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The 5-Step Cold-Calling Technique That Gets You to the Sales Conversation Faster

cold calling techniques

Cold calling is one of the most important skills you can develop as a sales rep. 

So today, I’m going to share a surprisingly simple cold-calling technique that will help you ramp up faster or just get to the meat of the sales conversation faster.

How does it do that?

By focusing on the bare elements of a good prospecting conversation — so you can stay focused and the prospect doesn’t get irritated or impatient. 

Ready? Let’s dive in.

Step 1: Only Call Prospects

I know what you’re thinking: “That’s obvious, Derek. Who else would I call?” So let’s talk about what a “prospect” really is.

A prospect is someone who WANTS to solve the problem you solve.

who to cold call

That’s it. If they don’t already want to solve it, you’re wasting your time by trying to convince them. If you want to be a cold calling badass, start by making sure you’re calling the right people. 

My team is lucky. We can see a lot of this information online. If you can, make sure you do. If you can’t, you’ll want to qualify the prospect as soon as possible (which happens to be Step 2 in this process).

RELATED: The Complete List of Sales Prospecting Tools

But let me give you an example. 

We’ll start with the call-prep template. Use it for each person on your list to decide whether they’re really a prospect:

Problem we solve:

Why I believe this prospect has this problem:

Why I believe this prospect wants to solve this problem:

Don’t overlook the third one, because it’s critical: People buy things because they want a problem to be solved. They’re willing to let problems continue to exist if they don’t have the time, energy, or motivation to solve them. 

What that means is this…

If you call someone, and they don’t care about the problem you solve — even if they are experiencing it every day — they’re not a prospect.

Here’s how we teach reps at PatientPop:

Problem we solve: getting patients for doctors

Why I believe this prospect has this problem: they’re located in a competitive city where the population moves every few years

Why I believe this prospect wants to solve this problem: they’re spending money on some online solutions now

The counter-example that we see with many new reps is that they want to find the doctor who doesn’t even have a website. “She needs a website, and that’s part of our solution!” they say. 

But the absence of a website (in 2019!) means they’re unlikely to care about getting a website at all. Or even about being online.

So Step 1 is to verify that the prospect is ready to solve their problem. And if you can’t figure that out from your research, answering that question is the next step in your process.

Step 2: Find the Gap 

If you CAN answer the “why” from the template in Step 1, you will still need to get the prospect to tell you that they want to solve it. The best salespeople look at this as a disqualifying game: 

How quickly can I get this person out of this step of my pipeline? They’re either not a prospect and they’re out, or they are, and I move them forward.

Rapport-building is fine in a cold call (and can be really important), but make sure you identify as soon as possible whether or not you should keep working with this prospect.

Start by telling them, in clear language (no jargon!), which problem you’ve noticed or that you think they have. 

RELATED: How to Create Your Own Cold Calling Sales Scripts

This is simple if you can see the information online (like, whether they have a website, or whether it’s optimized for search), but it’s not much more complex if you don’t. 

For instance, you can refer to industry statistics, telling them that X% of people in their industry struggle with (problem). You can also base it on observations you’ve made about their website, their marketing, or a quote from one of their blog posts.

Step 3: Validate It

cold calling technique

Next, you need to get the prospect to tell you they want to solve this problem. THEY must say it, or it’s worthless. Not saying it is a strong signal they aren’t committed enough to find a solution.

And you have to do this quickly. 

Continuing to talk about something your prospect doesn’t consider a priority is dying a slow death. Get their commitment with a simple question: “Do you want to fix that?”

Here are some ways to do this naturally:

“I saw X, which led me to believe you’re trying to (whatever problem you solve). Are you?”

“I saw that you were running Google ads for laser tattoo removal. That led me to believe you might be looking to bring in more patients. Is that a priority for you right now?”

If you CAN’T figure this out before you get them on the phone, you need to uncover it right away.

“Most (role) that I talk to tell me that they’re trying to do one of three things: (problem 1), (problem 2), or (problem 3). Does that sound like you at all?”

“Most of the doctors I talk to tell me they are looking to either bring in a higher volume of patients, bring in patients for specific services, or just see more patients who pay out of pocket. Which of those is most important to you?”

“Most VPs of Sales tell me they either have trouble generating enough pipeline or aren’t sure the quality of it. Does that sound like your world at all??

A word of caution, here. “Problem” and “feature” are not the same thing.

99.99% uptime? That’s a feature. Losing sales because your hosting isn’t reliable — that’s a problem.

Better online reputation? Feature. Paying too much for a PR service that doesn’t seem to move the needle — problem.

Faster, bigger, prettier? Features. Not having time (or skill) to create landing pages that convert — problem.

What do your features DO for the prospect? Translate them into more income, more savings, less worry.

Step 4: Close!

Has the prospect told you that solving the problem you solve is a priority? Go for the meeting!

Here’s what happens with new salespeople (either new to the game or new to a company): They validated the gap, but they want to keep selling the prospect on why their solution is great. 

This is called “selling past the close.” Don’t do it. You may think you’re solidifying the meeting, but in reality, you’re putting it at risk.

RELATED: Call Mapping: What It Is, and How to Incorporate It Into Your Sales Process

All you need is for the prospect to agree that solving this problem is a priority. Then you directly ask for the meeting. It’s so simple, it will feel weird the first few times you try it.

cold calling tips

2 Keys to Getting This Right

1. Uncertainty.

”We can definitely solve that for you” doesn’t work as well as “We might be able to help.” 

That’s because uncertainty creates curiosity. 

Every salesperson is 100% convinced their product is the best. But that makes them come off as less trustworthy. The prospect starts to worry that the salesperson will push their product and make it hard to say no. 

If you appear uncertain, you remove that concern because you’re projecting an attitude of, “I’m here to help.”

2. Ask for one decision at a time. 

“Let’s set aside some time” is better than “Let’s set aside 20 minutes.” 

Let your prospect agree that they should spend any time with you at all before they agree on how much, and they’re more likely to do both.

So once the prospect has said they’re ready to solve the problem, say this:

“Ok, let’s set aside some time to talk about that and see if we can help you.”

One of two things will happen when you do this. 

  • They’ll take the meeting (and a huge percentage of people will take it earlier in the conversation than you think).
  • Or they’ll give you an objection. 

Either way, it’s a win.

Step 5: Repeat

Even though the prospect has agreed that their problem is a priority, they might still hesitate to meet with you. 

If you’ve made it to this point, their objections are most likely reflexive — they’re objecting to you being a salesperson, not to the solution itself.

RELATED: Relationship Selling: Definition, Techniques, and Examples

Getting an objection early is a win. 

Think about it. If you spent ten minutes longer selling after the close, they may run out of time to talk to you before you even know the objection. We want to get to this point as quickly as possible so we have the best chance to move to the next step!

Objection-answering is a whole issue all to itself, so I’ll just say this: Keep tying your answers to the problem they’re dealing with and the pain they’re feeling.

Do This…

1. Write down the 3 biggest problems your product solves for your customers. 

If you’re selling to different levels or roles, you may need to do this exercise for each of them. Don’t guess. Talk to your existing customers and ask them:

  • Why did they buy? 
  • What were they hoping for? 

If your company is a young start-up, you can set up some interviews to find these answers. If your company is more established, you may already have marketing collateral with quotes from customers, or you may have a playbook with these answers.

2. Create your validation question. 

This is a good template to use: “Most (role) that I talk to tell me that they’re trying to do one of three things: (problem 1), (problem 2), or (problem 3). Does that sound like you at all?”

3. Figure out if you can look online to understand whether your prospects want to solve these problems. 

4. For each prospect, use this template to understand them before you call:

  • Problem we solve:
  • Why I believe this prospect has this problem:
  • Why I believe this prospect wants to solve this problem:

This is a simple framework that can make your cold calls incredibly effective. But don’t let its simplicity fool you. It helps you achieve the core objectives of any cold call: to qualify the lead, gauge their likelihood to close now, and book a meeting.

Give it a try, and let me know how it works.

Do you have a foolproof process for cold calls? How does it differ from this 5-step process?