Effective Cold Calling – A How To

Effective Cold Calling – A How To


How can you most effectively structure a cold call? How do you pique your buyer’s interest and maintain control of the sales conversation while cold calling?  If you can implement effective cold calling strategies in your sales role, you will find opportunities to build your pipeline and call on your market proudly.

Effective cold calling follows 6 steps that progress in order:

  1. Opener
  2. Pain
  3. Value Prop
  4. Ask
  5. Qualification
  6. Sticky Question

Below, we lay out a few recommendations for how to best structure your cold call and some powerful scripting you can use. Of course, you don’t need to stick to this script word for word, but following the general cold calling structure will help keep your sales conversations organized and effective.

Let’s dig into each of these steps.

Sales Opener:

Your sales opener has a few key objectives.

ObjectiveHow to Accomplish It
Give the buyer a second to get comfortable with you and your voice.“Hi, ______. It’s [FIRST NAME] [LAST NAME]. How are you doing?”
Receive permission to continue your cold call, while remaining confident and being careful not to talk yourself down.“I know I’m catching you out of the blue here. Do you have a sec?”
Establish the cold call’s relevance to your buyer and an area he or she cares about.“It looks like you have a hand in [BENEFIT], is that right?”
Quickly pique your buyer’s interest.“In short, Balto [BENEFIT].”
Transition to Pain step.“That being said, [PAIN QUESTION]. I can then give you an example of how [YOUR SOLUTION] might help.


In sales, a pain question is intended to get the prospect to open up about a current challenge they are experiencing, which good salespeople can then address through their offering.

To demonstrate value on while cold calling, it is critical to ask your buyer about a pain point that he or she cares about, why that pain is worth solving, then explain how your solution might solve it. The pain step ensures that the value prop you propose later in your cold call aligns with 1 or more areas of the business your buyer cares about improving.

Remember: it’s not a benefit unless your buyer agrees it’s a benefit

Your first pain question should be:

  • Insightful. It should be a question your buyer has likely never heard before.
  • Focused. The question should involve a specific area of the business that your solution can very likely improve.
  • Open-Ended. It should encourage your buyer to open up about the challenges they are experiencing.
  • Genuine. The question should help you genuinely get to know your buyer’s situation; it shouldn’t manipulate your buyers to say what you want them to say.

Here are a few broad pain questions you can use in your cold calls. You can work in specific details for your product or service to make these your own.

  • If you could change one or two things about your current situation, what would they be?
  • What is one thing a new provider could do for you that would make you consider a change?
  • What is the most frustrating about your current service?
  • If you had complete control over the product, what would you change?

After your buyer answers your first pain question, it is critically important to resist the temptation to transition to your value proposition. Instead, take the opportunity to understand your buyer’s pain in depth and its importance to his or her life. Draw the pain out as much as possible so that they are eager for a solution.

These Pain Funnel questions will help you dig beyond surface pain and provide you valuable information you can use to tailor your value prop.

  • Could you tell me more about that?
  • Could you give me an example?
  • What have you tried to do to fix that?
  • How has that worked?
  • How much do you think that’s costing you?

Do your best to ask a total of 3 pain questions (or more if you can) before moving onto your value prop.

Value Proposition (Value Prop):

Your value prop should specifically highlight how your solution could solve the pains you and your buyer just discussed. Here are a few rules to keep in mind when proposing value to your buyer:

  • Start with benefits. Features come second. Only discuss features to the extent that they inspire trust from your buyer that you can deliver on your benefits.
  • Only propose benefits that your buyer has “asked to hear.” If your buyer hasn’t suggested that the benefit you’d like to propose is both relevant and impactful, no need to mention it.
  • Make sure the benefits you propose are clearly tied to the key value your organization provides (usually, it’s helping somebody save time or money), i.e., that you offer benefits that clearly illustrate how your offering addresses that.
  • Keep it short. No need to paint an elaborate picture of the promised land. This is a cold call, so your goal is to pique your buyer’s interest to the extent he or she wants to move to the next step.

After your value prop, follow with a value confirmation question to check that your buyer actually cares about the benefit you proposed. Value confirmation questions ensure that you and your buyer both agree that the benefit is real before you use that benefit as justification for next steps.

Here are a few examples of tested value confirmation questions to use in your cold calls.

  • What type of impact would you expect that to have for your [SITUATION]?
  • How would something like that help you?
  • How well do you feel like that would solve the need you mentioned?
  • If [BENEFIT], what sort of effect do you think that would have on [AREA BUYER CARES ABOUT]?

Your Ask – the next step – will only be as compelling as your Pain and Value Prop steps were.


There are 3 S’s to a great ask. Craft and refine your asks to fit these criteria as best as possible.

As a quick note, it’s worth mentioning that we talk in terms of scheduling meetings, which may or may not apply to your situation. For example, if your job is to schedule installations, you can substitute that in – the logic will still apply.

  • Simple. Your ask should be 1 sentence, 2 max. Your ask should be easy to understand, confident, and communicated in terms of what your buyer cares about.
  • Specific. Explain exactly what you intend to accomplish on your first meeting, and propose 2 precise options for when you can meet.
  • Soon. Choose your soonest possible availability to meet. “Any time in the next few weeks” will yield meetings 3 or 4 weeks in the future. “Today after 1:30 or tomorrow before 11 am” will yield you meetings this week. The less time that elapses between your cold call and the actual meeting, the more likely your buyer is to show up excited.

Here is an example of a strong ask. Feel free to adapt this ask to make it your own.

“Because you mentioned helping your sales reps consistently ask for the sale is a priority for you, let’s schedule time for a representative to show you how [YOUR SOLUTION] might help you with that. What does your availability look like this afternoon around 2:30 or tomorrow any time before 11 am?”


NoteDepending on your particular organization, you might not be required to disqualify buyers. If so, you can consider skipping this step, though qualification still helps you learn more about each buyer (which improves your chances of selling them).

Now that you’ve gotten a “yes” from your buyer, it’s time to make sure your buyer is realistically in a position to make a purchase. Remember that good qualification helps your buyer spend his or her time wisely: no one likes schedule an installation for a product or service they can’t actually purchase.

With this perspective in mind, ask your qualification questions proudly, communicating to your buyer that the questions really do protect his or her best interests. Here’s an example of how to frame your qualification questions.

“Before we get off the phone, let me ask you a couple quick qualifying questions to make sure that the intro meeting would be a good use of your time.”

Then, transition straight into your qualifying questions. Thorough qualification protects everyone’s best interests.

Once you’ve booked the meeting and determined that your buyer is qualified, you have one remaining goal: do everything you can to ensure your buyer actually show ups to the installation or evaluation. Go the extra step before you hang up the phone to get your buyer has bought-in using a sticky question.

Here are a few examples of effective sticky questions and the psychological theories supporting them.

Sticky QuestionWhy It’s Effective
“Can you think of anything that could come up between now and our meeting that would cause you to cancel?”You give your buyer to opportunity to either a) voice a potential concern about attending the meeting, which empowers you to proactively address it, or b) to reaffirm his or her commitment to showing up to the meeting.
“A representative will arrive next Tuesday at 4pm. Do you have a dog, gate code, or any other obstacles that we should know about beforehand?” You prompt your buyer to think of the specific actions he or she will need to take to participate. Buyers who consider the specifics of attending are more likely to follow through.
“I’ll email you phone number in a moment. If for any reason you can’t make the installation, would you please call me to let me know?”You ask your buyer to commit to giving you a call if he or she needs to cancel. This strategy invokes a basic rule of fairness – don’t stand people up – and increases the chance that your buyer actually calls you to reschedule, instead of just disappearing.


Great cold calling sets the rest of your sales process up for success by proving to your buyer several important principles:

  1. Your buyer can trust that you will use his or her time wisely. You will efficiently get to the heart of his or her legitimate needs and propose ingenuitive solutions.
  2. You represent a team of skilled communicators. Your buyer can expect a similar quality of sales conversation from everyone he or she speaks with at your organization. You dare your buyer to picture how your solution could improve their situation, which builds excitement and buy-in.
  3. If you are scheduling installations or consultations, then you are not pitching your solution. You are not asking for the sale. You’re asking for a meeting-the chance to see if you can help your buyer with his or her most critical goals. Earn the opportunity to help your buyer by proving that your organization is worth doing business with.

Get ready to work hard, continuously hone your skills, and have a ton of fun. Cold calling is something we all continuously work at. There is no substitute for practice.