Cold Calling Tips for New SDRs

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You did it. You’ve got your first job as a new sales development rep (SDR). Congratulations!

I’m sure you’ve already gotten a few important things out of the way, right? A full cup of coffee? Check. LinkedIn profile in social-selling shape? Check. A terrific email signature set up? Check.

Your cold-calling game face? Err. Umm. Check-ish(?).

If you find yourself in the “check-ish” column, don’t worry. A lot of us have been in cold call reluctance mode before. You aren’t alone.

Maybe you are one of those “cold calling is dead” types who don’t see the value in cold calling. First, you’re dead wrong about that idea. Second, cold calling is an excellent complement to other forms of outreach (making it warm calling), which you’ll read about in just a bit.

Whether you’re just new to sales calls or you aren’t a believer, keep reading for some encouragement to get you started.

10 Cold Calling Tips to Try Now

Even the most experienced members of a sales team can feel stressed, frustrated, and even intimidated when it comes to making cold calls. As a new SDR, maybe you feel too inexperienced. Perhaps you’re afraid you won’t meet quota. Maybe picking up the phone puts you outside of your comfort zone.

These cold calling tips and techniques can help you master the art of the cold call.

1. Shadow a Successful SDR

Your sales manager likely put you through onboarding and training. Maybe your new boss even sat with you on a few calls. If you still find yourself struggling or feeling anxious, set up some time to shadow one of your peers. Listen in to learn how he or she pulls off so many successful conversations, and ask questions afterward to learn why a specific approach works.

2. Quickly Follow Up With Inbound Leads (Just Not Too Quickly)

If you want to baby-step your way into the role of the cold caller, contacting inbound leads is a great place to start. After all, these people filled out a form on the company website. They are interested.

When calling these prospects, you need to get in touch with them within the first hour. However, don’t fall for “within the first five minutes” myth. Fake news — or at least, outdated news. Telfer School of Management from the University of Ottawa found that when it comes to the inbound leads, “the best odds for first contact with a lead are between 10 – 60 minutes of a query, and not the first five minutes.”

3. Be Persistent With Your Follow Up

Now, I know you would never treat the contacts on your call list to the old “one and done” method. Right? But are you calling more than four times? I mean, only 10 percent of sales are closed after four follow-up attempts while 80 percent of sales are closed after five – 12 contacts.

OK, so all of your five-to-12 attempts don’t have to be phone calls, but you do need to ensure that calling is one of your touch points and that you remain persistent in your efforts.

4. Call Every Day Throughout the Day

Telfer School of Management found that all business days and business times have a similar response ratio from leads. Instead of trying to avoid a bad time or attempting to find the “magic” times to call for your industry, make your call attempts throughout the day, every day. Varying your times on follow-up calls to specific contacts to rule out issues with individual schedules, but don’t get hung up on recommended, “best times to call.” After all, don’t you think those are the times when everyone else will be trying to call, too?

5. Focus on Call Durations

Our friends at Telfer School of Management have another tip when it comes to sales reps making cold calls: keep the decision maker on the phone for as long as possible, within reason, to build rapport and improve the likelihood of a win. Telfer’s finding is that for every increase by minute in call duration, you increase your odds of success with the lead by 6X.

6. Prepare Yourself for Every Call

You’ve got your product or service knowledge down pat. You are ready to dial now to dazzle people with your sales charm, but have you taken enough time to familiarize with your cold call script?

Ugh.

I know! A lot of salespeople hate scripts, but you don’t have to read them word for word. Think of your script as a guide. Don’t memorize — use the points to help you have a natural conversation.

Another prep tip to consider has to do with getting to know your prospect. Now, you may know every potential pain point the typical buyer persona has, but what do you know about THIS person whom you’re about to dial? A quick review of someone’s social profiles can provide you with some useful information to help you build rapport or home in more quickly on a real point of pain for the contact or a recent trigger event for the person’s business.

7. Focus on a Prospect’s Needs, Not What You Want

Tip seven can be a tough one for people who are new to the sales development game. After all, you’ve got a quota to meet. Your manager expects you to set a certain number of appointments or qualify a certain amount of leads per month. You’ve got a goal, a MISSION.

Guess what: your customer has his or her own goals, too. More likely than not, listening to you wax poetic your product or service is not at the top of the list. However, people will often stop to listen when you’re focused on them and their needs.

Don’t start your call spewing off product features. Ask questions that help you get to know what someone needs and how you can help them get what they want through your brand’s offering. If you can’t meet the need, give some advice or a useful idea. When the prospect is ready what you have to offer, he or she will remember how helpful you were and may call you first.

8. Learn to love “no” and manage all the other stuff.

Unfortunately, you will hear many shutdowns as an SDR: “no, “not interested,” “we already have a solution,” “we don’t have the budget,” as well as just the silence of unreturned calls. All that NO can be a little disheartening if you don’t learn how to love it.

First, learn to love the hard “no.” A firm “no” where the prospect sees no value or has absolutely no interest is freedom. You can leave disqualified and disinterested folks in your rearview mirror and move on to the next contact in search of a “yes.”  

Second, learn to live with some silence. As I mentioned earlier in this post, only 10 percent of sales are won after four follow-up attempts. You need to make eight or more attempts for success, meaning you’ll be sitting with a lot of unanswered calls and emails. Be persistent. Don’t give up until you’ve made enough tries to count a lead out of the running.

Third, learn to overcome objections that may merely be deflections. Not every objection is a hard no, so don’t take them that way. Find out why someone isn’t interested when they say “not interested.” Ask questions when they mention that they already have a solution. When is the contract up? What if you could offer comparable or better services? Check out Mike Brooks’ blog for plenty of tips on how to overcome objections.

9. Use other touchpoints to warm up calls

So you aren’t terribly fond of cold calling? Lucky for you, you can use other touchpoints to warm up your cold calls. Try engaging with a prospect on social media before calling. Share a relevant blog post, comment on a prospect’s update. Be authentic and friendly, but don’t get all stalker-y or spammy.

Other options include SMS text messaging (if you have permission) and email.

10. Embrace technology to help you make more calls.

There are tons of terrific sales tech options to help you be more effective and productive in your sales job. We’ve previously written about several fantastic tools for improving your sales outreach when it comes to searching for prospects, learning about companies and industries, and connecting with prospects.

Ready to Cold Call?

The tips above should point you in the right direction if you’re new to the world of sales development and cold calling. However, don’t forget that you’ve got your sales manager, peers, and a ton of sales resources online to help you improve, too.

What’s your biggest question as a first-time cold caller? Let’s discuss it in the comments below.

sales scripts for SDRs


Scott Amerson

As Vice President of Sales, Scott is responsible for leading our global sales team. He is a results-driven professional who brings more than 25 years of sales and executive-management experience to VanillaSoft. He is a proven veteran at building scalable infrastructure for inside sales and call center teams by defining key performance indicators, sales process, and training programs. In his previous role as Director of Sales at BenefitMall, Scott built and launched their inside sales team. In this position, he created and delivered policies and procedures, strategic planning, and technology integration leading to a 42% decrease in their sales cycle, and 30% increase in revenue per sale. Scott has also held prestigious positions at multi-million-dollar companies, including Capital One, where he overhauled the entire sales and training processes to drive goal-surpassing revenue from $300 million to $900 million. Scott holds a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Marketing from Nicholls State University.

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