How to make B2B prospects love your cold call

Techniques include warm calling, the 'Hypothesis Pitch', and the importance of empathy
Richard Lane and James Middleton
A sales person makes a cold call

Despite the rise of digital marketing channels and social media, cold calling remains one of the most effective ways to initiate and build relationships with potential clients. But there is an art to making cold calling a success in B2B sales.

Sales 2.0 experts Richard Lane co-founder and COO, and James Middleton, sales manager of durhamlane, a multi-million-pound global strategic B2B sales and marketing consultancy working with UK and international businesses, share their advice on how to turn your cold calls into thoughtful outbound conversations that B2B prospects love.

Cold calling as a sales technique is more than a century old, first referenced in an article ‘Deploying telephone canvassing to increase revenue’ in a magazine published in 1911. It’s only in the latter half of the 20th century that it developed a negative reputation for being an ‘annoying, unsolicited pushy sales tactic’.

Everyone who works in business can recall a time when they received an annoying ‘out of the blue’ sales call unexpectedly in the middle of a deadline day.

And yet, despite its negative reputation, the phone remains the most successful outbound sales channel and when done correctly, strategically and tactically, it can be highly advantageous to any sales professional.

Cold calling vs Outbound calling

While the idea of reaching out to potential customers and pitching your product or service may seem straightforward, the reality is that calling completely "cold" is unlikely to yield the results you're looking for.

In fact, taking a completely ‘cold’ approach to outreach - dialling a number and knowing nothing about your target contact - is a risky and ineffective strategy that will waste valuable time and resources. It’s imperative to do some prior homework and gain an understanding of not only the prospect, but also other strategies to connect with them.

Adopting the ‘Selling at a higher level’ methodology based around thoughtful, intelligent prospecting means taking the time to investigate their brand or business, so you are prepared for any spontaneous questions should they ask for your opinion. Make sure you know their job title, industry and company size, so that the call is relevant and valuable to them.

The key consideration to keep in mind is: will my offer solve their problem? If so, then identify your compelling event, do your research, and reach out. If you cannot pinpoint how you can help them, then your approach will most likely not be successful.

The importance of multi-tiered selling

To have a successful outbound sales call, you need to ensure that everyone in the organisation, from execs to C-level are involved and engaged. That applies to both sides; yours and the business you are selling to.

You need to build a plan that all tiers of an organisation can engage with. You want to be the person that organises, manoeuvres and ensures everyone is playing the right strategic role on both sides.

Imagine you are a salesperson trying to sell a new CRM (customer relationship management) system to a company. In order to have a successful call and ultimately close the deal, you need to ensure that everyone in the organisation buys into your solution. This means ensuring that the sales team, marketing team, and IT department are all on board and understand the benefits of the new CRM system, as well as the decision-makers.

The hypothesis pitch

A pitch technique we are getting a lot of success with at the moment is ‘the hypothesis pitch’. The premise is that you’ve made a hypothesis that a business or person is good to reach out to, based on your research.

The opening line of the call is, ‘I’ve got a hypothesis to share with you. Can I soundboard it off you?’ Most people are likely to say ‘yes’ because how many people start their conversations this way? The outcome is one of two; either they concede that your hypothesis is right, and they are interested, or they tell you that you are wrong, and share what their actual problem is, which gives you an opening to engage with them.

This tactic doesn’t usually work over email as it can be seen as forced or presumptuous, but it’s a clever way of initiating a meaningful conversation on the phone.

Selling at a higher level

To sell at a higher level, you need to implement a more strategic approach, which involves qualifying a lot of information before reaching out to potential customers. This means investing more time and effort into understanding your target market, identifying the right business fit and determining how your product or service can add value. You've got to think ‘what's the fit, where's the value, how can we help?’

While more time-consuming up front, once this groundwork has been laid, the actual sales process becomes much smoother and efficient when it comes to picking up the phone.

It can also help ensure you spend your time where you can be most successful because you're qualifying discussions and making sure that your deals are moving forward.

Be empathetic

Being empathetic is crucial in today’s world of sales, where thoughtless emails and messages flood our inboxes. With the rise of automation and mass emailing – which is off the scale since the pandemic- it’s more important than ever to be considerate and empathetic towards potential customers.

Both the company and individual need to be thoughtful and consider the following questions before outreaching: how do we help people like you? What do I think you're probably interested in? How do I bring those two things together with examples of what we've done for others previously?

The winning formula

What pulls it all together is a combination of business fit, business value and long-term relationships. Being interested in others and building meaningful connections through quality, quantity and consistency, and high performance are crucial.

When you’re cold calling a prospect, it can be hard to know what personality lies at the other end of the phone or a screen and what the individual needs. By asking open-ended questions, you are inviting the customer to tell you more about themselves without them realising it.

Keeping these key factors in mind takes the cold out of cold calling and helps to establish a connection with potential customers based on mutual interest and shared goals. By focusing on the business fit and value, sales professionals can establish long-term relationships that can benefit both parties.

In summary

Warm calling is the new cold calling. Warm calling allows sales representatives to tailor their communication to the prospect’s needs and interests and moreover, warm calling fosters a more personalised and relationship-driven approach to sales.

The phone isn’t dead, it remains the most outbound sales successful channel, but it needs to be used in conjunction with everything else. And actually, every channel is through your phone now. Because LinkedIn is on your phone. Email is on your phone. WhatsApp is on your phone. Texts are on your phone. Use your phone to build stronger connections with your prospects in a way that is relevant to them.

Written by
Richard Lane and James Middleton
March 20, 2023
Written by
March 20, 2023