5 cold calling mistakes that could destroy your career

cold calling
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“Cold calling”

If these two words automatically fill your mind with negative thoughts, fear, dread, and loathing, then I want to help you.

In this post, I will share with you some useful tips about cold calling I’ve learned in my current role working in inside sales for Seamless Contacts.

These proven cold calling techniques will help you:

  • Schedule more meetings with decision makers
  • Close more sales
  • Generate more revenue
  • Meet or exceed your sales quota

Does that sound fair?

Great, then let’s start by reviewing some basics about cold calling.

What is cold calling?

A cold call is a communication, either on the phone or in person, with a potential customer (also known as a prospect).

During a cold call, it is critical that you quickly and clearly state relevant information to your prospect.

But the good news is, you only have two simple objectives on a cold call:

  1. To qualify your prospect by determining if they have a need, ability, and use for your product
  2. To determine if the person you’re speaking with is the decision maker (the person with buying authority to purchase the product you are selling)

Achieve these objectives, and you’ll enter into a sales process, or a series of steps needed to turn a prospect into a customer.

I heard cold calling is dead. Is that true?

Reports of the death of cold calling have been greatly exaggerated.

Like it or not, cold calling is here to stay, even in the Selling 2.0 era of social networking, inbound marketing, and predictive analytics.

It’s true that these useful tools have armed sales professionals with seemingly unlimited access to unprecedented amounts of information that knock the chill out of cold calls.

However, the basic foundation of all sales hinges on one key metric:

How often you engage with a prospect who either doesn’t know you and/or uses your competitor.

And the single best way to maximize the amount of engagements you’ll have with prospects on a daily basis is still…any guesses?

That’s right: it’s cold calling!

Because if you can’t or won’t cold call, then you’re basically waiting for business to come to you.

And you might be waiting for a long time.

I love cold calling

I’m actually an introverted person.

If you met me, then you wouldn’t think that I’d really enjoy cold calling.

But I guess there’s just something about dialing the phone dozens of times per day, talking to many different people from all over the world, and solving problems that gives me great joy and meaningful purpose in my life.

However, it wasn’t always smooth sailing.

I’ll admit, when I first started cold calling, I was awful and made a ton of rookie cold caller mistakes. But I learned quickly how to make more effective cold calls.

First, I learned how to cold call from other selling professionals. I’d ask questions, role play, and revise my scripts. I also read books about cold calling, such as Art Sobczak’s essential cold calling instructional guide:

Smart Calling: Eliminate the Fear, Failure, and Rejection from Cold Calling


I also learned a lot about cold calling from trial and mostly error.

So whether you work in inside sales or you just have to call somebody randomly on the phone and influence them to take action, then avoid these 5 cold calling mistakes that could destroy your career:

5. Not giving your prospect a reason to care

One of the mistakes I made early in my cold calling career was to lead my pitch with features of my company’s products.

This is the wrong move for a bunch of reasons, none of which will get you any closer to making a sale.

First, you need to remember that you’re interrupting somebody’s day. And you better get their interest within about 5 seconds, or they’ll be looking for a way to get out of the conversation quickly.

Believe it or not, you can’t set an appointment talking to a dial tone. (Believe me, I tried.)

The truth about cold calling

The cold hard truth about cold calls is this:

All people care about is THEMSELVES.

And since people only care about themselves, then you can get their attention on a cold call by communicating (quickly) how you can help them improve something about themselves.

So please stop yapping about your product features. Nobody gives a rip…yet.

Talking about features and how your product will save humanity should happen in the presentation, which you can only schedule if you successfully make it past the cold call and convince your prospect that you are useful.

cold calling
Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What is the goal of a cold call?

A cold call is kind of like a movie trailer (but without the Inception horn.)

The point of a cold call is to grab your prospect’s interest and stand out from the dozens of cold calls they get weekly.

Most importantly, you want your prospect to realize what’s in it for them.

If you can’t communicate your usefulness, then your prospect will activate their “get off this cold call ASAP” mode.

And once you put yourself in that hole, it’s tough to dig back out.

So remember, the main goal of a cold call is simply to set an agreed-upon time for your next conversation, which could be a demo or face-to-face meeting.

Make your sole aim of your cold call the next conversation.

What to say in a cold call

All cold calls follow the same basic format:

  1. Opening
  2. Teaser
  3. Closing

Cold call opening (what to say in the beginning of a cold call)

This is pretty basic but essential. Adopt your opening to whatever you feel comfortable saying in a normal phone greeting to a total stranger who you’re trying to help. Something like:


Hi, [prospect’s first name]. This is [your name] from [your company]. How are you?


Cold call teaser (how to get your prospect’s interest during a cold call)

Here’s where you mention the reason for your call, and how you can help your prospect.

If it makes sense, namedrop a competitor of your prospect and briefly mention how you helped them achieve a result. For example:


The reason for my call is we’ve recently helped [comparable business names] to [achievement that your company assisted with].


By mentioning success stories with other companies (preferably in your prospect’s industry), you add validity to your company and gain trust.

And if you don’t have a specific company to name drop, then leave it generic, such as “We help businesses in your industry to…”

Remember, the point of this is just to get their attention and pique their interest, not sell them your product.

In fact, you’re not selling anything at this point.

You’re simply having a conversation, which leads to more conversations which ultimately will lead to a mutually beneficial transaction between your companies.

By mentioning the results of what you offer, you are stating the benefit and usefulness of doing business with you.

If you make this value proposition clear, then your prospect will understand that you are worth another conversation, and now you are engaged in the sales process.

Closing the cold call (how to get an appointment from a cold call)

To close your cold call, you’ll want to set an appointment for your next conversation and move the prospect into a sales process.

Here’s my cold call close:


I’d like to set an appointment to give you some more information and see if it makes sense for us to speak further. How does your calendar look for this Thursday afternoon at 3?


By proposing a time for the prospect, I make it easy for them to agree to the time for our next conversation or to suggest another time.

4. Sounding scripted

cold calling
Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Watch any TV show or movie, and chances are, the actors are using a script.

However, they are so well rehearsed that the dialogue sounds natural and conversational.

You need to do the same with your cold call script.

Get to work early and role play your calls with your manager or colleagues to warm up and get your mind and vocal cords primed.

It’s vitally important to sound completely natural, relaxed, and conversational during the cold call.

Afterall, nobody likes talking to a bored robot.

If you are not excited or confident in your product, then how can you expect your prospect to care about what you have to say?

3. Not having an objective

cold calling
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If you’re selling a simple product that does not require a major capital expense, such as a magazine subscription, then your objective is to close the sale during that initial cold call.

However, if your product is more complex and involves higher costs, then you’ll need to schedule several followup meetings and calls to provide enough information to close the sale.

If this is the case with your product, then your primary objective on a cold call should always be to set an appointment and not to sell (yet).

However, even if you don’t succeed in setting an appointment, then you can still get valuable insight from the cold call in other ways.

Cold calls can reveal a goldmine of important information about your prospect, such as the name of the decision maker or what competitor products they might be using.

Try to make every cold call you make something valuable, even if you don’t succeed in closing or getting a meeting.

When you adopt this attitude, you’ll find that cold calling is less of a chore and more of a useful exercise in filling your pipeline for future sales opportunities.

2. Poor phone etiquette

If you are rude, mean, chewing gum, or just sound like a tool on the phone, then chances are pretty high you’ll never get anywhere.

Don’t interrupt and turn down the AC/DC tunes when making cold calls.

Here’s a clip I found on YouTube of exactly how NOT to make cold calls.

How many cold calling mistakes can you find in this clip?


1. Not doing pre-call research

cold calling
Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

With social media and sites like LinkedIn, professional sellers have no excuse not to be prepared when cold calling.

Before you call a prospect, get as much information as possible from resources like their company website, social media, and news sources.

A very useful time-saving online tool that automatically curates every piece of essential sales intelligence and business data for any company or B2B professional in the world is Seamless Contacts.

By doing pre-call research, you are better prepared to engage in a meaningful, tailored, and relevant conversation with your prospect.

If you find a commonality in your pre-call research, use it to build rapport with your prospect, increase trust, and establish engagement and interest in both you and your product.

Once your prospect feels comfortable with you, and they’re not filled with the urge to hang up on you (which will happen from time to time, by the way), then they will be more likely to buy from you.


cold calling
Hi, I’m Jim. I love making cold calls all day, every day.

Cold calling is an essential business skill that will unlock countless opportunities for your career.

Remember, no business can survive without sales.

And no sale takes place without that first cold call.

Master the cold call, and you will convert more sales, which generates more revenue.

More revenue creates more business opportunities.

More business opportunities creates more innovation.

And more innovation creates improvement to the status quo and a chance for more people to achieve their dreams of success and happiness.

So pick up the phone and dial. Because you never know…one cold call could change the world.

Do you make cold calls?

What are your favorite and most effective cold calling techniques?

Please share them with the world in the comments below.



James K. Kim About James K. Kim
James K. Kim (Jim) is a commercial real estate advisor with Pyramid Brokerage Company of Albany, Inc. in the Capital Region of New York, specializing in helping business owners expand into new locations or sell/lease a commercial retail, office, industrial, or investment property.

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