Anatomy of a Cold Call: 4 Steps to Better Outreach

In a perfect world, sales professionals would spend most of their time talking with eager prospects who’ve done the homework, seen the marketing campaign, and asked for a meeting. 

In the real world, cold outreach is still a necessity — even the strongest business relationships have to start somewhere. And doing it well, at scale, is a skill that separates the best sales reps from the rest. 

Fortunately, in the era of modern GTM, cold outreach can still be remarkably effective with the right tools, uncompromising data accuracy, and a tested strategic framework.

4 Steps to More Successful Cold Calls

There are four key stages to a successful cold call. They are:

  1. Interrupt the normal pattern
  2. State the reason for the call
  3. Ask open-ended questions 
  4. Make a powerful value statement

By following this strategy, you can create warm opportunities from even the coldest leads. Let’s see how.

Step 1: Interrupt the normal pattern

You already know how busy your prospects are, so getting to the point quickly is vital. 

The first 15 seconds of a cold call will make or break the entire interaction. Given that most people probably might not be receptive once they realize it’s a sales call, it’s crucial to steer the conversation quickly. 

This is accomplished using a technique called “pattern interruption.” 

The idea behind pattern interruption is to redirect the flow of a conversation and create an opening. There are several phrases you can use as pattern interruption, including:

  • Do you have a second? I promise to be brief
  • You don’t know me … 
  • I know I’m calling out of the blue — can I steal 27 seconds of your time? 
  • If I take two minutes and you’re not interested, I’ll never call again. Is that fair?
  • I’ll be honest, this is a cold call — will you hear me out? 

Each of these phrases makes an appeal to the listener and makes it more difficult to refuse at least an introductory pitch. And crucially, they anchor the conversation at a more personal level.

The “can I steal 27 seconds of your time?” interruption, for example, uses a highly specific and unusual amount of time to catch the listener off-guard. Others, such as the promise to never contact them again and the upfront admission of a cold call, are emotional appeals to the listener’s empathy.

Another powerfully effective technique is asking for help. In a recent Outbound Squad webinar, Megan Huston, a sales development manager at ZoomInfo, said that asking for help can be an excellent way to interrupt the pattern of a conversation in those crucial first few seconds. 

“Saying ‘Hey, I just wanted to make sure I’m in the right spot,’ or ‘I just wanted to see if you could help me with something’ is perfect,” Huston says. “This allows them to drop their guard, and they’re not immediately wondering what this person wants.”

However you choose to introduce yourself, remember — it’s vital to do so within those crucial 15 seconds.

Step 2: State the reason for the call

Now you’ve got your prospect’s attention — at least for a few more seconds — you need to articulate why you’re calling and how they can benefit.

At this point, your aim is to entice your prospect with your reason for calling. This should be simple and direct:

“The reason for my call is that we have a solution that can solve [common pain point].”

By this point, you’ve gotten your prospect’s attention and articulated why you’re calling and how you can help. Now, we want our prospect to describe the pain-point they’re experiencing.

Step 3: Ask open-ended questions

This may seem obvious, but it’s all too easy to give cold prospects an “out” by phrasing a question poorly in the heat of the moment.

Rather than asking questions that could be answered with a simple “yes” or “no,” invite the prospect to describe their situation. 

For example, rather than ask whether a prospect is bringing on new business — an easy “yes” or “no” — ask how they’re currently solving the problem that your solution targets. Even the most cursory explanation will likely create an opportunity to further the conversation.

Step 4: Make a powerful value statement

You’ve successfully engaged your prospect, explained why you’re calling, and asked your prospect to describe their primary pain-point. Now it’s time to make a powerful value statement that summarizes how your solution can help.

Value statements should be simple and succinct. For example, ZoomInfo’s value statement might be:

“We help businesses find their next best customer by getting in front of the right person, with the right message, at the right time.”

Strong value statements offer a natural segue into a request to schedule a demo. But what if your prospect still isn’t sold?

Bonus: Objection-handling during cold calls

While ZoomInfo’s sales teams have found the approach above to be highly effective, it’s far from a guarantee of success. 

However, as any salesperson can attest, preemptively handling objections is a vital part of selling, and doing so on a cold call doesn’t have to be any more challenging than fielding objections from warmer leads.

Since cold calls are unsolicited, it’s crucial to emphasize how little prospects have to lose when handling objections. This might look something like this:

“You don’t have to bring your checkbook, but before you make a judgment on [results, timing, budget], let me show you the platform live.

If you say no at that point it’s fine, but first give me the opportunity to show you the value because I’m confident it will be a game-changer for you.”

Presenting your request this way removes any real barrier to a demonstration besides however much time they’re willing to give you.

Modern GTM: The Better Way to Prospect

Cold calling has long been an essential part of selling, but modernized GTM is changing how, where, and when businesses reach new customers.

Successful cold calling is all about timing, which makes intent data a secret weapon for sales professionals seeking to close new business and hit their number. The more information sales teams have at their disposal, the more effectively they can understand their prospects’ pain points and demonstrate real value, even during cold calls. 

The techniques above have proven highly effective for ZoomInfo’s sales teams. Ultimately, effective cold outreach hinges on respecting people’s time and demonstrating genuine value. 

Not every cold call can be warmed up, but remembering these core principles while respecting prospects’ time is an excellent first step in building a lasting relationship from even the coldest leads.  

“At the end of the day, we’re just people talking to people,” Huston says. “If you keep in your mind that I am an important person talking to an important person, the mutual respect is going to carry through the conversation.”