Sales / Sales Process

7 cold calling techniques for small businesses

James Dillon

Updated: Sep 20, 2022 · 11 min read

Toolkit for download in this article

Woman talking on phone in office

Most people in business would rather do anything other than cold call customers.

But the truth is, cold calling can be incredibly effective if you do it right.

Cold calling is significantly more effective than direct mail and other forms of advertising. It also gives you the chance to go directly to your customers instead of waiting for them to come to you. And, if you get good at it, it can actually help build your reputation.

As a business owner or salesperson, cutting to the chase and getting customers on the phone can save you loads of time. While there are many benefits to building out marketing funnels and inbound leads through email, calling someone directly bypasses those steps.

In this article, we’ll talk about some mindset shifts to help you prepare for your pitches, and share some cold calling scripts to generate more appointments.

How to prepare for a cold call

Let's face it, cold calls can be psychologically draining.

To prepare yourself for the cold calling process, here are some tips to help you come across more polished on the phone and build a strong rapport fast.

At first, the goal is to learn, not to sell

Too many people rush into “sales mode” and try to convert customers on their first few calls. The truth is, the best thing to do when you start out making calls is to treat every call as a learning experience. In every call, you should be learning new ways to improve your pitch, tonality, and messaging.

Analyze your calls and look for patterns in the way you get rejected. For example, are there certain phrases in your script that turn prospects off? Is there a certain part of your script where you consistently get shut down?

It all comes down to preparation. Marc Wayshak provides three pieces of advice when covering “all bases:

“First, you must target your exact ideal prospect, so that way no outreach is wasted. Only be selling to people who are likely to make great clients.

“Second, you want to leverage all of the data at your fingertips to show that you know who they are, what they care about, and that your solution is relevant to them.

“Third, follow a mapped out script to stay on track. Think of it as a scene in a movie, the more prepared you are, the more likely you are to engage the prospect in a conversation.”

Keep adjusting until you’re able to get through your entire script in over half your conversations. Call tracking technologies can help you with this practice. If you think of every call as an experiment, you’ll “win” whether you convert prospects or not.

Create a framework for targeting

Targeting is one of the most important things when cold-calling a prospect.

If you get your targeting off, you won’t be able to generate appointments or get customers—even if your script is perfect. If you’re not getting the right people on the phone, you’ll face more rejection and fewer sales.

Your specific targeting criteria will depend on the types of companies you think you can help, but here are some things to keep in mind:

  • What industry is your prospect in?
  • What size company?
  • Where are they located?
  • What’s their job title?
  • What tools have they used to do their job in the past?
  • Who do they report to?
  • What challenges do they usually face?
  • Who reports to them?

By targeting this way, you’re more likely to reach people who are interested in what you are selling. You’ll save time, and get better quality prospects on the phone.

You can then continue to organize, track, and manage these customer relationships through a CRM (customer relationship management platform) like Keap.

Chase rejection

As a sales professional, rejection is a part of the game when you're cold calling business owners, no matter what part of the process. No one closes 100% of their prospects and, depending on your market, your close rate can seem low on paper.

But as David Douek of Teambook puts it, these can be prevented with some preparation:

“Cold calls are fast-paced. Be prepared with answers to anything you may be asked before starting the call and try to avoid closed questions that may quickly put an end to the call.”

Ryan Robinson echoes this sentiment. He suggests doing as much preparation in advance as possible:

“Do your homework and know the most likely objections you’re about to hear. Even just a few extra minutes of research can make the difference between being able to show your prospect you understand their unique situation.”

If someone rejects and you know it’s not an objection you can overcome, don’t fight back. Express some humility and try to learn from this:

“I appreciate your honesty. There are no hard feelings if we don’t work together, but the hardest part of my job is not knowing why some customers decide our solution is not a good fit. Just so that I can learn, would you mind letting me know why you think it’s best not to progress?”

This isn’t a place where you try to sell or convert them. It’s just a place for you to learn and build a closer relationship.

Another way to get over your fear of rejection is practicing rude “mock calls” with colleagues. Have them reject you in the most brutal ways possible. It’ll get you so used to rejection that someone saying “no” to you just won’t phase you anymore.

Take Keap's Lifecycle Automation Assessment to identify growth opportunities for your business.

Cold calling scripts and techniques

Now you know the mindsets and processes to make yourself a better salesperson on the phone.

By looking at it as a learning experience, you can always find areas for improvement. The next question is, what should you say when you have your prospect on the phone?

Here are some scripts and cold calling examples you can use the next time you’re cold calling potential customers on the phone.

1. The referral strategy

One of the best ways to start a cold call is to tell them that a mutual contact suggested you both should connect.

The same thing applies when you’re meeting new friends: It’s much more likely that the other person would be interested in talking to you if you were connected by a mutual friend.

**Here’s a script you can use: **

Hi [NAME],

Mike and I are seeing great results with [CLIENT COMPANY]’s marketing automation at the moment and, when talking about who else would benefit, your name came up.

Congratulations on securing investment/your new acquisition/[ACHIEVEMENT]. What you’re doing at [PROSPECT COMPANY] is impressive!

I’d love to show you how we’ve helped Mike generate [RESULT] and how we may be able to do the same for you. Would this be of interest?

The prospect is likely to have a few questions, so opening with the name of a mutual connection is a good launching pad to get into the rest of your script.

2. The voicemail technique that gets prospects to call you back

Prospects aren’t always available when you call them. They might be in a meeting, on the go, or just busy with something else.

Here’s a script you can use when you leave your voicemail:

Hi, [NAME].

This is [NAME] with [COMPANY].

The reason for my call is I have an idea on how to possibly help you improve the troublesome process of recruiting employees, especially [SPECIFIC ROLE]. I wanted to see if it would make sense for us to have a quick conversation to find out more about it.

I can be reached at [YOUR PHONE NUMBER].

Again, my name is [NAME] with [COMPANY] at [YOUR PHONE NUMBER].



Just like a cold email, it’s brief and lets the prospect know exactly what they need to do next.

3. Open with a personalized statement

With social media, you don’t have to call prospects “cold” anymore. You can gather context on them through platforms like LinkedIn.

For example, you could open with things like:

  • “I notice you used to work at [PAST COMPANY], how did you find the culture there?”

  • “I saw that you studied at [UNIVERSITY]. A friend of mine also went to school there!”

Comments like this can help bring the two of you closer together and make the call a bit more pleasant from the start.

4. Let your prospect choose between options

This script comes from Jessica Magoch, CEO of JPM Partners.

She lets her customers filter themselves into “buckets” based on answers to her questions. Here’s how she handles it:

Hi, this is Jess from the Virtual Sales Academy. How are you?

We’re working on some solutions to help you recruit and train a new generation of salespeople. Is that something you’d like to hear more about?

If yes:

*There are two ways companies work with us. We can either help them find salespeople for a percentage of the base salary or help them train new salespeople with our online, on-demand, virtual sales training programs that teach them how to take prospects from curious to a client. Which one would you want to hear most about? *

They choose one or the other.

Awesome. Can I ask you a few questions first?

Ask them qualifying questions, so I know what to present.

I’ll tell you a bit more, and then if it makes sense, we’ll set up an appointment before we get off our call today to go over it in more detail. Sound good?

From there, tell them more about the offer, generate the appointment, and let them know what to expect on the appointment call.

By providing prospects with choices, they won’t feel as pressured on the call, and they’ll be more receptive to your message.

5. Contact your prospects on multiple channels

If you want to have the best shot at reaching your prospects, don’t just reach out to them by phone. For example, you can send an email before cold calling a prospect.

After you reach out via email, you could say something like this on the phone:

Hi [NAME], it’s James here calling from [COMPANY]. I sent you an email last Thursday, did you get a chance to read it?


The reason I emailed is that I noticed you’re in charge of the sales processes and operations at [COMPANY]. Is that right?

From here, move into your pitch, what you have to offer, address objections and generate an appointment.

6. Ask the right questions

Even though you can generate prospect insights from sites like LinkedIn before your first call, it’s still unlikely that you’ll know a huge amount of personal information about them.

On the call, you can ask questions to fully understand their pains and whether or not you can help them:

*** “What are the biggest challenges in your business right now?”* “Which tools and solutions are you using to help you with X?”* “What was the deciding factor in hiring new [NAME OF POSITION] at [COMPANY]”?**

Based on these responses, you could also set up the rest of the conversation more effectively.

7. Look for companies that are hiring in your field

One strategy you could use to find good prospects is looking for companies that are hiring in your niche or field. Not because you’re trying to get a job there, but because the jobs they’re hiring for are great clues into the problems they’re trying to solve.

For example, here’s a script you could use when reaching out to companies hiring SDRs (sales development representatives):

Hi [NAME],

My name is James from [COMPANY], and the reason I’m calling is that I noticed you were hiring new SDRs from [NAME OF JOB SITE]. You’re most likely hiring to solve the problem of needing more meetings, and I wanted to let you know we offer a prospecting platform designed to get your current team more qualified meetings.

It would be worth a 10-minute chat to see if we’re a fit before you take your next interview. We can even show you how you can view email and contact info displayed, instantly.

Rely on scripts to control the conversation

Ultimately, cold calling can be an effective way of finding prospects, generating appointments and closing new deals for your small business—if you can get past rejection.

Apart from implementing some of the suggestions and tactics we talked about earlier in this article (doing mock calls, analyzing your sales calls, etc.), having strong scripts to refer to while making calls can make the process easier.

James Dillon is Content Manager at Pipedrive, a CRM platform that serves over 80,000 organizations across the world. Keap readers can download the Psychological Selling Guide here for free.

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