What is Cold Calling? Definition, Tips, Techniques & Scripts for 2021

Learn tips from a master cold caller to perfect your cold calling technique. Get examples & scripts for closing sales.

The cold calling method gets a bad rap. Many sales reps say cold calling is their least favorite part of their job and people don’t like to be interrupted by calls from people they don’t know. But, contrary to what you might think, cold calling is the second most effective method of connecting with potential leads, topped only by contacting referrals. This is due in part because a phone call is much more personal and enables an exchange in real-time that all other forms of outreach such as social media and email do not.

Table of Contents

What is Cold Calling?

Cold calling is the act of initiating contact with potential customers by phone. The purpose of a cold call is to identify sales leads for your product or service in order to establish a mutually beneficial sales relationship. Cold calls typically include an introduction to yourself, your company, your product or service, how you can add value, and the next steps.

Does Cold Calling Still Work?

Cold calling has changed a lot over the years. You used to have to purchase lists of contact information to make these calls. These lists were often outdated or inaccurate, making cold calling even more challenging. Today, however, you can generate your own leads by leveraging modern methods like SEO, online ads, premium content offers, and website information request forms. This means that you’re calling a higher-quality list of contacts, leading to better sales results. It turns out that cold call recipients are more receptive to sales calls than you might think. Rain Group’s research revealed that:

  • 82% of buyers accept meetings with sellers who reach out to them;
  • 71% of buyers want to hear from sellers when they are looking for new ideas to drive stronger business results;
  • 62% of buyers want to hear from sellers when they are actively looking for a solution to solve a problem.

The study also revealed that those proficient at cold calling generated 2.7 times more meetings, conversations, and demos, and closed 11% more business. So, yes, cold calling still works.

Why is Cold Calling So Scary?

Although cold calling is not complicated, there’s a lot that goes into mastering this skill. Cold calling can be quite daunting, triggering powerful emotions — the most important of which is fear of rejection. Symptoms of fear and resistance include increased heart rate, sweating, uncontrollable worry, anxiety, and nervousness. This becomes an obstacle since fear often results in decreased blood flow to the part of your brain responsible for logical thinking and planning. Believe it or not, these are good signs that what you are about to do is important to you. As with public speaking, these feelings subside the more you do it. Remember, everyone started in the same place, with the same feelings. Those who are able to pummel past resistance and fear eventually become the most successful in their field.

Getting Into the Cold Calling Mindset

Cold calling success starts with the right mindset. As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.” Being good at cold calling means changing the way you think about it. Try these tips to improve your cold calling mindset:


Visualization is an excellent way to adjust your mindset. Envision yourself successfully completing your cold calls, whether that means qualifying a lead, scheduling an appointment or demo, or making a sale. Your mind will believe your visualization is reality and you’ll feel more comfortable during your calls.


Practice your script and be prepared for objections or questions. With practice, you’ll gain the confidence to handle any situation. After each call, think about how the call could have gone better and incorporate any new learnings into your toolkit.

Add Value

Focusing on providing value for others when cold calling will take the pressure off you, helping you relax and reduce feelings of fear. Remember, this isn’t about making the sale, it’s about adding value to your prospect’s life or business.

Remember there is no such thing as failure. The very worst that can happen is the prospect says no or hangs up. Remember that! Each cold call will help you approach cold calls with a new perspective — as exciting little opportunities to add value to people’s lives.

Understand Who You are Cold Calling and Why

Preparation is essential for successful cold calling. That includes becoming familiar with who you are calling in terms of their industry, their pain points, how you can help them, their day-to-day challenges, and their interests. Then, when you call you’ll be better equipped to engage potential customers in conversation and successfully bring the call to a close.

How to Write a Cold Calling Script

Depending on the research, it can take up to 9 calls to connect with a particular lead, so it’s best to prepare a cold call script to ensure you get the most of each connection. The script should act as a guide and should not be read to your call recipient, but it is essential so you don’t forget any important points when you get a prospect on the phone.

Every cold call script includes the same basic elements: a killer opener, a value proposition, qualifying questions, and a close. Cold call scripts are not one-size-fits-all. Your script must be tailored to your buyers, their needs, and why they will purchase from you.

The infographic below highlights what you should aim for when crafting your cold calling script.

Start by determining the ultimate goal of your call such as scheduling a qualifying call or demo, establishing a follow-up date, or making a sale. Then write your script to get the prospect’s attention by focusing on their potential pain points or ways they can benefit from your product or service.

Wrapping Up the Cold Call

At the end of each cold call, don’t just hang up the phone and move on. Be sure to review and agree on the next steps such as another meeting, sharing additional information like a white paper, or sending them a proposal. Get the prospect’s commitment as to their next steps too.

If the prospect isn’t interested, find out why so you can determine how to proceed in the future. In other words, is it not now or are they simply not a good match for your product or service?

Then, make note of what worked and what wasn’t effective. Figure out what you could have done or said better. Making this extra step a habit will help you continually improve your cold calling techniques.

Cold Call Scripts & Examples

Cold Call Script for Referral Leads

Referrals can be excellent leads, but they aren’t always as hot as you might like, making them cold calls. Use this script for referral leads. It includes a solid introduction to increase your chance of a successful call.

Hi Amy! I’m Landon with Rocket Digital Marketing. Jose Sanchez suggested I call you. We’ve been working together for 5 years and he’s had excellent results with us & I thought you might benefit as well. Do you have a couple of minutes so I explain how we can grow your business?

Call Script for Leads from Events

Events are an excellent source of leads, and personal interaction can accelerate your progress. But, with so much happening during an event, people often forget who they spoke with and why. So, calling leads from an event can sometimes be a cold call.

Hi Natahsa, it’s Jesse from Amazing Accountants! We met at the Small Business Conference last week. How are you doing today? I was calling to continue our conversation about helping your business maximize after-tax profits. We specialize in businesses like yours. Is now a good time to chat?

Script to Follow Up with Past Leads

Contacts that you’ve worked within the past or from deals that fell through are often worth reinvigorating. If it has been a year or more since you’ve spoken, your initial call with this prospect will be a cold call. For best results when calling these leads, review your records regarding your prior interaction.

Hi Meg, I’m Adolfo from In Your Face Catering, how are you today? I’m calling because I saw your Facebook post that you’re engaged! Congratulations! How does it feel? We enjoyed working on your birthday celebration last year and I’d love the opportunity to assemble a few proposals for your big day. How does that sound?

Script for Following Up with Content Downloads

There are so many ways your company can capture leads. Potential prospects visit your website, fill out forms, download content, request information or pricing, and so on. Each of these actions takes place at different stages of the buying process, revealing various interests, and needs. And these contacts need to be called in a timely fashion for the best results.

Hi Joanne, I’m Troy from World Class Musician Maker. I’m calling because you recently downloaded Secret Tips from Master Musicians from our website. I’m following up to see if you have any questions about our learning process. I’d love to understand your goals to see if we can help you achieve them!

Perfecting Your Cold Calling Technique: Practice, Practice, Practice

Becoming proficient at cold calling takes practice. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when doing so:

Sound Natural

Sound natural by not reading your script. The best way to do this is by learning your script so you know the content well enough, so it flows effortlessly when you say it. Record yourself to ensure you’re achieving the desired pace and tone of voice.

Perfect Your Tone

Use the right tone of voice because according to research, 7% of how a message is perceived is in the spoken words, 38% is how the words are said, and 55% is based on facial expression. But on the phone, the 55% from facial expression is eliminated, making how you speak substantially more important. It’s best to sound inquisitive, friendly, or helpful. This subconsciously makes contacts more interested in what you have to say.


It’s important to listen more than you speak. Successful cold calling means sticking to the framework of your script, delivering a quick introduction, then listening to what the prospect says in response. This enables you to adapt your talking points to fit the prospect’s needs. This also frees you up to gather and record useful information to refer back to later in the sales cycle.

Ask Open-Ended Questions

Ask open-ended questions to encourage your prospect to talk more and provide more meaningful responses without feeling like they’re playing 20-questions. This is a great opportunity to understand what your potential customer needs.

Clearly Articulate Your Value

Doing so differentiates you and gives your prospect what they really want. CSO Insights found that buyers want:

  • New ideas to advance their buying process
  • Help to develop a new vision for success
  • New ways to attain their goals

Handle Objections Professionally

Be prepared to respond to objections. Make a list of your most commonly received objections, then prepare and learn the responses to turn objections into opportunities. They’re no longer roadblocks or stumbling blocks. Instead, objections open the door for continued conversation once you know how to respond to them.

To master these techniques, be sure to practice, practice, practice so you become proficient at cold calling. And with every call, you’ll continually improve.

Tips for Dealing with the Toughest Gatekeepers

Executive assistants often come across as guard dogs by blocking you from speaking with the person you’re trying to reach, but if you treat them right, they can become allies. Here are a few tips for dealing with these important people who hold the keys to connecting you with your prospect:

  • Treat them well by showing respect and understanding, building rapport, and getting to know them. They may help you once they trust you.
  • Earn their trust by using the information you learned about their company while preparing for your call. This shows you did your homework and makes them feel you’ll provide value to their boss.
  • Engage your prospect with a pre-call email or social platform message and send them something of value like a white paper to get their attention. When they respond, gain their permission to call as well as the best time to call. Then you can tell the gatekeeper their boss is expecting your call.
  • Call during off-hours when the gatekeeper is either at lunch or done working for the day. This increases the odds of your call not being screened before connecting with your prospect.
  • Speaking confidently makes it more likely the gatekeeper will put your call through.
  • Sound natural. If you sound like you’re reading a script, the gatekeeper is more likely to prevent you from reaching your contact.

And, if all else fails, ask to be transferred to voicemail and leave your prospect an excellent message.

Is Cold Calling Legal?

Yes, cold calling is legal, but it’s essential that you adhere to the laws in your jurisdiction.

In the United States, Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) sets forth the rules concerning cold calls to leads. And it is illegal to contact numbers on the FTC’s Do-Not-Call Registry to sell goods or services. Intentionally calling a number on the Do-Not-Call list could result in substantial fines.

Although there is a “safe harbor” to protect businesses who accidentally call numbers on the registry, it’s best to make every effort to remain TCPA compliant. And, if you’re cold calling outside the United States you need to comply with GDPR rules.

Best Books for Learning About Cold Calling

If you’re interested in learning more about cold calling, you’ll gain deeper insights by reading the following books:

Outbound Sales, No Fluff by Rex Biberston & Ryan Reisert — This book is all about outbound prospecting, a.k.a. cold calling techniques.

Fanatical Prospecting by Jeb Blount — In this book, Jeb provides step-by-step details of his innovative approach to prospecting based on real-world experience.

Smart Calling by Art Sobczak — This book discusses common cold calling mistakes and behaviors to use instead to be a more effective cold caller.

Now you’re armed and ready with the information you need to succeed at cold calling. Don’t let fear and procrastination stop you. Jump in and get started, then practice, practice, practice, so you continually improve your techniques and your results.

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