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This Secret Skill is How You Nail a Cold Call

By |November 28, 2023

Cold calling might be the most unpleasant part of working in sales. You have to somehow manage to charm a stranger into donating or buying a product without them immediately hanging up on you—this can sometimes feel impossible.

Especially with rookie salespeople, cold calling scripts are often necessary to work off of. But, unfortunately, the feeling toward cold calling scripts is rarely positive–both for the deliverer and the one hearing it. 

Communication should be natural and free-flowing, and sticking to a script can make things uncomfortable, or even awkward, for both sides. While the idea is well-intentioned, relying on a script too much ends up doing more harm than good.

As long as the sales profession exists, cold calls will too. To get the best results, businesses and organizations need to think outside the box–and beyond the script. 

Here’s how. 

Embrace No-Oriented Questions™

We do everything a bit backwards at The Black Swan Group, including the way we ask questions. 

And our method makes a difference. 

Oftentimes a cold call consists entirely of yes-oriented questions.

“Do you have time to talk?”

“Do you support _?”

“Do you think  _ should be changed?”

The list goes on and the voice on the other end is flat or unresponsive. Why? Because you’re forcing the other person to answer “Yes.” And we as human beings don’t like having to commit. We don’t want to be forced into agreement. That’s what yes-oriented questions do. And, they can easily trick you, the salesperson, into thinking you have a deal. The person on the other end might answer “Yes” to every question, but their final answer will inevitably be “No.”

Because we love saying “No.” Why not use it to our advantage? That’s why No-Oriented Questions™ are so effective. 

In Never Split the Difference, the book that started it all, Chris Voss tells the story of a former student of his that changed his cold calling questions to No-Oriented Questions. He had a job collecting campaign donations for a presidential candidate, and wasn’t having success with the current script—it was loaded with yes-oriented questions. 

“Do you believe that gas prices are currently too high?”

“Do you think we need a change in November?”

“Do you believe that the _ party is part of the problem when it comes to high gas prices?”

The student shifted them slightly.

“Do you feel that if things stay the way they are, America’s best days are ahead of it?”

“Are you going to sit and watch _  take the White House in November without putting up a fight?”

“Have you given up on our party taking back the White House in November?”

When they ran the script side by side with the previous version, the No-Oriented script resulted in a 20% higher donation rate. 

The biggest takeaway: revise the way you ask questions. Seek a “No” instead of a “Yes.”

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Introduce Yourself Like You’re a Kid in Grade School

“Am I speaking to so-and-so?”

Most cold calling scripts start off with asking the wrong question. No one wants to start chatting with a stranger, and this question can easily make the answerer tense. They might instantly think to themselves: What does this person want from me? 

Think back to when you’d call up your friends in elementary school. Channel the politeness of a young kid raised with good manners. 

“Hello, this is Billy, calling for Kevin. Is it a bad time?” or, “”Have I caught you in the middle of something?”

Tone is crucial here. Having a stiff, bored, or questioning tone will throw the entire conversation off. Instead, be friendly. Stay in that Accommodator voice so you put your counterpart at ease. Even if someone answers yes—”Sorry, I’m busy”—your friendliness will help continue the conversation. If they don’t offer availability, you can ask another No-Oriented Question: “Would it be a waste of time to schedule another phone call?”

Cold-Calling Is a Road Map—Not a Set of Commandments

As you fix your cold-calling technique, think of it as a set of guidelines—not something you expect everyone on your team to follow verbatim. If you get too specific, you’ll get tunnel vision—which could blind you in gaining other information that could help you during the call.

At The Black Swan Group, our end goal is always the same on cold calls. We want to hear what our clients and prospects have to say, and we want to schedule another meeting—particularly when it’s our first interaction.

Sometimes, the deal will get closed on that first interaction. That might be because the other side feels that we’re not trying to pin them in the corner. When you’re trying to close someone, they can feel it. 

On the flip side, when you’re not actively trying to close, people appreciate that. When you’re hearing someone out, you’re not dominating the conversation. Instead you’re creating an emotional moment, building trust through a foundation of understanding instead of explanation and common ground. First calls are all about feeling out the other side.

Keep It Short And Sweet

Time limits are important on cold calls. Your prospect isn’t going to waste a huge chunk of their day chatting with you. And the last impression is the most important: you don’t want the other side to start thinking about how you’re droning on and on about something they’re not interested in.

Make sure your prospect is off the phone in 5-10 minutes and you’ve got a good understanding of their concerns. When they know you’re making the effort to understand them, there’s always going to be another interaction.

And that’s when you close.