5 cold call script strategies to book more appointments
Whether you’ve been in sales for many years or you’re a rookie, you’ve probably encountered a variety of perspectives on the art (or science, depending on who you talk to) of the cold call.
Either way, if you don’t have a healthy pipeline of opportunities or strong leads, cold calling for appointments is a better way to go than waiting for business to fall into your lap.
Admittedly, some cold call scripts sound forced or unnatural. That’s one of the reasons why you aren’t handed a script by the top representative in the company on your first day. Another reason is that cold calling in insurance, for example, is probably different from cold calling in another industry.
So, how do you write a cold call script you’ll actually want to use—that’ll also help you schedule discovery phone calls and in-person meetings? How can you differentiate yourself from other salespeople who are calling these same prospects?
Let’s get into it.
Cold vs warm sales call scripts: different scenarios require unique approaches
A cold call is an unscheduled, spontaneous phone call from a salesperson to a prospective customer who has no pre-existing relationship with the salesperson or the company they work with.
You might say the targets of these calls don’t quite qualify as prospects yet—they’re better defined as “suspects” because they may or may not have the budget, authority, need, or time frame for what you have to offer.
A warm call, on the other hand, is when a prospect has expressed an interest in your products or services. They might have subscribed to your marketing emails, or maybe they dropped by your trade show booth. Or perhaps they have talked to your sales rep before.
Word-of-mouth referrals are also considered warm calls, as a prospect has been informed by someone they trust that your products or services are worth considering. Generally, this means your sales rep can spend less time educating the prospect about your company, and instead jump right into exploring the prospect’s challenges and requirements.
Make your first appointment a discovery discussion. Don’t get ahead of yourself (or your prospect) and start presenting your value proposition or babbling about your product before understanding if your solution fits their needs (or if they even have this need). It’ll compromise your credibility or you could misrepresent the value of your services—neither of which you want.
What should you include in a cold call script to drive more appointments?
Your cold call script should start by answering these questions:
- Who are you?
- Why are you calling?
- How does the prospect benefit from listening to you?
- What do you want from the person you are calling? (This one’s easy. An appointment)
Try not to end the call until two things are clear to the prospect:
- The appointment you’re scheduling is to understand their business challenges relative to your industry and domain expertise. It isn’t to demonstrate your solution, negotiate pricing, or try an ill-timed sales pitch.
- The prospect will get value from this call with you—whether or not they buy from you. Either you’ll share some insights about their industry, or you’ll come back with some recommendations not specific to your products or services that’ll help them address their challenges.
Traditionally, you’d need nothing more than a telephone and a phone book to make cold calls, but there are a ton of cold calling software that can make your job easier. For example:
- If you have a business phone system, you can integrate it with your Google Calendar or Outlook Calendar to make sure all your scheduled calls show up in your calendar
- There are also CRM integrations for apps like Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, or Oracle Sales Cloud to help your sales team make more cold calls in less time while having all their prospect information at their fingertips:
- If you need to do sales demos, you can run those online as well on a call if you have an all-in-one communications tool like RingCentral, which has video conferencing, phone calling, and team messaging all in one platform.
Here’s a quick look at a few features that’ll make sales teams’ lives easier, like scripting and flexible dialing options:
Make appointments, not closed deals, your cold call goal
The goal of your cold call should be to gain traction with a prospect and secure time on their calendar. If you plan your cold calls with this idea in mind, you’ll feel a lot less pressure making your calls—and the people you are calling will feel less pressured too.
Aggressive salespeople call to sell customers a product or service today, while consultative sales advisors connect and network with business executives to share their expertise. By scheduling a discovery call when it is convenient for both parties, you set the expectation that you have something of value to offer.
Hank Aaron, the legendary baseball major leaguer, always approached the batter’s box planning to swing—and he felt triples were the most exciting play in baseball. A triple doesn’t get you to home base in one swing, but it does put you in a good position to score a point later. Aaron retired with nearly 2,300 home runs and nearly 800 triples. Yet he had the right mindset for putting potential points on the scoreboard—and funny enough, making cold calls.
How to prepare for convincing cold calls that convert
Depending on how well-known your company is, you might need to put a little effort into your sales conversation starter.
If you’re probably going to have to explain what your company does, have a short elevator pitch prepared that describes your value to the prospect but doesn’t get you stuck on defining how long your company has been in business, who you’ve done business with, or other details right away. If you have compelling customer success stories, use them (and make sure those customers are okay with you name-dropping them).
Save the meaningful, valuable insights for the actual appointment call. Just make sure the prospect knows you have valuable information they can benefit from. Be clear in stating they have to schedule time to learn from your insights.
Try to strike a balance between knowing enough about your prospects to build credibility, and leaving enough room for the discovery meeting to still be valuable for both of you. Often, this boils down to having good questions that lead to insightful conversations. Find at least one convincing reason to have a compelling conservation.
5 cold calling script strategies for your swipe file
You’ll notice the question “How are you today?” won’t show up anywhere else in this article. That’s because this question might come across as insincere, and it generally causes prospects to think about how busy they are and how they should get off the call with you as soon as possible.
Instead, acknowledge they’re busy and let them know you’re here to help them find solutions to the problems that are making them so busy.
Keep small talk to a minimum for this appointment-setting cold call and get to the point quickly. (Obviously, if their social media profiles are littered with messages about their love for their alma mater or favorite sports team, you can mention it in passing. Otherwise, stick to the facts.)
Here are five cold calling pitches that have high conversion rates for appointment setting.
1. The “I’ve done my research” technique
Let’s say you make a call to a prospect on a Wednesday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. According to HubSpot research 1, that’s generally the best time to make a cold call and make a live connection.
In any case, you’ve researched the prospect and you’ve identified a news item on the prospect company’s website that aligns with products or services your company offers. You find someone in your company’s CRM, either on LinkedIn or even in the news article, to call based on their title.
You don’t have to call a “Very Important Top Officer” on every call. But if you’re going to make a habit of cold calling senior executives and you haven’t done your research, you won’t succeed. By doing some research and telling them what you discovered, you’ll distinguish yourself from many of the other salespeople the prospects speak to.
Find a compelling reason why your product, service, or solution should be on an executive’s radar, and incorporate it into your appointment pitch. If the person you’re calling is quoted in an article, make that quote part of your script, especially if the prospect mentioned a business challenge or opportunity that your product or service addresses.
You should always do some research of prospects before you call them. However, don’t get too deep in research for an appointment you may not get. Find a person to call with authority, find a compelling reason to be calling, and make a blitz of calls during prime time.
2. The internal referral tactic
Calling a single contact in a company typically won’t give you the full story of what’s happening within a company. You may have heard of the “pain chain” within a business, where a particular challenge impacts multiple executives and their teams.
Sales reps should end every call where they are turned down for an appointment by asking if they think there’s anyone else in the organization that might be interested in discussing a particular business challenge or objective.
- What do you have to lose? You’ve already gotten a no from the first person you called. By asking for their help, you give the individual an opportunity to give back. They likely feel somewhat guilty for turning you down.
- It demonstrates that you’re invested in this conversation and distinguishes you from other salespeople who get a no and just end the call.
- Maybe the first person you called doesn’t have the authority to talk to a salesperson on a particular issue, but they may know another project lead that does—they may just need a little encouragement to refer you in the right direction.
If you do get a referral to a second point of contact (POC), ask the first POC if you can cite them as the referral source and if they’d want to participate in a conference discovery call if you can secure an appointment. The first POC may not have the authority to talk to service providers alone, but they may be a valuable influencer as the sales process advances.
3. The “unruffled veteran sales rep” approach
Making a cold call to a prospect with a simple goal of a substantive conversation shouldn’t cause you much anxiety, nor should it raise the blood pressure of the prospects you’re contacting. Confidence and charisma go a long way in sales, even over the phone when you are working to book appointments.
Author and sales coach Brian Tracy suggests salespeople challenge themselves to make 100 cold calls as fast as possible (without burning bridges for future attempts). By prioritizing quantity of calls over quality during a blitz, sellers may find their “smile and dial” marathon can produce better results than if they took the time to take rejection to heart.
Try saying things like:
- “I’ve been speaking with a number of [prospect titles] who said they are struggling with [business pain point your services address] and solving that high is on their priority list for this fiscal year. Does that resonate with you as well?
- “My company was able to help [your customer, indirect competitor of the prospect you are calling] to [benefit of your products or services that the prospect should care about based on their role].
- Would you be interested in having a discussion later this week/early next about how we were able to help them [quantified business value, such as increasing business productivity or reducing production costs] in [quantified time]?
Be sure to have accurate referral numbers for any claims you make, because the prospect you’re speaking with may have a relationship with your existing customer, and they may call to verify your claims. Stranger things have, and will happen.
The more you come across as an experienced and reliable advisor, the more likely you are to book appointments. Showing respect for a prospect’s time, and your own, is critical.
4. The “let’s have a discussion, and if we don’t see a fit, we part as friends” strategy
Do you need a way to build trust and rapport with prospects when asking for an appointment? Show them you are comfortable with a “No” answer.
That doesn’t mean you get a “No” and you say goodbye. It means that you get an objection, like “We already have a phone system”, but you can acknowledge their objection and address it by differentiating your business from what they’re currently doing.
Don’t make the mistake of pointing out the weaknesses of their existing solution. Instead, speak to the strengths of what you have to offer and any opportunities to enhance their existing investment with services from your portfolio. Instead of suggesting a prospect to “rip and replace” what they already have, try to find a way to find a “beachhead” opportunity to win over a new account.
5. The “making friends with gatekeepers” cold call
There are so many obstacles for salespeople to navigate through, especially when prospecting on the phone:
- Voicemail purgatory
- The “I have a meeting” ruse
- The “press 1 for this department” voice menu labyrinth
- The executive assistant barricade
Are you the kind of salesperson who’d rather charm a gatekeeper to get on an executive’s calendar? Or do you prefer the stealthy yet direct path to an executive’s desk phone or mobile device that an auto-attendant can sometimes provide? Let’s look at the benefits and drawbacks of both scenarios.
If you’re navigating through a phone menu (or a virtual attendant), you may discover names of executive assistants or colleagues on voicemail greetings which you can leverage to your advantage.
Enrich your prospect calling lists with these new names and titles you discover. Or better yet, you can learn more about the organization and have conversations with a decision maker’s colleagues who have influence on the suppliers they know, like, and trust.
Cold calling etiquette for EAs (your VIPs)
Much like the way you treat the wait staff at a restaurant can dictate your dating success, gatekeeper etiquette is key to your success, especially in B2B sales. Write gatekeeper-specific cold call scripts that foster trust and rapport.
Don’t underestimate the influence of an executive assistant. Treat them with tact and respect, as they often have a great deal of influence on the calendars of multiple executives.
Cold call sales scripts: remember to leave room for improvisation
Cold call scripts are a great resource to build a routine for calling blitzes and for building confidence to ask for appointments. Build in a few “If prospect says X, then I say Y” decision tree branches.
As you build confidence with your script and know your elevator pitch and unique sales proposition inside out, find opportunities to improvise based on how a call is flowing. Tailor your script messaging to the roles of the people you are talking to. One script does not fit all!
And remember, if you speak to someone who says they don’t have a need for what you offer, ask them if they know someone else who might. Word-of-mouth goes a long way.