How the Top 1% of Sales Pros Make Cold Calls vs. the Other 99%

11 min read
May 31, 2022

What’s the biggest difference between the top 1% of sales professionals who close a majority of the sales deals and the other 99% who struggle just to hit quotas? It’s cold calling! 

For top sales professionals, being an effective cold caller is THE key to closing more deals in less time and with less pushback from potential customers.

For most sales teams, this is troubling to hear. Why? Because most of the top challenges salespeople face all come down to their inability to make effective sales calls.

That said, I’m highlighting the key differences between how the top 1% of sales pros make cold phone calls to prospects and the other 99%.

Making effective cold calls isn’t just a small piece of the sales success puzzle. Rather it’s integral to overall sales and business success.


If You Can’t Make Successful Cold Calls, You Can’t Close Any Deals


There are only two ways to generate sales leads, including inbound marketing strategies and outbound sales strategies.

Of the two strategies, most companies generate about 90% of their sales leads through outbound outreach methods, including cold calls, cold emails, and social media messages.

This isn’t to say that inbound methods aren’t important, rather, they play a different role in the lead generation process.

You can’t generate leads if you can’t make cold calls. If you can’t generate leads, then you can’t close any deals.  And if you can’t close any deals, then does your business even exist?

Moreover, if you’re struggling as a cold caller, you have more than just a lead generation problem on your hands…


Sales Call Success Is Central to Business Success & Achieving Goals

It doesn’t matter which way you look at it; if you can’t make successful sales calls, then you can’t generate leads, and then you can’t close deals.

If you can’t close any deals, you’re not running a business. Rather, you’re just having some fun and calling it a business.

Most importantly, achieving business success of any type almost ALWAYS comes back to sales success.

Think about it: You might want to become the most dominant business in your industry, and to do that, you need to make more sales. 

Or, you might want to expand into different markets or even expand your product line, and to do that you must make more sales.

Take a moment and think about your own business goals; I bet that your goals, regardless of what they are, probably stem back to making more sales!

As I’ve already mentioned, making more sales DEPENDS on your ability to generate leads through cold calls.


Most Salespeople BOTCH Cold Outreach Because…

Most sales reps consistently botch cold calling. As a result, they’re unable to achieve their sales and overall business goals.

By botch, I mean that they pick up the phone with their cold call script in hand, think that they know what they’re doing, but then get the prospect on the line only to:

  1. Freeze;
  2. Say something out of line;
  3. Say something that doesn’t make sense;
  4. Immediately get hung up on; or
  5. Give up after the first call.

Salespeople consistently fail for two key reasons, including:

  • Following all the wrong cold calling tips
  • Fear

Most salespeople rely on cold calling techniques and tips that, while popular, aren’t effective.

The reason why sales reps rely on these common techniques is because they’re widely used and sound good on paper. However, as I’ve said many times, just because everybody else is doing something doesn’t mean that it’s effective and you should do it, too!

For example, one common calling technique is asking open-ended questions at the start of the call. On paper, this sounds like a great way to kickstart a conversation. However, what really ends up happening is that the prospect loses interest and immediately hangs up.

The second reason why sales reps fail is because they’re flat-out scared to make sales calls. Don’t believe it? Harvard Business Review reports that about 50% of sales pros are afraid to make calls…

Whenever you’re afraid to do something, you inevitably tighten-up, lose your confidence, and lose your ability to reason through the call.

The good news in all of this is that effective cold calling is achievable for ANY salesperson, regardless of their performance in the past!


Does cold calling still work?


B2B Cold Calling Only Works If You Do These Things…


Like I said, becoming a better cold caller is possible for anybody, including YOU.

However, becoming a better cold caller will require you to do these two things:

  1. Get out of your comfort zone
  2. Take action in spite of fear

First off, you must be willing to get out of your comfort zone. Not because you’re going to do anything outrageous, but because you’re going to start using sales techniques that the majority of salespeople don’t follow.

Going against the grain can be extremely uncomfortable. However, what is comforting is knowing that every successful sales professional has had to make that choice to go against what everybody else is doing.

Second and most importantly, you’re going to have to take action in spite of your fears.

Believe it or not, top sales professionals aren’t totally unafraid of making sales calls. Instead, they just take action in spite of fear! 

They push through those fears because they know that taking action in spite of fear actually helps them make more successful calls.

Bottom line: Cold calling is only going to work if you’re willing to get out of your comfort zone and take action in spite of fear. If you can do those two things, then you’re ready to join the leagues of the 1%.


How 99% of Unsuccessful Salespeople Make Cold Calls


Here’s how the majority of salespeople make cold calls.

Moreover, here’s how the majority of salespeople make unsuccessful cold calls only to not reach their sales and overall business goals.

Increasing your cold outreach success rate depends on you not doing any of these things.


They Sound Like a Broken Record

When it comes to making sales calls, the way in which you say things is just as important, if not more important, than what you say, because the way in which you say things impacts how you make people feel!  The way that you make people feel is more memorable than what you say to them.

Unfortunately, most salespeople sound like broken records on the phone which makes their prospects feel crappy.

By sounding like a broken record, I mean that they sound:

  • Bored
  • Unenthusiastic to talk to the prospect
  • Like they just don’t care at all

What makes you think that a prospect will want to talk to you if you sound bored, unenthusiastic, and like you don’t care?

In short, they won’t want to talk to you!

Sadly, though, this is how most sales team members make calls.


Losing the Prospect’s Interest in Seconds

If you can’t hook the prospect’s interest within a few seconds of being on the call, they will hang up. Plain and simple.

Unfortunately, most salespeople almost always lose the prospect’s interest because they:

  1. Sound like broken records
  2. Don’t have a hook line that’ll spark the prospect’s interest

Remember, your prospects are every-day people, and every-day people have the same attention span of that of a goldfish...

Therefore, if you don’t immediately grab their attention, they’ll almost certainly hang up.


They Make the Phone Call About Themselves

Do you usually start your phone calls by saying something like, “I’d like to speak with you about X” or “I’d like a few minutes of your time to X”?

If so, you’re making the call about YOU.

You’re starting the call off with “I”, and prospects don’t care about you and what you want. Rather, they care about themselves and what they want.

If you start off the call with “I want” or “I’d like to,” then the prospect is sure to hang up because they don’t care about what you want.

The more you make the call about yourself, the more likely the prospect is to slam down their phone.


They Don’t Follow-Up (Or at Least They Don’t Follow-Up Enough)

When the average salesperson makes a cold call and doesn’t get the prospect to answer on the first try, they either:

  • don’t follow-up at all; or
  • follow-up a few times but eventually give up.

They don’t consistently follow-up because they’re afraid that the prospect will get annoyed and tell them to buzz off. 

Despite the fact that they don’t have any evidence that that’ll happen, they let the small probability of it happening dictate their actions.


Wasting the Prospect’s Time

Nobody likes having their time wasted, particularly your prospects.

Unfortunately, the average sales rep wastes a lot of their prospect’s time during cold calls. Instead of jumping in and getting straight to the point, they drag the call out much more than necessary.

Once prospects sense that their time is being wasted, they hang up.

Don’t waste your prospect’s time during any point of the sales process, particularly during cold calls.


How do you start a cold call?


How the Top 1% of Successful Sales Professionals Make Cold Calls


Here’s how the top 1% of sales professionals make successful cold calls to their potential buyers. By successful call, I mean that they’re able to get on the line with the prospect, grab their attention, and get them set up for a formal discovery call before hanging up.

To make calls like the 1%, you’ve got to get out of your comfort zone and take action in spite of fear.

No–You don’t need to do anything complex or overcomplicated, you just need to challenge yourself!


They Make Calls Directly to the Decision Makers

When top sales pros make a cold call, they make calls directly to the decision-maker.

By decision-makers, I mean the person who has the authority to make a purchasing decision later on in the sales process.

Instead of wasting time on somebody who doesn’t have as much authority and might have to hit them with “Let me check with my superior and I’ll get back to you”, top sales pros waste no time going straight to the people with the most power.


Talking With Prospects Like They’re Talking to an Old Friend

The next time you make an initial cold call, talk to the potential client as if you’re at a high school reunion and you see one of your old friends who you haven’t seen in years.

For example, start the call with this introduction line: “Hey so-and-so! It’s me, so-and-so from so-and-so business! How are you doing? It’s so good to talk to you!

When you use this introduction line, talk in a super upbeat tone of voice as if you’re seeing a person who you haven’t seen in many years but are excited to reunite with.

By using this line and talking in such an up-beat voice, the prospect is going to think so themself, “Where do I know this person from?

Instead of hanging up the phone, they’ll stay on the line because they’re intrigued to know who you are.

Don’t be afraid to really go there! If you feel like you’re being a little bit over the top, then you’re probably doing it right.

By talking in such an upbeat way right off the bat, the prospect is unlikely to immediately hang up.


Getting Straight to the Point & Dropping the Hook

After dropping the intro line in that up-beat, talking-to-an-old-friend voice, sales pros immediately drop their hook line.

The hook line is the sentence that grabs the prospect’s attention and gives them a reason to stay on the call. This line grabs the prospect’s attention because it reveals that they might gain something valuable by staying on the call.

For example, a hook line might sound something like this, “So I took a look at your website metrics and saw that your competition is outdoing you. What do you think about that?

See how this line sheds light on a particular pain point and might make the prospect feel as if they could find some potential resolution to that pain point if they stay on the call? Moreover, the value they have to gain is a potential solution to one of their problems.

Thankfully, I’ve already put together a guide to help you craft your perfect hook!

The key to success is to not overthink the hook. Put yourself in the potential customer’s shoes, ask yourself what they mind find valuable, and then craft your hook around that.


How do I make a cold call?


Only Staying on the Phone for a Minute or Two

Once a sales pro makes their intro and drops the hook, they only stay on the line for another minute or two.


Because, sales pros know that saying less is saying more, because by saying less you don’t dilute the impact of the conversation and reduce the odds that the prospect gets distracted and hangs up.

To put it simply, sales pros keep the initial call as short and sweet as possible.


Not Getting Off the Line Until They Set-Up a Formal Discovery Call

A top sales professional NEVER ends a cold call without setting up the next meeting, because they know that the moment the prospect hangs up, they’re:

  • Going to get distracted
  • Let other things take priority
  • Find reasons to NOT set-up the next meeting with you

Don’t think that your prospects are going to make you their top priority, because that’s not what happens!

That said, you must set up the discovery meeting before hanging up the initial call, otherwise the prospect probably won’t set up a meeting at all.

Additionally, top sales pros usually set up the discovery/qualifying call for the next day so that the prospect walks into the meeting still feeling energized from the initial call.


Leaving a Voicemail AND Sending a Cold Email

It’s not unusual for a potential buyer to not answer the phone on the first try. Why? Because, well, they’re busy people!

However, just because prospects are busy people doesn’t mean that top sales pros let that stop them.

If a prospect doesn’t answer, a top sales pro leaves them a voicemail AND sends a cold email letting the prospect know that they tried to reach them and that they’ll try again tomorrow.


They Follow-Up Until They Get a Response

In short: The top 1% of sales professionals follow-up with prospects until they respond!

They don’t ever think to themselves, “But what if the prospect thinks that I’m annoying?

Instead, they keep on dialing the phone number and leaving voicemails until they either get a response or the prospect does, in fact, tell them to go away (however, this rarely ever happens to anyone!).

You might be the best cold caller in the world, but it doesn’t matter unless you’re persistent.

Who knows, maybe all it’ll take is just one more try to land your dream client.


Final Thoughts on How the Top 1% Sales Professionals Make Cold Calls


Anybody can go from cold call zero to cold call hero. All it takes is getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, taking action in spite of fear, and then following the lead of top sales professionals who achieve consistent sales call success.

Remember, your ability to cold call successfully isn’t just a matter of sales success, but overall business success!

Whatever your goals are or whatever you want to achieve, becoming a better cold caller will get you there.

Win more deals. Grow your business.

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