Six Steps to Successful Cold Calling

Woman at computer, talking on phone.

The single fastest way to grow your startup is not via email or text — it is cold calling.

While there are plenty of naysayers out there, the simple fact is that catching and speaking to the right person at the right time is something that no other sales or marketing modality can compete with.

The issue with cold calling is that people don’t know how to do it correctly. Without confidence in their ability, the desired outcome is rarely achieved. This is why someone who can, in the parlance of the field, give a good phone, is worth their weight in gold. 

After training numerous telesales prospectors in the art of business to business sales, I have refined a rubric based on several generic cold calling techniques. While this system works for me and has worked for many of the members of the teams I’ve trained, the key takeaway for everyone is that they need to feel one hundred percent comfortable with the message so they can sound authentic with the delivery.

Thus, without further adieu, the six steps to building an effective cold calling script are:

  1. Attention
  2. Pattern disruption
  3. Permission
  4. Pitch
  5. Gut punch
  6. Objection handle and close

Before we dive into each of these six steps, the general success of a cold call is largely dependent on the prospect, so let’s look at the prospect in greater detail.

The Key to Cold Calling Is to Never Be Cold

Cold calling is a misnomer — rarely is your prospect completely ice cold. Calling someone out of the blue without intention will be fraught with failure. So, how do you warm up a cold prospect?

This may be done in three steps. 

The first is done by having a clear understanding of your ideal customer profile (ICP) and the persona within the ICP. More on this can be found in this article. Once you’ve identified the ICP and the best data broker for your company, then you need to warm up your leads. 

Prior to even sending your leads off to your sales reps to hash it out on the phones, sending them relevancy at scale emails, with some pseudo personalization, will help warm the leads up, making them familiar with your products or services. To accomplish this, you should feed those leads into a marketing automation platform so your prospects can be messaged directly and indirectly.

Direct messaging your prospects can be via an email blast, delivered emails into a prospect's inbox, and even via physical deliveries. 

When COVID-19 struck, and sales email response rates started to drop, I know of many marketing managers who bought burner IP addresses and fired out thousands of emails with impunity. If those emails were blocked, tagged as spam, or whatnot, and their IP got blacklisted, they didn’t care — it was a burner IP. After three or four successful sends to that list (sometimes from multiple IPs if the providers were bad), anyone who had not bounced, marketed the sender as spam, etc., was enrolled in the company's official email marketing campaign.

Indirect messaging to prospects can be handled by remarketing to the email addresses you’ve found. In this way, a prospect should see your company’s advertisements when they watch YouTube videos, scroll through Facebook, or visit any of their favorite social media platforms. 

With marketing automation left cooking long enough (typically two weeks), you can feel fairly confident that your prospect will have some recognition of your company when you start calling them. That being said, never assume that your prospect will recognize you, your company, or your product/service.

Cold Calling Steps

Step 1: Getting Their Attention

The hardest part of teleprospecting is getting someone on the phone. If you can’t get your prospect’s attention in the first two seconds, you will surely be sunk. 

From my experience, there are two ways of immediately getting someone’s attention: 

  • You say their name
  • You say something funny

Think of it, if someone calls you up, you don’t recognize the voice, and they say “hi,” then pause, waiting for a response, you are immediately put on the defensive, thinking this is a solicitation call. 

If, however, the person calls you up and jumps with, “Hi [your first name],” even if you don’t recognize the voice, they will likely grab your attention for at least two seconds.

That’s all you're going for, one or two seconds to get your foot in the door. The next step is the pattern disruption.

Step 2: Pattern Disruption

If you say something funny, this acts by both getting their attention and disrupting their pattern. 

The working brain can be considered a motor in gear, chugging along and doing its thing. The phone rings and the rote action response is picking up the phone. Once the call is identified as a solicitor, the pattern is not disrupted and continues to the next typical reaction to a solicitation call — hanging up the phone. 

As a teleprospector, you need to break their pattern so you can get them engaged with what you will be presenting; you need to break the pattern they were in and get them in the new pattern, your pattern.

This is why a funny quip or joke works really well — it both grabs their attention and disrupts their pattern. 

The key to pattern disruption is taking advantage of the one or two seconds after you get their attention, talk with conviction and confidence, and refocus them. Personally, my generic go-to pattern disruption is to say something such as, “I’ll guess you hate taking cold calls as much as I loath makin’ ‘em.” 

As humor can be quite subjective, the best technique is to focus on something that is relevant to your prospects' job or role. If you are looking for help, you can reach out to Jon Selig, an expert at helping teams craft prospecting cold call quips.

Now that you’ve disrupted their pattern, you are ready to move into the sales mode.

Step 3: Permission

The one thing everyone says is missing in the world today is respect. 

Any prospector worth their salt has done a ton of research as to why this individual, at this company, at this particular time, should be interested in your product or service. In other words, the prospector should be able to sit in their prospect’s shoes and answer the question, “what’s in it for me?”

When you call someone out of the blue and grab their attention, the last thing you want to do is pitch. Even if you’ve disrupted their pattern, you don’t want to show up and throw up all your information to an unwilling prospect. The key here is getting them to give you the space for you to present your case. 

Be respectful, ask for permission. 

This can be done by simply asking, “Can I tell you why I called? Then you can hang up if you aren’t interested,” or following the verbiage from ConnectandSell’s CEO, Chris Beal, “Mind if I have 27 seconds of your time?”

Both have worked exceptionally well for me.

Sometimes you may get hit with an objection, such as, “I’m walking into a meeting.” However, we will discuss handling these objections and deflections another time.

Once you’ve asked for permission and it has been granted, it is time to perform the main attraction.

Step 4: Pitch

The biggest issue that a sales rep encounters is that when the prospect has provided permission, they go into verbal diarrhea mode, data dumping, and pitching with little impunity.

The better, more professional, and appropriate move is to take a breath, relax, then let your research and intentions shine. A trained sales rep will have a crisp and poignant sales pitch at the ready that will highlight the areas where they believe they can help their prospect. Ninety percent of the pitch depends on how well the sales rep closes the pitch.

Step 5: Gut Punch

Following a succinct pitch, the best way to drive the point home with the prospect is with the gut punch. The gut punch should highlight the key pain points that the prospector has identified within their prospect and how their product or service can solve it and require an open-ended response. A pitch that ends with the requirement of a single answer “yes” or “no” tends to drive an uncooperative prospect to a quick “no” followed by a phone being hung up. 

A well-placed gut punch should cause the prospect to take a pause, reflect on the question, then either accept a meeting or present an objection. 

The final key to the gut punch is to let it drop and stay quiet.

Like all sales questions, pose the question, then wait for an answer. Don’t qualify the question, prompt for a response, or lead the prospect; simply wait. 

The first person to speak loses.

Step 6: Objection Handle and Close

With a gut punch dropped, the prospect will invariably hit the prospector with an objection:

  • “Send me some follow-up information.”
  • “I’m all set.”
  • “This won’t work for me/I’m a special unicorn.”

More on this topic can be found here.

The key here is to not only handle the objection but concurrently drive to close the call. You don’t want to get into protracted conversation, you want to answer the question, then drive to close. This is the reason that objection handling and close are considered one step, not two, because they need to be hand in glove. Remember, you’ve worked hard to pitch your product, and you’ve distracted them from their usual pattern; it is time to get them to commit to a time to talk, not engage in a lengthy conversation.

The reason a lengthy conversation is not advised as you could be falling into the trap of a genuinely curious prospect. They picked up the phone, were intrigued, now they will badger you for information, then never respond to you again. If you can quickly identify the type of person who answers the phone (more here), then great; however, it is very difficult to do even for trained sales reps.

 If the prospect is genuinely interested in learning more in the here and now, by all means, do take advantage of it; drive them to a quick Zoom call, inquire about their buying process, and see if anyone else on their team can join. In short, make sure they know they are getting a valuable meeting, and they should provide value on their side.


Developing a great call script can help a company grow through outbound prospecting efforts. The issue for most companies coming up with an effective script is the lack of a rubric. Hopefully this guide, that has already been tested and utilized by dozens of companies, will benefit you as well. 


What is cold calling?

Cold calling is a phone-based prospecting technique that aims to open a conversation with someone you have never communicated with before. Cold calling should be preceded by having identified the ideal customer profile and persona(s) that a prospector is trying to reach. Once identified, a call script that is relevant to the recipient of the call can be created to increase the likelihood of the prospect being interested in having a short conversation leading to a commitment to talking later on.

Does cold calling still work?

Cold calling is still the best way to reach a prospect and get a decision quickly. The more research a prospector has done on the prospect, both their personal and professional details, coupled with their ability to hold a conversation and handle objections and deflections will increase the likelihood of a successful cold call.

What are some cold calling tips?

The best tips for making a cold call are having researched the prospects' personal and professional details, having a concise and direct script, and conveying confidence over the phone.

How can I get over my fear of cold calling?

Most people fear cold calling for two reasons — they don’t know who they are calling, and they don’t know what to say. Overcoming this fear is achieved by having researched the people you are calling and having practiced your script that is relevant to them in their professional capacity.