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Cold Calling is not a Selling Activity


Ask salespeople to list their least favorite selling activities, and you can count on “prospecting” being at the top of the list. And, the least favorite of all prospecting activities is unquestionably making cold calls.


Because prospects have an unending list of excuses for dismissing salespeople before the prospecting call conversation actually gets started.

Because those prospects who do listen to what the salesperson has to say still say that they’re not interested, regardless of how many features, functions, benefits, or advantages the salesperson mentions.

And, because for the most part, salespeople sound like…salespeople. They tend to treat prospecting as a “selling” activity condensed into a five-minute phone call. Consequently, they all sound alike. They start “selling” eight seconds after they say hello. “We’ve got the latest…,” “We provide the most effective…,” “We have developed the most efficient…,” “We’re a leader in the field of…” It would seem that every salesperson’s product or service is the latest and greatest…the most cost effective…or the most widely used and accepted.

Your product or service may very well be the latest and greatest, the most cost effective, and the most widely used and accepted. But, that alone isn’t going to capture a prospect’s attention or interest, nor is it a reason for him to buy it.

Prospecting – especially cold calling – is not a selling activity. In essence, it’s a marketing activity – a proactive, interactive, marketing activity. As such, it should incorporate the same elements and syntax as any effective marketing message.

Your “marketing” message should:

  • Identify your target market (with whom you work)
  • Refer to the problems and challenges they face
  • Describe the outcome you help them achieve
  • Contain a “call to action” question

The opening of your message should focus on the type of clients with whom you work, not on you or your company. Instead of, “We are a management consulting firm providing …,” start with, “Our clients are typically…” or “We work with …,” and then add the demographics or psychographics that describe your ideal clients.

Next, describe a problem, challenge, pain, or predicament the prospect is likely to experience that is addressed by your product or service. Avoid intellectual descriptions. Instead, describe the situations in ways that strike a nerve. Rather than, “We work with managers to help them optimize production metrics,” (Huh?) say, “We work with managers who are finding it increasingly difficult to meet both production projections and profits.”

The next step is to describe the outcomes you help clients achieve. Again, avoid intellectual, as well as overly wordy, descriptions. Describe the solutions and results in a manner that the prospect can quickly relate to and also answers the prospect’s unasked, but nonetheless important, question, “What’s in it for me?” Instead of, “We conduct a multidimensional process analysis to isolate and analyze the critical aspects of performance and then provide you with a validated solution for generating the greatest improvement in production flow in the shortest period of time to maximize your return on investment,” a better description is, “We analyze your production process to first identify production bottlenecks, and then develop appropriate methods to eliminate them.”

Saying too little is as much a sin as saying too much. Simply stating, “We’re a process engineering firm that works with gravity-cast-widget manufacturers,” will leave the prospect wondering, “So?”

Finally, ask a “call to action” question. Keep it simple and to the point. For example, “Would it make sense to invest five minutes on the phone to determine if what we’ve done for other companies in your industry would provide the same value for you?”

When you focus on your target market, the problems they face and are trying to solve, and the solutions you provide, you’ll get their attention. And, it’s much less likely that you’ll be dismissed as “just another salesperson.”

Jim Dunn

Jim Dunn

Jim Dunn has been a regional franchise owner of Sandler Training since 1992. Dunn Enterprises' Mission is to help people and companies realize their full potential and to train and coach business professionals who believe in growth achieved through on-going reinforcement.