7 Cold Calling Mistakes To Avoid in 2021

Do cold calls still work in 2021? The truth is sales calls are unavoidable. To grow a business, people need to approach different organizations to offer their products and services. As a result, cold calls happen all the time.

This doesn't mean you need to cold call like it's 1991. The world of business-to-business is very different today.

Buyers are more informed than ever before. The good news is that you, as a salesperson, can also be very well prepared before you pick up the phone (or writing a cold email).

In this article, we're sharing seven of the most critical pitfalls you must avoid during cold calls to reduce your hang-up rate.

Mistake 1: Going through a static cold call list

Traditionally, cold calls are seen as a practical prospecting method to quickly reach many potential buyers. Many business owners purchase a list of prospects to call, and their sales reps duly go through the list and introduce the company's product or solution as soon as someone picks up the phone at the other end.

This method, however, is also the quickest path to rejection. There's little intelligence in cold call lists. Static prospect lists are usually based on a few, very general qualifications such as revenue size, number of employees, or location. As a result, sales reps spend hours and hours talking to people who aren't ready to buy.

For your cold calls to work, you need to connect with companies only when there's a data-backed reason for you to be in touch. By tapping into sales intelligence and real-time company information, salespeople can create smarter target groups and dynamic cold call lists based on up‑to‑date and not‑so‑obvious characteristics.

The Ultimate Guide to Sales Prospecting

Mistake 2: Starting a cold call without any prior research

If you avoid mistake number one, you already have a promising list of prospects to cold call. In fact, such a list won't be cold as ice—remember, you already have a data-backed reason to call. Hold your horses, though.

Before you pick up the phone, you need to research your prospect thoroughly. At a minimum, you should know:

  • The company's basic firmographic data. For example, their location, their number of employees, and their value proposition.
  • The person you'll be talking to and their title—always make sure you know how to pronounce their name correctly. An error here is a major turnoff.
  • Any characteristics that indicate that the prospect will get significant value from your product or service. Technographics can be a huge help here. For example, if you're offering translation services, you should know if the company is operating in multiple countries and if its website has been translated into different languages.
  • Recent trigger events. What has recently happened at the company and why that change suggests it's a good time to offer your product. Even by just briefly mentioning that you know what's going on in the company, you'll come out as more trustworthy.

Knowing these things will help you determine the type of pain points the business is likely to have and tailor your pitch accordingly.

Hint #1: Go deeper than the website or basic firmographic data. Hint #2: Use Vainu's Chrome extension to see key insights without switching tabs.

Mistake 3: Using a generic sales script

Research is done. Now throw your cold calling script away. When you've done your homework, there's no reason to go back to poorly-scripted, generic sales scripts. Instead, you should create a sales script adjusted for every one of your prospects.

For example, if you cold call a company because they're expanding geographically, congratulate them on the new venture, and share your insight on how to succeed in a critical part of the process (along with how your offering fits in with this).

Remember, being a salesperson is understanding a potential customer's needs and helping them solve an existing problem. It's about removing headaches, not creating them.

Check out this article to learn the four components that make up a killer sales cold call script.

Mistake 4: Being overfamiliar

You've researched your prospect so thoroughly that you can't help feeling like you've known each other for years. However, don't talk to a prospect like you're best buddies right out of the gate. There's a fine line between trying to build rapport and being rude. Let the prospect set the familiarity boundary.

Ensure you don't use inappropriately informal language with a prospect and adhere to your company's tone of voice. Recognize the difference between friendly and familiar—between "How are you, John?" and "What's up?"

Mistake 5: Not knowing your product inside out

It should come as no surprise that you need to know the product you're selling through and through. How can you expect to earn people's trust if you can't answer their questions?

Many times, reps that routinely make cold calls tend to overlook product updates and the latest development. After all, they've been selling the same product for some time.

However, with buyers knowing more than ever, sales reps need to understand a product's feature inside out, so they can have more engaging conversations that lead to sales. If a sales rep is giving a product demo, that rep should have the knowledge to respond to any unexpected question quickly and have the confidence to combat any objections in real-time. Without knowledge, there's no trust. And without trust, there's no sale.

Download Sales Playbook Template

Mistake 6: Pitching before establishing rapport

Whether sales reps use a sales script or not, a common mistake during cold calls is to sound scripted. When a salesperson sounds like they're reading a script, it isn't easy to spark a conversation. You'll find that it's much easier to build rapport when you don't sound like a robot.

Today's salespeople must be relevant and helpful—always be helping is our motto. Keep the conversation focused on your prospect from the moment you get them on the phone. Instead of delivering a sales pitch, show them how you can help them—by now, you should already know their current needs and situation.

Mistake 7: Asking closed questions

Asking relevant questions drives conversation by engaging the person on the other end of the phone—a cold call is a two-way street. By asking questions, you demonstrate that you're a good listener and genuinely interested in understanding what the prospect needs. Plus, a few sales discovery questions will help you hone in on their pain points. Make sure your first sales meeting has a solid structure you can improve over time. 

Just be careful not to ask closed questions. Those questions that can be answered with a simple "yes" or "no" make it harder to keep the conversation going, giving prospects an easy way out of a call.

Open-ended questions invite prospects to join the conversation and express their unique perspective. This usually prompts a longer discussion. What are the top priorities of your business at the moment? How are you feeling about your current situation? What opportunities do you see on the horizon? Those are excellent open-ended, high-value questions you can ask your prospects.

Make sure you're also actively listening and don't run through the questions like a sales robot. Answers to open-ended questions often lead to tangential offshoots, so you should have a plan to keep the conversation going in unexpected situations.

Warm your cold call up

The first step towards successful cold calls is to never cold call.

When you connect with potential buyers for the first time, your goal shouldn't be to determine if a company is likely to have success with your product. Before you pick up the phone, you should already know if a company is a good fit. How? Don't fret. All the information you need for that is already out there.

Using a sales intelligence tool will help you find all the relevant information about your prospects—and find it right when you need it. When you know this information and connect with companies that you've proactively identified as a good fit, you're not really cold calling anymore.

Topics: Sales Process

Eduardo Alonso

Scribbler at Vainu’s Marketing team. Taco enthusiast and obsessive record collector. Straight outta Madrid.