How To Make A Sales Call - Part 1

How to make a sales call [The Ultimate Guide] – Part 1

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes.

The ultimate guide to planning, conducting and tracking your outbound sales calls.

Skip to:
Part 1 – Before the call – You are here.
Part 2 – Making the call – Jump here
Part 3 – After the call – Read it here.

What are cold calls?

Cold calling means you’re calling somebody you know very little about. And they don’t know you. There’s no rapport and no trust.

Prospecting is the most difficult part of the sales process for salespeople.

However, in our modern reality, with modern CRMs and social media, it’s easier than ever to build up a customer persona so you don’t have to go into your outbound sales calls completely cold. The key to outbound sales is smart calling.

The simple task of making calls can be difficult, demotivating and exhausting. However, it can also be the fastest way to build yourself a sales pipeline. And when you master it, it can be tremendously rewarding, lucrative and exciting.

In this article, we’ll explore what it takes to master the sales call.

What are cold calls

Does cold calling still work?

Yes. Outbound sales calls are an extremely effective way to find new customers, whether you’re validating a brand new startup idea, or you want to expand your customer acquisition pipeline for an established business.

When Travis Kalanick wanted to validate the idea for Uber, he jumped straight into cold calling

I went to Google, typed in San Francisco chauffeur or San Francisco limousine, I just filled out an excel sheet and I just started dialling for dollars, right? First ten guys I called, three of them hung up before I got a few words out, a few of them would listen for like 45 seconds and then hung up, and three of them said ‘I’m interested, let’s meet.’. And if you’re cold calling and three out of ten say ‘let’s meet’, you’ve got something.
—Travis Kalanick

Sales calls work. But only when you have a strategy.

How to do a sales call

Making a sales call isn’t the same as calling your mum for a catch-up. You need a structure and a strategy. You need preparation, focus and a plan for what you want to achieve from every call.

preparing a cold sales call

Before the call – How to prepare

Preparation is critical. You need to do your research, define your goals, prepare your notes, and prepare yourself mentally.

Structure of a sales call

Your first call will invariably involve an element of discovery to check that there’s enough overlap between your customer’s business problems and your solutions. Your aim is to qualify the lead for the next step in the customer journey.

Depending on the lead source, the structure of your conversation will be different.

For an inbound lead who just filled out a contact form or sent you an email, you can dive right into discovery mode and learn about their situation. Prepare a checklist of talking points and key subjects that you want to hit:

  • What made you reach out to us?
  • What is the problem you’re trying to solve?
  • What are you currently using?
  • Are you actively looking for a solution or just exploring?
  • Are you committed to solving this?
  • What other solutions have you considered?
  • Who else is involved in the buying process?
  • What would the ideal outcome look like?

It’s not a script to read out like a robot, but prompts to keep you on track. More on this later.

For a cold prospecting call, where your goal is to convert a cold lead into a warm prospect, your call is unexpected so you’ll need a different tack.
You have only seconds to get your prospect to buy into the conversation so a classic AIDA formula can work (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action).

Sean Burke, CEO of prospecting software Kitedesk offers this example email:

Hi Jill.

This is Sean Burke from KiteDesk.
We help SaaS companies like yours increase their top of the funnel pipeline by 4x while also simplifying the prospecting process/tools so that reps get more done.

We should schedule a meeting so I can walk you through the impact your company would see.

How does your schedule look this week?


6 ways to prepare for any sales call

1. Warming up a prospect

Making Sales Calls IdeaA prospect does not have to be totally cold before you call them.

In episode 24 of the I Love Marketing Podcast, Dean Jackson introduced a game-changer concept of More Cheese, Less Whiskers. Dean came up with a 1-line email that has generated millions in revenue across multiple industries. It’s probably the simplest and fastest way to turn cold leads into engaged and intrigued prospects who actually want to get on the phone with you.

Instead of talking about your product, ask a question that focuses on what your client wants. Just make sure the answer is a definite YES. Here’s the template.

Subj: {clients name}
Do you do __________?
{your name}

For example:

Subj: James

Do you do outbound sales?


There’s no salutation, no pleasantries, no signature, no fancy HTML formatting. It’s the same personal style you use when you message your best friend. It’s the perfect way to open up a conversation.

In a previous company I worked with, the marketing team or SDR team would begin reaching out with a sequence of cold emails. Only if a prospect responded showing interest would the sales team give them a call. Prospects open to further contact would self-select and the warm prospects bubble to the top, lifting the efficiency of the sales team and their calls.

The marketing team or SDRs would in turn also warm up those cold emails by focusing them around good news for their prospect. For example they would look out for top company lists and award lists and would then reach out to congratulate them. These emails would provide the biggest response rate of any outreach we did. You can also use LinkedIn and reach out to congratulate somebody on a new job.

New people buy new products and services. When someone is new to a job, it’s the perfect time to reach out and congratulate them and gauge interest. – Max Altschuler and Jorge Soto

The prospecting methodology described in the book Predictable Revenue recommends reaching out via email to other contacts in a company and asking them to refer you to the job role or prospect you actually want to talk to. This internal referral immediately turns a cold lead into a warm call.

2. Get in the right mindset

The best cold call is the one that begins and ends with the prospects best interests at heart.
Once you understand that your motivation to make the call must be based on the fact that you are truly helping someone, the nature of the interaction changes. These are, or should be, people who are actively looking for ways to both do their job better, and succeed in their job.

If you truly believe in your solution, nothing should stop you. The people who struggle to make cold calls are the ones selling products or services they do not believe in.

Jay Abraham developed the strategy of preeminence, a position whereby you become a fiduciary, a trusted advisor for life. Once you embody this idea, you adopt a moral obligation to help your customers act in their best interests at all times. Remind yourself every day that this is your role, your goal, and your purpose.

In sales, the first thing isn’t to sell, it’s to qualify your clients to ensure that you’re a good fit for each other. Learn about your clients. Look through questions and comments your existing customers make in your helpdesk software or an alternative or ask prospective customers about their needs. Do they have the problem that your product solves. If not, your job is to recommend somebody else who can help, even if it means sending them to your competitor. That’s how a fiduciary operates.

Once their problem has been established then your role is to help them as much as you can. Because you were listening, you are able to frame this for the prospect in their own language, in a way that they can quantify.

3. Prepare physically and mentally

Cold Calling ExcerciseKeep your metrics in mind when approaching cold calls. Going in with the knowledge that you need to make 100 calls to get 3 interested people changes any ‘no’ you get from rejection to simply being a step closer to your daily goal. There are hundreds of really good reasons why people say no. It is not personal, it is just part of the process of qualifying and nurturing the right clients.

Your job isn’t to get 100 yesses, it’s to make 100 calls with the same grace and grit on the hundredth as you did on the first.

Making a lot of calls can be exhausting. You need to be able to think clearly and stay focused through the mundane and repetitive calls.

Your physiology is important – sleep well, stay hydrated (water not caffeine), exercise, meditate, keep lunch light, stretch, sit up straight, stand up, walk around, take the stairs, breathe. You’ll elevate the endorphins that keep you relaxed, composed, and focused while reducing the cortisol associated with stress. Avoid distractions like email alerts and put your phone in flight mode. Learn to immerse yourself in the one important task you’re working on – making a call.

If you feel nervous or anxious before a call, it’s perfectly normal. Bruce Springsteen still gets nervous before going on stage. The feeling is a sign of self-awareness and a reminder that you’re doing something that matters. It’s a reminder that you need to show up and do your job well.

In this Reddit thread, salespeople discuss mindset and getting over call anxiety.

“Realize that the fear is just made up in your head. It is always more nerve wracking calling the big boys but you just have to get your mindset right. Just remember it’s only a phone call, it’s not a big deal. They don’t know you and if the call goes bad they’ll quickly forget you.. Realize how silly it is to be nervous about it. You’re still gonna go home at the end of the day, it really has no negative impact on your life, but it could lead to a great opportunity!”

“You need to approach them with confidence as a peer. If you come across as subservient they will dismiss you quickly. Make sure you are bringing value to them with every point of contact.”

“Age only matters to you, not the client. If a 12 yr old can show a company how to reduce expenses by $1million you can be damn sure they’ll listen.”

“20-30 minutes of deep belly breathing in the morning really helps. Weirdly I find coffee and energy drinks tend to make me feel confident as well. Stand up whilst you call – that will lower your nerves and project your voice and pretend you are the goddamn best cold caller there is. Develop an alter ego.”

“We sell print ads and content marketing site solutions in the $1,000 – $20,000 range, so if I can sell print advertising over the phone – you should have no problems selling yours.”

4. Research your prospects

Phone sales resarchWhen I started out doing public speaking at events, I was truly terrible. I chose topics I thought were interesting and tried to script and learn it off-by-heart.

It… was not good.

I was so nervous, the presentation was full of starts and stops and the audience lost interest.

I soon discovered that I’d been choosing subjects I did not understand deeply enough and I had been speaking to people who were not really suited to the subject.

It all changed when I started talking about topics I really cared about, subjects I’d researched. And I spoke to audiences I really understood and knew were a good match.

I replaced the word-by-word script with a simple page of the keywords I needed to remember to mention. Just a list of prompts to keep me on track. Now I could talk confidently and naturally to a passionate, and engaged audience.

My talks genuinely helped people and I picked up more work from these speaking gigs.

It’s all about finding common ground with your prospect.

Find out as much as you can about them. The best sales calls are individually tailored to what people need.

For each prospect, start by Googling the company to get some key details about its size and niche. Then research the person you’ll be talking to to find out their background. LinkedIn has an excellent search feature and you can also gauge people’s interests from the groups they participate in.

Go back to Google and check out your prospect’s social media profiles, too. Use tools like Rapportive, Clearbit and FullContact.

Finish up your research by using a contact management tool to put all of the info in one place so you have a well rounded picture of the person you will be talking to.

If you go into a cold call blind with absolutely no research or information on a lead, you’re stacking the deck against yourself.

5. Be clear on the value you offer

Be clear of the value of the solution you are selling. You must know how having your product or service will make them money, save money, save time, increase happiness, or reduce friction. Ideally you have the stats, case studies and industry knowledge to back it up. You are not calling to impose on them, you are calling because you have something that will improve their life. You are the trusted advisor.

6. Practice

sales calls practiceFor most endeavours, practice makes perfect. Sales calls are no exception. One trick is to print your prospect’s photo (use their Twitter profile pic) and pin it up. Run through what you want to say on the call as if you’re in the same room. Even better, record the run-through so you can hear exactly how you sound. If you’re happy with the playback, you’re ready to go. If not, try again.

Go to part 2 – Making the call >

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