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The 5 Most Common Mistakes People Make While Cold Calling (And How to Avoid Them)

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The 5 Most Common Mistakes People Make While Cold Calling (And How to Avoid Them)
A post from our Sales blog

      Written by Ashley Andrews
As a salesperson, you're probably very familiar with rejection.

Of the hundreds of prospecting calls you've made (and will make) in your career, you'll find that no matter how well you prepare, a percentage of your cold calls will end in hang-ups.

Getting hung up on occasionally is part of being in sales. But if you find that more and more of your cold calls end with a click in mid-sentence, there may be something wrong. An analysis of common cold calling techniques may highlight the problem, but too many people simply try to make even more calls.

The truth is, however, that most prospects only listen to a cold call, so they can find a reason to disqualify you and your product.

Despite the animosity it gets from all sides, cold calling is still a powerful lead generation tool, though, and sometimes it can be the only option your sales team has. Cold calling is a form of interruption marketing and to keep the prospect interested and keep them on the phone, you must avoid some of the most common pitfalls salespeople make.

Now, while I'm about to tell you about the common mistakes that get made, and that you should be avoiding, let me just state right up front that often nothing simply beats learning from those that have done it themselves before.

To help you do that, below are 5 of the most common cold calling mistakes, and the best ways to avoid them.

1)    Ditch the chit-chat

In a regular sales call, where a relationship has been established, chatting about the weather can help ease both parties into a conversation. But exchanging time-wasting drawn-out pleasantries during a cold call will come off as you being poorly prepared and trying to buy time.

Why would you leapfrog the gatekeepers, command a decision maker's attention, only to open the call with "How are you?" or "Is this a good time?" Asking these banal questions screams "Cold call" at the prospect and their guard immediately goes up. Your prospects are busy business people and generally don't appreciate getting interrupted; this approach takes away from your professionalism.

By coming across as amateurish, you've given the prospect a chance to end the call by simply saying that it's not a good time. Polish your opening statements and work within the limited time you have to capture your prospect's attention instead.

2)    Be prepared

Before you make a cold call, it is crucial that you are prepared for it. This means having the relevant information, including pricing, samples, and a list of questions you need to ask. Can you imagine that some salespeople don't even have the right prospect's name when calling? Or even how to pronounce it correctly? Talk about not being prepared!

Failure to plan a call comes across as winging it, which isn't what a professional salesperson does. Winging it will lead to extended sell cycles at best, and a flat "no" at worst.

You can avoid this by preparing for your cold calls with creating a checklist of the vital information you'll be discussing. Your list must include an action plan with a strategy, a schedule and your targets. These will help you to stay on track towards your desired outcome.

3)    Avoid one-way conversations

Your lack of a plan becomes even more evident when your prospect picks up the phone and you soon start to drone on and on, resulting in a one-sided conversation.

Remember that the role of your initial call is to introduce yourself to a decision maker, not to talk their ear off. A cold call has a better chance of success if it's an actual two-way conversation. The best cold calls have you asking questions that engage your prospects and you actually listen to their replies.

In order not to fall into this trap, your cold call approach checklist (blocks of script or a template) must be sprinkled with questions to help foster dialogue. While you may be eager to inform your prospects about the benefits your service or product, you should also avoid dominating the conversation.

4)    Listen to their objections

No matter how good you think your product is, some prospects will have objections. In fact, in a cold call, if you put the phone down and realise that you have not had a single objection all the way through the call, it's likely that the person simply wasn't listening to you.

In some cases their objections are justified (e.g. if they retained another company the previous week). In other cases, however, you may be able to work around their objections. I don't want to insult anybody that's been around a while, but if you're just starting to make calls, this is called objection handling.

Remember, this is a cold call and you don't have an established relationship, hence they have no reason to implicitly trust you. Attempting to swing a no from a yes on a cold call will come across as pressuring the prospect.

If someone says they're not interested, acknowledge their hesitation and ask another question that keeps the call going. The trick here is to listen closely to what they are saying, and tailor your questions so that they reveal what is keeping them from trying your service.

5)    Demonstrate your Value

Prospects claim that when cold callers keep harping on how their product is the best thing since sliced bread, it comes across as bullying. Always remember that your potential customer has the right to say no to any opportunities that they haven't explored yet. Great decisions are made from an informed position and that's what professional salespeople offer.

You can avoid this by offering the prospect access to information that will form the basis for their decisions. Asking open-ended questions that shift the focus of the conversation to their problems; thus allowing you to demonstrate the value your product/service offers.


Remember, in cold calling, the prospect has no connection to your company and they haven't signalled any interest either.

By avoiding these five cold calling mistakes, you'll improve your success rate, generate more sales, and increase your commissions. It's common for inexperienced salespeople to have pretty unrealistic goals for cold calls. Some even believe that making a cold call will lead to a sale immediately. However, at this stage, you should be focused only on attaining the next step, whatever that may be. Your next step may be to agree to a further call, or a site vist/meeting. Your close on a cold call is simply to agree to a next step usually, and that is what you need to aim for.

What are some of your cold calling mistakes? Do you have any other tips you would add to the list? Let us know in the comments below.
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