1. They waste my time (which is also a waste of their time).
That is, they are selling something that I don't need, generally because they don't know anything about me. If you're cold calling me, you should have read through our company's web site already. It's only fifteen pages or so; you can skip the press releases. You don't know what business I'm in? Why should I bother with you?
2. They are wasting my time.
Frequently I get called by salespeople who don't know what they're selling, except the name of it, a two sentence description that they memorized but don't understand, and they want to set up a meeting. You have a software product? What OS does it run on? Does it have a web interface? You're selling consulting services but you can't describe them because your answer for everything is "we can find people to do that, they are experts!"?
3. They are wasting my time.
I already talked to you yesterday, last week, last month or last quarter. We discussed your product or service and it was clear from that phone call that we would never be a good fit for each other. (Your product only runs on Windows. Your service is Exchange consulting. You want to help process our customers' confidential data...)
"What's the difference between a software salesman and a used car salesman?"
"The used car salesman knows he's lying, and can probably drive."
I will repeat this in the end. But learn who you need to talk to. (Don't accept a no from someone who cant say yes) a lot of your time will be spend with finding the right person.
Here is my advice.
1. Write down a sales pitch with some alternatives depending on what the answer is. It should be structured something like this.
Who you are, who you want to talk to.
Once you reach the person you need to talk to:
Who you are, why you are calling, what your product do, what your offer to them is (always have some kind of offer like 20% off or something like that)
Answer questions, write down customer skepticism and learn from it. (you will become better and better at answering these questions and even able to forsee patterns)
Close the deal, tell exactly what is going to happen next. Follow up with what you promised.
2. Practice this again and again.
3. Make sure your goal is to close something. (either a meeting, sales or sending more info)
4. Create a sales funnel where you places your customers depending on how close they are to a sale.
5. Make sure you understand who you need to talk to (never accept a no from a person who cant say yes)
Rinse and repeat.
Keep in mind cold calling is a numbers game.
And the more people we have playing it, the more those of us trying to accomplish something outside of sales have to deal with inane pitches by people who refuse to accept "no" as an answer unless they hear it repeatedly while wasting our time.
Please don't encourage this behavior. It's good that you feel you got something out of that experience, but if no one solicited your call and you're calling anyway, you've joined a deservedly-loathed lower class of humanity.
There is plenty of legitimate cold calling one can do without pissing someone off if you do your homework and make sure you actually are offering them something they might need.
(for instance figuring out if they have recently complained about current service X they are using)
Just keep in mind that your conversion ratio is going to be low and you only have so much time to build a business.
Instead call to get information. Most people want to help. Ask them questions about things relevant to your service to qualify them. Ask them if they want information about your service and collect an email address. Add them to a nurture campaign so if they ever are looking to buy you're at the top of their list.
I got a marketing assistant to make these type of calls for a couple of weeks with a 60% success rate of getting an email address. In Australia email permission is opt in. I don't know what the conversion rate of the nurture campaign ended up being because I left the company.
The key being "most people want to help". The best sales guy I've yet known used to demand of me to "Just ask! People will tell you". It's true. Don't be a pushy ass, just ask, and retreat if someone isn't forthcoming.
Most people want to help.
It's just reeks of unprofessionalism, in my opinion. If you don't care about me enough to respect my time, then why on earth would you care about me enough to provide me with a good customer service experience after you've already hooked me?
I've had companies call me before claiming to work at google, claiming that my company isn't doing enough /google something/ and that they can help! If I pay them $foo, then I will be number in the google!
It's really annoying. This is why things like this: http://www.itslenny.com/ (which is hilarious, btw) exist.
I'm an LSAT instructor, and author of LSAT explanations. Here's the result of my cold calling
1. I contacted a small company in Toronto that did LSAT and SAT instruction. I'm in Montreal. I called and asked the secretary if they would like to be in Montreal.
She handed me to the founder, who said yes, interviewed me, and I'm still doing work for them. I've traveled the country teaching courses, added new tests to my skillset, and been able to build a private tutoring practice based on things I learned from them.
2. I emailed the guy who runs LSAT Blog, the major blog in my niche. As a result of a few back and forth emails, he asked me if I'd like to write LSAT explanations he could sell.
This led to royalties from him, and manuscripts I later turned into print books, which pay me even more royalties. I now sell the explanations through other online affiliates as well, and turned them into my own site
3. I emailed the founder of another LSAT prep company, just to say hi, after his company experienced a setback.
This led to them bringing me on board for a six month term. I learned a lot, and now they refer me tutoring students.
I think there may be others. But given that these three are 90% of my business success, I probably wouldn't even BE in business if it weren't for cold calls.
The key to all of them was that I was somehow relevant to the people I contacted. They could help me, and I could help them.
The more targeted, the better.
"Great thanks. My names is X, and my company does Y. Does it sound like there might be someone who it would be good for me to talk to? If it's a no then that is absolutely fine." Then go quiet.
This is the best opener I have used and it gets me a name and my call forwarded 80% of the time - which is the main aim of a cold call, if you're going in with getting a sale in mind it will always feel like a massive mountain.
Also, if in the 30 second explanation you can get something about them in first it works even better. Also, don't go over your 30 seconds.
Edited now that I am on computer to add more detail:
Some of the key points in the book are:
-Split sales team into two parts, one group that only sends out opening emails, one set that closes the leads/sets up meetings. Once a meeting is set, the opener passes the prospect onto the closer.
-the first email should be three sentences introducing who you are, what you do (can put clients you work with) and what you are looking for (appointment or referral)
I get pitched by a lot of companies, and one company had used this exact pitch on me and out of hundreds they were one of the few to get me to take an appointment call. Months later when I read this book, I recognized their tactic and went back and read the email and it was 100% based on what came out of this book.
 edit: misspelled title
Outbound sales, be it cold calls, cold email or warm intros, are very powerful. Keep in mind "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility". Don't waste people's time. Ask for permission to speak. Listen.
Recommended reading: Jason Lemkin http://www.quora.com/Jason-M.-Lemkin
How GuideSpark Tripled Revenues Two Years in a Row, Growing to Almost Eight Figures in ARR — All Using Outbound Sales
However, I went into EVERY call, knowing the person I was calling. I'd research via LinkedIn, and find out everything I could about that person, and the business.
I was amazed at how many times I'd contact somebody and they'd already heard of my business, and were keen to do business with me.
At the same time, more often than not, things didn't work out. But as some have said the key is to know what you're selling, and you're not selling your product, you're selling what your product can do for them. Make sure you're able to speak to that.
"I thought it would be great if you guys had x,y,z and could do a,b,c for your customers. It would ease problem a for you, and I'd estimate, based on what I know of your company, increased revenues of y".
Make it easy for them, hand them your business on a silver platter. Like I said, most times you won't get the sale, but you'll make more contacts in the industry, they may recommend you to other potential partners, or who knows.
Don't think "I'm going to sell them", think "I'm going to help them".
You basically have change your mindset about it. You are not selling things to them (and no money is even exchange on the first call either), you are trying to help them.
-- No one likes to be sold to. Stop selling. Also don't think of it as cold-call.
Think of yourself as a consultant.
Think of yourself as a student.
A student in business class, writing a report and researching a company. Find out their current news about their business, and recent trends affecting their industry. Now, can your product fill to relieve some of the workflow they have according to your research.
If so, the client will open up to you. At the end of the day, that client, that manager just wants to get their work done better. If your product does that, and you found out that recent issue, your product can help with. You got a good consulting gig starting to happen.
Once you have your report, write a cold email instead.
1) Target Potential Customers
Rather than blanket e-mail every person in my industry, I look for people and organizations that are significantly more likely to be receptive to my product. I've segmented my market based on highly-relevant characteristics to increase chances that my e-mail will be well received. The contact may even already be looking for a product like mine. I also keep an eye out for news articles and mentions for people in my space that show they are a relevant lead.
2) Do My Research
Nothing gets deleted faster than a stock e-mail. I research my prospective targets and try to understand what their situation is. What is their reputation in the market, what are they struggling with, and can my product help alleviate any of that? This shows that my e-mail is more than just SPAM and that I'm trying to develop a relationship.
3) Play It Slow and Develop a Relationship
As mentioned in other posts, cold calls can be as much for info as a sales lead. In some markets, its also about developing a relationship that may take a long time to convert. Even if someone's not interested in my product, if I can help them in another way (maybe an intro) I'll do it to keep the conversation going. Maybe down the road they'll return the favor by providing me a rec.
4) Let It Go
Followup is key, but beating someone up is a waste of time. If someone's not interested and doesn't want to be bothered I'll let it go. The last thing I want is to develop a bad reputation or be reported as SPAM.
Long story short: when they call me, I'm generally in REM sleep, and have been for a mere 2 hours. After their interruption, I will not be able to sleep back, but will spend the next 10 hours in zombie mode.
I have found a fantastic new way to use this zombie time: looking up legal, and law services, small courts, corporate databases about their company, facebook of their personal, and any and all leveraged counter-offense methods, that will make these companies, and individuals within not exist ever, ever again.
Please for the love of all that is holy, respect TPS's do-not-call lists.
 See https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6163051 for more
Keep it brief, don't give the full pitch.
Ask for 15 minutes on the calendar to explain in more detail.
Ask if you caught them at a good time. If not, ask when would be better to call back.
Leave a voicemail.
Be casual and genuinely excited to talk to them, like hearing from an old friend.
Send 3-4 sentence email, both for intro and to follow up ("My voicemail" subject lines get good open rates).
Call multiple people at different levels in the organization (and ask if they're the right person to speak to).
Result: 6 figure income on a 70k base, for 4 years.
I also do Customer Development-type emails for my own side business, and for others (as-a-service).
Summary: it works. If you learn how to do it right.
Top tools: Stephan Schiffman's Telesales and Basho Email System.
Also: for cold calling to work you must have something of value, that solves a real pain/problem. Not something ephemeral like an app that, say, splits the dinner bill amongst friends.
IMO, a good cold caller will work very hard to get to the right person, if that person exist. They will be committed and relentless to generating the lead for their sales team. They will work on their script to a point where they have answers for most types of questions. They will use the tools that they are provided (e.g. salesforce) to ensure to keep a log of what they've done and their todo list. And they will be in constant contact with the sales team to ensure that all information is provided back to them in a structured manner.
If you think that cold callers are waisting your time, simply try and tell them that you are not interested or point them to a different person who may be interested (if that person exists). There's no point for a caller to place a call to someone who has no interest in buying their offering, that's just a waste of time. Cold callers are "not" telemarketers.
If you're doing B2B sales in a relatively new category there's basically no other way to reach your early market; they're not googling for your category, and probably not even for a technical solution to it, especially if you're selling to a non-IT function (marketing, sales, finance, etc.).
In those contexts, cold-calling, done well, can help educate the market, create demand, and set the stage for later inbound efforts. Often we'll have a cold call where the prospect's response isn't "WTF you wasted my time" but "I had no idea this kind of thing existed; where were you 5 years ago?"
It's not easy; you have to select your targets carefully, and have a good pitch, not be too push, and get a lot of other things right to make it work, but it DOES work.
Without a referral or lead, if you're cold calling, you're calling someone who not only hasn't inquired about your service, but whom you have no reason to believe wants to hear from you. In my opinion, you have no place calling that person. If you choose to do so anyway, it's your responsibility to waste as little of their time as possible in as cordial a manner as you can. Hard sells are absolutely awful.
I only get upset with cold callers that don't quit the first time I say no. No matter how qualified you believe a lead is or how it's been validated/verified, if the person on the other end says no, don't push it. Maybe they'll just keep saying no, but maybe they'll remember you as the pushy jerk whose product/service they'll now never consider.
To those that hate receiving cold calls, remember: most of these sales development folks that call leads are fresh out of school and simply trying to gain a foothold in a hyper-competitive space. Don't let them waste your time if that's what they're doing, but have a heart!
1. Ask for the person's name or company's name first thing: this tells the person you are indeed looking for them
2. Do not sell in the first 20 seconds. Tell them you are looking for someone in their line of business and ask them if you can ask them a couple of questions
3. Ask them questions relating to their business
Only then do you explain how your business solves the problems. I have found that this recipe almost always makes it impossible for the target to say 'no' and cut the call. Once they answer your questions, they are interested to know how exactly you come into the picture. This process seems more successful than anything else for me.
I sent them a mockup of what I thought their web-page should be (4 hours of work?), one meeting later I'd locked down a nice 5 figure contract to develop an internal app (they decided they didn't want a web page) and it looks to become an ongoing relationship.
The web page, I later found out, is what really hooked them, despite them not wanting it ultimately.
Interestingly, organic traffic performs better than cold calling. By a decent margin. But, on the road sales blows both out of the water. Obviously.
So if your looking at marketing strategy, someone on the road might be a good investment (depending on the product and customer base).
Indeed, cold calling will not be a big part of our strategy going forward - but it's a great way to feel out the market.
I think in terms of the cold email pitches I get, and think of which ones I'm willing to consider and which ones I don't. Given that, my thinking is something like this:
Regarding 1 - If you send me a rambling 6,000 word manuscript, I'm not reading it, and I probably will hit "delete" in after about 4 seconds of skimming unless something in there really catches my eye.
Regarding 2 - this may be the most important one. If you spam me with some random crap that has no connection to what I'm doing, and/or anything I need, I'm hitting "delete" pretty much from the get-go. And if you want to sell me something, you need to talk about my needs, not your product or service. And you should have done your research ahead of time. If it's apparent to me that I'm getting something that's the result of a mail-merge run with nothing to hint that you know anything what my company does, where we are, how we operate, etc., guess what? "Delete".
Regarding 3 - If you get the name of the company wrong, have shitty grammar and / or spelling, or otherwise send me something that is barely comprehensible, it's going in the bin in the blink of an eye. And being a non-native English speaker isn't going to buy you much of an exception. I'm in America, if you want to do business with me, learn to speak English. Likewise if you're emailing somebody in Spain... learn Spanish. And get somebody to proof read your message that's fluent. I'll tolerate a small amount of sloppiness in terms of grammar and what-have you, but you have to at least make an effort.
So, my theory is... do some research up front, find out as much about the customer as you can up-front. Write something in clear English (or the appropriate language) using proper spelling and grammar. Keep it fairly short, and focus on the customer's needs, situations and problems. But I don't mean to assume they have a certain problem. I mean, phrase things in terms of "We've noticed that companies like yours often have problems like X... We are specialists in X, and I'd like a few moments to find out more about your company and whether or not you are really dealing with X". Something based on the "Core Story" approach put out by Chet Holmes would also be received well (by me anyway) as long as it isn't too long, and is backed up with credible data, etc.
Do that, and I think you have at least a shot. In my case, if you email me like that, I may simply not need whatever it is you're selling... but at least I'll read your email, consider it, and probably even reply. If you send crap, it's going straight to the trash can, often mostly (or completely) unread.
Do this... go through a bunch of the spam you get, and figure out which emails you receive well, and which ones evoke the "delete after four seconds" response. Model your own communications more after the first batch, and don't do whatever the people in the second batch are doing.
That's spam. That's the definition of spam.
You and your company are spammers. You need to stop.
Yeah, I felt that way at one time as well. Idealism is a good thing. But it doesn't pay the bills. And, pedantry over definitions aside, most people these days seem to think of "spam" more as completely off-topic crap, phishing messages, advertisements for illegal products, etc., etc. I don't know many people, in a B2B context, who actually object to receiving cold email IF they fit the criteria above - short, professional and relevant.
So while I'd like to take your advice to heart, it just isn't likely to happen anytime soon. Not unless we start getting so many inbound leads coming in that we can't handle them all.
As a person in charge of both buying and selling B2B services/products, I couldn't agree more. I absolutely abhor and detest long cold emails from strangers who want me to give them money, but I don't mind receiving short, snappy emails from people who have something to offer me (and have done enough homework to think I might want it). The former are adding work to my pile (if I bothered to read their long stupid emails) while the latter are taking work off my pile (saves me time researching the space--99 times out of 100 I'll go with the guy who has already made an effort towards establishing rapport over the strangers with the nice website).
It takes more than a moment to read, but as long as it provides relevant information, it should be ok.
The rest is really about a pattern or manner for people to communicate. Somehow in some pattern, things are easier to be accepted than other manners. It's very hard to tell.
That said, people's tolerances are all very different, so I think anyone who did send e-mail of this nature would have to work very hard to make it a truly personal, well researched e-mail without any trace of it being even semi-automated.. because I delete e-mails that miss the mark for sure.
According to who?
The basic steps are
1.) Identify yourself
2.) Very short intro to why you're calling
3.) Ask a qualifying question
4.) If prospect is not qualified, end call
5.) If qualified, then start a dialog to see if they have the problem you solve
What we've found is that it's impractical to think that you'd close a sales call in one hit. A combination of phone calls and emails is important and providing customers with something of value before you push the sale is really effective. E.g. whitepapers, videos, blog posts, webinars etc.
I work for a company called GoodCall (http://www.goodcall.io) at the moment, which facilitates thousands of calls each week to businesses. We're building a tool to help businesses devise an effective call script and sales funnel and A/B test different scripts and sales processes. It also shows you your cost-per-acquisition, something that is really easy to measure with Google Adwords, but hard to do with inbound sales.
If your product/service can't be explained by e-mail,
I'm not interested in acquiring it. Please remove my number.