Cold calls are still one of the most effective ways to fill your pipeline. Whether you’re an experienced salesperson or you are just getting your feet wet in the sales world, this guide will help you structure your cold call and set more meetings.

In this guide, we break the cold call down into four main parts: Opener, illuminating question, objection handling, and closing.

Things to keep in mind before you start

The most important thing to remember is that there is no silver bullet. Even the most experienced cold callers face rejection on a daily basis. That being said, there are many steps you can take to improve your performance and turn some of those rejections into meetings.

Secondly, voice tone is a critical factor when making calls. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you’re calling

  • Slow down. Most inexperienced SDRs rush through their calls and speak far too quickly. Speaking fast makes you sound less confident
  • Eliminate upward inflections in your voice
  • Don’t interrupt. This seems like common sense. But in the heat of the moment, it can be easy to jump in to answer a question or handle an objection. Let the prospect finish speaking.
  • Use a script, but make sure to lose the script voice. Use it as more of a guide

Lastly, remember that it’s going to take practice to master these skills. The only way you’ll get better at cold calling is to cold call.

Cold Call Openers

How to open a cold call is one of the most controversial topics in the sales development community. Everybody has an opinion, and everybody’s opinion is different. The most important part is to find out what works best for you. Test out a few different openers and find out which one works best for you. Here are a few ideas:

“Hi John, thanks for taking my call. It’s Bob from company X. I know I’m calling out of the blue here but do you have a second so I can tell you why I’m calling? I promise to be brief”

“Hi John, it’s Bob from company X. How’ve you been?” (pause). “I know there’s no good time for a cold call. Can I have 27 seconds to tell you the reason for my call and then you can tell me if you want to hang up on me, or continue the conversation?”

“Hi John, we’ve been working with a few other fintech and financial services companies in NYC. It’s Bob at Company X. Have you heard our name tossed around?” This opener comes from the 30 Minutes to President’s Club Podcast.

Illuminating Question

Once you’ve nailed your opener, the next part of the call should be a question that’s going to help open the conversation up. A good way to do this is to ask an illumination question.

An illumination question is a question that piques curiosity about an issue the prospect might not be thinking about. You’re shining a light on a potential problem or challenge.

The format for this typically comes in two parts. The first part is to frame the problem, oftentimes a fact or statistic relevant to the problem you solve. The second part is to ask a question that makes them think about what will happen if they fail to change. Here’s an example of this:

“For other sales organizations, the average rep spends 15% of their day doing admin work. What steps are you taking to make sure that your sales reps aren’t wasting time on non-selling activities and instead are on the phones filling their pipelines?”

Try to come up with one for your company.

Common Objections on Cold Calls

“I’m not interested” (before you even go into your pitch)”

*laugh* “Hey John, I’m sure I didn’t catch you at your desk ready to take a call with me. Can I take 30 seconds to tell you why I’m reaching out and you can tell me if it makes sense to keep talking?”

The laughter at the beginning of this one is key because it eases the tension.

Another way you can defuse this objection is by asking a clarifying question and using humor. Check out a real example of how this can be done. Notice how the rep in this video uses a clarifying question to gather more information and uses humor to ease the tension.

“We already have a vendor”

This objection is one of the more difficult ones to overcome as replacing a current system and implementing an entire new system can often be a daunting task.

The best way to approach this objection is to gather as much information as you can and find a pain point you can double down on. The easiest way to collect more information is to use a technique called mirroring. This is a technique where you repeat the last few words of somebody’s sentence. It could sound like this

Prospect: “We already have another vendor.”

You: “Another Vendor?” (and then be silent)

What you’ll find is oftentimes that people will aim to fill the silence and just keep talking. The next step here is to label their feelings.

“It sounds like company x is really making your life easier when it comes to ABC, but it sounds like you’re still having some issues with XYZ.” And most likely they will agree or will expand on this.

Then, the last step is to go for the no. ‘Would it be a terrible idea to see if there are any opportunities beyond your current capabilities that would help you solve problem XYZ?”

“What’s the price?”

Back in the old days of SDRs, sales leaders instructed SDRs to avoid sharing a price on a cold call. And in general, it’s best that you leave the pricing discussions for a later discussion after they fully understand the value of your product. But if a prospect is asking for pricing and you resist giving it to them, it creates friction in the sales process and frustrates prospects.

A good tactic is to give the prospect a range. This way they have a general idea and you can financially qualify them.

“Our pricing depends on a variety of factors. Most of our clients in your industry are spending anywhere from 10-50k annually on our solution, it just depends on their specific needs.”

“Send me an email”

This objection is one of the more common objections that we face on a daily basis. Oftentimes this objection is not a real objection, but something that prospects say to get you off the phone.

So how do we understand who is a prospect that’s actually interested in more information and who is just trying to get you off the phone? There’s two ways could approach this.

The first approach:

“Hey John, absolutely I can send over some more information. I have a multitude of different types of information I can send over, but I’m not quite sure what you’re actually interested in. What kind of information would you like to see in that email that I send over?”

This question can help you gauge their level of interest and determine whether they actually are looking for more information. If they ask for specifics such as pricing, features, or other specifics there is a better chance they are actually interested.

If they do ask for some of these specifics you take can take this one step further.

“Great, I can send you that over. Is there a time later this week when we can circle back and review some of your thoughts on this email. It would be a short conversation, and if after that you’re not interested, no big deal. Does that sound okay?”

The second approach:

An alternative approach you could take to this objection is to be an authentic salesperson. Here’s what this could sound like:

“Absolutely I can send you an email, but here’s the thing. Nine times out of ten when I do that it’s really because people are just not interested. And I want you to know that that’s totally okay for you to tell me that right now if that’s the case. Because I don’t want to send you an email, fill up your inbox, and then keep calling you back at a later time. Are you actually interested in this right now?”

The great part about this tactic is that you’re going to get back a real authentic answer from the prospect. And the goal is to uncover what the actual objection is. From there, you can overcome the real objection and book a meeting.

“Is this a sales call?”

Overcoming this objection has everything to do with tone. Try to defuse the situation by being brutally transparent and adding humor to it. It could sound something like this:

“Hey Lisa, to be totally transparent, yes it is. But I’ve done my research so it’s not entirely cold! I saw you recently started a new role at Company X. Can I have 27 seconds to see if it would even make sense to have a conversation and if not you can hang up?”

Closing Your Cold Call

As soon as you hear interest from the prospect, ask for the meeting. Think of the cold call like a movie trailer, show them the highlights and get them excited to see the rest.

“Based on what you’ve said so far, it sounds like we could help you solve (problem X), would you be opposed to learning more about how we’re helping other companies solve (problem X)?

If they agree:

“Would Thursday at 2pm EST work? If not, I could also do Thursday at 4pm or Friday at 11am.”

As soon as you agree to a time, send over a calendar invite and have them accept it while you are on the phone with them. You can send a barebones invite to start, and then update the invite with the meeting information as the date approaches. You can say something like this:

“Just to make sure I typed your email correctly, can you hit the accept button as soon as you get it?”


And there you have it! A simple framework to start cold calling!

Remember that the only way to get better at cold calling is to cold call. Practice makes perfect.

If you’re looking to connect with other sales development experts, uncover additional sales tactics, and experience 1-1 coaching, apply to join SDR Nation!

Other resources that we think you may find helpful:

The SDR Newsletter – A free weekly email that shares innovative tactics, useful resources, best practices, and all things related to being an SDR

John Barrows – Leaving Effective Voicemail [Video]

Josh Braun – How to defuse “We’re already working with a vendor” [Video]

30 Minutes to President’s Club [Podcast]