callers should follow:

  • Stay compliant with all relevant TCPA laws and FCC regulations, as well as Twilio’s Acceptable Use Policy.
    • The TCPA includes restrictions around telemarketing, such as requiring express written consent from prospects before making telemarketing calls with automated dialers or artificial or prerecorded messages, among other regulations.
    • The FCC provides tips to consumers to avoid robocalls and scams. Use these tips to avoid being considered spam. For example, do not ask a prospect for personal information, do not pressure them, and use known phone numbers to make calls.
    • Twilio, Apollo’s third-party provider, outlines rules regarding call content, prohibited activities, and other restrictions that you should follow when cold calling.
  • Check the US Do Not Call Registry and the UK Telephone Preference Service (TPS), and avoid calling numbers on these lists unless you have a permitted reason. Enable DNC list screening in Apollo to help you stay compliant.
  • Remove outdated/disconnected phone numbers from your call list. Additionally, if Apollo has notified you that a contact has requested to be removed from the Apollo database, you should not contact them unless you have a separate legal basis to do so.
  • Keep your outbound call volume steady, and ramp up outbound call volume gradually. Unusual spikes in volume can lead to a number being marked as spam.
  • Make calls within common working hours for the area you are dialing, and do not repeatedly dial the same phone number.

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Follow a Multi-Channel Strategy

Cold calling should be just one aspect of a multi-touch, multi-channel sales strategy. Every prospect responds differently. That means, in addition to dialing, you should reach contacts via email, social media, and other avenues, to connect with them where they are most likely to engage.

Create sequences to plan and execute a multi-channel sales strategy at scale, then add your contacts to a sequence to automate outreach and tasks through email, calls, and social media touches. Sequences also allow you to iterate on your multi-channel approach through email A/B testing.

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Report on Calls

Apollo provides an analytics dashboard that details call performance across the team.

To report on team call performance:

  1. Launch Apollo and click Analytics, then click Call engagement performance.
  2. Review the call performance widgets, and adjust the date range as needed.

Update

  • Scroll to the rep performance widget to identify which reps make the most effective calls, then listen to call recordings. Find areas for coaching reps, and share great calls with the team to amplify everyone’s game.
  • For a more strategic approach, scroll to the most engaged contacts widget to identify which types of prospects engage best with your team's calls. Then, adjust your outbound strategy to prioritize those types of contacts.
  • Use data across widgets to A/B test the team. Provide one call script to half the team and another one to the other half. Then, review the data to determine which script performs better.
 
Recording in Progress

Some US states and some countries require that all call participants consent to recording calls. Obtain this consent before using call recording.

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