Everyone claims that cold calling is dead, outdated, or obsolete. While this is not unfounded, it is misguided. Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) and Account Executives that ignore the power of the cold call do so at their own peril.

Should you pick up the yellow pages and start dialing? Of course not. You might as well get back into your Delorean and head to 1986.

The nature of the cold call has changed. In fact, I no longer find the term cold call appropriate. An intelligent rep does not make cold calls, they make smart calls. Below is my step-by-step guide on how to transform your cold calling process into smart calling.


The term cold call implies complete lack of preparation. What happens when you don’t prepare for a call? Something like this:


If your prospect feels blindsided by your call, you have not done your homework. Start with social media engagement. Your social media efforts can explain to your prospect why you are reaching out, provide you with discussion topics for the call (call ammunition), and warm your prospect up to an exploratory conversation.

Most sales reps either prospect and build their own lead lists or have lists given to them by a manager. The lead lists are often created with a tool like LeadFuze. Although valuable, lists like these are not enough to transform your cold calling process. Here are the steps you need to take before picking up the phone:

  1. Check out your prospect’s LinkedIn profile. This will be the first way you passively introduce yourself. You should spend 3 minutes collecting 3 relevant notes on your prospect that may become valuable discussion points during your first call. (also known as a 3×3). It is important that you DO NOT invite them to connect. It is too early since you have not previously engaged with your prospect.
  2. Follow your prospect and their company on Twitter. This is a GREAT opportunity to passively interact with your prospect prior to the call. If they’re sharing interesting content engage with them by commenting, liking it or retweeting it. These small touches will generate a conversation before you ever pick up the phone.
  3. Take advantage of tools like Team Link on LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator. You may know someone in common with your prospect and can ask for an introduction or referral. Just because your prospect came to you on a cold list doesn’t mean you have no existing connection. Leverage your network.
  4. Set up Google Alerts for their company. This provides you with a daily digest of news relevant to your prospect’s company.

With above steps, this will make you 99% more prepared than other callers pursuing your prospect’s business.


You’ve completed the prep and are ready for the call. Since you are prepared, you are removing the potential for awkwardness. Your prior social media engagement will earn you a “Hi Chris, what can I do for you?” instead of a “Chris from where? Did you say PandaDuck?”.

My reps simply introduce themselves and wait silently. It goes something like this: *Ring* *Ring* “Hi this is Bob”…. “Hi Bob, this is Chris Bryson with PandaDoc”…*wait in silence*. While this seems like an awkward move, it produces positive results. Typically, the prospect will do one of two things: a) they will respond to you with familiarity or b) they will presume that the two of you have previously interacted, and will respond with some variation of “Hi Chris, what can I do for you”. Obviously there are outliers, but this consistently produces results.

Now communicate the value and purpose of the call. Tone here is key – be the expert that your prospect wants to talk to. Project the 3 C’s: Comfort, Confidence, Coolness. Now use everything you’ve gained from your preparation. You know why they are the person you want to talk to and what you can discuss that will bring mutual value. Communicate this:

“Bob, I realize I’m catching you out of the blue here, but I was hoping I could learn a little bit about how [company name] is currently doing X,Y, and Z – I saw your post on LinkedIn about sales management and figured since you were the VP of Sales you would be able to help or at least point me in the right direction.”

This proves that you’re not just calling down a list. You found them through the content THEY shared. THEIR content peaked your curiosity and inspired you to reach out. This is a huge compliment and is a better way to start a call than rattling off a pitch.

If you interrupted them, it’s no big deal – give them an “easy” out and by getting an appointment. “Bob, am I catching you at a bad time?” If they say yes, great. “How does 3 PM on Tuesday work for you? No? How about 10 AM on Friday? Great – I’m sending you a calendar invitation now. Talk to you then, Bob.”

Be polite but persistent and make sure that something is scheduled. If you’re an AE – these are the seeds for your pipeline. If you’re an SDR, this is building up your month with warm calls. The next time you speak with them will be a lot easier because you have an actual appointment.


The qualification phase can be three different tranches – early, mid, and late discovery.

Early discovery phase is qualifying their basic ability to use your product. You’re also confirming you understand their business. Collect information that will help you build pain in the next tranche. You want to accomplish one of two things – unqualify them because they’re a bad fit or move on to building interest in taking a meeting.

Mid discovery is dedicated to building pain and creating holes in their current process. If you’ve found out how things work at their company, you can start “twisting the knife” on some of their pains. Use techniques like Negative Reversing, a Sandler technique that’s useful for getting prospects to correct you and move the conversation in your favor. You stand to gain key information, and can build a ROI proposition for your prospect. You need to create urgency about their real problems – that fortunately you can fix.

Now you have leverage to ask some serious questions in the third phase – late discovery. Ask them powerful questions that compel serious consideration of your solution. These questions depend on your buyer personas, ideal customer profile, and product but they should be extremely potent and in line with the type of questions touted in The Challenger Sale. Once you’ve communicated value, move onto the final stage of the prospecting process, closing.


An appropriate ‘close’ may sound like this: “You don’t know how much revenue you’re losing because of mistakes, have no way of accounting for it, and you’ve never tried to fix the problem – have you heard the saying ‘You can’t manage what you can’t measure?’ We can help you do it.”

After you’ve hooked them, set up the meeting immediately. Try to get it set for as soon as possible and verify their contact information. If possible, have them stay on the line as you send them the calendar invitation and accept it.

Congratulations! You’ve successfully called with meaning, provided value, and fattened your pipeline.