2024 Guide to Cold Calling Lead Generation

Cold calling lead generation is a critical component of a successful outbound sales strategy. This guide will explain how and why cold calling complements a multichannel prospecting approach that appeals to modern buyers.

Dan Moran
2023-12-13

Is cold calling really dead in 2024?

Despite what you may read on LinkedIn, reports of the death of cold calling are greatly exaggerated—it is still a highly effective method of lead generation and pipeline building.

But, like so much else in the dynamic arena of B2B sales, it is changing at a pace that makes it hard to keep up.

Prospect’s expectations from the salespeople attempting to reach them are at all-time highs. Pure cold outreach simply doesn’t cut it anymore. Anything that isn’t relevant to your prospect in the moment gets ignored.

Yet if you can tap into the subliminal intent signals that indicate someone is interested in your product or service and subtly incorporate it into your outreach, you’ll resonate with potential customers and sales leads in a way that’s hard to ignore.

This guide will explain why cold calling is a vital pillar of an effective multichannel outreach strategy. It will provide strategies and tactics that will sharpen your skills—or the skills of those on your team—to become a better cold caller.

Plus, it will reveal how to incorporate the same research that powers hyper-relevant and personalized email into your scripts, openers, and value props to spark more buying conversations over the phone.

What is Cold Calling?

Cold calling is an outbound sales strategy where salespeople reach out to prospects over the phone. The goal of cold calling is simple: to initiate a buying conversation.

As cold calls are unsolicited, meaning prospects haven’t asked to receive them, success can be a challenge. Salespeople only have a small window to engage with prospects, who are often caught off guard after receiving a sales call out of the blue.

This is one of the main reasons most sellers don’t like making cold calls. Resistance is common and most sales leads seek to end the conversation as quickly as possible.

Simply put, most cold calls end in rejection.

Yet despite these drawbacks, cold calling lead generation is still highly effective.

  • It’s highly personal and feedback is immediate
  • Salespeople can tailor their pitches and prepare for common objections
  • A well-executed cold call can quickly establish rapport with a prospect

Good cold calling requires skill and preparation. When done well as part of a holistic outbound strategy it can be a great way to rapidly build a strong pipeline of qualified leads.

Cold Calling vs. Cold Email vs. LinkedIn Messaging

The effectiveness of each channel is often fiercely debated among B2B Sales practitioners.

Some swear by cold calling. Others insist cold email is best. Some won’t budge from the opinion that LinkedIn is superior.

The truth is an effective outbound sales strategy requires a combination of all three.

Each feeds into the other. Insight collected from cold email research can bolster a cold call script. Referencing a call can make a LinkedIn message more relevant. The purpose is to meet your prospect where they are, providing value through genuine interactions that build rapport and earn you the right to ask for a meeting.

Multichannel prospecting for lead generation makes you unignorable. Done right, by the time your prospect picks up the phone, they’ll know exactly who you are and where you’re calling from.

Start with cold email outreach

Cold emails must be personalized and relevant if they’re to have any chance of being effective.

Personalization and relevance starts with research. The research conducted in preparation to send a prospect an email serves as the foundation that will improve all of your outreach across various channels.

💡 For example: The same intent signals and buying triggers that act as the hook for your cold email make for a great attention-grabbing opener for your cold call.

Even if a prospect doesn’t reply to your email, most platforms will show other engagement signals—like when your email is opened. Savvy sellers know this is a great time to call because you’ve already got their attention.

LinkedIn engagement is key

Most B2B buyers are on LinkedIn. Whether they’re active or not is an important factor in how much you should emphasize this social media channel in your outreach. But even if they’re not posting all the time, you can still engage in different ways:

  • Engage with their content by liking and commenting on their posts
  • Send connection requests to add them to your network, unlocking ability to direct message them
  • Send a direct message: Note this is NOT an opportunity to hit them with a “pitch slap”. A non-selling, friendly DM can go a long way to building rapport and connection before asking for a meeting
  • InMails are a premium feature that allow you to directly message someone you’re not connected to

Now you’re ready to call

Modern prospecting and lead generation efforts is all about relevant, personalized outreach. The best way to precede that is by contacting prospects who display signals of intent.

Your emails and LinkedIn engagement provide key data you need to gauge your prospect’s intent.

Once someone’s seen you in their inbox and on their feed, they are far more likely to pick up your call and hear what you have to say. Especially if your message is thoughtful and relevant.

Benefits of Cold Calling Lead Generation

If you’re still not convinced, here’s a quick-hit list of all the reasons why cold calling is good for business.

  1. Direct interaction: Allows for immediate, personal engagement with prospects.
  2. Immediate feedback: Salespeople can gauge interest and response in real-time.
  3. Customizable approach: Ability to tailor the conversation to each prospect.
  4. Building relationships: Reps can establish rapport quickly.
  5. Hyper-targeted: You can only talk to one person at a time.
  6. Cost-effective: Generally requires minimal tech/tool investment
  7. Skill development: Enhances communication and sales skills of the team.
  8. Market research: Provides insights into customer needs and market trends.
  9. Brand awareness: Introduces your product or service to new potential customers.
  10. Opportunity for quick sales: Potential to close deals or set appointments immediately.

Cons of Cold Calling Lead Generation

Okay, okay. It’s not all sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. There are some drawbacks to hitting the phones to generate sales leads.

  1. Cold calling is scary: Calling strangers out of the blue is intimidating
  2. High rejection rate: Cold calls often end in rejection. See above; scary.
  3. Low success : The average cold calling success rate is 2% according to Cognism.
  4. Intrusive: Unsolicited phone calls can be perceived as disruptive by potential customers.
  5. Negative brand impact: Repeated calls can lead to negative perceptions of the brand.
  6. Time-consuming: Requires significant time investment for both preparation and execution.
  7. Bad data: Crappy data with incorrect numbers can create low connect rates
  8. Limited scalability: You can only talk to one person at a time.
  9. High-skill task: Great cold callers are highly trained.
  10. People don’t like talking on the phone: Many prefer other forms of communication.

Some of these cons can be addressed by training, like how to overcome the fear of cold calling. Others that are more performance-based can be remediated by incorporating tech like auto-dialers into your cold calling workflow.

These cons aren't meant to scare you away from calling—they’re more to help drive home the point that cold calling lead generation is hard. You and your team need support to do it well.

How to Make Cold Calling Scripts That Work

Cold calling is a high-volume activity. Having a script will help you keep your eyes on the prize. The counter-intuitive challenge is to use it effectively without sounding scripted. Here’s some pointers on how to do it:

  1. Use research in your script

Leverage the hard work you’ve already put into researching your prospect for your email campaign by using it in your cold call scripts.

Intel you uncover around their business challenges, pain points, achievements, and milestones can help you capture their attention. It’s all about being relevant and showing you’ve done your homework.

  1. Consider a pattern interrupt

Throwing something out that your prospect wasn’t expecting can break their automatic response to sales calls.

A great example is simply stating the intentions of your initial cold call: to try and sell them something. This upfront honesty can help lower your prospect’s defenses and puts the ball in their court.

  1. Keep your scripts concise and to the point

Your script should be concise and focused. Prospects appreciate brevity and clarity.

Get straight to the point by quickly introducing yourself, stating the purpose of the call, and explaining how your product or service can add value to their business. Avoid overly complex language or jargon that might confuse or alienate the listener.

  1. Don’t overthink it

Being prepared is key. But nitpicking your or your team’s script too much can make it a constraint.

Think of it more like a guide than a blueprint. Include the main things you need to say, like the personalizing elements and your elevator pitch, but don’t think you’ll be sticking to it word-for-word.

Allow room for natural conversation, and remember…

  1. Know that calls will go off script

It’s useful to have scripted openers, value props, and prepared responses to common objections—think ‘how did you get my number?’, and ‘can you send me an email?’

But know that ninety-nine times out of a hundred, phone calls will go off-script. Expect and embrace deviations. Prospects may want to steer the discussion in unexpected directions, and that is okay; as long as you keep your ultimate goal in mind and stay in control of the conversation.

The Optimal Cold Calling Process

Process is key for effective cold calling. It’s an iterative process, and task-switching can quickly break the focus required to stay in the productive zone. Having a step-by-step process, like the one below, can help you maximize your efficiency and results from cold calling lead generation.

1. Prep, prep, prep: Thorough preparation is essential before you slip on the headset. This includes the obvious steps like making sure you have a list of people to contact (which is outlined below) but also small things like blocking time in your calendar to make calls, setting notifications to do-not-disturb for focus, and pouring yourself a nice strong coffee—or beverage of your choice.

2. Narrow down your ICP and do your research: This step involves creating a targeted list of people to contact, ideally grouping similar personas together. Leveraging your prospect research is key to personalized, relevant outreach here.

3. Have your script handy: As discussed earlier, your script should be concise, focused, tailored to each individual prospect, and allow room for natural development of the conversation.

4. Make the call: Whether you’re using an advanced dialer, calling from your CRM, or working through a list manually, it’s time to get dialing. Decide what your strategy is for voicemail (whether to leave one or not) and start hitting the phones.

5. Nail the opener: You’ve got about 10 seconds to capture someone’s attention. This is where the research you’ve done pays off. If your prospect can see you’ve done your homework, they’re more inclined to hear what you have to say.

6. Handle objections: The same handful of objections come up over and over again. Having a response ready helps you keep the call on track and moving towards next steps.

7. Book the follow up meeting: If you’ve successfully piqued your prospect’s interest, you need to lock down that meeting. Ask them if they have their calendar in front of them and book it right there on the call if you can.

8. Rinse and repeat: Look at you, you’re on a roll! Don't stop that momentum now. Keep going till you’ve worked your way through your planned list. Calling 50 prospects in a single blitz is a legendary effort.

Technical Requirements for Cold Calling Lead Generation

Cold calling is a fairly low-lift lead generation method from a technical standpoint. But there is software that can greatly expedite this part of the sales process.

Dialers

Simply put, dialers make it so you can make a call without actually picking up a phone. Sophisticated tools offer features like parallel dialing to call multiple numbers at once, dropping the other calls when someone picks up, making it way faster to work through a list.

Data providers

Data providers help you narrow down your ICP and find their contact information. Big providers like Apollo and Zoominfo contain millions of contacts that are refreshed regularly.

Call recording

There’s a huge number of tools that sit in the background on calls to record what happens. This allows sales teams to analyze calls and coach sales reps up on performance.

CRMs

Your CRM is your source of truth. This is where notes from the call, next steps, and deal stage are recorded and tracked.

Keys to Cold Calling Lead Generation Success

Cold calling is a taxing, uncomfortable, and often thankless task defined by rejection and frustration.

But alongside an effective way of generating leads, it’s also some of the best training you can ask for as a salesperson. It teaches you how to communicate effectively and capture the attention of the person you’re speaking with, even though they weren’t expecting to talk to you. It teaches you to transform indifference and even hostility into genuine interest.

And when combined with a multichannel approach that includes email and social selling, it’s also one of the most effective ways to generate leads and build high-quality pipeline.

There’s only one goal of cold calling: sell the next step.

Your 10-second opener needs to sell the next 30 seconds where you tell the prospect the reason for your call. That in turn needs to sell the next one minute to explain your value prop. The start of the conversation needs to sell the right to ask for the meeting.

Understanding that cold calling is a series of small closes—and not trying to close the deal on the spot—makes it a lot more tolerable and effective.

Cold calling works. It always has and it will continue to do so for some time yet. As buyer expectations continue to shift and evolve, prioritizing relevance and personalization in every interaction with a potential customer is how you turn strangers and cold leads into hot leads and customers.

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