Developing Smooth Cold-Calling Moves

Don't live in fear of the phone. Create goals and a plan for every cold call you make.

learn more about Kim T. Gordon

By Kim T. Gordon

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Q: I'm in the process of building our B2B prospect list and will be contacting businesses by phone. Can you give me some tips on what to say? I'm worried about coming across as pushy or inexperienced.

A: Contacting prospects for the first time by telephone, especially if it's new to you, can be a daunting challenge. But don't worry-there are guidelines to follow that will get you off to a successful start.

Begin by focusing on the purpose for your calls: to qualify prospects and uncover their needs so you can determine how to fill them. Right now, you know very little about the companies and individuals you've listed, so it's vital to qualify them carefully to see that they fit your criteria for good prospects. This will save time and money in the long run, because you won't meet with unqualified prospects or squander your budget on marketing to less than ideal targets.

Before you ever pick up the telephone, it's important to set a goal for each call. What would you like to see happen as a result of your contact? Are you hoping for an appointment? If so, make this your primary goal. Whatever goal you set should move you one step closer to a sale.

Create a solid opener. For many people, the first few sentences of a cold call are the hardest. No matter how well-executed, a cold call is an unscheduled interruption, and your prospect will make a quick decision in just the first few seconds concerning whether it's worth his or her time. That's why you need to be prepared with a three-part opener that includes an introduction of yourself and your company and an opening benefit. Write down the principal benefits you expect to bring to the clients or customers you contact. Then include them in your opener. For example, imagine you own a PR company that specializes in grand openings and other events and you're contacting a retail prospect. You'd say "This is Jean Jones, president of Jones Events Inc., and my special reason for calling today is to tell you about some ideas we have for building traffic at your next grand opening."

Ask great questions. To effectively qualify prospects and uncover their needs, you must learn to ask closed- and open-ended questions. Closed questions uncover facts or can be answered with "yes" or "no," while open questions reveal the feelings and emotions behind the answers. The key to success is to practice using both until you find a comfortable mix.

Get your feet wet by writing down a list of closed questions, such as:

  • "Who is your present supplier?"
  • "How long has your company been in business?"
  • "How many units do you purchase per year?"

Next, create a list of open questions, such as:

  • "What do you like best about your present supplier?"
  • "Which kinds of grand opening activities have worked for you in the past?"
  • "In what ways do the new types of accounting software impact your department?"

When you're ready, review your questions and make a final list. In all, successful cold-calling comes down to asking good questions and listening intently so you can propose solutions that will help your prospect achieve his or her goals. It's conversation at its best-once you get the hang of it.

Close for your goal. The "close" is where many entrepreneurs run into trouble because they hesitate to ask for what they want. If you begin your call with a solid introduction, ask excellent qualifying questions and respond with beneficial information, at the close your prospect will be highly motivated to choose your firm. There's no need to worry about being perceived as pushy. If, for example, your goal is to set an appointment, you should suggest a date and time. Closing is simply a matter of reaching agreement on the next step and then following through.

Kim T. Gordon
Kim Gordon is the owner of National Marketing Federation and is a multifaceted marketing expert, speaker, author and media spokesperson. Her latest book is Maximum Marketing, Minimum Dollars.

Editor's Pick

Everyone Wants to Get Close to Their Favorite Artist. Here's the Technology Making It a Reality — But Better.
The Highest-Paid, Highest-Profile People in Every Field Know This Communication Strategy
After Early Rejection From Publishers, This Author Self-Published Her Book and Sold More Than 500,000 Copies. Here's How She Did It.
Having Trouble Speaking Up in Meetings? Try This Strategy.
He Names Brands for Amazon, Meta and Forever 21, and Says This Is the Big Blank Space in the Naming Game
Thought Leaders

The Collapse of Credit Suisse: A Cautionary Tale of Resistance to Hybrid Work

This cautionary tale serves as a reminder for business leaders to adapt to the changing world of work and prioritize their workforce's needs and preferences.


I Advise the Real-Life 'Logan Roys' of the World. Here's Where the 'Succession' CEO Went Wrong.

Based on my experience working with and counseling the real-life Logan Roys of the world, here are five lessons the Roy family could benefit from learning.

Cryptocurrency / Blockchain

5 Reasons Why Crypto Projects Need PR in a Bear Market

In economic downturns, companies will cut costs, tighten the belt, retreat. It's ingrained in human DNA, because those who didn't adapt didn't survive. But with both the personal and the economic, merely shrinking or hiding is not enough.

Starting a Business

Is Your Start Up Safe? Here Are 7 Reminders On How To Protect It

Your start-up company is your baby. Whether you have a company or are thinking about starting one, don't forget these seven ways that it can be easily attacked without proper precautions.

Business News

Gen Z Loves the Toyota Camry. Here's What Car Brands Boomers Love Most

S&P Global Mobility provides data on what types of each age group likes the most, based on car registration.