Let’s be honest, nobody likes cold calls. It is painful for the sales person and even worse for the person on the other end. In fact, even though I’m personally passionate about sales, I still tend to immediately delete voicemails from cold callers.

Although cold calling is one of the least appealing aspects of a sales career, failing to learn this skill limits salespeople to only focusing on the leads that have been acquired by the marketing team. In my experience, salespeople who consistently surpass quotas are those that have mastered cold calling and thus hold their destiny in their own hands.

So where do you start? Some people believe that cold calling requires a thick skin, or refusing to take no for an answer. But there are techniques that can make you more appealing to the person on the other end of the call. Here are my best tips and technique for cold calling:

Warm the Lead, Start With a Referral

The best way to open up a call is by warming the lead and starting with a referral. By listing the name of a person who referred you, it automatically legitimizes your call. Once the lead feels the connection, the call is likely to start off on a more positive note.

So how can you get the referral in the first place? Sales expert Aaron Ross, the author of Predictable Revenue, recommends sending a “short and sweet” email, simply asking for a referral. Using this method, he suggests reaching out to someone at the organization who can help you reach the contact that you actually want to speak with. This method works because folks usually respond with, “You need to speak with this person.” This scenario is really a win-win because it is an easy task for that person and a reasonable response to an unsolicited email.

Once you have your referral, make sure to use that person’s name when you open your call, stating, “Hi Paul, I was exchanging notes with John Smith and he said that I should speak to you about X.” This technique lends you a little more credibility than a pure cold caller. and at worst the recipient will ask you how you know the referrer.

Make Your Voicemails Count

All cold callers have to deal with voicemail at some point. People often question if they should leave voicemail messages, and my answer is that they absolutely should. When leaving a voicemail, there needs to be a thoughtful approach to elicit a call back. I have found that the most effective voicemails are short, 20 seconds or less, and start with a connection point, such as a referral or a comment that is specific to their business. For example, my voicemail might sound like this:

“Hi John, this is Nick Hedges. Mark Brown on your business development team said that I should speak with you. I’m impressed to see sales are going so well that you are expanding your team. My company’s software platform helps new team members generate revenue more quickly through a scientific, guided selling process. I’d love to tell you about it. I’ll call again, but if you want to reach me, my phone number is …”

Find Another Way In

Often times, sales people spend way too much time trying to reach the decision makers, when in reality, they will have a better chance of getting hold of an influencer. Decision makers often sit behind assistants, who screen calls before they ever reach their intended target. An influencer, however, is far easier to get hold of and is usually willing to speak longer and provide you with an introduction to the decision maker.

One of the best ways to identify an influencer is on LinkedIn. On the right hand side of a profile, there is a column titled “People Also Viewed.” Oftentimes, this list includes junior executives who are in the circle of the decision maker and are likely to make an introduction.

Choose Your Timing Wisely

If you choose to move forward with reaching out directly to the decision maker, it is important to be strategic with the time of day that you call. Decision makers are often unavailable to speak with sales people from 9 to 5. Your best shot at reaching a decision maker is to target them from 7-8 a.m. or 6-8 p.m.

At the end of the day, there are several techniques that sales people can utilize in order to make cold calling a success. Even if you’re a seasoned sales executive, it is important to keep these skills fresh. And if you see a missed call from me, call me back – I was referred by someone you trust.